World-class hotels have always adorned the skylines of Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong. In recent years, the modern opulence has spread to far-flung and remote destinations, like Lijiang, Zhongdian and Huangshan. Which shouldn't be a surprise, given that the Chinese dynasties have been regally entertaining visitors for three millennia. Over the last two decades we've tried and tested thousands of hotels in China. Below is only a short list of our favorite properties. All our luxury China tours are handcrafted, with hotels picked dependent on your preferences.
"We were pleased that Indochina Travel was small enough to provide the things larger companies cannot, yet with all the benefits of using a larger one. In Saigon, we were honored to visit our guide's family. The BEST parts of our trip were the PEOPLE we met, especially the real, local people, not just the famous ones (though they were fascinating as well). Cuong made this possible throughout our time with him."
—Ric Haas, Menlo Park
"Chris and I had a wonderful journey. Thanks to you, everything was flawless. All of the guides were superb (especially Thiha in Burma). The accommodations were top-rate in most cases, the special activities and personal service much appreciated!"
—Ann & Chris McMurray, Alexandria, VA
"Overall, we had an excellent trip! Don and I both loved Bhutan and Myanmar. Both countries are beautiful, each in their own way. Our main comment would be to say how wonderful our guides were. As we've discussed in the past, it's really the difference between a good trip and great one. It was really nice to have the same guide for the entire itinerary, you really get to establish a rapport and they get to know us. We thought both guides were very professional, knowledgeable and personable, and we learned a lot from both."
—Irene Ing and Don Ershig, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Boating - "Thank you for an amazing adventure, we were delighted at every turn and the activities and people we met were thoroughly fascinating. We really the appreciated the authentic experiences we shared. Our girls are still talking about the trip, please give Linh and Duc our best!"
—The Anderson Family
Halong Bay Kayaking - "This was our fourth trip with you guys and it couldn't have possibly been any better. Your crew is outstanding in every way-well prepared, attentive, and professional. Again, you planned some very special things for us which we really enjoyed. Thank you for another amazing experience."
Opened in 2011, the hotel offers birds-eye panoramas of Victoria Harbor and the shiny HK skyline from all rooms.
The world's 'highest hotel,' the Ritz is located on floors 102 to 118 of the well-located International Commerce Center, with 312 rooms in all. the new Ritz HK-interiors by Singapore's LTW Designworks (the team also designed the Four Seasons Langkawi, Malaysia, and the Mandarin Oriental Sanya Hainan, China), a spa by ESPA, and restaurants (Cantonese and Italian) by Japan's Spin Design Studio and Wonderwall.
There's also a "Chocolate Library," a pool with an adjacent 23 x 92-foot LED screen, a bar with crystal fire pits, and an outdoor terrace lounge-also the world's highest-on the 118th floor. All this, at 1,600+ feet in the air.
On the island, this luxury 400-room property has famous views overlooking Victoria Harbor and footsteps away from the best high-end shopping and culinary hot spots on the island. The Four Seasons connects to an indoor walkway to Hong Kong Station and the famous Star Ferry, which is only a short walk away. Hotel restaurants include Caprice for classical French and Lung King Heen for contemporary Cantonese. Dramatic harbor views from the infinity pool and 24-hour health club.
Consistently ranked a top three hotel in Asia in addition to their Bangkok, Shanghai and Tokyo properties of all which feature excellent locations, elegant design, and top-tier service.
The Peninsula Hong Kong, a sophisticated 300-room historic hotel, is located in the heart of all Kowloon's action and close to the busy Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront promenade of markets, restaurants, and historic Star Ferry.
Spacious public areas include a spacious, decorative lobby and lounge with several exceptional restaurants (including Gaddi's for gourmet French cuisine, Spring Moon for Cantonese delicacies, and Felix, located on the top-floor with stunning views of the harbor area). Rooms are styled in traditional Chinese motifs, yet feature high-tech systems. The modern tower includes a one of the city's finest spas and a Romanesque indoor and outdoor pool (below) A comprehensive business center as one would expect. The Peninsula room technology is state-of-the-art, designed by a dedicated 30-person Peninsula tech team based in Hong Kong. Almost most aspects of room functions such as motorized curtains, streaming music, hotel services, and destination information, all seamlessly controlled by tablets that feature a simple, easily-learned interface.
The Peninsula's heliport provides for a spectacular transfer to and from Hong Kong airport with a dramatic flyover Hong Kong. Or choose to by car in one of the Peninsula's BMW 7 series or their 1934 Rolls-Royce Phantom limousines (all outfitted with wireless service, laptop, and free calls over VOIP).
Located in the massive Oriental Plaza mall in the central Dong Cheng district, within walking distance from Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City the Grand Hyatt Beijing is one of the newest luxury hotels in the city and also has one of the best locations, directly over the Wangfujing metro station at the foot of the capital's most famous shopping street.
Some of Beijing's best restaurants- including Noble Court and Da Giorgio-reside in the Hyatt. The bright palatial lobby is a popular meeting place, with live music in the evenings and Beijing's best chocolate shop. The fitness center and spa features China's largest hotel swimming pool in a resort-style atmosphere.
Rooms offer signature Grand Hyatt comfort and modernity, with convenient data ports and free broadband Internet access. Well-equipped bathrooms have separate shower cubicles. Our top pick for families, there are facilities for children including kid's pool, camp and playroom.
Located within a short stroll of Tiananmen Square, the Raffles is the classic choice capturing in a most authentic way the romance of a bygone period. Much like one of our favorite hotels in all of Asia-the Raffles Le Royal in Phnom Penh-its sister property in Beijing gets all the details right and one feels like they are strolling into the past.
The Raffles occupies a section of the original Beijing Hotel, dating from the early 1900s. Impressive public areas have high ceilings, polished marble floors and an eclectic blend of chinoiserie and ornate French furniture. You can sense the past in the Writers' Lounge, a delight with all-day dining, the most delicious afternoon teas, and evening live performances of Chinese harp (often referred to as a konghou) as well as classical piano. Request a "Landmark Suite" or a "Personality Suite," the latter named after historically significant former guests.
While you're in one of the hotel's bars, the signature Beijing Sling cocktail is a must-try. It was developed by an Englishman in the 1920s, five years after the birth of the infamous Singapore Sling, at another Raffles hotel. The Beijing Sling is vodka-based (unlike the original gin-based Singapore version), combined with the delicate flavors of honeydew melon and peach. For eating, there are private dining rooms, and the elegant internationally-acclaimed Jaan restaurant, with 1920s décor, including crystal chandeliers and original dance floor; it has probably the best wine cellar in town, with over 200 vintages.
Accommodations are decorated in French classical style, but provide a full range of modern amenities and luxurious marble baths. The hotel offers a traditional French at restaurant Jaan and informal dining with Asian and Italian at East 33. Other amenities include a spacious fitness center with an indoor swimming pool.
A Starwood Group property with ideal location in the heart of Beijing's business, shopping, and diplomatic districts off of the main road offering some peace and quiet in busy Beijing. The colorful Silk Market and pleasant gardens of Ritan Park are only a few blocks away. Guests arrive into an elegantly appointed entry lobby and check-in area. A butler service is assigned to all rooms.
Perhaps not an ideal location for strolling to other Beijing's highlights, but this remote Aman is directly adjacent to East Gate of the remarkable Summer Palace. Housed in a series of pavilions, some of which date back over a century, that were originally used by guests awaiting an audience with the Empress Dowager Cixi. To contemporary travelers, the outpost offers not only a retreat from the hustle and bustle of Beijing, but a gateway to the past.
Formerly used as a summer resort for Empress Dowager Cixi of the Qing dynasty around the turn of the 20th century, the resort today is the picture of modern luxury set within classic Chinese architectural style of the Ming Dynasty with traditional fabrics, wood screens, and bamboo blinds. Step outside your room and you have quick access to the Summer Palace, a 716-acre park that served as a retreat for Chinese royalty dating back to the 1700s. With rolling hills, lakes, and centuries-old pavilions, palaces, temples and bridges-you can literally explore the grounds for days, with some travelers citing the Summer Palace as their favorite place in Beijing. One of the best perks offered with a stay at Aman is a private entrance to the Summer Palace complex and exclusive access to the popular tourist site when it's closed to the public, including torch-lit tours at dusk.
Four dozen suites and guest rooms, large underground spa, two squash courts, an 30-meter indoor swimming pool, Pilates studio, library and a movie theater are all spread across the nine quaint courtyards of the Aman. The most impressive of room options is the Imperial suite, consisting of three separate pavilions-private pavilion, a living/study pavilion and a formal pavilion-and a spacious private courtyard. The private pavilion's four-poster king bed, roomy bathroom, spa treatment room (with two beds), and steam room just might make you feel like the Empress herself.
A few courtyards away is Naoki, one of three restaurants at the hotel. Here you can experience chef Naoki Okumura's original "French kaiseki" fare, a combination of French technique and Japanese artistry. For traditional Cantonese cuisine, The Chinese Restaurant is just a few pavilions away and serves Peking duck that is often considered the best in Beijing.
The Aman offers cooking classes at the Chinese Kitchen or at Naoki, with instruction by the resort's chefs. Sessions include preparing Dim Sum, Japanese soup making and learning the artistry behind Naoki's signature kaiseki dishes (each class is three and a half hours long and limited to eight people). While at the resort there are two old world experiences you don't want to miss: The first is an afternoon in the Cultural Room, where you can watch the resident calligrapher demonstrate the ancient art (if you're with a group, book a private demonstration of calligraphy, painting and paper cutting); the second is time spent near the Music Pavilion. Sit outside with other guests and listen to a rotating set of local musicians play traditional Chinese music while you take in the captivating views of the nearby lake and gardens.
The Waldorf Astoria Beijing, opened March 1, 2014 adds a sumptuous 176-room addition to the handful of Beijing luxury hotels. With an exceptional location in the heart of downtown Beijing, next to Wang Fu Jing, the famous Beijing Waldorf Astoria exteriorhigh-end walking shopping district, across from the Peninsula Hotel, walking distance of Tiananmen Square, and just two blocks west of the Forbidden City. Nearby is also a 700-year-old hutong neighborhood.
The Waldorf Astoria Beijing features impressive architectural design by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture. Diverging from the Waldorf's typical, classical styles, their Beijing property boasts a contemporary exterior featured with bronze - the royal material which expresses the luxury, dignity, and legend of the Waldorf brand, and reflects the character of the site location. The bronze will oxidize over time, changing the patina of the metal
The super frame, connecting the roof and anchoring building corners successfully, recalls the symmetry and steady character of Chinese traditional architecture. The carefully detailed bay window with large floor to ceiling glazing provides the best city view for each guest room, and creates the unique window room area with featured window screen for guest to enjoy the special living experience in Beijing. Orientation particular shading frame system not only establishes the special exterior look for hotel, but also protects the building and minimizes the solar heat gain from all directions to make it a cultural but sustainable building.
(Note: under renovation in early 2015) Of the capital city's many fine hotels, the Peninsula along with the Raffles, have one of the best locations. The five -hundred room hotel is located within Beijing's premier shopping and business district and a 10-minute stroll from the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and the Museum of Chinese History.
Dining venues include Jing (Western/Asian fusion cuisine) and Huang Ting (an exquisite Cantonese restaurant). A comprehensive health club and spa offers an indoor pool, fitness center and Clarins beauty treatments. The hotel is managed by Hong Kong's renowned Peninsula Group.
Though many hotels have gone up or been renovated, the Peninsula is still my favorite. A classic hotel with fabulous service and unbeatable location with Tiananmen Square only a stroll away. A good choice for families. The Peninsula's Huang Ting Restaurant is very stylish and the great food has been a delight for our past travelers.
—Steve Du, Indochina Travel
The 1920s Art Deco Grand Dame features a superlative location with panoramic views across the Huangpu River of the historic Bund. The only new hotel built in over 70 years along The Bund, The verdant gardens of the former British Consulate are located adjacent.
Named as the World's Best Business Hotel by Travel + Leisure, we recommend the property as a top family hotel as well and is our top two recommendation, along with the Waldorf, but top choice for families and those who will appreciate the advanced room technology.
China's tallest hotel features heavenly, sweeping views from high-rise rooms, dining areas, and spa pools. Located on the top floors of the 101-story the World Financial Center, in the heart of Lujiazui business district in Pudong. The view alone is worth a visit to the Park Hyatt, with outstanding choices for afternoon tea, aperitifs, and dining, all with remarkable views over the city. The Hyatt's spa called the Water's Edge boasts a swimming pool with equally jaw-dropping views Shanghai.
Fabulous modern rooms and public areas make the Ritz a sumptuous place to stay in Shanghai. The rooftop bar, Flair, is at 58 stories the city's highest and although many Shanghai spots have fine views of Pudong's skyline, at Flair you are enveloped by the city's tableau.
Boasting neoclassic architecture, lavish accommodations and modern facilities, Waldorf Astoria Shanghai On The Bund Hotel makes is a perfect luxury base for visiting The Bund. A newly built modern tower connects to an all-suite historic heritage building - The Waldorf Astoria Club - once the legendary Shanghai Club. Located at the center of The Bund, a city boulevard which runs alongside the Huangpu River and one of the most photographed postcard scenes of city, the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund mixes the history and culture of the surrounding district with a taste for 21st century sophistication.
The Waldorf Suites are decorated in classical European style with plush amenities, claw-foot bathtubs, sparkling chandeliers and signature Waldorf poster bed. All 255 rooms and suites are fitted with modern entertainment systems, a walk-in closet, and a marble-finished bathroom featuring a double vanity area with bathtub and separate shower. The new tower also houses a Noble Suite and a President Suite, each with a spacious two bedrooms floor plan. Many rooms overlook the scenic Bund while others feature views of the surrounding historic sites. Performances at the European-style Shanghai Concert Hall are close by.
The Long Bar is the city's premier lounge, serving up unique concoctions, including the Waldorf Cocktail, a Manhattan with absinthe and bitters. The wine list also exceeds 500 fine wines hand picked by the Waldorf's own resident sommelier as well as a selection of excellent Cuban cigars.
Amanfayun, opened only in 2010, is modeled on a traditional Chinese village in a bucolic wooded setting on a pathway where monks stroll each morning by to reach nearby Lingyin Si, an important 1,800 year-old Buddhist temples.
The four dozen rustic dwellings, some dating back over a hundred years, feature period stone floors, lacquered wood, and clay-tiled roofs. The surrounding area of tea fields, tree and thick bamboo forests offers tranquility rarely found in China and the Amanfayun a perfect balance between comfort, authenticity, and harmony with its setting.
ALocated in one of country's most picturesque, ancient settings, with ideal location along the shores of scenic West Lake, the Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou is located in the serenity in a tranquil, natural enclave. Embraced by mist-shrouded peaks and peppered with weeping willows, lotus pools and painted pavilions, this area West Lake is rich in natural beauty.
Chinese gardens and bamboo groves are just steps from guest rooms. There is an outdoor pool, private spa suites, and 11 private dining pavilions surrounding the lagoon.
Located within Xixi National Wetland Park, China's first wetland reserve and home to a wide diversity of animal and plant life in a tranquil eco-environment. Villa feel like privates home in a secluded area with balcony view of the wetlands. The villa also has its own spa room and steam bath for relaxing after the day exploring.
There is no longer a reason to put off a visit to fabled Huangshan (Yellow Mountain), a place known as much for the magnificent peaks as its poor quality hotels, for not only has the high-speed train been launched, but now the Banyan Tree, arriving in late 2015, has opened doors the very first luxury accommodation, As it has done in Lijiang and Zhongdian before, Huangshan now has it's first and only luxury resort in a sublime setting nestled at the foot of the majestic Mount Huangshan.
Standalone villas offer space, privacy, and dramatic views of the sublime setting. Ancient villages are only minutes away, and the resort offers the perfect setting after a day hiking Mount Huangshan at sunrise to witness the "Buddha's Light."
The finest property in Xi'An in a city sorely lacking in luxury hotels. Originally established in 1953, the legendary Xian People's Hotel embraced in a beautiful landscaped garden and located right in the heart of Xian is being completely refurbished into an ultra luxury hotel.
Reopened only in 2014, the Sofitel Legend People's Grand Hotel Xian hosts a fine Italian restaurant, bar and lounge, cigar lounge, luxury spa and state of art facilities.
The architecture blends of French and stark Sino-Russian styles. A thorough renovation revamped all of the hotel's spacious rooms, featuring lofty ceilings, elegant moldings and art deco features. Situated within the city walls, the Sofitel is a short walking distance of the historic Bell and Drum towers and the Moslem Street adjacent to modern shopping and entertainment areas.
All 71 rooms and 27 suites overlook the beautifully landscaped 40,000 m² gardens and fountains. The hotel's unique private museum features memorabilia from the early years. The hotel is 45 minutes to airport and Terracotta Warriors, and is within walking distance of many city's historical sites.
Styled on a traditional Chinese compound, the Banyan Tree Lijiang is a front row place to savor the magnificent surroundings with the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain as a backdrop. Each of the over 120 high-walled and roomy bungalows are of traditional Chinese design replete with paper lanterns and lacquer furniture and also feature spacious private gardens or pools. Public spaces feature a lounge and bar area set on a large reflecting pool. Traditional design coexists effortlessly with modern amenities. Tired legs will enjoy the large marble baths or outstanding spa which offers a wide selection of treatments. The resort restaurants serves some of the finest cuisine in Lijiang, featuring international and Chinese dishes in a spectacular outdoor setting.
In secluded Zhongdian (Shangri-La) at the frontier of Tibet above 10,000 feet lies the Banyan Tree Ringha, a sumptuous and ultimate retreat installed into a small complex of traditional Tibetan farmhouses. The spacious 15 one-bedroom suites, six spa suites, and 11 two-bedroom lodge balconies feature broad views of Ringha Valley, snow-capped mountains, and the Shu Du Gang River, preserving the cultural and historic charm of the region with authentic Tibetan furnishings, artwork,and decor. Past travelers have most appreciated the large wooden bathtubs which they can sink into after a day exploring the trails in the surrounding countryside. There is a teahouse and are two resort restaurants featuring Yunnan, international, and Chinese cuisine.
If you're touring Yunnan with us, the Lijiang and Zhongdian Banyan Trees provide perfect bookends for exploring China's most beautiful landscapes of deep gorges, waterfalls, peaks and plateaus. Diversions include a spa, tours of nearby villages and monasteries, and trekking in the Three Parallel Rivers National Park. From Zhongdian, continue with us to Tibet for even more splendid mountain scenery.
My favorite suite is Bhugong, a Tibetan Spa Suite which is modeled on the private residence of a Tibetan villager, but has all the comforts and facilities of modern-day life. Sunrise and sunset are magical times at Ringha. Villas 301 to 311 all face east, and when the first sunlight streams from the crevices of the mountains, it lights up the surrounding pine forests, villages and fields. For sunset, Villas 201 to 211 are located riverside, where you can watch farmers bringing their livestock-yaks, horses, pigs and sheep-back to their homes, and feel in touch with life in the highlands.
—General Manager Luhu Winarno