12 hot hotel openings for 2018

This year, a new crop of ahead-of-the-curve hotels are pushing boundaries and setting new standards in experiential travel. From a game-changing wildlife sanctuary perched above a Cambodian river valley to a luxury Rwanda wilderness lodge on the fringes of a gorilla-dotted national park, we’ve scoured the globe for the top 12 debuts to hit the hotel scene this year.

Bisate Lodge is located on the fringes of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. Image courtesy of Bisate Lodge

Bisate Lodge, Rwanda

Built in the remnants of an old volcano crater in northern Rwanda, Bisate Lodge is located on the fringes of Volcanoes National Park – a popular spot for gorilla trekking. Combining luxury with eco-consciousness, the lodge aims to educate guests about the critically endangered apes and support the sustainable conservation community, which helps safeguard the creatures’ habitat. Set into the hillside, six pointy-tipped thatched villas incorporate native materials, all woven grass-clad walls, wooden floors and bamboo balconies overlooking Mount Bisoke. Inside, there are cowhide rugs slung in front of wood-burning fires, bedside tables upcycled from vintage trunks and black oval-shaped tubs in spacious bathrooms. Elsewhere, there’s a fire-warmed bar with sheepskin-topped leather sofas, plus a wine cellar and an exposed-brick restaurant with a focus on African-inspired cuisine.

Design-forward rooms at Iniala Harbour House. Image courtesy of Engin Aydeniz/Iniala Harbour House

Iniala Harbour House, Malta

The tiny Mediterranean island that packs a mighty punch, Malta is stepping into the limelight this year thanks to its golden-hued capital, Valletta, being designated a 2018 European Capital of Culture – coinciding with the much-anticipated launch of Iniala Harbour House at the end of the year. Set on the harbourfront, the boutique beauty will see 24 rooms spread across four grand palazzos, including two townhouses, a former bank and dynamite-storage vaults – the site of a luxury spa and gym. The new design incorporates many of the building’s original features, from bright blue balconies punctuating townhouse facades to a Maltese staircase used by former staff to access living quarters. But the hotel’s crowning glory is a rooftop restaurant and bar with views stretching from the city’s fortified walls to the Grand Harbour and Three Cities beyond. The same gorgeous vistas provide a beautiful backdrop for many of the rooms; ultra-hip spaces styled by an army of leading designers from around the world – think original exposed-brick walls, jungle-inspired murals and bedside tables carved from tree trunks.

Shinta Mani Wild Private Nature Sanctuary is perched above a Cambodian river valley. Image courtesy of Shinta Mani Wild

Shinta Mani Wild Private Nature Sanctuary, Cambodia

Due to open this summer, Shinta Mani Wild Private Nature Sanctuary is the brainchild of Bill Bensley, the renowned resort designer behind the likes of Vietnam’s InterContinental Danang and the St. Regis in Bali. Having discovered a wildlife corridor connecting the Bokor and Kirirom national parks – home to wild elephants, tigers, gibbons and other animals – Bensley set out to protect the 400-acre river valley from poaching, mining and logging. Known for creating staggering resorts with minimal environmental impact, his latest game-changer aims to safeguard the threatened wilderness and create opportunities for the community. And the design is pretty damn spectacular, too. Perched above a mile-long stretch of river, 16 safari-style tents offer beautiful views of the rushing water, while a seasonally driven restaurant set on the edge of a cascading waterfall rustles up Cambodian cuisine using foraged and local ingredients.

Six Senses Bhutan in Punakha – one of five lodges peppered across the Himalayan kingdom. Image courtesy of Six Senses

Six Senses Bhutan

When it opens this summer, Six Senses’ string of five lodges across Bhutan will offer travellers the chance to journey across the Himalayan kingdom, or settle in the one hotel. Designed with a sensitivity to the Buddhist culture and remote surroundings, the lodges are located in Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey and Bumthang – all with extraordinary views. Infinity pools soar above paddy fields and glass-fronted wooden lodges sit against a dramatic mountainous backdrop. While the aesthetic is pared-back minimalism, each outpost will evoke a different vibe, from rattan furniture and woven bamboo walls creating a rustic farmhouse style in Punakha, to large swathes of glass blurring interior and exterior for a forest-within-a-forest effect in Bumthang.

Eclectic-chic interiors at The Avon Gorge. Image courtesy of The Avon Gorge

The Avon Gorge, Bristol

Opening spring 2018, this newly revamped boutique bolthole offers the height of tasteful, eclectic-chic interiors. An original marble staircase and stained-glass windows pay homage to the history of this iconic landmark on the Bristol cityscape, while guestroom design is forward-thinking with a classic hint. Dark wood furniture and original fireplaces hold their own alongside mustard-yellow armchairs and ornately framed portraits; all set against a rich palette of teals and deep greens. The best rooms see twin bathtubs strategically positioned against full-length windows, some with views of Clifton Village’s quaint Georgian streets or the Clifton Suspension Bridge. The latter also provides a backdrop for the White Lion Bar, a hip dining space where guests rub shoulders with locals over traditional French cuisine served on long wooden tables.

The Shanghai-based Amanyangyun saved 50 antique houses and a camphor forest from destruction. Image courtesy of Amanyangyun

Amanyangyun by Aman Resorts, China

Shaking up the uber-modern Shanghai hotel scene, Amanyangyun is an ethereal hideaway with a rich history. Having opened in October 2017, the luxurious resort was borne out of a decade-long conservation project – a labour of love for Chinese businessman Ma Dadong. The philanthropist transported 50 antique houses and 10,000 camphor trees over 700 kilometres, from Fuzhou to Shanghai, after discovering a new reservoir threatened their existence. On the new site, the Ming and Qing dynasty houses were carefully dismantled and transformed into 26 dwellings, many with private pools and courtyards. Modern, minimalist interiors bring the lovingly restored 400-year-old buildings into the 21st century, while original stone carvings and reliefs nod to their heritage. There’s also a holistic wellness centre rooted in Chinese tradition and six restaurants serving excellent local cuisine and international dishes.

Zuri Zanzibar lodges are dotted throughout lush gardens or along a white-sand beach. Image courtesy of Zuri Zanzibar

Zuri Zanzibar, Unguja

Spilling over onto the icing-sugar sands of Kendwa Beach, on the west-facing shores of Unguja, Zuri Zanzibar gazes out across the Indian Ocean, an hour’s drive from Stone Town. Set to open in May 2018, it’s all about slipping down a few gears here: flake out on a Balinese day bed lining the private beach, dive into the 32-metre infinity pool, book in for a spa treatment at Maua Wellness, snorkel among shoals of kaleidoscopic fish or take a traditional dhow cruise at sunset. Within steps of an azure lagoon, 55 bungalows, suites and beach villas are dotted throughout the tropical gardens or along the silky shores, many with terraces and outdoor showers, some with hot tubs and private beaches. A trio of restaurants makes use of the bounty of the ocean, serving up catch of the day, lobster and fresh seafood, while the toes-in-the-sand Dhow Bar is the perfect spot to catch an African sunset.

Salon Saint Germain, one of the lounge areas at Lutetia. Image courtesy of Lutetia

Lutetia, Paris

A Left Bank landmark, Lutetia is housed in a grand Art Nouveau building in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, a genteel neighbourhood filled with high-end galleries, chic boutiques and storied cafés. Originally opened in 1910, the hotel has drawn in a creative crowd over the years (James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Picasso), while the new-and-improved version is set to open in spring 2018, following a hefty revamp. Behind its vanilla-hued facade, the Parisian beauty is home to 184 rooms and suites – two of which are penthouse digs with huge private terraces and city views. A clutch of restaurants, bars and lounges are spread across the ground floor, including a jazz bar, a light-flooded internal courtyard dining space and the reimagined Lutetia Brasserie, headed up by Gérald Passédat of three-Michelin-starred La Petit Nice in Marseille. The third outpost of Akasha – a holistic spa best known from the London-based Hotel Café Royal – will open at Lutetia, featuring a vast treatment menu and a 17-metre swimming pool bathed in natural light.

Wild Coast Tented Lodge, in Sri Lanka, is built to resemble Yala boulders. Image courtesy of Nomadic Resorts

Wild Coast Tented Lodge by Resplendent Ceylon, Sri Lanka

Set on a wild, untamed coastline where jungle claws its way to the ocean, this luxury tented safari camp can be found in an unsullied corner of southern Sri Lanka, bordering Yala National Park. An October 2017 opening, the retreat’s paw-shaped layout gives a nod to the park’s famed resident – the leopard, which slinks among herds of elephant and sloth bears. Built to resemble their natural surroundings, 28 guest tents are scattered among the tangly scrub like the Yala boulders nearby, raised on wooden decks and topped with undulating fabric canopies. Overlooking watering holes or rippling sand dunes, the five-star ‘cocoons’ are filled with four-poster beds and freestanding copper bathtubs, some with a private plunge pool. Designed to emulate Yala rock formations, a thatched open-sided bar and dining pavilion offer cocktails and a daily-changing Sri Lankan menu, while the Sanctuary Spa provides wellness treatments against an Indian Ocean backdrop.

1920s French-salon style interiors at The Ramble Hotel. Image courtesy of The Ramble Hotel

The Ramble Hotel, Denver

Situated among the trendy galleries and concert venues of the River North Art District, this Downtown Denver boutique will offer 50 rooms and suites from March, as well as an intimate 80-seat theatre screening the work of local filmmakers. You’ll also find an outdoor courtyard and a flexible event and meeting space, but perhaps the star attraction at The Ramble Hotel is Death & Co, the first outpost of the original New York cocktail lounge – something of a Manhattan institution. Far from a replication of the Gothic-style East Village drinking den, it incorporates a light and airy high-ceilinged lobby bar, while providing the eats for the hotel’s café-style breakfast bar. Here the vibe is 17th-century French salon, with a sweep of marble-grey offset by rich greens and deep clarets. Herringbone flooring and an eclectic seating vignette, warm and inviting beneath crystal chandeliers, complete the look. The Ramble Hotel is due to open early this year.

Rosewood Luang Prabang is set among a pristine pocket of northern Laos. Image courtesy of Rosewood Luang Prabang

Rosewood Luang Prabang, Laos

Set among a pristine pocket of northern Laos, the latest addition to come under the Rosewood umbrella is tucked away among the folds of forest-cloaked hills – a 10-minute drive from the UNESCO-listed city of Luang Prabang. Peeking out from a lush tropical grove, 23 riverside tents and villas fuse French colonial architecture and traditional Lao design, some with open-air bathtubs and private pools. Another Bill Bensley design – this one due to open early this year – Rosewood Luang Prabang incorporates indigenous materials while keeping in line with UNESCO guidelines. Classic Lao cuisine is served in the riverside bistro, which favours a farm-to-table approach to cooking. Elsewhere, cocktails infused with herbs and spices from the organic kitchen-garden are mixed in an atmospheric bar atop a wooden bridge. The signature ‘Sense, A Rosewood Spa’ features hillside treatment cabanas overlooking the mountains, alongside an outdoor pool set next to a natural waterfall.

The grade II-listed Jacobean Suite at Soho House’s latest venture. Image courtesy of Kettner’s Townhouse

Kettner’s Townhouse, London

The latest venture from the ultra-hip Soho House team, Kettner’s Townhouse will hit the London hotel scene this January, bringing with it 33 boutique rooms, a champagne bar, and a French restaurant with an interesting past. One of the capital’s first French eateries, the iconic Kettner’s was opened by Auguste Kettner (chef to Napoleon III) back in 1867. It’s been a hit with London’s luminaries ever since – Oscar Wilde and King Edward VII among regulars. After a two-year makeover, the new bistro pays homage to Kettner’s former grandeur – all rich mahogany and tone-on-tone colours – with a menu to match. Overnight guests can stumble up the original 18th-century spiral staircase to bed down in 1920s French-boudoir style rooms – expect Art Nouveau chandeliers, velvet scalloped headboards, hand-painted wallpaper and William Morris prints. And the room to book? With its own private entrance from Soho’s Greek Street, the Grade II-listed Jacobean suite takes in an Edwardian wood-panelled living and dining area and a luxe bathroom with a freestanding copper tub.

Words by Jo Reeves

Please be aware that as these are new properties, some images may be computer-generated.

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