Believe it or not, the past 12 months were big for hotel openings. Flinging open their doors for the first time, these new and revamped properties welcomed guests inside with a (masked) hello and a taste of travel’s future. 

Our guide to the essential openings of the past year took us to 29 countries in pursuit of the unforgettable. Over the course of 2020, T+L writers and editors trekked to a remote Namibian tented camp in a vast nature reserve, surfed the waves at a boho-chic resort in Baja Sur, Mexico, and sipped Sazeracs on the porch of an 1891 former residence in New Orleans. While there are plenty of extravagant stays and familiar brands on the list, we committed to featuring properties that are the best at what they do while displaying a sense of innovation. Brand new builds, century-old architectural masterpieces, and family-run boutiques are all in the mix.

Ahead, you’ll find a hotel or resort for every taste and travel goal. There’s a 19th-century mansion in Jaipur, India, reborn as an intimate urban escape. A sleek getaway amid lush tropical forest on Malaysia’s Desaru coast. A safari lodge in Botswana’s Okavango Delta where African art is as big a draw as the wildlife. And a Massachusetts wellness retreat, set on hundreds of acres of wilderness in the Berkshires, where meditation, beekeeping, and organic food awaits. Read on for all 73 properties on the 2021 It List — your next adventure is a few clicks away.

Edited by John Wogan


Angama Safari Camp — Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Angama Safari Camp


Angama Mara is a clever distillation of everything that guests need to be delighted on safari, the result of a lifetime of learning by the owners, Nicky and the late Steve Fitzgerald, who have opened more hotels and safari camps across Africa than anyone else in the industry. From its bird’s-eye view of the Mara triangle—a less crowded corner of the Maasai Mara—Angama is the rule-breaker that rewrote the script for contemporary, culturally cool and relevant safaris. It’s located on community-owned land, and launched a foundation that continues to raise substantial funds to support core conservation work, education, health care, and small, local businesses. It did all of this without diluting any of its romantic credentials or skimping on its bold Maasai-inspired suites that sit 1,000 feet above the Great Rift Valley. The property’s second act, Angama Safari Camp, is an even lighter-footprint camp for up to eight guests. Its tents are designed with high-tech canvas to ensure maximum coolness and cross-ventilation, and all come with enormous beds, a separate dressing room, and a bathroom with double bucket showers. The entire camp can be flat-packed within a couple of days and moved between prime sites, depending on the time of year and where the best game viewing is. What you get is all the up-close thrills of a mobile migration camp without having to forgo the fastidiously detailed and sophisticated style, design, service, and food of the mothership up on the hill.; doubles from $1237 per person, all-inclusive. —Jane Broughton

Arthaus Beirut — Lebanon

Arthause Beirut bedroom


In an already challenging year, Arthaus Beirut’s opening is all the more impressive. This 12-room boutique property (eventually, it’ll expand to 23) is hidden off a side street in the city’s lively Gemmayze neighborhood. It’s an oasis-like complex that encompasses a renovated, art-filled 18th-century mansion and three other buildings, plus an expansive courtyard garden and pool. Despite all the city’s calamities, the property’s owners—philanthropists and art collectors Nabil and Zoe Debs—never stopped pushing courageously forward. They not only managed to repair extensive damages and reopen just months after August’s headline-making port explosion, but have also created both a gallery and haven for the city’s creatives, who flock there in the evenings for dinner and drinks among the courtyard’s citrus and golden trumpet trees. In time, Arthaus Beirut will offer private tours to visit many of Lebanon’s most celebrated artists and designers, from the atelier and private museum of Nadim Karam to the wildly joyful workshop of Hoda Baroudi and Maria Hibri, the talented duo behind the international design brand Bokja.; doubles from $320. —Gisela Williams

Habitas Namibia

Habitas Namibia at golden hour


Scattered atop a rocky kopje (Afrikaans for a small hill), Habitas Namibia’s 15 tented rooms look over the expansive plains and rolling hills of a 115,000-acre private reserve. While the camp is less than an hour’s drive from the capital city of Windhoek, the feeling is one of total isolation. Safaris are led by a team that represent some of Namibia’s diversity: Periuri Uatokuja and Paulus Kambathi weave their respective Himba and Khwe Bushman cultures into the game drive, with conversation ranging from rhino facts to traditional hunting techniques. Wellness is a focal point, too. There’s sunrise yoga, sound meditation in the bush, and treatments like the Himba-inspired ocher body mask and a knot-busting hot-stone massage. End the day with a bush braai (barbecue) under the stars, a visit from a drumming group, a peaceful new-moon meditation, or a vibey Sunday sunset session—a nod to Baja el Sol evenings at the original Habitas hotel in Tulúm, Mexico.; doubles from $587. —Heather Richardson

Jack’s Camp — Botswana

Tent interior at Jack's Camp in Botswana


Fifth-generation explorer and naturalist Ralph Bousfield put Botswana’s otherworldly Makgadikgadi salt pans on the safari map when Jack’s first opened 25 years ago. And it’s still the only safari operation for almost 100 miles. Over the years, the whimsical, explorer-style tented camp developed a cult following for its refreshingly unconventional approach to everything from the decadently styled, lamp-lit interiors—think Zanzibari four-poster beds, campaign chests, and Persian rugs—to the many madcap excursions led by Bousfield and his loyal band of equally maverick experts in everything from zoology and botany to paleontology and plant medicine. Adventures like searching the pans for fossils and elusive brown hyenas, traipsing through the veld in the footsteps of bushmen to learn ancient survival skills, and sleeping out under the stars have drawn a loyal following. A timely reinvention sees the new Jack’s embracing the future with the latest in Tesla solar-energy tech, while adding nine dreamy 1,400-square foot tents (two were designed specifically with families in mind), each with a private pool, wood-burning stove, indoor-outdoor shower, and, for the first time, Wi-Fi. For all its modern comforts, Jack’s is still a place to succumb to the total silence all around you, and to be humbled by the sheer luxury of space.; doubles from $1450. —Jane Broughton

Kruger Shalati — Kruger National Park, South Africa

Woman on bridge at Kruger Shalati


Suspended high above the Sabie River, in an engineering feat that balances heritage status with sound environmental management, Kruger Shalati feels like a total departure from conventional safari- lodge style. The hotel is actually a repurposed train comprising 24 glass-walled rooms set on former rail tracks. Romantic touches, like maroon leather headboards and a whimsical suite-numbering font, are complemented by vernacular motifs. A favorite example? In place of the regular waffle weave, silky bathrobes commissioned from rising textile-design star Bonolo Chepape riff on the bridge’s angular arches. I wore one for an in-room spa treatment during which I could admire hippos and elephants in the river below. I then retired to my flawlessly positioned tub before setting off on a game drive. As part of the hotel’s concession agreement, most of the guides and hospitality staff hail from communities surrounding the park. The commitment to economic impact and conceptual innovation is a welcome shake-up.; doubles from $530 per person, all inclusive. —Melanie Van Zyl

Singita Sabora Tented Camp — Tanzania

Singita Sabora Tented Camp bathtub


Reviving the nostalgia of camping under canvas, Singita Sabora Tented Camp plunges guests into the thick of the action, with the sights, smells, and sounds of safari amplified to great effect. The first camp to open in the company’s exclusive-use Grumeti Game Reserve 17 years ago, it relaunched in late 2020 following a major overhaul by design team Cécile & Boyd. Nine tents dressed in earthy hemp textiles and leather cascade across an open plain under gigantic skies. Thousand-strong herds of wildebeests arrive in May and late October during their migration circuit of the Serengeti. But wildlife sightings are excellent all year round. At night I listened to buffalo rub haunches against the ropes that held our tents to the ground, and through flickering campfire flames I watched lions stalk prey. Flexible all-day dining (by the pool, beneath a Balanites tree, or in your tent) is accompanied by a wine list with 100 bottles. Private meditation decks complete the picture of a safari that combines the best of the old and new worlds.; doubles from $1,650 per person, all inclusive. —Sarah Marshall.

St. Regis Cairo — Egypt

Exterior view of St. Regis Cairo, along the river


Peace and calm define Cairo’s latest high-end opening, where the double-glazed windows in guest rooms silence the nonstop action outside on the Nile Corniche. Serenity also reigns at the reflecting pools of the hotel’s Water Garden, where you can sip mint tea or a Bloody Mary made with hibiscus-infused vodka amid design details like arabesque lanterns and decorative mashrabiyas (windows covered with latticework). When it’s time to explore the city’s extraordinary history, fuel up on some of Cairo’s best falafel and ful medames (a classic Egyptian fava-bean stew with spices) at La Zisa—one of six restaurants on property—before heading off to experience the wonders of the Egyptian Museum, Khan el-Khalili bazaar, and the Pyramids, all a relatively short drive away. And for a glimpse of an unexpectedly bucolic side of the city, the hotel can arrange a speedboat up the Nile for scenes of palm groves, farms, and fishermen, complete with a picnic breakfast on a verdant stretch of the riverbank.; doubles from $220. —Nicola Chilton

Xigera Safari Lodge — Okavango Delta, Botswana

Exterior of Xigera Safari Lodge


While you’re likely to spot lions, white rhinos, herds of elephants, and even a leopard or two, wildlife isn’t the only visual thrill at this Botswana lodge, which is perched on stilts above the Okavango Delta. Xigera teamed with Southern Guild, a Cape Town art gallery, to bring the work of 80 sub-Saharan artists and designers to the property, and each of the 12 tented villas could double as a gallery. Among the standout examples: ceramics from South African artists Andile Dyalvane and Atang Tshikare, wood benches and chairs crafted from fallen trees by Adam Birch, and a totemic sculpture by Conrad Hicks that encircles the crackling flames of the firepit. But the real showstopper is the three-story Baobab Treehouse, which sleeps two: The steel structure was inspired by a painting of the tree by South African artist Jacobus Hendrik Pierneef. The second-floor bedroom has a zippable canvas wall that can open to the starry night sky. And from the top-floor deck, guests can see the delta unfold all around them.; doubles from $2,630, all-inclusive. — Travis Levius


Ace Hotel Kyoto — Japan

Exterior of Ace Hotel Kyoto


Ace Hotel Kyoto is a temple to craftwork from both edges of the Pacific. Japanese architect Kengo Kuma (of 2020 Tokyo Olympic Stadium fame) collaborated with California’s Commune Design on the 213-room property, which opened its doors last June. Part new build and part renovation of the former Kyoto Central Telephone Office from the 1920s, the design makes ample use of colossal wooden crossbeams and natural local materials. Case in point: the washi-paper walls and Shigaraki tiles fired in ancient kilns that adorn the lobby space. Witness the shimmering copper reception desk by Nousaku, a company better known for its metal fixtures for Buddhist altars (and one of around 50 artisans involved in outfitting the hotel). This is the American brand’s first outpost in Asia, and its beverage and food offerings mark a number of other notable arrivals into Japan, including Portland, Oregon fan-favorite Stumptown Coffee Roasters; Piopiko, a taqueria and cocktail bar by Wes Avila of L.A. institution Guerilla Tacos; and an Italian restaurant, Mr. Maurice, by Chef Marc Vetri.; doubles from $400 —Karryn Miller

Capella Bangkok — Thailand

Capella Bangkok pool


Singapore-based hotel group Capella has opened what could be fairly described at the city’s most beautiful hotel. The 101-key property sits along the waterfront of the Chao Phraya, Bangkok’s great arterial river, using the city’s most ancient landscape in a way that few others can. Most rooms and suites feature wide balconies with whirlpool baths that feel like seats at the opera—with the river as the stage. Down by the water itself, seven garden villas are arrayed among foliage, with the only sounds being the passing rice barges and the occasional singing from a karaoke boat. Capella aims to create an atmosphere of privacy, with sunlit open spaces, gorgeous tearooms and lounges, riverine parks, and grandiose reception areas. Outdoor pools are filled with rare birds washing and preening themselves. Of special note is Côte by Mauro Colagreco, the Franco-Italian restaurant run by chef Davide Garavaglia and sommelier Jay Thanathorn Bottorff. After sampling bottles of 2007 Lopez de Heredia Tondonia Riserva Blanco and an even rarer 2009 Donnafugata Passito di Pantelleria, I’m confident in calling this the best wine list in Bangkok.; doubles from $413. —Lawrence Osborne

Higashiyama Niseko Village, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve — Hokkaido, Japan

Spa tub with snow view


In the mountainous, snow-globe village of Niseko on Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, Ritz-Carlton has debuted its latest ultrahigh-end Reserve. As with its sister properties, the vibe here is intimate, with only 50 guest rooms and an understated design scheme that mirrors its natural surroundings. Floor-to-ceiling windows frame the peaks of Mount Yotei and Mount Annupuri, and rooms are decorated with delicate cherry-blossom motifs in a nod to the area’s explosion of blooms every spring. Skiers will appreciate access to over 2,000 acres of terrain that gets some of the world’s driest, fluffiest powder, with plenty of groomed runs and off-piste areas. Off the slopes, there are miles of hiking and biking trails, two 18-hole golf courses, and an onsen spa fed by Hokkaido’s mineral-rich hot springs. The chefs, meanwhile, work with farmers and fishermen to incorporate the island’s famous produce and seafood into such dishes as soufflé pancakes with yuzu custard and omakase sushi paired with regional sake.; doubles from $710. — Selena Hoy

Hotel the Mitsui Kyoto, a Luxury Collection Hotel & Spa — Japan 

The Nijo suite living room at Hotel the Mitsui, Kyoto


A welcome addition to Kyoto’s high-end hotel scene (and the first under Japanese ownership) the Mitsui is emblematic of the city. Guests enter the property through a 300-year-old gate, and step into a property with design details that include a peaceful central courtyard garden by Tokyo-based landscape designer Shunsaku Miyagi and spaces decorated with works by local Kyoto artists. The hotel’s 161 guest rooms feature huge sliding glass doors—in nice weather, they erase any barrier between outside and in, and all have views of either Nijo Castle (built in the 17th-century) or lush gardens. The Mitsui’s two restaurants (one French-Japanese fusion, the other specializing in wood-fired pizzas) serve a relaxed afternoon tea service that encourages quiet contemplation, while an enchanted cavern-like thermal spa is fed by spring water from over 3,000 feet deep, offering the ideal way to end a day of sightseeing.; doubles from $872. —Selena Hoy

The Johri at Lal Haveli — Jaipur, India

The Johri at Lal Haveli Outdoor Courtyard


On a side street in Jaipur’s bustling Johri Bazaar (home of the city’s fine-jewelry market), you might be surprised to hear contemporary jazz drifting out of a quiet courtyard. At the Johri—a boutique hotel set in a 19th-century haveli, or mansion—co-owners Abhishek Honawar, Naina Shah, and Siddharth Kasliwal have created a modern, welcoming retreat that pays homage to the area’s history of craft. Johri means “jeweler”; accordingly, each of the five suites is modeled after a different precious stone or metal: ruby, sapphire, emerald, pearl, and gold. Guests can also expect a “high-chai” afternoon tea service and an in-room gin-and-tonic at dusk. While the verandas, spa, and lounge bar will be accessible only to hotel guests, the vegetarian Indian restaurant and cocktail bar are open to the public and are sure to become a magnet for the city’s style set.; doubles from $300. — Prasad Ramamurthy

The Leela Palace — Jaipur, India

Courtyard at The Leela Jaipur


While the overall architecture and décor mimic tradition, the vibe at the Leela Palace Jaipur is distinctly contemporary. It’s reflected in the visual mix: calming pastel shades, fabrics rich in color and texture, Venetian mirrors and sparkly chandeliers. It’s also seen in the use of vintage buggies to transport guests, the complimentary mountain bikes, the discreet butler service, and the mean craft gin cocktails served at the bar. There’s also a welcoming friendliness that’s visible when staffers pause work to play with the youngest guests or to get them ice cream on demand. While it’s certainly suited to vacationing families, the Leela—with its 200 rooms, suites, and villas—is a definite contender in the destination-wedding market. That it knows how to put on a show is obvious from the daily high-tea service, which includes folk dancers, fortune tellers, bangle makers, potters, and even a puppet show. And the Indian food is universally excellent (I ordered the mutton dish nalli ka salan twice). Even if you’re not here for the food, though, book at least one dinner at Mohan Mahal. The restaurant is inspired by the nearby Amer Fort’s Sheesh Mahal (a palace built in the 10th century), and is lit by 110 candles come nightfall.; doubles from $220 — Prasad Ramamurthy

One&Only Desaru Coast — Malaysia

Pool view of One&Only Desaru Coast


For its fourth Asian outpost, One&Only chose a pristine corner of coastal Malaysia about a 90-minute drive east of Singapore (the arrival point for most guests). One of the last projects of the late, great Australian architect Kerry Hill, known largely for his Aman properties, it’s a study in clean lines and natural materials: wood and stone anchor contemporary cubic buildings, while reflecting pools are fringed by dense jungle. The overall effect— especially alongside the expanse of white sand and the South China Sea—is a feeling of being at one with the environment, but with every indulgence you’d expect from the luxury resort brand. Chief among them are an Olympic-size main swimming pool and a spa from Swiss wellness pioneers Chenot that offers sciencebased nutrition and fitness guidance, plus sound therapy and biofeedback sessions.; doubles from $875. — Diana Khoo

The Tokyo Edition, Toranomon

Lobby of The Tokyo EDITION hotel with fireplace and dark hues with gold accents


A fashionable newcomer to Tokyo’s vast hotel scene, the Edition Toranomon is a collaboration between legendary hotelier Ian Schrager and architect Kengo Kuma. Its design carries the signature look of the brand, with clean lines and wide views of the metropolis, with a soaring 31st-floor lobby ceiling that makes the most of the Tokyo skyline. Afternoon tea here had me feeling like a rarefied bird, nibbling on pastries while peering down onto the streets from a perch dense with foliage (the Lobby Bar and lounge area are decorated with hundreds of green plants). Of the property’s 206 rooms (all of which are above the 31st floor) ask for one with a terrace, which comes with full patio sets—at night, the city unrolls at your feet like a glittering carpet. It’s best enjoyed with a cocktail (or mocktail–try the daidai G&T, with non-alcoholic gin, Japanese citrus, carrot, and apple). It’s steps from the subway, so you may spend your stay day tripping, but give yourself enough time to decompress from the buzz of the city with a dip in the lap pool or an organic massage or facial in the spa.; doubles from $460. —Selena Hoy

Zannier Hotels Bai San Hô — Vietnam

Zannier Hotels Bãi San Hô - Paddy Field Villa


The zooming motorbikes and frenzied pace of Vietnam’s high-energy cities melt away at this off-the-grid resort in central Vietnam, where 71 villas are spread over 242 acres of lush greenery and rice paddies. Zannier honored the local ethnic groups and the nearby fishing villages by constructing three different types of Vietnamese-style villas, laden with bamboo ceilings, antique rice baskets, and colors that reflect the natural landscape. And the staff clearly takes pride in the regional seafood, which is on display at its breezy beach restaurant Làng Chài, and the traditional cooking techniques which are the focus at Bà Hai. The main draw for many travelers, though, might be the private, kilometer-long stretch of beach that teems with colorful coral just offshore.; doubles from $240. —Katie Lockhart


Crown Sydney

Interior of suite at Crown Sydney


How do you make waves in a city whose beaches are already the envy of the world? Sun, sand, and salty feet might be the hallmarks of a holiday Down Under, but the latest big hotel opening in Sydney has guests swimming among skyscrapers—that is, five levels up in an infinity pool overlooking a stylish new harborside district, with a Bloody Mary in hand. The glossy 890-foot Crown Sydney in Barangaroo brings with it a sense of opulence the harbor city has long lacked. The centerpiece is that pool, and it’s a showstopper, with private cabanas, laid-back beats, and flawless service (it’s a prime lunch-and-cocktail spot). Equally jaw-dropping are the floor-to-ceiling vistas of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House in the hotel’s sprawling, tech-savvy suites. Among its 14 eateries and bars is Nobu’s latest outpost, plus its 12-seater high-end sushi off-shoot Yoshii’s Omakase and Cirq Bar, which holds court 26 floors up on the rooftop terrace.; doubles from $514. —Jenny Hewitt


Caerula Mar Club — Bahamas

Caerula Mar Club pool in the Bahamas


Beyond sunny skies and impossibly blue waters, the Bahamas also delivers blissful seclusion. And perhaps nowhere more so than on Andros, the largest and least inhabited of the country’s 700 islands and cays. Known as the Sleeping Giant, it’s home to fewer than 2,000 people, one gas station, and Caerula Mar Club, a boutique retreat that opened in February 2020. Owned by Bryan and Sarah Baeumler—Canadian HGTV stars who documented their transformation of the once-abandoned resort on their show Renovation Island—the beachfront hotel has 18 rooms and four villas. Each is decorated in contemporary Caribbean style, a mix of warm neutrals that soothe the senses and natural textures such as stone and straw that evoke the destination. At breakfast, decadent lobster Benedict encourages leisurely dining, and a quick stop for a slice of pizza with wild mushrooms and goat-milk cheese from the resort’s brick oven can easily turn into a multi-hour feast as you try a little of everything on the menu. But resist the temptation to linger. Beyond Caerula’s confines lie uniquely Androsian activities: snorkeling in mysterious blue holes; diving into the world’s third-largest coral reef; and playing castaway on idyllic nearby islets you can claim for yourself, if only for a few precious hours.; doubles from $385.  —Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon

Eclipse at Half Moon — Jamaica 

Eclipse at Half Moon in Jamaica


Half Moon is Montego Bay’s iconic grand dame, founded in the 1950s. So the announcement of an addition to this iconic 400-acre resort (which opened in December) was big news. Eclipse’s 57 rooms and suites are all outrageously spacious, with a fresh, island aesthetic (think hardwood floors, tropical print fabrics, and a soft color palette that’s meant to reflect the sand and sea outside), and some of the best meals I had were spent on my patio while listening to the rustle of palm fronds while looking out at the Caribbean Sea. There are, of course, several reasons to leave your room, including Delmare, an Italian-influenced seafood restaurant overlooking the ocean (bonus: the calypso band that plays here in the evenings). There’s also a spa and fitness center that offers yoga, pilates, and guided meditation—with nature’s own soundtrack courtesy of the waves nearby—as well as more active pursuits like golf, kayaking and snorkeling. However I spent my time, though, I found that the best way to end the day was always with a rum cocktail at Lester’s Bar, named after the Jamaican artist whose work adorns the walls.; doubles from $699. —Sheryl Nance-Nash

Hôtel Barrière Le Carl Gustaf — St. Bart’s

Hotel Barriere Le Carl Gustaf bedroom in St. Bart's


Even before Hurricane Irma battered the tiny Caribbean island of St. Bart’s and most of its resorts in 2017, Le Carl Gustaf was undergoing a four-year restoration under the French hotel company Barrière. Its launch is part of a turning point for St. Bart’s, where several properties have come roaring back to life. The palm shrouded grounds are set on a hill overlooking Gustavia, the main town, which is famous for its low-slung, red-roofed buildings. All of the hotel’s 21 rooms are positioned to maximize the Caribbean views beyond—and each has a large terrace where guests can take their meals (particularly special during golden hour). And while there’s plenty to do on-property (dips in your private plunge pool, massages and yoga at the spa and fitness center, Mediterranean style seafood at the beachside restaurant), Shell Beach, one of the most iconic on the island, is also just a short walk away.; doubles from $1,090. —Dan Koday

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