At hotels around the world, exceptional exterior and interior design — sometimes stunning, sometimes thrillingly bizarre — elevates the travel experience. Think: a hotel carved out of giant blocks of ice, an exterior designed to look like a volcano, and a mirrored-cube room reflecting the towering trees around it.
These 15 hotels have been hand-picked for their phenomenal architecture, ranging from rugged Hotel Remota in Chilean Patagonia to the swanky new Morpheus in Macau.
Morpheus Hotel - Macau, China
This sleek beauty of a hotel was designed by Zaha Hadid Architects and just opened on June 15 of this year, lending a uniquely futuristic element to Macau’s urban horizon. The 40-story tower features intricately carved window openings said to be inspired by jade, the pale green Chinese stone thought to bring good luck and prosperity to those who carry or wear it.
A breathtaking sculptural atrium connects the building’s interior towers, setting the mood for business negotiations or social drinks, while 12 glass elevators lead the way to guest rooms and a rooftop pool with panoramic city views.
The Morpheus is set in City of Dreams, a glitzy entertainment district with casinos, entertainment and high-end shopping galore.
ICEHOTEL - Jukkasjärvi, Sweden
Located just over a hundred miles from the Arctic Circle, ICEHOTEL is reborn anew each year before melting back into the nearby Torne River as spring arrives. Every year, 40 artists from all over the world painstakingly carve its stunning murals, statues and other art from blocks of ice.
Thrill-seeking guests can opt to stay in literally ice-cold rooms kept at around 18 degrees Fahrenheit. Luckily, a custom bed, long underwear, thermal sleeping bags and hot shower are provided. Those who value their creature comforts can opt for a warm, more conventional room instead, while still enjoying the hotel’s ice restaurants and striking communal spaces.
Who knew that ice could make for such an opulent experience?
Treehotel - Lapland, Sweden
Ever dreamed of seeing the dazzling northern lights? What about from inside a treehouse for two set in a peaceful forest?
Treehotel, an intimate inn set in Northern Sweden’s rugged Lapland region, makes that dream a possibility. At this “landscape hotel,” each room provides a totally novel guest experience. Reached by a wooden rope bridge, Mirrorcube is a secluded aluminum suite with mirrored sides, minimalist birch interiors and panoramic views as far as the eye can see. Masked as a tangle of branches from the outside, Birds Nest offers a surprisingly roomy interior, complete with bunk beds for young ornithologists. There’s even a UFO room for those who can’t get enough of those History Channel documentaries and want to beam up.
With a sustainable restaurant, sauna and nature tours onsite, Treehotel is well worth the trek.
Hotel Marqués de Riscal - Elciego, Spain
Designed by fabled Pritzker Prize winning architect Frank Gehry and opened in 2006, Hotel Marqués de Riscal truly defies categorization. In quintessential Gehry style, the structure appears to undulate in ribbons of mirrored industrial steel, which contrast with the surrounding vineyards of Basque Country. Cathedral ceilings, sharply angled walls and floor-to-ceiling windows make each of the 43 guest rooms truly unique.
A sumptuous member of The Luxury Collection, the hotel draws foodies, design lovers and art collectors alike. The property’s Michelin star restaurant, winery, much-photographed lobby bistro, elegant library and serene spa make it hard for even the most active adventurer to ever want to leave.
Huilo Huilo Montana Magica Lodge - Neltume, Chile
The protected Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve deep in the lush Patagonian rainforest offers multiple enchanting accommodations to choose from. But the star is the distinctive Montana Magica Lodge, designed to look like a volcano in the Andes featuring a scenic waterfall.
Sustainable tourism is the name of the game here. Built of locally sourced timber, each room in the hotel slants under the eaves, with charming little windows opening to exotic birdsong and forest vistas. With National Geographic’s stamp of approval, the lodge offers everything from walking tours of a volcano to rainforest canopy treks to horseback riding.
Miraculously, there’s even Wi-Fi, but you’d be crazy to use it at all when the scenery calls for total immersion in nature.
Feynan Ecolodge - Wadi Feynan, Jordan
Just getting to Feynan Ecolodge is an adventure requiring a 4x4 and an experienced driver. A rocky road twists and turns through the canyons of the wild Dana Biosphere Reserve, revealing at times Bedouin tents, flocks of goats atop scrappy trees and surprisingly vibrant flashes of fuchsia bougainvillea.
The hotel itself is a fortress built from indigenous rock and almost camouflaged into the valley. Everything is locally sourced here — from the hearty vegetarian meals to the soap and the unusual door knockers forged by a metalsmith to resemble human hands. Guests follow the rhythm of nature, rising early for treks through the wadis, then retiring for an afternoon nap, before sharing a communal dinner.
Once dusk falls, the stars illuminate the sky majestically, providing the perfect atmosphere to savor Arabic coffee, dates and a chess game on the roof, punctuated only by the evening call to prayer. The hotel is run in partnership with the Royal Jordanian Conservation Society, ensuring that the facilities are as authentic and close to the land as can be.
Marina Bay Sands - Singapore
Who says sports and recreation can’t take place high off the ground? The world’s tallest and largest infinity pool at the Marina Bay Sands gives off the illusion of teetering on the edge of the hotel’s 57th floor, surrounded by dazzling urban skyscrapers and a view of laidback Marina Bay. But don’t worry! You’re perfectly safe floating right to the edge for that amazing vacay photo-op.
Designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie, the Marina Bay Sands complex encompasses a convention center, dining, a buzzing casino and couture shopping. Three hotel towers are connected by the Sky Park, which is home to the pool and surrounding gardens, cantilevered a dizzying 213 feet off the hotel.
Remota Patagona Lodge - Chile
When designing Hotel Remota in Patagonia in 2005, prize-winning architect Germán Del Sol set out to highlight the region’s rich involvement in the sheep industry by modeling the property after the fences and barns that historically dotted the horizon.
The result is a staggeringly contemporary take on those elements, with the hotel’s long, thin structure conjuring up a barn supported by a fence that braces against roaring wind, swaying tall grass and the ebbing Last Hope Sea beyond. The hotel is in organic dialogue with the mountainous landscape of Chilean Patagonia, and features sustainable touches like a living roof stacked with dirt and natural grass. Each of the hotel's 72 rooms has a view of the surrounding glaciers, mountains or fjords.
Activities and amenities are equally sublime; guests dine on seasonal local ingredients when they are not off on excursions including fly-fishing, birdwatching, mountain biking and boating.
Burj Al Arab - Dubai, United Arab Emirates
“The Burj,” as it is known to locals, is Dubai’s original glitzy icon. Designed by architect Tom Wright, the 202-suite luxury hotel is set on a private island off the coast of the beach neighborhood of Jumeirah, and constructed in the shape of a sail.
It’s all very 007, no matter how you choose to arrive. Book an Uber chopper and circle over the Arabian Gulf and surrounding manmade islands, touching down on a helicopter pad perched high in the sky. Or drive down the peninsula to a gate, where you’ll be asked to present a secret code you’ve received with your booking.
Once inside, the lobby is dripping in gold, scented with oud and roses, and ripe for photo ops. Al Mahara, the underwater restaurant, is worth a splurge (not to mention the excuse to pack a full-length evening gown), as exotic fish swim right past your eyes, and waiters skillfully carve local hammour fish baked in salt right at the table.
Amangiri Resort - Canyon Point, Utah, United States
It required an act of Congress to approve breaking ground for the Amangiri Resort, which is set square in the center of a series of government-protected ancient rock formations and awe-inspiring mesas on 600 acres of the Colorado Plateau in Southern Utah.
The hotel’s phenomenally minimalist design by Wendell Burnette, Marwan Al Sayed and Rick Joy is in dialogue with the topography. The stark concrete structure welcomes cathedral-like rays of light at different points of the day, and each suite comes equipped with a terrace and outdoor desert lounge opening up to the poetic landscape beyond. Most memorably, the resort's massive swimming pool backs right up to a rock escarpment.
One can hire a guide to climb up a nearby rock formation via ladder rungs and fixed cables, take in magnificent aerial views by hot air balloon, or engage with the hotel’s artist in residence.
Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge - Okavango Delta, Botswana
For those who crave exclusive luxury, Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge, which opened in 2014, will not disappoint. Perched among a canopy of wild palms and fig trees in a private concession of land near Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana’s stunning Okavango Delta, the hotel’s design pays homage to the weaver-bird’s fanciful nests and the armored pangolin’s overlapping scales, with common areas and rooms poised on delicate stilts on the riverbanks.
Each of the eight units is equipped with its own observation deck, wood-burning fireplace and private plunge pool offering spectacular views of the bush. With 55,600 acres of land for game drives, it’s possible to spot the Big 5 here just after dawn or as the sun sets, while still leaving time for indulging in the extraordinarily relaxing lodge facilities.
La Mamounia Marrakech - Morocco
Easily the most iconic hotel in all of Morocco, La Mamounia embodies the very best of traditional Arabic-Andalusian architecture, with its sweeping archways, ornate inlaid tilework and soothing use of Islamic geometric patterns.
There are so many poetic secrets to be discovered here — from cool courtyards made mysterious by lantern light to silver teapots filled with cup after cup of fresh mint tea. More than 1,200 plant species animate the manicured rose-scented gardens, which present a truly peaceful respite from the famous buzzing bazaars just minutes away.
The staff offer true North African hospitality and will stop at nothing to make a visit magical. Be sure not to miss out on booking a traditional hammam experience in the sumptuous candlelit spa, complete with steam, scrub and massage.
Taj Lake Palace - Udaipur, Rajasthan, India
Visiting the Taj Lake Palace is like stepping into a magical fairytale. Touted by many as the most romantic hotel in the world, the palace was originally built in 1746 by Prince Maharana Jagat Singh II of Udaipur. But James Bond fans may best know it as the Bond Girls’ secluded hideout in the 1983 classic “Octopussy.”
Located on the private island of Jag Niwas in Lake Pichola and reached by speedboat, the delicate marble-accented property dazzles with private nooks, terraces, opulent day beds and shaded niches. Magnificent columns frame a central courtyard containing a striking fountain.
Popularly referred to as the Venice of the East, the nearby town of Udaipur is a treasure trove of Rajput-era palaces, historic forts, lakes and temples.