World's best hotels of 2012

Catch a water taxi to the Peninsula Bangkok, and the chaos of the Thai capital slips away as you enter your serene guest room, done in silks and teakwood, overlooking the Chao Phraya River and glittering cityscape. The hotel, a longtime favorite, makes such an impression that it’s now ranked No. 11 in the world.

Everyone wants to know where to stay, and for 17 years running, we’ve asked Travel + Leisure readers, who are passionate about travel, to vote on the hotels they love the most. The resulting World’s Best Awards are a collection of the properties that go above and beyond. The voting categories stay the same — rooms, location, service, food and value — but this year’s results showcase the hotels and destinations that are important now.

Slideshow: See all the world’s best hotels of 2012

One noticeable trend: Istanbul is on the rise. The city’s Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul on the Bosphorus ranked No. 24 (it’s also the No. 1 Large City Hotel in Europe); readers love the riverfront location and the 19th-century building’s refined elegance. Elsewhere in Europe, readers are heading to Italy’s Amalfi Coast, where the family-run Hotel Santa Caterina offers antique-filled rooms and the seclusion of a private beach, terraced gardens and citrus orchards.

Courtesy of Singita Game Reserves / Today
Singita Grumeti Reserves in Tanzania offer top-of-the-line accommodations.

Some surprising newcomers also made the ranks of the Travel + Leisure 2012 World’s Best Awards: the romantic Nayara Hotel, Spa & Gardens, near Costa Rica’s Arenal volcano, debuts at No. 6 (it’s the first Costa Rican hotel to break into the Top 10); Australia’s Southern Ocean Lodge, the country’s first wilderness luxury retreat, surged to No. 3.

But the top 50 hotels aren’t exclusively found in far-flung destinations. In 2012, almost 20 percent of the winners are right here in the United States. That includes No. 12, Charleston’s genteel Wentworth Mansion, with its romantic restaurant and rooftop cupola’s views, and No. 21, the Osprey at Beaver Creek, Colo., a recently renovated ski-in, ski-out hotel near the slopes.

Safari lodges are tough to beat, however, especially Singita Grumeti Reserves, in Tanzania. Two lodges and two camps (including one mobile camp, set up in various locations around the Serengeti) make up this exotic winner, which has ranked No. 1 in the world for two years running.

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