As the sun sets on 2019, it’s time to look back and honour those extra special hotels and hideaways where everything went swimmingly this year. Places which wowed each and every i-escape guest, from the moment of arrival right through to the fond farewell. Places which you scored straight 10s for outstanding service, gorgeous rooms, delicious cuisine and – something often overlooked by glitzy awards – great value for money.
So, from Sardinia to Sri Lanka, here are your 10 top rated hotels of 2019 – in your own words.
Tucked above the brilliant white-sand beaches of the Costa Smeralda, Albero Capovolto is “immaculate”, “a beautiful, welcoming and relaxing hotel”, “a magical place”, and exactly “what you hope for when searching for somewhere unique to stay”. Extra special mentions for Alessandro – “a charming and attentive host who definitely went the extra mile”; for Loredana’s “fabulous, truly Sardinian food”; and for the “sunsets over the infinity pool, and the breathtaking views to the mountains”. As one guest observed, there are just “too many ‘wow’ factors!”
Newly opened this year, La Villa du Guern has swept straight to the top of your list. “What a find! This is a special place to stay with special hosts Martine and Arnaud, who offer a bespoke experience in their immaculate five-bedroomed hotel.” Guests rave about the “breathtaking sea views”, about Isabelle’s dinners (“an absolute taste sensation; we only wish we could have eaten there every night!”); and about the “region which has so much to offer”, including “using the hotel’s kayaks, eating at the oyster farm and visiting peaceful Ile aux Moines”.
Riad L’Orangeraie is an old favourite which still manages to stay at the very top of its game in a city brimful of charming riad hotels. What makes the difference? Staff are “genuinely interested and determined to make our stay perfect”, while owner Cyril’s “great sense of humour permeates throughout the team”. The roof terrace is the ideal spot “for wonderful breakfasts and dinners, catching some sunshine” or “early morning yoga”. Whether it’s for “a girls’ weekend away”, “our first adventure in Marrakech” or even a “family trip with our kids aged two and six”, everyone rates it “an oasis of calm, five-star welcome and delicious cuisine.”
Conventois another firm favourite among i-escape’s cognoscenti, “this boutique B&B is a real treasure”, boasting “wonderful hosts, excellent staff, superb breakfasts and beautiful accommodation in such a lovely town”. Guests clearly adore its authenticity: “it feels like a true welcome, not just a transaction”; it is “a most peaceful retreat, perfect to recharge, an ultimate holiday therapy” and “probably one of the most beautiful and natural places I’ve ever stayed”. Overall, “outstanding in every respect, a real gem of a find”.
New to our collection last year, Galini Breeze is “ideal for couples looking for a relaxing and peaceful environment with no kids, and a short walk into” a “charming little town with lively restaurants and good beaches”. You get “stylish, contemporary accommodation in a beautiful spot with stunning sea views”, while “the pool is glorious and the entire place was spotlessly clean”. Owners Monique and Marc “are adorable: really involved in what can make your stay amazing” – such as “walking through the countryside for an hour, spending the day at a small beach, eating at the taverna there and returning by boat taxi.”
Also in Crete, Eleonas is a firm family favourite: a cluster of “lovely cottages high in the mountains where the air is cool, but only half an hour from the beach”. Guests on their second and third stays are drawn back by the “amazing food”, “reasonable prices” and “stunning setting”. “Our daughter had such fun in the pool, making friends and using the play area”, while “the new adults-only pool is a welcome treat if you can steal yourself away for a little quiet time.” Other guests “walked the gorge and to Zaros lake, swam in the sea at Matala and explored Roman ruins at Gortyna”, while Manolis and his team “go above and beyond, from fixing car seats to fitting a stair gate without us asking”.
Your top-rated British property for 2019 is not a hotel but a gorgeous self-catering bolthole called Tees River Hideaway, which is “by far the most impressive cottage we have ever stayed in”. “Beautifully located on the banks of the River Tees,” it is tucked away “at the end of a track, only a five-minute walk away from Barnard Castle, with its antique shops, pubs, tearooms and restaurants”. Guests love its riverside conservatory (“listening to the babble of the water” and spotting otters), its “large bedroom with extremely comfortable bed and crisp linens”, its “wood-burning stoves and underfloor heating” – and Helen and Sue, who “do absolutely everything to make you feel welcome and offer loads of tips and local information.”
After Palacio Bucarelli’s first full year of operation, these “gorgeous apartments” in a “beautifully restored old palace” in the historic heart of Seville have already claimed our number one spot in Spain. i-escape guests love the “penthouse apartment with terrace” which is “perfect for breakfast” – and “surprisingly affordable”; while manageress Costanza was “so helpful” and even “managed to get us a lift to the airport when the taxis were on strike”. “Peaceful, traditional but stylish” – and “overall a fantastic stay”.
Another new arrival – and another unsung hero – Paraiso Escondido is “a place to relax, rejuvenate and get back in touch with yourself and nature”, an “exquisitely finished” hotel “at the top of a peaceful hill”, with “great attention to detail and considerable design flair”. You have “a dozen stunning beaches between 30 minutes and an hour’s drive”, and “even in August, none of them were busy”. As always, it’s the hosts which make it: “Bernie and Glenn are two super special human beings who have put so much thought and love into the hotel”. And “the free bottle of wine for booking through i-escape is a nice touch”.
We end with a long-haul winner – and a reminder that we don’t just do hotels (and rentals)! This local Sri Lankantravel specialist, which we have chosen from personal experience and worked with for over 10 years, can arrange “the holiday of a lifetime” with “minimal hassle”. Expect “really good itinerary planning, and excellent informative professional drivers that made our trip seamless”. Of course, “it helps to have the most beautiful birds, the most extraordinary landscape, some superb food, world-class hotels and a truly unspoiled and fascinating country” – one which is “back on everyone’s wishlist for 2020”.
Small print: scores are based on ratings from verified i-escape guests submitted during 2019. These may differ slightly from the scores shown on our hotel reviews’ feedback section, which draw from the previous two years, and are constantly updating. We include all guest scores, but we do not publish all guest comments.