The first decade of 2000 century was an era of incredible hotel openings. From Sir Richard Branson’s Berber fantasy retreat in Morocco to an Eastern European property that confirmed the true end of the Cold War, these are the 5 resorts and hotels that took the first 10 years of 21st-century travel by storm. Discover the hotels that changed luxury travel forever!
Opened in 2006 after more than three years of construction, the St. Regis opened its sprawling resort on a 44-acre motu with views of the main island’s craggy Mount Otemanu. Personal butlers escort arriving guests on tours of the property, which includes a 13,000-square-foot spa and Lagoon, an overwater restaurant that presents Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s slant on French Polynesian cuisine. Five of the bungalows have private swimming pools — a first for overwater accommodations in the South Seas in 2006 —suspended above the lagoon.
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Four Seasons Hotel Firenze
In 2008, the very first guests of the new Four Seasons Hotel Firenze entered through a grand courtyard lobby where, standing at its center, was a marble replica of Michelangelo’s Bacchus. The dramatic introduction was only the beginning of the Four Seasons’ elaborate new property on Palazzo della Gherardesca, where lavish furnishings and original artwork create a breathtaking homage to Renaissance-era Italy.
Sir Richard Branson’s Kasbah Tamadot opened in 2005 in Morocco’s Asni Valley, a place where ghostly, thousand-year-old villages cling to the mountainsides overhead and rivers rush through steep, rocky gorges below.
The billionaire’s converted Kasbah is no less eye-catching: Behind its ornate gate and crenelated ramparts, the Moroccan folie is a 19th-century pastiche of rose gardens and courtyards, splashing fountains, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, rooftop terraces, and hidden, curtained alcoves. Drinks on the hotel’s rooftop bar are the best way to enjoy Morocco’s famed red sunsets, all while looking across the valley to a bustling Berber village.
By the early 2000s, Singita had already become the standard-bearer in high-end safaris with a conscience. With the 2006 opening of Grumeti Reserves—a 400,000-plus-acre private concession along the western edge of Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park—it launched arguably the most spectacular safari experience on the planet. Featuring just three camps, including the ultra-exclusive Sasakwa Lodge, the property promises the thrill of Africa in near total seclusion, where the only other travelers are the millions of wildebeests, zebras, and gazelles on their annual trip north into Kenya’s Masai Mara.
Sasakwa meanwhile offers the luxuries for which Singita is known: fireplaces, verandas with swimming pools, and Swarovski spotting scopes for viewing the animals on the plains below.
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The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island
Though the Sanctuary at Kiawah Island opened in 2004, the Southern resort has an unmistakable antebellum style, its mansion adorned with wide-plank walnut floors that creak as if they have been in place since the Civil War.
But the property, which claims a 10,000-acre private island roughly 30 miles south of Charleston, S.C., is more than a clever re-creation of a bygone era, catering to contemporary tastes with seven golf courses that weave through the island’s wildlife-rich marshland, three swimming pools, and a 20,000-square-foot spa.
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