Over-the-Top Hotels

Vacation in luxury.

Photo By: Dhara Devi Chiang Mai

Photo By: Shangri-La International Hotel Management Limited

Photo By: Kelvin Gillmor

Photo By: Oberoi Hotels & Resorts

Photo By: Aman Venice

Photo By: Ladera Resort

Photo By: The Plaza Hotel

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces

Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai (Chiang Mai, Thailand)

From a distance, Dhara Dhevi in Northern Thailand appears to be a temple village, sporting gleaming white buildings tipped with golden spires. Closer inspection reveals a 60-acre resort village, whose architecture is a careful blend of ancient palaces, traditional Lanna culture and the more recent colonial era. Its landscaped grounds offer a myriad of reasons to stay forever: a sprawling 33,000-square-foot spa; eight restaurants and bars; an extensive library; and even shopping and arts and crafts villages.

The Shangri-La Hotel (Paris)

Paris has no shortage of opulent hotels, but the 5-star Shangri-La distinguishes itself by offering Instagram-ready views of the Eiffel Tower -- which there are no shortage of on Instagram -- particularly from the top-floor suite. This Shangri-La property (the first in Europe) also boasts two Michelin-starred restaurants.

Ashford Castle (Cong, Ireland)

Set on 350 acres, this sprawling 13th-century castle is the place to channel Downton Abbey fantasies. On-site activities include a falconry school (the ancient art of handling and flying hawks) and an afternoon tea that would make the royal family proud. Ashford recently completed a $75 million renovation, which restored the interior, including 82 rooms and suites, to its original splendor. It also added a plush 32-seat movie theater and full-service spa.

Oberoi Udaivilas (Udaipur, India)

From the traditional boat that transports guests across Lake Pichola, to the domed architecture that conjures Arabian Nights, Oberoi Udaivilas is as close as it gets to a real life fairy tale. The 50-acre grounds include a wildlife sanctuary, manicured gardens and an 18th-century palace. Many rooms are outfitted with private or semi-private pools, while activities include everything from yoga and cooking classes to a 4-hour elephant safari.

Giraffe Manor (Nairobi, Kenya)

This luxurious boutique hotel in East Africa is worth a visit in its own right, but the true lure is the herd of Rothschild Giraffes that roam freely on its 12 acres. Although don’t despair about seeing one: giraffes often stick their heads through the manor’s tall windows in search of treats. (Yes, you can feed them, too.)

Aman Venice (Venice, Italy)

The Aman Venice claims prime real estate on the Grand Canal, just minutes from the famous Rialto Bridge. This 16th-century palazzo is also where George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin got married, and you can even stay in the same suite they did. The romantic Alcova Tiepolo suite embodies old-world Venice, and is a wonderland of frescoes by 18th-century artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, marble fireplaces and silk wallpaper. The ornate hotel also features two private gardens and a spa, but the real highlight is the unbeatable view.

Ladera Resort (Soufriere, St. Lucia)

At this eco-friendly resort, all of the open-air rooms have just three walls, so as not to miss a minute of the spectacular Piton mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Besides the views, each luxurious room also has its own private plunge pool, while some suites even have a bench swing and two levels.

The Plaza Hotel (New York City)

The century-old Plaza Hotel has been featured in countless movies and hosted an endless parade of legendary guests and legendary parties. It also lays stake to one of the most exclusive addresses in the city at Fifth Avenue and Central Park South. Nowadays it has plenty of competition, and even though it’s a National Historic Landmark, The Plaza isn’t resting on its laurels. In recent years it’s poured $12 million into restoring the Grand Ballroom (where Truman Capote hosted his renowned “Black & White Ball”), and added a number of suites, including one devoted to all things Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald was a former resident).

Burj Al Arab Jumeirah (Dubai, UAE)

The distinctive sail-shaped structure of Burj Al Arab has become synonymous with Dubai’s reputation for over-the-top luxury. It bills itself as the most luxurious hotel in the world, and lives up to the title with four swimming pools, nine restaurants and bars, a private beach, personal butler service, and use of a gold iPad for the duration of the stay. There’s also a 2-level spa, helipad and rental cars -- of the Aston Martin variety. Or simply opt to see the sights via a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce.

Taj Mahal Palace (Mumbai, India)

Completed in 1903, the lavish Taj Mahal Palace is one of India’s most iconic hotels. Guests have included a who’s who of celebrities, royalty and political leaders. The hotel’s unofficial motto is “the guest is god,” and as such staff go out of their way to accommodate requests. In fact, rooms in the historic palace wing include access to round-the-clock butler service.