A good hotel provides travelers with access to nearby attractions. A great hotel makes travelers want to skip the attractions altogether. When visitors check into these 20 hotels, which ran the gamut from luxurious to anarchic, they never want to leave. The reasons range from glorious views to glorious linens, but there are a few universals. Each of the hotels is a self-contained world entirely apart from reality defined by a set of unwritten laws that maids, bellboys, and, yes, guests, seem to innately understand. These hotels are someone else's fantasies, but they seem, on second glance, as though they might be your own.
Hotel Domestique, South Carolina
Just off Route 25 in upstate South Carolina, Hotel Domestique perches like a castle atop a hill cloaked by picturesque vineyards and surrounded by the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains. This almost Provençal scene feels a bit incongruous in rural Greenville County, where roadside fruit stands compete for business with a dilapidated general store, but that's part of the quirky appeal of this new 13-room boutique operation. Besides, it is the roads themselves that matter to this hotel's clients, who are as likely to arrive on two thin wheels as on four fat ones.
Domestique is owned and operated by George Hincapie, the retired 17-time Tour de France competitor, who lives in nearby Greenville and spent years cycling past the French-inspired hotel – formerly known as La Bastide – while training for races. After La Bastide closed in 2011, Hincapie and his brother bought the 29-acre property and invested millions in renovations. They had good bones to work with: The building has 18-inch-thick concrete walls, a granite staircase with black wrought-iron handrails, reclaimed wood flooring from area tobacco farms and mills, big timber support beams, and red terra-cotta roof tiles left over from a construction project at Tulane University.
The Hincapie brothers transformed much of the interior, which is now contemporary and minimalist, with a sleek new bar, a giant fireplace, and a fitness studio. Other additions include an Olympic-size pool and a gourmet, two-story restaurant with an outdoor pizza oven and a patio looking onto the mountains.
The Hincapies also offer amenities for the active, including training sessions, cycling clinics, and guided bike tours along the area's winding byways. Because George Hincapie's name attracts a certain type of enthusiast, casual rides can get competitive in a hurry. Fortunately, the roads are mostly empty and the hills aren't as fierce as the Pyrenees. There are also miles of biking trails at nearby Table Rock and Chimney Rock Parks, as well as Class III rapids at the Green and Chattooga rivers.
Anyone looking to get out and about doesn't have to go farther than nearby Greenville, which has received national attention for its revitalized downtown, and for good reason. The tree-lined Main Street is bustling with retailers, bars, and restaurants, and the popular Falls Park has a 380-foot suspension bridge overlooking Reedy River. Bikes are everywhere.
More information: Rooms at the hotel start at $295 a night. The closest major city is Asheville, North Carolina.