Top ten hotel rooms with a view

Hotels aren’t the sum of travel, but the right hotel can bring magic to a journey. Friendly employees, amazing furnishings, and great locations can all make a good holiday great. And an exceptional view, above and beyond the rest, can stick in one’s memory forever. Here are ten hotels strewn around the world, each with ridiculously stunning views.

1. Shearwater Resort, Saba. Shearwater’s Cottage Rooms, which overlook the resort’s cliffside pool from an altitude of 2000 feet and sport views of the ocean and several neighboring islands (St. Eustatius, St. Kitts, and Nevis) are in a league of their own. See above for evidence. Shearwater’s owners also recommend the views from their Ocean View Suite. Cottage Rooms from $175; Ocean View Suite from $250.

2. Longitude 131, Ayers Rock Resort, Australia. The tents at Longitude 131 at Ayers Rock feature heart-stopping panoramic views of this most iconic of Australian sights. This is real fantasy territory, with rates well beyond feasibility for most. From A$4080 for two for two nights ($4095).

3. Hotel on Rivington, New York, New York. The corner king rooms at this Lower East Side outpost of extravagance have floor-to-ceiling glass walls affording astounding views of the city. Aim for a room on a higher floor. From $379.

4. Hotel de Crillon, Paris, France. Terribly exorbitant, yes–not sure that a room at this price point should ever be recommended–but the views are exquisite here. Do you best to nab a room with a view over the Place de la Concorde to the Eiffel Tower. From €630 ($875).

5. Sheraton Iguazú Resort and Spa, Iguazú Falls, Argentina. The only hotel inside the Iguazú National Park offers awe-inspiring views of the falls themselves. The Falls View rooms, all with balconies, are perfect for the view-minded. From $255.

6. Campi ya Kanzi, Mtito Andei, Kenya. Campi ya Kanzi lies in a 400 square-mile are of Maasai-run land in southern Kenya. Mount Kilimanjaro is 35 miles away from the camp site, which consists of six tented cottages and two suites. Suites run $1600 for two; single occupancy $900.

7. The Intercontinental, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Stunning Hong Kong Harbor provides the world one of its most exciting skylines, and a harbourview room at the Intercontinental is one of the best places to glimpse it. From around HK$2600 ($335).

8. The Fairmont Banff Springs, Banff, Alberta, Canada. The most iconic of Canada’s mountain lodges, the Fairmont Banff Springs is in a league of its own as far as picturesque placement is concerned. Many rooms offer extraordinary views as well. Book a valley view room (not a mountain view room) to take full advantage of the Rockies’ scenic majesty. From around C$439 ($437).

9. Explora, Torres del Paine, Chile. Gorgeous if minimalist modernism features here in the wilds of Chilean Patagonia, courtesy of famed Chilean architect Germán del Sol. Views of Macizo del Paine are drop-dead extraordinary. They’re also most definitely not cheap. Four nights will run $5840 for two.

10. La Haut Plantation, St. Lucia. The least expensive of the options here is this reasonable stunner, which has great views of St. Lucia’s famous Pitons. Even the least expensive Standard Garden rooms here boast incredible views of the Pitons. From $120 in low season.

A list like this one is of course necessarily quite subjective, and my evaluation here is designed to suggest and expose more than it is intended to lay down the law. Have a hotel view in mind that you think belongs on this list? Add it in the comments below!

(Images provided by hotels, except for the view from the Sheraton Iguazú Resort and Spa [Flickr / Tran’s World Productions] and view from the Fairmont Banff Springs [Flickr / dbaron]


Classic Treks: The Paine Circuit

Yesterday we mentioned how amazing Patagonia is for adventure travelers, and in the process referenced the Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, which also happens to be home to one of the best long distance treks in the world. This classic hiking trail is known as the Paine Circuit, and backpackers from around the world make the journey to South America each year just to hike through the dramatic Patagonian landscapes.

The Paine Circuit is roughly 65 miles in length and requires about 8 to 10 days to complete. The entire route is lined with amazing scenery that is distinctive to Patagonia, including beautiful valleys filled with glacial lakes, stunning mountain vistas, and the legendary Towers of Paine, three unique rock faces carved out of pink granite.

Trekking the circuit independently is incredibly easy, as a solid infrastructure is in place to assist backpackers in getting on the trail. Shuttles run on a regular basis, and there are a number of trailheads from which to begin the trek, with access near Puerto Natales, and El Calafate. The price of the shuttle is generally about $20 and the park entrance fee is another $14.

The trek can be a bit gear intensive, as you’ll need to carry everything you’ll need along with you. Packs tend to get heavy, and pack animals are not used on the circuit at all, so you’ll need a stove, sleeping bag, clothing for a variety of weather conditions, and possibly a tent as well. On the Paine Circuit, you can choose to stay in your own tent for free, or pay a nominal fee to stay in the assorted cabins, or refugios that are found along the trail.One of the great aspects of hiking this trail is that it gives you the sense of a high alitude, alpine trek, without the severe altitude. There is no fear of alittude sickness on the Paine Circuit, as the highest pass is just 4071 feet. But the hike can still be a challenge, as the legendary Patagonian weather can strike at any time, with high winds and heavy rains making conditions very uncomfortable.

The Paine Circuit has a lot to offer any backpacker, and should easily be on your short list of international treks to complete. The stunning scenery is worth the journey alone, and you’ll be exploring one of the most remote and unique environments on the planet.

Adventure Destination: Patagonia

South America has some of the most remote and amazing places on the planet. The continent is home to the Amazon and the Andes of course, both of which conjure images of beautiful, wild places. But perhaps the most remote, beautiful, and wild of all, lies far to the south, transcending the borders of Argentina and Chile, in a place called Patagonia.

Sitting just on the southern end of the Andes Mountains, and stretching east onto a series of stepped plains. Patagonia is amongst the most geographically and climatically diverse places on the planet, with arid plains, icy mountains, spiky rock towers, and wondrous glaciers. As if all of that weren’t enough, the region is also home to a number of active volcanoes, which bring bubbling hot springs, geysers, and an occasional eruption to the region as well.

Patagonia is also legendary for its weather, which can best be described as tempestuous. Because of its proximity to both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, the entire area is buffeted by storm fronts on a regular basis, and visitors should always be aware that weather conditions can, and do, change very rapidly, with beautiful, warm, sunshine giving way to high winds, rain, and snow, on a moments notice.

But those who make the trip to Patagonia will be rewarded with an outdoor playground unlike any other on Earth. Hikers, climbers, paddlers, and backpackers will find plenty to keep them occupied, with spectacular trails stretching throughout the area, and some of the best rock climbing in the world. The Torres del Paine National Park, for instance, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that offers a number of classic treks, several of which pass within the shadows of the Towers of Paine, three rock monoliths that are considered amongst the most challenging big walls on the planet. Patagonia’s Pacific Coast serves up spectacular sea kayaking, with a multitude of islands and glaciers to explore as well, rounding out the outdoor adventurers wonderland.

Patagonia isn’t just for the adventure crowd however, as the amazing scenery is worth the journey for anyone who appreciates beautiful outdoor environments. The sweeping vistas and breathtaking mountain views can be viewed from the comfort and safety of a tour bus as well, and wildlife, which include cougars, foxes, an assortment of birds, and guanaco, an antelope-like herd animal, are abundent.

For many, Patagonia represents the ultimate adventure travel destination. It is remote, strikingly beautiful, and sits practically at the ends of the Earth. So whether backpacking, climbing, paddling, or just beautiful scenery is your thing, you’ll find plenty to like in this South American paradise.

In Patagonia: Chile’s awe-inspiring Torres del Paine National Park

Widely heralded as South America’s most beautiful national park, Torres del Paine in Southern Chile offers outdoor-lovers everything they could want: rugged landscapes, snow-capped peaks, massive glaciers, and abundant wildlife.

Named for the towering granite columns (torres) that dominate the park’s gorgeous skyline, the park also contains dozens of crystal-blue lakes, including Lago Pehoe, Lago Nordenskjold, and Lago Grey, the latter of which contains scores of breathtaking blue glaciers. (see the accompanying slideshow, complete with hilarious captions).

Located at the southern tip of South America– the region popularly known as Patagonia– Torres del Paine is not just one of the southernmost parks in the world, it is also one of the windiest, with steady winds averaging 50 to 75 miles per hour. In fact, this park probably wins the award for worst place in the world to have a comb-over.

%Gallery-37520% You want animals? The park can do that too. How about flamingos, condors, llama-like guanacos, ostrich-like ñandúes, and, oh yeah, pumas. At the Seno Otway Penguin Colony just a few hours away, animal lovers will be able to get up close and personal with scores of penguins making their way from the Pacific beach to their nearby nests. So, so much better than the zoo.

If you decide to go, here’s a little practical info that might help:

Where to stay:

On a recent trip, some friends and I stayed at Hosteria Las Torres, which was clean and in a great location, but was also wildly overpriced, with double rooms fetching more than $350 a night. Ouch. For cheaper options, try Hosteria Tyndall or the Mountain Lodge Paine Grande. If you’re really on a budget or love the outdoors, you can’t go wrong camping at one of the refugios for a meager $6. Tents and sleeping bags are available to rent for modest fees.

When to come:

The summer months from January to April are, by far, the best times to visit Patagonia, but even then the weather can be unpredictable. Think long and hard before trying to visit in the winter, as many roads will be unpassable. The nearby town of Punta Arenas has the closest decent-sized airport, and there are regular flights to and from Santiago for a few hundred dollars. Go already!

The slideshow above not enough for you? You’ll want to watch this. And definitely this too.

Photo of the Day (11.14.08)

It’s hard to take a bad photo of the Torres del Paine National Park in southern Chile. I should know– I’m lucky enough to be there right now. This shot from flickr user bajy doesn’t quite do the magnificent park justice– no photograph can– but it comes close. A beautiful photo of a beautiful place.

Got a pic you want considered for Gadling’s Photo of the Day? Submit your best shots here.