June 13, 2024

Just Moments

Travel Groove

The most extraordinary new hotels opening in 2021


e can all agree that 2020 has been an awful year that we can’t wait to see the back of.

For travel, it meant millions of holidays cancelled and hotels closing with each and every new tier restriction.

But with vaccines being rolled out around the world, there’s plenty to be optimistic about. It will take some time before borders fully reopen of course – but, for now at least, we can look ahead to see the extraordinary new hotels waiting for us to check in.

Please note that travel corridors, an entry requirement of a negative Covid-19 test, and quarantine regulations are subject to change at short notice across destinations worldwide.

The Independent’s hotel reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and book, but we never allow this to affect our coverage.

Kruger Shalati, Kruger National Park, South Africa

Inside one of the carriage rooms at Kruger Shalati

(Kruger Shalati)

Trainspotters and wildlife enthusiasts alike will adore Kruger Shalati, a quirky boutique hotel inside a refurbished 1950s steam train. Parked permanently atop the Selati Bridge, high above the Sabie River inside Kruger National Park – where in the 1920s, trains would stop overnight – 24 glass-walled carriage rooms will open first. Bedrooms will be filled with local arts and craft and, alongside expert-led game drives, guests will be able spot crocodiles, hippos and elephants from their bedrooms – or from the on-bridge pool. Seven family-friendly land-based rooms will open towards the end of the year.

Rooms from £795 a night on an all-inclusive basis including two game drives daily, carriage rooms are for ages 12+ only. www.krugershalati.com

Kisawa Sanctuary, Benguerra Island, Mozambique

As paradisaical escapes go, it’s hard to beat Benguerra Island in Mozambique’s Bazaruto archipelago, all pillow-soft white sand fringed by protected waters visited by dolphins and turtles. Touching down lightly into the landscape is eco-minded Kisawa Sanctuary, with 12 bungalows (ranging from one to three rooms) scattered between forest, beach and sand dunes, as well as a larger residence. The project is the brainchild of ex-creative director of VistaJet Nina Flohr, who’s also founded a non-profit marine research facility on the island. Architecture fuses traditional Mozambican weaving and carpentry with the use of a unique sand and saltwater-based mortar, some of which has been 3-D printed into flooring and tiles, and rooms pair earthy colour palettes with regional prints. Mimicking the flow of nature’s rhythms, scheduling has been thrown out of the window, and guests will be able choose to dine at beach cozinhas, laze in the pool, scuba dive or visit the thatched spa when the mood strikes.

One-bedroom bungalows from £4,580 a night on an all-inclusive basis, including private chef, wellness, spa and watersports activities. www.kisawasanctuary.com

Azumi Setoda, Seto Inland Sea, Japan

The minimalist design at Azumi Setoda

(Tomohiro Sakashita)

To launch their new Azumi brand, visionary hotelier Adrian Zecha and Naru Developments have turned their eyes to Setoda in Ikuchijima, a small island best known by cyclists as the mid-point along the 70km Shimanami Kaido bike route. A contemporary take on a traditional Japanese ryokan, 22 suites will be housed inside a 140-year-old compound. Sensitively renovated by Shiro Miura, a homey, peaceful aesthetic will run deep, using cedar and cypress woods alongside washi (traditional Japanese paper) and granite, and each room will have a mossy, maple-filled garden or balcony – or both – as well as a hinoki bathtub. Across the road at the yubune (a public bathhouse), guests will learn about Japanese bathing culture. Food-wise, seafood feasts packed with locally-grown citrus, and herbs and spices, which reflect Ikuchijima’s location along the maritime silk road, will be served.

Rooms at Azumi Setoda from £530, B&B. www.azumi.co

Hotel Castello di Reschio, Umbria, Italy

Ramping up the rural idyll factor in Italy is a once ramshackle 10th-century castle turned magical 36-room hotel in the Umbrian hills. Estate owners, the Bolza family, have form having already restored a clutch of charming farmhouses on their 3,700-acre estate. The hotel’s bedrooms will celebrate local craftsmanship and character – think terracotta brick flooring and stone-carved fireplaces alongside oil paintings, and curio discovered by the Bolzas at antiques markets. Most swish will be the Tower Suite, featuring its own roof garden and al fresco hot tub. Days can be spent at the equestrian centre, truffle hunting in the surrounding woodland, or at the spa, where slivers of sunlight stream through the original, arrow-slit windows in what was once the wine cellar. Restaurants will range from a fig-tree-filled terrace on the ramparts to a tropi-cool, glass-ceilinged Palm Court, and menus are all about the estate-grown produce.

Rooms at Castello di Reschio from £615 a night, B&B. www.reschio.com

Kalesma channels Cycladic-chic


As hotel locations go, Kalesma – set on a hill overlooking the sparkling Aegean Sea on both sides, meaning that sunrise and sunset can be admired from the same spot – is pretty unbeatable. Whitewashed architecture, by K-studio (behind the design of London’s OPSO restaurant) is Cycladic-inspired and all 25 suites and two villas will have deep bathtubs, al-fresco showers, heated pools, and minimalist, earthy-hued interiors. As well as a showstopping infinity pool, there will be seasonal Greek fare and bread baked in a wood-fired oven at restaurant Pere Ubu, and Aloni Lounge for next-level sundowners (Kalesma’s owners, who all grew up on Mykonos, will be bringing in staff from their trio of successful restaurants in Athens). Tapped-in concierges will be on hand to arrange in-room spa treatments and personal training sessions as well as visits to secluded swimming caves, Mykonos’ hip beach clubs, or local artists’ studios.

Rooms from £1,085 per night, B&B. www.kalesmamykonos.com

Palácio de Canavezes, Porto, Portugal

Topping the list for wellness wanderers is a former palace hotel in the Canavezes region – famed for its hot springs since the turn of the 20th century – which will open as a slick, 52-room retreat after a transformation by Campbell Gray Hotels. A short drive from Porto on the fringe of the picturesque Douro Valley, the residential-look bedrooms will feature custom-made Paulo Lobo furniture and have River Tâmega views. The restaurant will have a wellbeing-focused menu overseen by a local nutritionist, but the real draw is the PUREGRAY health and wellness spa. As well as an indoor swimming pool, naturally heated outdoor pools for hydrotherapy and a sauna and hammam, rejuvenating facial and body therapies – combining muds with the mineral-rich thermal waters – will take place in treatment rooms, which have been hewn into the rock face.

Rooms from €290 per night, room-only. www.campbellgrayhotels.com

THE PIG in the South Downs, West Sussex, England

THE PIG at South Downs


Touching down in the South Downs National Park in West Sussex, and set to be the staycation to book, is the latest opening from hit hoteliers Robin and Judy Hutson. Grade II-listed Madehurst Lodge, a Georgian building with rolling countryside views, will be transformed into a quirky countryside bolthole with around 30 rooms furnished with leafy, garden-inspired fabrics inspired by the bucolic scenery, a greenhouse restaurant with ingredients sourced within 25-miles and from the kitchen garden, and a newly-planted vineyard (the terroir is similar to that in Champagne).

Rooms at THE PIG in the South Downs from £155 a night, room-only. www.thepighotel.com

Ambiente, Arizona, USA

In what might be mistaken for a mirage, 40 cube-shaped rooms will appear, ‘floating’ in Sedona’s rusty-red landscape at Ambiente, the first hotel in North America designed to landscape architecture principles – to blend into and enhance the natural environment, with as little disturbance during development as possible. Designed by ASUL architects, rooms built in matte charcoal-coloured metal will be raised on steel piers and have floor-to-ceiling bronze-tinted glass which mirror the landscape. Some will have rooftop decks – ideal for making the most of Sedona’s certified Dark Sky status – as well as indoor fireplaces and soaking tubs with Le Labo toiletries. There will also be a dinky spa, natural lagoon-inspired pool, an Airstream dining concept overseen by award-winning chef Lisa Dahl, and direct access to masses of hiking and biking trails.

Rooms from £tbc. ambientesedona.com

The LungMar, Ladakh, India

What The LungMar will look like once it’s complete

(The LungMar)

Not only is Hemis National Park renowned for its gnarled, towering mountains where golden eagles soar and its wild alpine shrublands, it’s also home to the highest concentration of snow leopards on the planet. This autumn, the LungMar, a permanent, safari-style lodge in the heart of South Asia’s largest national park will open, backed by snow leopard experts Voygr Expeditions, who’ve been operating mobile camps and working with expert trackers here for a decade. The conservation-led property will be purpose-driven, helping to connect rural economies to the importance of the snow leopards’ natural habitat. The solar-powered, carbon-negative camp will have 10 custom-designed tents, inspired by those used by the Changpa nomads, and will be decked out with yak wool carpets, hand-knotted Afghani rugs and intricate woodwork. After days spent tracking the elusive ghost of the mountains, guests will be able to relax in an earth-sheltered sauna or in the central caravanserai-inspired, fireplace-filled lounge.

Ten-day snow leopard tours, including six nights at the LungMar, are from £3,070 per person, on an all-inclusive basis covering meals and guided tracking. voygr.com

The best of the rest


2021 is set to be a bumper year for London hotel openings, from The Broadwick Soho (interiors whizz Martin Brudnizki describes the look as “your eccentric grandmother’s Soho townhouse”) to the punk-rock-gothic Chateau Denmark (www.chateaudenmark.com), and the 350-room “super boutique” hotel The Londoner (www.thelondoner.com) as well as NoMad London (www.thenomadhotel.com/london) in Covent Garden. Most exciting, however, is a city arrival from the team behind hit Surrey country pile Beaverbrook (www.beaverbrook.co.uk), who’ll open the 14-room Beaverbrook Town House in Chelsea’s Sloane Street. Showstopping bedrooms, designed by Nicola Harding – behind the whimsical decor at the recently opened Mitre in Hampton Court – will take their names and style cues from London theatres, and there will be a Japanese restaurant and bar with interiors inspired by the work of The Wave artist Hokusai.


The Harper will be making its debut in March 2021

(The Harper)

Edinburgh gets a double whammy with 100 Princes Street (redcarnationhotels.com) and a city outpost, The Gleneagles Townhouse, from countryside favourite Gleneagles (gleneagles.com). Boutique affair The Harper (www.theharper.co.uk) will open inside an old glass blowing factory in Norfolk, and the team behind eco-led Fforest in west Wales will debut The Albion (www.coldatnight.co.uk) beside the River Teifi in Cardigan. Another anticipated foodie opening is Heft (hefthighnewton.co.uk), from Michelin-starred chef Kevin Tickle and wife Nicola. A fine dining restaurant plus an informal bar with original fireplaces will open this January in Cumbria’s High Newton, and five rooms kitted out with textured tweed soft furnishings and cosy woodburners will follow in late spring.


Nordelaia (www.nordelaia.com), a farmhouse-turned-12-room boutique hotel, designed by These White Walls, with a restaurant overseen by chef Andrea Ribaldone, will open in Italian wine country Piedmont. The Hoxton (thehoxton.com/rome) will bring digital nomad cool to Rome; One&Only Portonovi (www.oneandonlyresorts.com/portonovi) will touch down in Montenegro’s Adriatic Rivieria, and both Cheval Blanc Paris (www.chevalblanc.com) and Bulgari Hotel Paris (www.bulgarihotels.com) will open in the French capital.

Middle East

Catching the eye of spa junkies will be Six Senses Shaharut (www.sixsenses.com) in Israel’s Negev desert. It’s set to have a desert activity centre, camel stables and striking al fresco cinema in a natural amphitheatre.


Hygge Circles Ugakei (nordisk.eu), a sustainable glamping project at the foot of the Inabe mountains created by a  crack team of Danish-Japanese architects, engineers and sustainability experts, will offer a “hygge in nature” experience in Nordic cotton tents from spring. In Sri Lanka, the first property from Harding Boutique Hotels (www.hardingboutiquehotels.com) will open in Ahangama, with contemporary tropical modernist architecture by Jonathan Ashmore, six soulful suites and knockout Indian Ocean views.


Much-anticipated, art-filled boutique safari lodge Xigera (xigera.com) will open in the western Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana, 10-tent Sanctuary Tambarare (www.sanctuaryretreats.com/kenya-camps-tambarare) will ramp up the luxe factor in Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy, and Nobu will make their African debut with Nobu Hotel Marrakech (www.nobuhotels.com) in the hip Hivernage District.

The Americas

NYC will get a double dose of hotel slickness, with Aman New York (www.aman.com) – designed by Jean-Michel Gathy, inside Manhattan’s Crown building – and Six Senses New York (www.sixsenses.com) opening in the Chelsea Neighbourhood inside the striking Bjarke Ingels-designed twisting XI towers with two wellness-led restaurants, and a clever spa. Over in the Chilean capital, Mandarin Oriental will open in South America for the first time with Mandarin Oriental Santiago (www.mandarinoriental.com) in Las Condes.

The Caribbean

Hard hit during Hurricanes Irma and Maria, tropical icon Le Guanahani reopens its doors in spring after a four year closure, sporting a fresh new look as Rosewood Le Guanahani St. Barth (www.rosewoodhotels.com). Around the same time, Soho House will make their Caribbean debut with 40-room Soho Beach House Canouan (www.sohohouse.com) in St Vincent and the Grenadines.