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Personal touches make likeable hotels loveable

Every hotel in Condé Nast Traveler's 2011 Hot List won its place the old-fashioned way — by earning it.

After scrutinizing nearly a thousand of the hotels that opened worldwide over the past year, we selected a couple hundred of the most promising candidates, then checked into each one — anonymously, of course — trying out the beds, testing the staff, tasting the food. Finally, 124 properties ultimately won us over.

Spanning 43 countries and six continents, this year’s Hot Hotels are an eclectic group, from tree houses to farmhouses, and they range in size from a three-suite safari camp in South Africa’s leopard-rich Londolozi Private Game Reserve to a glossy 2,995-room tower on the Vegas Strip.

The cost per night also runs the gamut — from a mere $75 for a groovy room above a white-hot gastropub in Chicago’s boho Logan Square to $2,040 for a private three-story riad with a rooftop plunge pool and a butler in the heart of Marrakech.

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Despite the diversity, the hotels share a common standard in their artful blend of high style and a strong sense of place. Now that we’ve completed our white-glove test (and even ferreted out exactly which room to book), all that’s left for you to do is make a reservation.

Don't have time to scour the whole list? Here, we offer a digest of just what makes a hotel Hot List-worthy by presenting "The Hotties," our highly personal list of 17 little details that elevate some of our favorite hotels from likeable ... to loveable.

Best Bedtime Snack
The fresh sugar-coated doughnut holes at turndown in Watch Hill, Rhode Island’s Ocean House. Talk about sweet dreams!

Best Alfresco ShowerThe copper-fixture rain shower, topped by a canopy of sea-grape leaves and just steps from the beach at Turtle Beach Bungalows, on St. Kitts.

Best Disappearing Act
The TV hidden behind a large photo of Milford Sound in the guest rooms at Matakauri Lodge in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Most Heavenly Sound TrackThe hymns sung every Sunday in the churches of Oracabessa, Jamaica, and heard across the lagoon in the suites at GoldenEye.

Best Place for a Moonlit SwimThe cantilevered black-granite pool with tiny twinkling lights mapping the Southern Hemisphere’s constellations at Playa Vik, in José Ignacio, Uruguay. You’ll have stars (if not chlorine) in your eyes.

Best Period Detail
The custom-made Varga Girl–esque playing cards and candy cigarettes in the minibar at the Art Deco Chatwal, in New York City. Just call it retro-fitted.

Best High-Tech BathThe push-button temperature control and digital display for the bath and shower at Bratislava’s Kempinski Hotel River Park (yes, 41°C really is a good deal hotter than 39°).

Best House Beer Named After a DogMonty’s Belgian White Ale, a custom-made local spicy brew named for the Bernese mountain dog that hangs out at Utah’s Montage Deer Valley resort. Hair of the dog, indeed.

Most Effective, and Decadent, Hangover CureThe Brunch Burger, a hamburger between a sliced glazed doughnut, on the menu at The Counter, a 24-hour Deco–style diner in Toronto’s Thompson Hotel. Eat your heart out, Paula Deen.

Best Musical Amenity, Part One
The tuned acoustic guitars at the end of the bed in Paris’s Le Royal Monceau Raffles, awaiting your riff on “Sympathy for the Devil.”

Best Musical Amenity, Part TwoThe retro tape decks and mixed tapes (some of local bands, and each $10 if you want to keep them) at Chicago’s Longman & Eagle.

Wittiest Door SignThe knotted rope that implies “do knot disturb” at the Saffire Freycinet, in Tasmania.

Coolest Beach Break
The mini-freezers stocked with ice-cream bars and cones scattered around Thailand’s W Retreat Koh Samui.

Best City WheelsThe vintage scooters with sidecars rented through the Waterhouse at South Bund for tours of old Shanghai.

Most Eclectic Impulse Buy OpportunityThe retro vending machines at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas that peddle everything from Vosges chocolates and fashion tape (to ward off wardrobe malfunctions) to limited-edition artworks.

Sweetest Parting Gift
The brownie, lollipop, lip balm, or hand sanitizer you’re offered at checkout at the Andaz 5th Avenue, in New York City.

Most Stylish Parting GiftThe cuff links or dazzling glass bangle (both locally made) given at checkout at Hyderabad, India’s Taj Falaknuma Palace.

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