More than 300,000 travelers took part in our 29th annual Readers' Choice Awards survey—yet another new record—submitting millions of ratings and over 75,000 comments to help us create a list of winning favorites. The breadth of their top-rated experiences was impressive, from elegant castles in the Irish countryside to tented safari camps trailing the Great Migration across the Serengeti. They chose tiny private islands in the tropics, small culture rich cities in Europe, and intimate river cruises. Most notably, they declared a passion for the authentic, the personalized, the unexpected—finding all three in both newcomers and stalwarts around the world. Here are all the results, including our web-only exclusive list of the 50 Best Hotels & 50 Best Resorts in the World (and a little detail on how this all came together).
Following are the Top 10 for each category. The complete lists are available here.
If you’ve ever dreamed of summering at a country house, you couldn’t do much better than this stately, 20-room Georgian home, about an hour and a half north of Dublin. Beyond the regal four-poster canopy beds, gilded mirrors, and richly textured wallpapers, there are 614 acres of secluded private gardens begging to be strolled. But the real highlight? Having a butler row you out on the lake before enjoying a sumptuous lunch at the picnic house.
Courtesy Ballyfin Demesne
Situated on coral-reefed Tetiaroa, surrounding a lagoon 30 miles north of Tahiti, this luxe eco-resort is the vision of late actor Marlon Brando, consisting of 35 thatch-roofed villas with plunge pools, a floating restaurant and organic garden, and a locally inspired spa—all powered through solar energy or coconut oil and air conditioned via seawater. A conservation and research center looks after native flora and fauna.
Courtesy The Brando/©Tim Mckenna
Perth may not have as much clout as Sydney or Melbourne, but this sleek COMO outpost—the brand’s first hotel Down Under—might just help set a change in motion. Part of the $580 million Cathedral Square development, the hotel occupies the top floors of three 140-year-old buildings, and happily embraces period accents—see the roofline’s copper trim, and reinstalled dormer windows. Jed Gerrard’s Wildflower, the hotel’s glassed-in rooftop restaurant, offers more than just an impressive experience—when you taste the kangaroo, delicately smoked over jarrah ambers and served with grilled blueberry dressing, you’ll get what we mean.
Seventy-eight freestanding beach or overwater villas, each with its own infinity pool, on a private island of soft white sand. Recently named a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the atoll is 35 minutes by seaplane from Male. Thatched-roof luxury, with the lagoon at center stage.
Courtesy Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas
Spare and minimalist, this mod Mexico City fortress is a perfect foil for the colonial grandeur of its neighbors. Check out the hotel’s custom black-and-white prints—an extension of its subdued color scheme—by local photographer Eduardo Zaylan, and the fresh, inventive dishes at Moxi Restaurant (hello, creamy wild mushroom risotto with guajillo and red onion).
Courtesy Hotel Matilda
One of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Limited Edition collection of retreats, this private game reserve has 21 rooms and suites spread over two lodges. At the Rock Lodge, enjoy a post-game drive cocktail with panoramic views of the Drakensberg Mountains. Just 500 meters away at the Safari Lodge, walk between treehouse-style rooms on swinging rope bridges or just watch the zebras and impala stroll by on their way to the nearby watering hole.
Courtesy Ulusaba Private Game Reserve
Even the most jaded jaws will drop on arrival at this imposing royal residence-turned-luxury hotel in the northern Indian city of Jodhpur. In fact, the royal family still occupies one wing, and it’s easy to understand why: With endless marble corridors, expansive, expertly-manicured gardens, and an outstanding Tandoori chicken dish (no tangy, vinegary impersonators, here), we’d be hard-pressed to leave, too.
Courtesy Taj Hotels
Fronting one of the prettiest beaches in the world, just 10 minutes north of Playa del Carmen, El Dorado Maroma is the kind of adults-only all-inclusive we'd happily visit (and re-visit). Suites are spacious and romantic—choose from overwater bungalows, beachfront villas with Jacuzzis, or our pick, the Royal Swim-Up Suites with direct access to the main pool via a lazy river.
Courtesy El Dorado Maroma
This Thomas Hardy-designed estate is practically a hallmark of quintessential English charm: Rooms decked out in florals, fabrics, and rich wallpapers; sprawling greenery; and an afternoon tea service to make the Queen jealous. Expert, unobtrusive service completes the fantasy.
Courtesy Summer Lodge Country House Hotel
Consistently rated the best resort in the U.S. by our readers, The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch—set on 30,000 acres amid the Sierra Madres—executes the luxury dude ranch concept with skill and style. Think spotted cowhide chairs in the lounge, fur throws at the edge of knotty wooden king-sized beds, and yurts decked out with antler chandeliers and leather couches. For an upscale group getaway, book the seven cabins that make up the Magee Homestead—it comes with its own concierge service.
Courtesy The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch
Don’t take it on faith that all hotels in the Windy City are primed and polished in the art of service: Instead, head to Virgin Hotels Chicago, one of billionaire entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson’s latest endeavors, to see for yourself. Guests are especially complimentary of amenities like free Wi-Fi, well-stocked mini-bars that don’t break the bank, and mod rooms that sport separate areas for primping and sleeping, as well as the brunch options at Miss Ricky's—don't leave without trying the french toast.
Courtesy Virgin Hotels/Photo by Anthony Tahlier
With 76 sleek, modern rooms and suites—not forgetting the grandiose ‘King Villa’ suite—this newcomer to the area comes with everything you would expect of a lavish retreat, including sweeping views of the Aegean Sea and a private beach dotted with sunbeds. Lunch is spent at the beachfront restaurant La Plage dining on crispy fried calamari, and long afternoons melt into cocktail hour at the Glass Restaurant and Lounge Bar.
Courtesy Starwood Hotels & Resorts
The ivy climbing the turreted stone walls of this stately 16th-century castle should be your first clue that you’re in for a royal treat—that, in addition to the patterned brocade curtains, intricate wall tapestries, and refined Irish classics (caviar-topped smoked haddock, anyone?) at the Michelin-starred Munster Room. Did we mention Waterford sits on its own, 310-acre private island?
Courtesy Waterford Castle
Opened in 2014 by Karisma Hotels & Resorts, this 144 all-suite property has mastered the art of being family-friendly without all that elbow-jostling; with some of the largest rooms in the Mexican Caribbean, sliding walls allow guests to determine the amount of space needed, and big bathrooms have two sinks and a Jacuzzi. A dedicated butler service takes care of the unpacking and settling in, and even book local activities like kayak lessons.
Courtesy Generations Riviera Maya/Photo by Moris Moreno
Don’t laugh: This São Paolo pad really is one of a kind, from its crazy crescent shape (it looks like the hull of a ship, portholes and all), to the towel-warming racks in its bathrooms, to its champagne check-ins. The décor is decidedly modern—think high ceilings, clean lines, and immense, floor-to-ceiling windows that allow for maximum natural light—but its quirky touches, like angular, magenta chaises, and gray cameo carpeting, plus a killer rooftop bar, are what really set it apart.
Courtesy Hotel Unique
A traditional tented camp in in the Masai Mara National Reserve, Richard’s River Camp nevertheless springs for a few of the more modern amenities: toilets, heated showers, and 24-hour light powered by solar power.
Courtesy Richard's Camp
This County Mayo castle on Lake Corrib may date back to the Middle Ages, but don’t go expecting a fusty, old-fashioned experience: 2015 saw a $75 million renovation of the 13th-century estate, which allowed for such add-ons as a cinema, cigar room, billiard room, and dine-in wine cellars. Take the Cranki, the hotel’s 40-foot luxury Italian yacht, out on the river with seven of your closest friends.
Courtesy The Lodge at Ashford Castle
Located on 18,500-acres, this reserve offers light-filled contemporary rooms, a heated pool, a fitness center, and a spa. Meals at Makana draw from native fynbos herbs and local meat, and guests’ stays are elevated by the spirit and insight of an affable staff who happily share their culture and history.
Courtesy Bushmans Kloof
Like a fine Barolo, this iconic Italian hotel just gets better with age. The hotel passed the 50-year mark in 2015, and most guests would agree that there’s a lot to celebrate here—not least the stunning, saltwater swimming pool overlooking the Mediterranean, or the restrained, old-school glamour of the bar, with its striped yellow awning. Even the bird-print wallpaper, flanked by faux fruit and leaf wall sconces, reads more romantic than cheesy.
Courtesy Hotel Il Pellicano/Photo by Stepeh Ringer
Makanyi is special in that it's set in a section of the Timbavati where there are no other lodges, just a few private homes, so you really feel like you have the entire bush to yourself. The seven-room lodge is full-on luxury with the feel of a family home—conforming to a classic aesthetic of thatched-roof villas in terra cotta tones, but avoiding the more formal, Out of Africa–style nod to colonial bush experiences. This is place is relaxed, void of stodginess, and perfect for people looking for a more intimate experience.
Courtesy Makanyi Private Game Lodge