Seven resorts with spectacular views
A pool sounds good, a great decor is pleasant, but one of the nicest amenities a vacation destination can offer is a room with a view.
Travel agents say it's the feature clients ask about most when booking a dream getaway.
"Everyone aspires to have the best view in the house," said Terry McCabe, national director of leisure for Altour.
"For some people, the (most important) experience is opening the drapes in the morning and looking at nature at its best. ... It takes people out of their everyday life."
With that in mind, we're taking you around the world to seven hotels where spectacular vistas rule.
Just remember that with so many beautiful places dotting the globe, this list is just a small taste of the stunning views travelers can wake up to.
1. Jade Mountain, St. Lucia
There is literally nothing blocking your view of St. Lucia's famous Piton Mountains and the Caribbean Sea at this resort.
The fourth wall is entirely absent from Jade Mountain's suites, which the hotel calls "sanctuaries," so guests get unobstructed panoramas of the beautiful surroundings.
Each sanctuary also comes with its own infinity pool for the ultimate in privacy and relaxation.
"It's total luxury, and it's a great romantic spot. You can be as alone as you want there," McCabe said.
But be prepared to completely unplug during your stay.
Jade Mountain is "deliberately techno-free," the resort says. There are no telephones, radios or televisions in the rooms, and guests are asked to not to use their cell phones in public. Internet access is available at reception "for those who simply cannot let go of the outside world."
Rates start at $950 a night.
2. Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Canada
Experience this magical corner of Banff National Park, and you may feel like explorer Thomas Wilson, who exclaimed, "I never in all my explorations saw such a matchless scene,'' when he first glimpsed the lake in 1882.
Known to native tribes as "lake of little fishes," the majestic body of water was dubbed Emerald Lake by Wilson, and later renamed Lake Louise in honor of Queen Victoria's fourth daughter, Princess Louise Caroline Alberta.
"It's just so beautiful," said Becky Veith of Travel Experts. "The view is incredible."
The hotel offers sweeping panoramas of the lake and the surrounding Canadian Rockies. Come in the winter for unforgettable skiing, sleigh rides and dog sledding -- Veith was there when the lake was frozen, and she had a chance to skate on the icy surface.
There's also lots to do in the summer, including hiking, horseback riding and canoeing.
Rates start at about $358 a night for the Sizzling Summer Travel Package, which is in effect until September 30.
3. Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, Tanzania
This luxury lodge sits perched on the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater, the world's largest caldera -- formed when a giant volcano exploded and collapsed about 3 million years ago.
Thousands of animals roam the floor of the crater, including lions, wildebeests, zebras and gazelles. The stunning landscape and abundance of wildlife prompted UNESCO to declare the area a World Heritage Site, calling it one of the greatest natural wonders of the planet.
"You can be in your room and look out the window and there's a zebra walking by. It's just amazing," McCabe said.
"Everything is down there, and you're almost looking back at creation in a way. You feel a little bit like it's the Garden of Eden, like you're the first person to ever see this."
The accommodations are luxurious, imaginative and fanciful, she said.
Rates start at $720 per person, which includes meals, drinks and scheduled safari activities.
4. The Springs Resort & Spa, Costa Rica
For a bit of a thrill with your beautiful view, why not stay near a volcano?
This boutique hotel sits on a mountain ridge less than four miles north of Costa Rica's Arenal Volcano but is "safely outside the government declared danger zone," the resort says on its website.
"When I was there, it didn't blow, I was really bummed," Veith said. "(But) you can see the eruptions when the lava is flowing from the volcano."
(Arenal was Costa Rica's most active volcano until 2010 but entered into a resting phase last fall.)
Observe the volcano from your room or from one of the resort's 18 pools and natural hot mineral springs.
Rates start at about $385 a night.
5. Hotel Villa Ducale, Sicily
This boutique hotel features just 11 double rooms and six suites, but there is nothing small about the sweeping views.
Each room has a private balcony or terrace that lets guests take in vistas of Giardini Naxos Bay, Mount Etna, Italy's mainland coastline or the Strait of Messina.
The Hotel Villa Ducale was among the winners of TripAdvisor's 2011 Travelers' Choice awards -- chosen by the site's members as one of the top 10 luxury hotels in the world.
Rates start at about $285 a night in September.
6. The Cambrian Hotel, Switzerland
Expect endless mountain views from this picturesque location in the village of Adelboden in the Swiss Alps.
Built in the late 19th century and revamped in recent years, the hotel is a scenic and luxurious base for hiking and mountain biking in the summer, and world-class skiing in the winter.
And when it comes to promising relaxation for guests, the resort takes a whimsical approach.
"Just look at the cows reclining in the meadows outside," the hotel instructs on its website. "They don't look stressed, do they?"
Rates start at about $225 in September.
7. Hayman Island Resort, Australia
A favorite with honeymooners, this five-star resort is on a private island within the Great Barrier Reef.
Guests can take in uninterrupted views of the Coral Sea and the Whitsundays -- a chain of islands known for their idyllic white sand beaches.
Then there are the underwater vistas -- Hayman offers memorable snorkeling and scuba experiences, as well as night diving on the Great Barrier Reef.
The famous resort, which made the list of Travel Leisure's best island hotels, is reopening in August after recovering from two cyclones that swept through the region earlier this year.
Rates start at about $510 a night.
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