Best up-and-coming hotels, 2012

From recent openings to groundbreaking renovations, these hot new hotels span the globe.

Miami has something new to buzz about thanks to rocker Lenny Kravitz, nightlife guru Sam Nazarian, chef José Andrés, and starchitect Philippe Starck, the celebrity dream team behind SLS South Beach—one of 2012’s biggest hotel openings.

Every year Travel + Leisure readers vote on their favorite hotels in the World’s Best Awards survey. Now it’s the editors’ turn. We’ve opened up our little black book to reveal up-and-coming properties like SLS South Beach that we suspect will become future survey winners.

These hot new hotels span the globe: a wilderness eco-lodge in South America, a luxury hotel in London, an overwater property in the Maldives. So, from recent openings to groundbreaking renovations, here are the hotels that savvy travelers should book now. 

The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch, (Photo: Allen Kennedy/Courtesy of Brush Creek Ranch)
Saratoga, Wyo.

Opened in the fall of 2011 on a 13,000-acre, century-old cattle ranch, the Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch is the newest entrant into the rough-luxe hotel scene in the West. The 37 rooms, split between the main lodge and restored log cabins, are all natural wood and supple leather, with cozy touches such as plaid wooly throws. The all-inclusive rate gives you the run of the place, right down to the hiking, mountain biking, and fly-fishing excursions—and even the always-open wine cellar.

SLS Hotel South Beach,(Photo: Courtesy of SLS Hotel South Beach)

This whimsical playground—the second property from nightlife impresario Sam Nazarian—is also the pedigreed product of designer Philippe Starck and star chef José Andrés. A $45 million makeover transformed an iconic Art Deco building into a fever dream of trompe l’oeil walls, phantasmagorical murals, and playful kitsch (a towering rubber ducky presides over the 8,000-square-foot pool party, Hyde Beach). The star power extends to the penthouse suite and a private bungalow, both designed by Lenny Kravitz’s new design company.

Four Seasons Hotel Toronto(Photo: Courtesy of Four Seasons Toronto)

To celebrate more than 50 banner years in the luxury hotel business, the Four Seasons in Toronto is treating itself to a new 55-story flagship hotel in the tony Yorkville area. Opening in fall 2012, the hotel will have 259 serene rooms with massive bathrooms and a 30,000-square-foot spa courtesy of “it” design company Yabu Pushelberg. Sure to help the hotel’s ascension: preeminent chef Daniel Boulud will open both a Café Boulud and a dbar downstairs.

Corinthia Hotel London(Photo: Courtesy of Corinthia Hotel London)

London got its fair share of glam ahead of the Olympics, and it could be argued that the Corinthia Hotel is the city’s new hotel pièce de résistance. A $488 million conversion sexed up the Victorian bones of this former Ministry of Defense building with a David Collins-designed bar and restaurant, an ESPA spa, and over-the-top themed penthouse suites. But what won us over were the more subtle touches, including the smaller Northall restaurant and its British locavore menu.

Hotel Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom,(Photo: Courtesy of Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom)

Vienna hotels have long scored top spots on our World’s Best Awards for their Old World charms. But the 2010 opening of the Jean Nouvel-designed Sofitel tells an entirely different hypermodern story. Impressive 21st-century design elements include projected video installations by avant-garde Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist, a living wall of plants by notable landscape architect Patrick Blanc, and the buzzy Le Loft, a French-Austrian rooftop restaurant with 360-degree views of the city.

Palazzo Margherita,(Photo: Courtesy of Palazzo Margherita)
Basilicata, Italy

Francis Ford Coppola’s new Palazzo Margherita, a nine-room estate in his grandfather’s birthplace, is as personal as it comes (his daughter, Sofia, married here in 2011). That makes it a perfect fit for T+L readers, who gravitate toward family-owned retreats in Italy. Inside, French designer Jacques Grange fashioned the 19th-century palazzo into an idyll of inlaid herringbone floors and hand-painted Moorish ceilings, with rambling gardens surrounding the property. Guests can get a taste of the area’s local charms in the screening room—stocked with 300 classic Italian films—and in the eat-in kitchen, where chefs lead classes in regional Lucania cuisine.

W St. Petersburg,(Photo: Courtesy of W St. Petersburg)

The W St. Petersburg’s Spring 2011 opening marked the fashion-forward chain’s first foray into Eastern Europe and also brought a welcome dose of contemporary design to the city’s heart. Case in point: the 137 modern rooms are lit by Terzani disco ball-esque lamps and a Jacopo Foggini art installation. Now Russia’s new guard surveys the palaces of old from the hotel’s rooftop lounge, where the view extends to the Hermitage, just a five-minute walk from the hotel’s happening lobby.

Palacio Nazarenas,(Photo: Courtesy of Palacio Nazarenas)
Cuzco, Peru

Cuzco ranked as the top city in Central and South America in the 2012 World’s Best Awards, and now it has a blockbuster new hotel in the form of the Palacio Nazarenas, a 16th-century convent meticulously converted into an all-suite Orient-Express hotel. Inspiration for the interiors came from artifacts discovered during the renovation, including Incan sandals and Spanish colonial paintings, and the spa has glass floors highlighting the original Incan stonework below. Also on-site? The city’s first outdoor pool.

Tierra Patagonia,(Photo: Courtesy of Tierra Hotels)
Torres del Paine, Chile

Chilean Patagonia has graduated from scruffy backpackerdom to luxe, eco-lodge haven. But getting there is still a challenge. For time-crunched travelers, the most accessible of the new clutch of adventure hotels is Tierra Patagonia, a beech-wood structure just 90 minutes from Puerto Natales. Here, set along a bluff between the wide-open pampas and turquoise waters of Lake Sarmiento, the roster of outdoor-centric activities includes nature hikes, horseback riding, glacier walks, and Chilean wine-tasting for sybarites.

Park Hyatt Maldives,(Photo: Courtesy of Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa)
Hadahaa, Maldives

Clean, modern design and impeccable service make Park Hyatt hotels a favorite of Travel + Leisure readers. And the chain’s new private-island Maldives property is no exception. Villas are set above the Indian Ocean or within pockets of lush tropical vegetation; all have decks and outdoor rainshowers and butler service, and many have plunge pools or private beach access. Also on offer: a PADI 5-Star dive center, two pools, yoga classes, and the Maldivian Vidhun Spa, with five private couples treatment villas.

See more of the Best Up-and-Coming Hotels of 2012.