A room with a commanding view demands attention. Some of the world’s most desirable lodgings are clifftop aeries that transport guests far above the fray, affording unobstructed panoramic views and an unparalleled sense of privacy without the feeling of total isolation.
Cliff dwellings have historically offered attributes that lowland abodes can’t match. As far back as A.D. 600, the Anasazi people, who once lived in what is now the American Southwest, built precipitously high in the sandstone cliffs—likely for protection from enemies. In medieval times, as barbarian hordes wreaked havoc across Europe, monastery towns perched high up on the Amalfi Coast afforded excellent vantage points from which to observe the gathering militias. (Today the cliffs are more likely to attract armies of jet-setting moguls.) In peaceful times, a clear view from high atop a cliff was deemed spiritual, bringing pilgrims closer to God.
Protection aside, a clifftop perch sends a clear signal to the world that you are commander of all you survey. New England’s 20th-century captains of industry recognized this and built palaces along the cliffs of Rhode Island to show off their vast fortunes. Thanks to hotels like The Chanler in Newport, R.I., guests see the world through the eyes of the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts, whose mansions line the town’s storied Cliff Walk.
There is also something utterly romantic about waking up to uninterrupted ocean views, especially when the waters in question are as captivating as the ones surrounding our ten choices. Nothing beats the bird’s-eye perspective one gets when admiring the vast Indian Ocean from 1,000 feet above at the Bulgari Resort in Uluwatu, Bali; the dazzling views of the Caribbean Sea and magnificent dual-peaked Pitons at Jade Mountain in St. Lucia; or the moody Bay of Naples, 1,000 feet below the Caesar Augustus in Capri. Rarefied air, indeed.