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Viceroy Bali – An Opulent Jungle Paradise Awaits You

A Personal Review by Joanna Macdonald – Events Manager

Nestled in the heart of Bali, in the jungle strewn Ubud, surrounded by striking green rice fields, lays a wonderous, lush and luxurious family-owned hotel, the Viceroy Bali.

The first thing you notice when walking into reception is the calmness. Everything about this place, the mannerism of the staff included, just whispers “time to unwind”.

Often when one thinks of their dream vacation, they think of island luxuries, beaches adorned with thatch roofs, perhaps a cabin on a snowy mountain or in a dark and far out forest. But the jungle, oh the mighty lungs of our earth, they breathe for you in Ubud! And suddenly, everything just seems a little easier.

When shown to our rooms, one word sprung to mind; “majestic” – ok, actually also “wow”! The Deluxe Terrace Villas we were accommodated in were not only like a room in a palace, but the backdrop of the jungle reaching down into the river gorge, behind your private pool, simply makes one gasp.

The rooms and bathrooms are lavishly large, and the high ceilings create a real feeling of spaciousness. The bed in and of itself speaks mounds for the feeling of royalty one has- I barely filled an eighth.  The open plan bathroom is absolutely gorgeous, the tub being the highlight, located behind vanity curtains overlooking the splendid view of the jungle outside. 

My day started each morning by having a glorious morning swim in my private infinity pool, followed with some yoga and meditation in my traditional outdoor balé seating area. Breakfast every day is served in the most beautiful setting. You take steppingstones over water to get into the CasCades restaurant and a Balinese fountain trickles softly in the background as you dine looking over the dramatic jungle backdrop.

Throughout the hotel and its grounds are statues, carvings and paintings that elegantly display that beautiful Balinese charm that everyone so desires when visiting this beautiful part of the world.

I was treated to a tour of the grounds with Surya, and got to meet the passionate gardener, Wayan, of the organic food garden that feeds the restaurants at Viceroy Bali. So much love is put into this garden. It not only serves the restaurants, but also provides a way for their team to develop their own farming skills which can be used at home and taught to their families. 

On this tour, I was granted a visit to their renowned Elephant Villa – their signature one bedroom villa. Beautifully carved rockery outside leads you into a paradise of jungle views with the sound of the rumbling river below in the ravine.

I had a 60-minute Balinese massage at Akoya Spa. It was a truly luxurious and relaxing experience and definitely the right way to end my trip.

Although I will write more on this in a separate review for the World Luxury Restaurant Awards, the absolute highlight of my entire trip to Bali in fact, was dinner at Apéritif. Without doubt the most interesting and delightful culinary journey I have ever had the privilege of experiencing anywhere in the world, in my life. This comes out top of my list as a “must do” if ever you are in Ubud. The food was not made, it was designed, it was engineering, it was chemistry, it was art, it was magic. The entire experience was phenomenal, the staff being not only so knowledgeable about what they serve, but passionate. Every bite of that dinner was memorable. Chef Nic Vanderbeeken and his entire team have created a symphony for the senses, from design and décor to ambience and service.       

The World Luxury Awards extends its grateful thanks to Amanda Syrowatka, General Manager, and her entire team for what was a never-to-be-forgotten experience.

Viceroy Bali… we parted too soon…

It is a place of peace, tranquility, and self-reflection. It is truly a heaven on earth.

Reviewed by Joanna Macdonald – Events Manager for the World Luxury Awards.

To book your stay at Viceroy Bali, visit their website: www.viceroybali.com

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Hidden Hills Villas – A True Hidden Gem, in the Heart of Uluwatu

A Personal Review by Joanna Macdonald – Events Manager

In December of 2017, I met Max Loong, Owner and Founder of Hidden Hills Villas, at our Hotel Awards event in St. Moritz. On this night, he invited me for a stay if ever I am “in the area”, to see what they do and how they do it. I never knew that this invitation would extend to 7 years later, or that I would ever, actually, even make it to Bali!

I am glad he is a man of his word…

In April 2024 while conducting a site inspection at our gala ceremony host property, Max held true on his word and we were afforded a 3-night stay, in what I call “the paradise-on-earth villa” – the Seychelles Villa!

It’s one thing to say Bali is hot, until you actually experience it with 100% humidity! On arrival, there were cold towels, face spritzers and cocktails being served at their Hidden Gem Restaurant which overlooks Uluwatu from the top of the hill, down to the seemingly never-ending horizon of blue. Max was there to personally greet us, give us some information on Bali, advice on where and more importantly, where NOT to eat and update us via a brief tour on the upgrades and renovations to the property.

I’ve always said, “the true heart of a hotel, and what makes your stay memorable, is the hospitality of the staff that surround you.”, and that echoes truth at Hidden Hills Villas. The small things counted more than even the absolute blissful and luxurious setting we found ourselves in. Arriving in 34 degree weather with 100% humidity, the first thing I noticed when taken to our villa was the swimming pool filled with floaties and loungers, even one to hold your drinks – that tells me personally, friends are coming! Let’s make this memorable!

To speak about service excellence and not reference Hidden Hillas Villas for the rest of my life would not make sense… every single member of their team has a warm, charming and most hospitable way of helping you with anything that you need. From the start of the reservation until the moment we left, we felt like we were at a home away from home. We wanted and waited for nothing, and all this while sitting in the lap of luxury in one of the most beautiful destinations in the world.  

Speaking of which, Hidden Hills Villas – being so centrally located, is a stone’s-throw from the bustling and beautiful nightlife that the famous Uluwatu boasts. It takes no time to take a transfer down to “the strip” where more than enough options of shops, clubs, pubs, restaurants and bars are available to choose from, for whatever you may be feeling for the night. Uluwatu Beach, Bingin Beach and Padang Padang Beach are also within a 10-minute drive and the shopping options are vibrant!

The World Luxury Hotel Awards would like to thank every member of staff for everything you offered in smiles, kindness and hospitality during our stay with you.

We would also like to give a very special mention and thank you to Tara for all your wonderful planning assistance and opportunities granted for us to experience Bali and Uluwatu in all her glory. The sites and visits you recommended will not be forgotten. Also, to Putu, the resident driver and tour guide while there, for your beautiful hospitality and time taken to explain everything Balinese to us as we spent, sometimes, hours in the car with you. You never made us feel like all our questions were too much.  

Max, you and your family have built something magical and full of heart, a haven that one just does not often find in their lives.

The only part about Hidden Hills Villas that I would not recommend, is leaving!

Reviewed by Joanna Macdonald – Events Manager for the World Luxury Awards.

To book your stay at Hidden Hills Villas, visit their website: www.hiddenhillsvillas.com

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Pondoro Game Lodge – A luxury bush holiday with excellent hospitality

Pondoro Game Lodge is set on the banks of the Olifants River in Balule Private Game Reserve inside the greater Kruger National Park.

The lodge is family-owned by Lize and Robbie and offers only 8 rooms, ensuring exclusivity and personalized service for every guest.

They provide exceptional service, delicious food, and breathtaking natural surroundings. It Is the best way to experience the African bush.

The lodge really felt intimate, and the staff made me feel at home as soon as I arrived. The staff had genuine smiles that lit up the whole room.

I stayed in the “Buffalo” Suite, and it was nothing short of spectacular. The suite had a thatched roof, beautiful décor, and best of all, sweeping views of the Olifant’s River and surrounding wild. The owners perfectly blended African furnishings and modern amenities to create a comfortable and memorable stay.

The suite did not have any fencing, so you are completely in nature. We were offered handmade bracelets as a welcome gift, they were made by their housekeeper Sindile (what a sweet touch). We were also gifted a lovely bottle of red wine upon arrival. The suite was spacious, and the king bed had the perfect view. The bathroom had a big open shower and a bathtub which also boasted views of the outdoors. On the outside deck there was a shower, and the main feature, the rock bathtub overlooking the river.

The deck was the perfect place to relax and take in the sights and sounds of the surrounding nature. Every day I saw elephants bathing in the river, and monkeys swinging from the trees. The hippos also made sure I knew they were there with their loud noises coming from the river.

The meals were brilliant, offering international cuisine with a South African touch. The lodge’s extensive wine list has won international awards, and their staff will recommend the best wines for each meal. I particularly liked the Stellenzicht Shiraz.

For breakfast each morning, I had their signature iced coffee, some seasonal fruit and the eggs benedict. The breakfast is a la carte and has a great variety of hot and cold dishes.

For lunch they offered a set menu which changed daily, and in addition to that, they offered a ‘high tea’ station with drinks and snacks to enjoy after the main lunch meal.

For our first night we had dinner on the riverbank, with sounds of hippos in the background. It was quite a scary experience, but the staff made it so much fun. They performed an African dance and sang a few songs for us to start the evening. The ostrich fillet was tasty and of course it was paired with a lovely Pinotage wine.

My favourite meal was our last dinner which was a beef fillet steak with a to-die-for mustard sauce. Another special meal was the venison potjie which was served in such a unique way and tasted fantastic. The intimate setting of the dining area added to the overall charm of the lodge.

The staff went over and above for my partner’s 30th birthday. They provided a special dinner table decorated with balloons and baked him a delicious chocolate cake.

A special thank you to Yvonne and Patricia for your generous hospitality, and Percy in the kitchen for the wonderful food that you prepared for us.

The romantic picnic at their treehouse hide was one of the highlights of our trip. The staff arranged a picnic lunch on the day of my partner’s birthday. Our guide drove us to this unique spot, which overlooked a watering hole, and we were left on our own to enjoy our special meal. A herd of elephants were enjoying the dam water to cool off on the hot summer day. The picnic feast was truly delightful.

The lodge offered daily morning and evening game drives with their experienced and passionate tracker and guide. On each drive we saw something different. We saw a pride of roaring lions which was thrilling. The best sighting was watching a leopard and its two cubs. The female leopard was eating its recent kill, and the babies were playing nearby under a tree. We watched them for hours, it was fascinating. We also saw a black rhino which is very rare. During our 3-night stay, we saw the entire Big Five, some Hyenas and Wild Dogs, and of course many Giraffes and Zebras. Every game drive offered a chance to witness the incredible diversity of South Africa’s wildlife.

Rul the guide and Shedrick the tracker are super knowledgeable and I thank them for giving us the best authentic safari experience.

The lodge has an in-house spa offering massage treatments to rejuvenate you after a morning game drive. You can also take a dip in their infinity pool which is tucked in between trees and surrounded by sounds of birds. You also could participate in a guided bush walk nearby the lodge if you are interested in tracking animals and gaining information from the experienced tracker.

I would recommend this lodge for a honeymoon, a romantic getaway or anyone wanting to experience a luxury safari.

My stay was nothing short of remarkable, offering an unparalleled safari experience that exceeded all expectations.

Reviewed by World Luxury Awards Representative, Kayla Lourens

To book your stay at Pondoro Game Lodge, visit their website: www.pondoro.co.za

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Athens Flair – A Gem in the Heart of Athens

We recently had the pleasure of staying at Athens Flair during our visit to Athens, Greece, while attending the 17th Annual World Luxury Awards Gala Ceremony, and we can confidently say it exceeded all our expectations. From the moment we walked through the door, the hotel’s commitment to excellence was evident.

Nestled in the heart of historic Athens, Athens Flair is a true gem that combines modern luxury with a touch of Greek charm.

The hotel’s unparalleled location offers convenient access to some of Athens’ most iconic landmarks. The Acropolis, Plaka, and Syntagma Square are all within walking distance, allowing guests to immerse themselves in the city’s rich history and vibrant culture.

Upon entering the hotel, there is a beautiful spiralling staircase which leads you to the reception area. Thankfully the friendly staff assisted us with our luggage and was very accommodating throughout our entire stay. Their genuine warmth and professionalism added a personal touch that made us feel like valued guests.

Our room at Athens Flair was a sanctuary of comfort and style. Spacious, elegantly furnished, and impeccably clean, with amazing views of the city. I particularly appreciated the attention to detail, from the luxurious bedding to the well-appointed bathroom stocked with premium amenities.

The hotel’s breakfast was equally impressive, featuring a variety of fresh and delicious options to suit every palate. We opted to eat in our room, however, you may also enjoy your breakfast on the rooftop terrace. The terrace has the most amazing panoramic views of the city.

In conclusion, Athens Flair is a true gem in the heart of Athens, offering a perfect blend of luxury, convenience, and warm hospitality. Whether you’re a leisure traveler or in town for business, this hotel is a top-notch choice. We left Athens with fond memories, and much of that credit goes to the exceptional experience provided by Athens Flair.

Reviewed by World Luxury Awards Representative, Jana Stoman

To book your stay at Athens Flair, visit their website: athensflair.com

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Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa

A sanctuary in the city of Johannesburg

This unique property is located in Sandton which is a popular shopping and culinary destination.

It is the perfect place for a weekend staycation, it’s great for romantic getaways and ideal for international travellers visiting Johannesburg.

I had the pleasure of staying at Fairlawns for three nights and I must say it’s a hidden gem in Johannesburg. The hotel exceeded all my expectations, and I would absolutely recommend this property to anyone visiting Johannesburg.

Upon arrival, I was greeted by the warm and friendly staff members who made me feel at home from the moment I stepped into the elegant reception. Check in was easy and after being offered a welcome drink, the porter assisted us to our suite.

You don’t feel like you are in Johannesburg when you are at Fairlawns. Clearly the hotel has put a lot of effort into the upkeep of the property. The hotel’s grounds provide a serene backdrop for a leisurely stroll through the property.

My suite was located on the first floor in a manor house style building and had a view of the surrounding landscaped gardens. The entire area just made me feel at peace and totally relaxed.

The room was generously spacious and exuded luxury and elegance. The attention to detail was evident in every aspect of the design, from the plush bedding to the tastefully chosen décor.

The bathroom had a big bathtub and a comfortable double vanity with all the necessary amenities. The housekeeping staff ensured that the room was spotlessly clean and offered us Wedgewood nougat as part of their turndown service every night. We also received a Wedgewood nougat gift upon arrival which was a lovely touch.

The spring weather was such a pleasure in Johannesburg, we opened our large bedroom windows in the morning for a fresh morning breeze and the sun shining in. Birds chirping and the sound of nature is the best way to wake up.

One can stroll around the property which has multiple seating areas and different gardens. The property has so many Instagram-worthy spots and is ideal for photoshoots.

The main hotel pool is located in the centre of the property and is the perfect place to relax in summer.

One of the highlights of my stay was the dining experience at Fairlawns Hotel’s on-site restaurant called Amuse-Bouche. The menu had a variety of tantalizing dishes with both local and international flavours. Each meal was a masterpiece, visually pleasing and with the taste to match. The restaurant also has a wine list which pairs brilliantly with the menu. The waiter offered us some of his recommendations and was enthusiastic and had great knowledge of the menu. The Beef Bourguignon Soup was my favorite dish.

Breakfast at Fairlawns was a lavish affair. They offer a buffet-style breakfast inside with a variety of fruits, cold cuts, pastries, and juices. You can also order a hot breakfast from their a la carte menu. During my stay we had amazing weather so each morning we sat outside at a table overlooking the grounds.

The setup has such a welcoming atmosphere and it’s the perfect way to start your day. I had the eggs benedict, which was done perfectly, and my friend had the avocado toast as a smaller option. The F&B manager Brenden checked in on us each morning and was so friendly and helpful.

I fell in love with the spa at Fairlawns. This is arguably one of the best spas in Johannesburg in my opinion. The spa has been designed with a Balinese style creating a tranquil ambience and makes you feel like you are in a tropical paradise. I would definitely recommend a spa day to anyone who is in Johannesburg and wanting a treat.

Before my treatment, the therapist assisted me to the spa facilities and offered me a drink and snack from their refreshments table in the reception area. The spa pool and jacuzzi was a great place to relax before a treatment. They also have a steam room, relaxation room and outdoor seating areas.

I indulged in a 60-minute aroma oil massage and Mpho, the spa therapist, left me feeling rejuvenated and ready to take on the world.

Throughout my stay, the staff went above and beyond to ensure my comfort. They always had a smile on their faces and made me feel like a valued guest.

Whether you’re visiting for a romantic getaway, a business trip, or simply seeking a tranquil escape, Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa is the perfect choice. I can’t wait to return!

Reviewed by World Luxury Awards Representative, Kayla Lourens

To book your stay at Fairlawns, visit their website: fairlawns.co.za

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La Petite Ferme

Nestled in the picturesque Franschhoek valley, La Petite Ferme offers an enchanting retreat that marries luxurious comfort with breathtaking natural beauty.

From the moment we arrived, the warm and welcoming atmosphere embraced us, setting the stage for an unforgettable stay.

Our stay at La Petite Ferme was nothing short of exceptional. The accommodation seamlessly blended rustic charm with modern amenities. The spacious and well-appointed suite provided stunning views of the surrounding vineyards and mountains. The attention to detail, from the plush bedding to the thoughtful decor, made us feel right at home.

The on-site restaurant was a culinary journey that showcased the finest local ingredients. Each dish was a work of art, perfectly presented and bursting with flavor.

The staff at La Petite Ferme exhibited a level of hospitality that went beyond mere professionalism. Their genuine friendliness and willingness to accommodate our requests truly made us feel valued and appreciated. Whether it was the reception staff or the waitstaff in the restaurant, everyone ensured that our every need was met with a smile.

La Petite Ferme’s location is its crown jewel. Set against the backdrop of rolling vineyards and majestic mountains, the views are nothing short of breathtaking. Its proximity to the charming town of Franschhoek allowed for easy exploration of local boutiques, galleries, and other attractions.

Our stay at La Petite Ferme was an enchanting journey into luxury, relaxation, and culinary excellence. From the idyllic setting to the impeccable service, every aspect of our experience exceeded our expectations.

If you’re seeking a romantic getaway, a serene retreat, or simply a taste of South African paradise, La Petite Ferme is a must-visit destination.

Reviewed by World Luxury Awards Representative, Jana Stoman

To book this hotel, visit their website: lapetiteferme.co.za

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Grand Hotel Bristol Resort & Spa

On a recent trip to Italy, I had the immense pleasure of visiting Grand Hotel Bristol Resort & Spa, located in the beautiful town of Rapallo.

Upon arrival the front-of-house manager gave us a tour of the hotel and provided us with all the needed information for our stay. We were booked into the Riviera Suite with panoramic seafront views and let me tell you, the views were spectacular.

We were welcomed with a bottle of champagne and fruit. We enjoyed our drinks while taking in the amazing views of the Portofino Promontory.

Our suite was spacious, had a walk-in closet and a large round whirlpool. It had everything one may need while traveling. 

We visited in April; therefore, the weather did not allow for a dip in the pool, but I imagine during summer months many guests relax at the pool while sipping on an Aperol Spritz. 

The hotel has three amazing restaurants, the gourmet restaurant Le Cupole led by Chef Graziano Duca, La Veranda a charming bistrot located on the panoramic terrace, and a new restaurant, The Flamingo pool bar&pizza gourmet.

The Erre Spa Bristol covers 2.000 m² and offers a 360-degree service, from wellness journeys to a wide range of body and face treatments, as well as varied and personalized programs proposed by the Spa manager.

A pleasant sea walk leads to the center of Rapallo, from there you can also take a ferry to Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino for site seeing.

Everyone with a love for travel should visit the Portofino coast in their lifetime. It is truly the definition of living la dolce vita. I am already dreaming of going back.

Reviewed by World Luxury Awards Representative, Jana Stoman

To book this hotel, visit their website: www.grandhotelbristol.it

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The Kuta Beach Heritage Hotel Bali Managed by Accor

A Boutique hotel located on the beachfront of the famous Kuta Beach

The Kuta Beach Heritage Hotel is conveniently situated right by Kuta Beach, a 5-minute stroll from Kuta Square and the Kuta Art Market. The hotel blends contemporary design with fishing village-themed interiors and is the ideal destination for business and leisure travelers.

The hotel has a prime location and is a 5-minute walk from the Kuta Beachwalk shopping center which has great outlets and dining options. The airport is about a 15-minute car ride from the hotel. Right next to the hotel entrance is a convenience store, wine shop and transportation services.

From the hotel, you can go for a leisurely stroll on the beach and take in the beautiful sea views. Kuta beach is known for surfing, so I would recommend doing a surfing lesson during your stay.

My spacious room had a full view of the Kuta Beach and the bustling street below.

Many of the rooms have an ocean view and balcony, and some have direct pool access to a plunge pool.

My room was spacious and had a separate living area and study with a flat-screen TV, minibar and a balcony overlooking Kuta Beach. They also provided complimentary coffee and tea in the room daily. In-room dining is available 24 hours a day and the menu features international classics as well as local Indonesian dishes to try.

The bathroom had a luxurious bathtub and they offered bath salts as an extra amenity. The shower and toilet were private, and the double vanity featured quality amenities such as body lotion, scented hand soap and more.

The hotel also provides luggage storage in case you have a late flight and still want to explore Kuta. If you haven’t already booked sightseeing tours online, the hotel has a tour desk who can assist you with making bookings. I would absolutely recommend doing the Ubud full day tour.

The hotel’s rooftop infinity pool is the highlight of the hotel and is the perfect place to watch the sunset. Spend your day around the pool on one of the comfortable lounge chairs and relax with music playing in the background. The pool also has a bar with a variety of cocktails, you should definitely try a whole coconut.

The hotel features a spa, and I would like to mention that they offer a Traditional Balinese massage which is a must-do when in Bali. For fitness lovers, the hotel has a fully equipped gym.

Riva Bar & Restaurant has breathtaking ocean views and offers international cuisine as well as some local dishes. This is also a great spot for sunset.

The buffet breakfast is amazing, as you enter the breakfast area there are two Balinese performers playing a special instrument to add to the ambience of the hotel. The buffet offers a variety of food, including a vegetarian section, Indonesian section, sushi station and a made-to-order egg station.

The set up included traditional Balinese dishes and the staff were at your service and happy to explain the dishes to you. They also have a station that serves special juice that has Indonesian spices and herbs in, which is worth a try. Don’t forget to try their freshly made French toast with chocolate sauce. The perfect way to start your day in Bali.

The staff welcomed me with a smile every morning and made sure I was comfortable. You can also sit on one of the lounge chairs around the pool with a coffee and enjoy the view of Kuta Beach. 

The staff members are highly attentive and sincerely dedicated to ensuring your experience is exceptional. Whether it’s the buffet staff, security personnel, receptionists, or cleaning services, everyone is always eager to go the extra mile to accommodate your needs.

Reviewed by World Luxury Awards Representative, Kayla Lourens

To book this hotel, visit their website: all.accor.com/hotel/8151/index.en.shtml