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Destination: The Sonoran is one of North America’s largest deserts and stretches from Baja California to the southern-most tips of Arizona. Famed for the cowboy culture and a rich Native American heritage the Arizona part of the desert is typified by long stretches of sub-tropical sands with nothing but the occasional cactus to interrupt the view. The protected status means hundreds of native plants, animals and birds are allowed to thrive despite the tough conditions. Best seen from horseback or a private hot air balloon the Sonoran Desert is one of the must-visit locations for lovers of Americana. The beauty has attracted developers and Dove Mountain is considered to be among the most coveted areas. It includes 6,200 acres of foothills, canyons and mountainside facilities just north of Tuscon, Arizona.
Where to stay:
The jewel of the development is The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain hotel. Designed in a South Western style with strong Native American references the hotel is the poshest of Tuscon’s many golf resorts. There are two Jack Nicklaus-designed courses and an annual competiton attracting the very best players in the world but the hotel cannot be merely pigeon-holed as a golf resort. That would not take into account the family ranching activities with authentic cowboy activities, superior hiking trails and the impressive spa. All set against the backdrop of the Tortolita Mountains.
Details: The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain
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Destination: When an online campaign to crown Seven New Wonders of the natural world began back in 2007 the name of Iguazu Falls was one of the first to be voted to the top of the official list. The semi-circular waterfall acts as a border between Argentinean and Brazilian rainforests. The crescent shape of the waterfall stretches more than 2miles around a sunken plateau with water thundering down in almost 300 separate cascades and around 100metres of sheer drop. The highlight of the location, and a must for any holiday photograph album, is the ‘Devil’s Throat’ section of the falls where the force of the falling water causes a spray to rise more than 30metres into the air and create year round rainbows.
Where to stay:
The Hotel das Cataratas is the only resort located within the Iguassu National Park and is surprisingly close to the water’s edge. While there is no danger of falling over the edge, the thunderous roar of the water provides a curiously relaxing hum. The Portuguese-colonial residence is just a short stroll from the best viewing spots on the river and should you ever tire of simply looking at one of the planet’s most arresting views (unlikely) the hotel offers an abundance of helicopter trips, rafting excursions and jungle treks to give an alternative angle.
Details: Hotel das Cataratas
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Destination: Beaver Creek is a ski resort in Eagle County, Colorado. As part of the Rocky Mountain range and located on the slopes of Bachelor Gulch it has legitimate claims to some of the best views in America. Snow-capped peaks, acres of forest, multi-ability ski runs and countless hiking and photo opportunities mean this is a destination for lovers of the great outdoors. There are approximately 300 inches of snowfall each year and, non-skiers will be glad to note, a similar number of days of sunshine.
Where to stay:
Bachelor Gulch and Beaver Creek have hosted many international ski contests and are hubs for winter sport enthusiasts from all around the world. The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch was established as a luxury destination for discerning visitors to the region. 90 per cent of the rooms have mountain views with many also boasting open fireplaces and balconies and all rooms have distinctive Colorado ski-lodge styling. 21,000 square feet of spa space, a Wolfgang Puck-managed restaurant, ski-in/ski-out access and an expansive Club Level make it a plush platform for getting in touch with the pioneering spirit.
Details: The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch
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Destination: When trying to pinpoint Fiji on a world map most people would head first for New Zealand and then track northwards until finding the islands. They are, after all, practically neighbours. The truth is there are more than 2,000km between Auckland and Fiji’s capital, Suva. It is literally true that there is nowhere quite like Fiji and nowhere near it either. Formed more than 150million years ago through volcanic activity and shifting land masses it is an archipelago of more than 300 islands. In every sense Fiji is a tropical island nation and is famous for white beaches, crystal clear water, more than 100 kinds of unique flora and dozens of indigenous animals.
Where to stay:
It would be hard to find a hotelier responsible enough to properly do justice to the islands of Fiji. But the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort can draw on the notoriety of the legendary Jacques Cousteau and offers a world of underwater exploration in an eco-friendly manner. Set in 17 acres of private coconut plantation the low rise resort overlooks Savusavu Bay on the island of Vanua Levu. Numerous commendations, including Conde Nast and World Travel Awards, have established the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort as one of the most famous hotels in Fiji. Accommodation comprises private villas or traditional Fijian bures, most with al fresco decking overlooking miles of uninterrupted South Pacific Ocean views.
Details: Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort
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Destination: The beautiful lakes of North America are rightly considered as being among the most stunning areas of natural beauty in the world. The man-made lakes are less readily revered but a visit to the shores of Lake Oconee is splendid. Oconee is a delightful byproduct of the creation of the Wallace Dam in the late 1970s. Halfway between Atlanta and Augusta the lake is regarded as having some of Georgia’s best fishing, hiking and picnic spots. Verdant hills of Georgia pines stretch for miles and are a welcome break from the nearby commercial centres.
Where to stay:
The Ritz-Carlton, Reynolds Plantation is a delightful base from which to further investigate the region. The epitome of southern hospitality with the usual Ritz-Carlton flourish the property won a AAA Five Diamond Lodging award for 2012. As with many of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company’s North America offerings the golf is excellent. 99 holes of championship golf are included on the vast grounds with designs from Tom Fazio, Rees Jones and Jack Nicklaus. The hotel also boasts 30 acres of shoreside embankment and many of the rooms look directly across the lake.
Details: The Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation
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Destination: Tuscany does not have the highest mountains, the largest forests, breathtaking waterfalls or stunning coral reefs that make many areas of natural beauty stand out. Despite this it has been regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful places for centuries. As the birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo it has given the world two of its most famous artists, inspiring one-and-all who visit with the simple understated prettiness. Situated in Northwestern Italy it is characterised by mile after mile of rolling hills, picturesque valleys and quaint mountainside olive groves. The mild-to-warm climate is ideal for grape harvesting and the region is well-known for its produce. What makes the area high on the list for beauty-seeking holidaymakers is the simple interaction between man and the environment. The charming villages are speckled across the dozens of hills in the district and seem almost a part of the landscape itself.
Where to stay:
The capital of Tuscany is Florence and that is where explorations of the region should always begin. The Hotel Savoy is located on the famous Piazza Repubblica and has direct access to the myriad of cafes and boutiques. The hotel itself is a 19th century palazzo which has maintained traditional charm on the outside while benefitting from extensive modernization on the interior. Stylish rooms are kitted out with chic furnishings and are a welcome haven after entire days spent exploring the surrounding countryside.
Details: The Hotel Savoy, Florence
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Destination: Known as the Garden of Ireland, the east coast province of County Wicklow has long been popular with filmmakers in search of dramatic rural landscapes. Gentle hills, rugged fords, tranquil rivers and striking valleys make the area popular with artists, ramblers and anglers. Far from being bleak the moorlands are just one aspect of a diverse landscape which also includes award-winning beaches, hidden coves and dramatic lakes not to mention dozens of attractive villages and market towns.
Where to stay: In the heart of the county, and just 20 minutes drive from Dublin, is the Powerscourt Estate. This 18th century stately home now houses the Ritz-Carlton, Powerscourt hotel. Built in the Palladian style it has 200 spacious guest rooms, two championship18-hole golf courses, a Gordon Ramsay managed restaurant, one of Ireland’s greatest spas, 47 acres of botanic gardens and direct access to the picturesque village of Enniskerry.
Details: The Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt
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Destination: There isn’t much on Bali you couldn’t find in dozens of other locations around the world and yet there would be few who would argue it is entirely deserving of the nickname “Island of The Gods”. Lush monkey-infested forests, black and white sand beaches, excellent surfing, pretty coral reefs, thousands of acres of picturesque rice paddy fields, winding rivers and even an active volcano – Bali ticks all of the tropical island boxes. And it does so across the entire island with coastal and mountain villages being equally popular with seekers of beauty. Bali received the Best Island Award from Travel and Leisure magazine in 2010 largely because of the splendour of the natural environment and its varied plant and animal life.
Where to stay:
The best of Bali can be found away from the busier resorts and in the Northern mountain village of Ubud. The Amandari hotel offers seclusion and luxury in spades and blends effortlessly into the environment. Designed in the style of a Balinese village the private suites and villas are dotted around a hillside winding down to a river. An al fresco spa has views across private lily ponds and the wildlife-filled forests beneath.
Details: The Amandari Resort
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Destination: Okinawa is Japan’s southern-most island and is renowned as an area of diverse beauty. To the north of the island the Yanbaru forests are home to increasingly rare flora and fauna as well as some of the most breathtaking eco-tourist sites in all of Japan. The sub tropical rainforest is thought to have more than 4,000 species of animal living in it including protected turtles, frogs, birds and bats and is under consideration for recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Just off the coast the island has an abundance of coral reefs and excellent diving sites.
Where to stay:
Amid this great beauty The Ritz-Carlton, Okinawa is the newest addition to the landscape. A contemporary design is kept deliberately low key with Shurijo face motifs, distinctive red clay roof tiles, white walls and attractive water features. Close to a hundred rooms and suites have terrace or balcony views of the forests, the East China Sea or the nearby Kise Country Club. Landscaped gardens, a breathtaking spa and a manicured golf course are all designed to blend into the area. The hotel opened in the summer of 2012 and is already attracting major attention from the world media.
Details: The Ritz-Carlton, Okinawa
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Destination: Featuring a busy city in a list of great places to enjoy the natural world seems a strange choice. But Cape Town is not like ordinary cities. Backed by the iconic table mountain, fronted by the Atlantic Ocean and surrounded by game reserves and safaris it is one of the southern-most cities on the African continent. The near vertical cliff face of the unforgettable Table Mountain rises more than 1,000m above sea level and with such a stunning backdrop it is unsurprising that Cape Town regularly tops lists of the world’s prettiest cities.
Where to stay:
Way down at sea level and looking up to the Table Mountain is the Cape Grace Hotel. Situated in its own private quay and with private bridge access this boutique hotel commands the best views of Cape Town’s most famous landmark. The hotel is strictly in the boutique category with chic furnishings, stylish architecture, sophisticated dining and a luxury spa. The style is one of modern Africa and works well to bring the best of manmade and natural beauty together.
Details: Cape Grace Hotel