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Best of the Best 2002: Travel: Best Hotels

Bobbie Leigh

Scene to be Seen
It comes as no surprise that Switzerland’s Riffelalp Resort 2222m, the highest Alpine resort in Europe, has extraordinary scenic views. More remarkable, however, is that with a one-touch remote control you can raise your guest room curtains without budging from your bed and watch the sun rise over the Matterhorn, the 14,690-foot majestic peak on the Swiss-Italian border. The original Riffelalp Grand Hotel opened in 1884, when it quickly became a playground for royalty. Today, completely rebuilt as a five-star hotel, it has high-tech amenities, services, spacious guest rooms, and a heated swimming pool that reflect its high rating. Bordering a stone pine forest, the Riffelalp is in the heart of the Gornergrat skiing and hiking district. But by late afternoon, when the last of the mountain visitors have skied or hiked down to Zermatt, the hotel’s vast terrace is the perfect place to watch the sun set.

Riffelalp Resort 2222m, +41.27.966.05.55, www.riffelalp.com

Good Things, Small Packages
La Mirage Garden Hotel & Spa, about an hour’s drive north of Quito, Ecuador, in the tiny village of Cotacachi, offers the amenities of a large property with the coziness and personality of a boutique hotel. Surrounded by two dormant volcanoes in the high Andes, La Mirage features a handsome Roman spa with a heated pool, a full schedule of beauty treatments, and tennis. The hotel is known for its exquisite gardens, made more beautiful by the presence of hundreds of species of birds, especially hummingbirds. Hosts Jorge Espinosa and Michel Durer have furnished each of the hotel’s 14 suites with antiques collected from their travels. After dinner, you will find a fire blazing in your private villa and rose petals strewn on your bed. Hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and excursions to craft villages are effortlessly arranged along with a sumptuous picnic.

La Mirage Garden Hotel & Spa, 800.735.2478 or +593.6.91.52.37, www.relaischateaux.com

Finest Facelift
What do you do with a faded grande dame who has seen her best days? If you’re owner Christie Garrett, you vow to restore her to her original glory. With considerable restraint, Garrett revived the much-loved, three-story Colonial Revival building, The Willcox, in Aiken, S.C. Listed in the National Historic Register, The Willcox has been a fixture in this Southern resort town since 1898. After a thorough facelift, which was based on historical records and research, The Willcox has regained its stature as an aristocratic Southern belle. The pristine front porch is once again lined with rocking chairs, and the lobby has been rejuvenated with old-fashioned crewelwork and white wood trim contrasting with dark curly pine. From a garden conservatory to Arts and Crafts–style guest rooms with crisp white shutters, The Willcox now radiates Southern tradition and charm.

The Willcox, 877.648.2200  or 803.648.1898, www.thewillcox.com

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