Lure of the lobby: what's hot in 2005

From grand openings to dazzling refurbishments, the luxury hotel scene never stands still. Susie Logan offers a pick of the new


1 Amanwella, Tangalle, Sri Lanka

1 Amanwella, Tangalle, Sri Lanka

In the world of hotels, Amanresorts has become a byword for understated luxury. Now devotees, or "Amanjunkies", can get their latest fix in Sri Lanka, the site of two new properties by the group - Amangalla, which is already open, and Amanwella, which opens on Tuesday. The latter beachfront resort, near the town of Tangalle, has 30 suites, each with private swimming pool and terrace. Floor-to-ceiling glass windows on two sides of the suites make the most of the panoramic views of the Indian Ocean. If such seclusion proves too lonely, guests can lounge by the resort's infinity pool, stroll down its crescent of white sand or take a walk through the jungle that surrounds the hotel to the local village of Wella Wathuara.

How to book: Amanwella (00 800 2255 2626; www.amanresorts.com) and sister resort Amangalla, in Galle, are offering 50 per cent discounts on rack rates until 31 October. Doubles without breakfast currently start at US$351 (£195) per night, including airport transfers.

2 Convento Do Espinheiro, Portugal

Due to open on 1 June, this restored 15th-century former convent turned hotel is set in a beautiful garden in the walled town of Evora, a Unesco World Heritage Site dating from Roman times which was once the residence of Portuguese kings. The character of the original building has been retained, with some areas put to novel use - the convent's wine cellar will house the gourmet restaurant, while the old kitchen used by the monks will become the hotel bar. Guests can choose from 59 rooms, with facilities including indoor and outdoor pools, a spa with six treatment rooms and a tennis court.

How to book: Starwood Hotels (00 800 325 45454; www.starwoodhotels.com) will begin taking reservations closer to the opening date. Room prices are not yet available.

3 Brown's Hotel, London W1

First opened in 1837, Brown's Hotel in Mayfair will get a new lease of life when it reopens this September under the ownership of Rocco Forte Hotels.

Designer and hotelier Olga Polizzi - Forte's sister, who works her magic on most of his hotels - is in charge of the stylish makeover which aims to offer a more contemporary feel while ensuring Brown's retains the traditional English style for which it has become known and loved. Antiques, soft colour schemes and natural linens, silks and angora throws are promised in the 117 guest rooms, which will also showcase the best of contemporary English art. Up-to-the-minute technology will include two-line phones, broadband connections and televisions with interactive video in each room.

How to book: Contact Rocco Forte Hotels (0870 460 8040; www.roccofortehotels.com) from August for prices.

4 Landmark Mandarin, Hong Kong

The glittering skyscrapers of central Hong Kong will provide a spectacular backdrop for the Mandarin Oriental group's second hotel in the city. While smaller than the group's other properties, this 113-room luxury boutique hotel will form part of The Landmark complex at the heart of the city's entertainment and shopping district. The aim is a young and contemporary feel, with spacious bedrooms supplied with all the latest technology, a stylish bar by the designer Adam Tihany, and a spa offering holistic treatments. Beyond the hotel lobby, guests can empty their wallets in The Landmark complex's designer boutiques, or stray further afield to experience one of Asia's most exciting cities.

How to book: Contact Mandarin Oriental (00 800 2828 3838; www.mandarinoriental.com) from August for prices.

5 Ntwala Island Lodge, Namibia

Just eight guests will be able to stay at any one time in this luxurious lodge, overlooking the point at which the Zambezi and Chobe Rivers in Namibia's Caprivi strip meet. Spread across a small group of islands in the middle of the river, the lodge will offer ultimate safari-style seclusion in the African wilderness. When it opens on 1 September, guests will be given the choice of four stilted suites, each with a plunge pool and deck, surrounded by white sand and palm trees. The main lodge will feature an open fire and sunken theatre-style kitchen, as well as a walk-in wine cellar. Private guides and boats will be at the guests' beck and call, offering the chance to explore the river or go wildlife-watching at nearby Chobe National Park.

How to book: A five-night stay at Ntwala Island Lodge with Audley Travel (01869 276250; www.audleytravel.com) costs from £ 1,178 per person, based on two sharing, including full-board accommodation and all activities. For further information see www.islandsinafrica.com.

6 The Villa at Merida, Mexico

The recently opened Villa at Merida provides a quiet retreat in the heart of the bustling colonial city of Merida, on southern Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. This restored 19th-century nobleman's hacienda retains many of its original features, including high-beamed ceilings and enormous wooden doors. However, its most attractive feature is its courtyard and gardens, with arched verandas and tropical vegetation surrounding the hotel pool. Choose from seven elegant rooms, all with tiled floors and wrought-iron four-poster beds. And at night there's no need to stray further than the front door: guests can choose to dine at the hotel on regional cuisine specially prepared by local chefs.

How to book: The Villa at Merida (00 52 999 928 8466; www.thevillasgroup.com) offers double rooms from $205 (£113) per night. Steppes Latin America (01285 885 333; www.steppeslatinamerica.co.uk) offers seven nights at the Villa Merida from £1,350 per person, based on two sharing. The price includes return flights, b&b accommodation and transfers.

7 Kasbah Tamadot, Morocco

Richard Branson's eagerly awaited new venture, Kasbah Tamadot, opened its Moorish-style doors last month. Set against the stunning backdrop of Morocco's High Atlas mountains, 45 minutes' drive from Marrakech, Branson bought the property in 1998 on the recommendation of his mother. After several years of painstaking work, the fortified building has been transformed into one of the country's newest luxury hideaways. Interiors combine African artefacts and antiques with pieces from India and the Far East, including bespoke, king-size, four-poster beds. The main building has 15 rooms and suites, while at the end of the garden stands the studio, a miniature replica of the kasbah, which can be rented as a private two- or three-bedroom cottage. Facilities include indoor and outdoor pools, a rooftop bar, a restaurant serving African and international cuisine and a traditional Moroccan hammam.

How to book: Virgin Limited Edition (0800 716 919; www.virgin.com/limitededition) offers High Atlas Escapes at the Kasbah Tamadot from £395 per person, based on two sharing, including three nights' b&b accommodation, two dinners and road transfers from Marrakech.

8 Casa Andina, Suasi Island, Peru

Lake Titicaca - the world's highest navigable lake - forms the backdrop for Peru's latest hotel, which is due to open on Wednesday. Situated on Suasi island, in the middle of the lake, Casa Andina is a renovated, 30-room, solar-powered lodge offering guests a peaceful retreat in an atmosphere of rare natural beauty. To make the most of the surroundings, which are home to protected flora and fauna, the hotel plans to host an array of activities, including hiking, kayaking and bird-watching expeditions.

How to book: Casa Andina (00 51 1 446 8848; www.casa-andina.com) offers double rooms from $70 (£40) per night. Trips Worldwide (0117-311 4400; www.tripsworldwide.co.uk) offers a tailor-made "Highlights of Peru" 14-night package from £2,295 per person, including international flights, transfers and accommodation, which can include several nights at the Casa Andina.

9 Hotel Caruso, Ravello, Italy

Set in the heart of Ravello, one of the Amalfi coast's most romantic cliffside villages, the Hotel Caruso is no stranger to glamour, having played host to the world's rich and famous, from the Bloomsbury Group to Jackie Kennedy. One of its former owners, a local man called Pantaleone Caruso, opened just one wing of this 11th-century palazzo as a five-room pensione in 1893. This June it re-opens as part of the Orient-Express Hotel Group, offering a rather larger selection of 54 rooms, two restaurants, a heated outdoor pool and the idyllic "Belvedere" garden with its 11th-century colonnade.

How to book: Orient-Express Hotels (020-7960 0500; www.orient-express.com) offers double rooms from €570 (£407) per night.

10 Chamberlain, West Hollywood

You may know this hotel as the Summerfield Suites, but tomorrow its transformation will be complete when it is officially renamed Chamberlain West Hollywood. It's the latest project of the funky Kor Hotel group, which already owns several stylish hotels in the city, including Maison 140 and The Avalon. Located in one of Los Angeles's trendiest neighbourhoods, this four-storey, 112-room hotel is just a couple of blocks from the shopping, dining and nightlife of Sunset Strip. Guest rooms are equipped with all the latest technology, including flat-screen televisions, DVD and CD players. Rooms are spacious and luxurious, with separate living and sleeping areas, a fireplace and balcony. But the highlight of the hotel is its rooftop pool, where you can lie back on one of the stripy sunloungers and take in the amazing views of the city.

How to book: Chamberlain West Hollywood ((001 310 657 7400; www.chamberlainwesthollywood.com) offers double rooms from $139 (£77) per night.

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