Photo: Castle surrounded by deep blue water

Located in the heart of County Mayo in western Ireland, the luxurious Ashford castle, dating from the 12th century, is as romantic a place as one could desire.

Photograph by Getty Images

From the National Geographic book The 10 Best of Everything

  1. Auberge du Soleil

    Rutherford, California

    www.aubergedusoleil.com

    Napa Valley's magical wine country is the backdrop for this elegant hotel, opened in 1985. The accommodations feature Mediterranean decor; guests have their choice of rooms in the main building or several private cottages on the hillside. The restaurant offers a wine list that reflects the best of the area. At the spa, therapists use special herb-infused oils made from plants and herbs growing in the garden. There's a heated pool here, as well as a sun deck.

  2. The Inn at Little Washington

    Washington, Virginia

    www.theinnatlittlewashington.com

    For two decades, Patrick O'Connell and Reinhardt Lynch have run this renowned hotel in the foothills of the Blue Ridge. Its 15 charming rooms and suites are meticulous in their details, including one decorated in the exotic style and color of the Far East, and another with its sun-drenched reading room. The luxurious, highly decorated restaurant—one of the top in the world, its cuisine a delectable mix of classical French and modern—is the place to take anyone you want to impress.

  3. Ashford Castle

    Cong, Ireland

    www.ashford.ie

    Located in the heart of County Mayo in western Ireland, this luxurious castle, dating from the 12th century, is as romantic a place as one could desire. Rooms are decorated in cheerful pastels. The hotel has two dining rooms and three bars; a very traditional afternoon tea is served in the drawing room. An interesting array of activities is offered outdoors; there are three running trails, two tennis courts, archery and falconry lessons, and a tour boat that docks at the castle's jetty twice a day to ferry guests across Lake Corrib. The resort also provides tours led by pony-drawn carriages or traps around the grounds.

  4. Pangkor Laut Resort

    Pangkor Laut, Malaysia

    www.pangkorlautresort.com

    Truly isolated in the middle of the Straits of Malacca, where the only noise comes from clacking palms and the gentle surf, Pangkor Laut is the true definition of paradise. A collection of Malaysian-style luxury villas dot this privately owned island located three miles (five kilometers) off Malaysia's west coast. Only 250 guests reside at Pangkor Laut at any given time. These lucky few are served by 400 staff, including 50 gardeners who make sure that every flower looks its best on the perfectly manicured grounds. This is the place to lounge in complete bliss.

  5. Fearrington House Inn

    Pittsboro, North Carolina

    http://www.fearrington.com/house/

    Located south of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Fearrington House Inn represents old-fashioned Southern hospitality. Built around a white clapboard farmhouse constructed in 1927, the inn has 32 rooms and suites, each individually decorated with antiques, original artwork, and fresh flowers. Afternoon tea and a full breakfast are included in the room rates.

  1. Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons

    Gret Milton, Oxford, England

    www.manoir.com

    One reason many people come to this contemporary hotel is to take classes at the Raymond Blanc Cookery School. The chef has established a reputation as the maker of amazing dishes; many of the ingredients are grown right in the Manoir's magnificent gardens, where Blanc grows more than 90 varieties of vegetables and 70 types of herbs. The 32 rooms and suites are in the main house and garden wing; those in the main house are furnished in a more traditional style; those in the garden wing look more contemporary.

  2. The Point

    Saranac Lake, New York

    thepointresort.com

    This rambling lodge used to be a country estate for the Rockefeller family. Located on a lake in New York's wild Adirondack Mountains, the resort is the perfect combination of wilderness and civilization. The 11 rooms—spread out in four buildings—have stone fireplaces and eclectic mixes of antique and (of course) Adirondack furniture. Guests can hike or swim in warm weather and tackle winter sports such as cross-country skiing in the cold.

  3. Hotel Splendido

    Portofino, Italy

    www.hotelsplendido.com

    Situated in possibly one of the prettiest spots in Italy, Hotel Splendido overlooks the sparkling blue Mediterranean Sea. Most of the 65 rooms have water views. The restaurants' cuisine is top-notch; chefs use products from the hotel's olive grove. Eat outside on the terraces or inside in elegantly decorated rooms.

  4. Las Ventanas al Paraíso

    Los Cabos, Mexico

    www.lasventanas.com

    The name of this ultraprivate, luxury resort means "window to paradise," which is right on in this case. Tucked in between desert and ocean, its white hacienda-style casitas descend toward the beach and feature Jacuzzis, terra-cotta fireplaces, and rough-hewn wood accents. The dazzling windows of each suite are fashioned from rainbow glass created by local artisans; each balcony comes equipped with telescope to scan for whales or stars; and each minibar is personalized according to a questionnaire guests fill out before arrival. There's also a spa (one treatment uses gems and crystals), plenty of excellent food (including a separate pet menu), and infinity pools that seem to disappear into the ocean.

  5. Le Manoir des Impressionistes

    Phare du Butin, Honfleur, France

    www.manoirdesimpressionnistes.eu/

    One of Normandy’s most elegant and prestigious inns, Honfleur was visited by such noted artists as Boudin and Baudelaire, Monet and Courbet, in search of pastel-filled morning and filtered afternoon light—an impressive estate where Impressionism was born. High on a hill, overlooking the English Channel on a green frosted grassy knoll, the inn is surrounded by sunflowers, filling any traveler’s notebook with memorable impressions. Terra-cotta floors, fabric-covered walls, and sumptuous meals; the family Boelen offer a congenial welcome.

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