The world is huge

Don't miss any of it

Travel news, itineraries, and inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.

By proceeding, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

exclusive hotels
Sheldon Chalet

6 Ultra-Exclusive Hotels for the Top of Your Bucket List

Every traveler is after a trip that’s truly one of a kind. While some destinations struggle with over-tourism and others see only a trickle of pioneering travelers, the most exclusive destinations are sought out by elite travelers.

Exclusive Hotels You’ll Want to Add to Your Bucket List

But elite doesn’t necessarily mean rich. An exclusive hotel doesn’t have to cost a fortune–it just has to feel special. Exclusive hotels tend to book up fast, are hard to get to, and may even be difficult to track down. It might seem excessive, but these hotels are about much more than setting a high bar of entrance for guests. When it’s just you and maybe a handful of other guests, the personal touches can be a lot more personal.

700,000 Heures, Location Unknown

700,000 heures
Diego Fiore/Shutterstock

Every six months, 700,000 Heures, the world’s first nomadic hotel, will pack up and set off for a brand-new destination. The team behind this novel hotel concept, launching in 2018, will select private homes to serve as the temporary accommodation for their guests in every new locale. According to their website, experiences will be tailored to guests’ desires, with a few surprises peppered in.

The hotel experience is set to launch in September 2018 in its first destination—Italy. In Gagliano del Capo, a small town in Salento, 700,000 Heures will take its first form in an 18th-century palazzo. That site will be returned to its owner when the hotel moves on to its next destination, Cambodia.

This elusive hotel can’t be booked through traditional means, and there aren’t many details available yet on how to snag a stay. Guests must become a member of Amazir’s Circle to have access to book the hotel. And with an annual fee of $500, a one-time entrance fee of $2,000, and fluctuating guest capacity, I’m guessing that no matter where this hotel sets up camp, guests will be landing in the lap of luxury.

Sheldon Chalet, Alaska 

The sheldon chalet
Jeff Schultz

Surrounded by towering mountains of Denali National Park, the Sheldon Chalet hotel appears microscopic. A neighbor to the tallest mountains in North America and a cozy oasis on top of a glacier, this luxury hotel is situated right in the center of the Don Sheldon Amphitheater. It’s so exclusive, the only way to reach it is by helicopter. After a 30-minute ride from the nearby town of Talkeetna, guests at the Sheldon Chalet are dropped off to settle into one of the hotel’s five guest rooms. With no Wi-Fi, a guest capacity of 10, and only four staff members working at any given time (two alpine guides, a concierge, and a chef), you’ll feel all alone at the center of one of North America’s least-seen landscapes.

Not everyone can build a hotel in the middle of a national park, but the Sheldon family purchased the five-acre property it sits on before Denali was officially a national park. For this reason, they alone can operate helicopters tours through the park, and are the only ones who have been able to open a hotel here.

Beginning at $2,300 per night, per person, travelers can experience one of the country’s most coveted and inaccessible views. At 6,000 feet above sea level the air is much thinner, which creates a prime location to spot Northern Lights: According the Sheldons, guests visiting in the winter have a two in three chance of seeing the spectacle on any given night.

Hwange Bush Camp, Zimbabwe

Hwangwe bush camp
Hwange Bush Camp

In Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, Hwange Bush Camp is a rustic camp that provides the comforts of home. With running water but no internet, the camp offers a down-to-earth safari experience that’s comfortable without the excessive “glam” of other glamping experiences.

At this exclusive hotel you won’t just be surrounded by the nature and wildlife of the bush, you’ll be immersed in it. All cooking at the camp is done over the campfire and dinners are eaten beneath the stars.

The Hwange Bush Camp is open seasonally between May and November. Despite its remote location in the national park’s remote northern region, its six available beds fill up quickly. The camp has hosted celebrity guests like Jessica Chastain, who visited in 2017 and gushed about the park’s resident elephants.

Hacienda las Tres Carmelitas, Mexico

Hacienda las tres carmelitas
Hacienda Tres Carmelitas

Isolated in the cloud forest of Mexico’s Sierra Madre Mountains not far from the small town of San Sebastian del Oeste, Hacidenda las Tres Carmelitas is family-operated boutique hotel. The luxurious villa is richly decorated with indigenous art and feels like a Mexican palace. With its own private cocktail bar, a brewery, and a distillery, the family’s beer and raicilla (a type of spirit similar to tequila) is made on-site to entertain the gastro-minded traveler. During your stay, you can learn how to harvest wild agave, take a workshop on traditional Mexican cooking, or enjoy al fresco dinners on the open-air terrace.

There are only three suites at the hotel right now (though glamping domes are on their way), which makes the whole experience feel more like you are the family’s personal guest rather than booking just another hotel. Their website states that the hotel is “invitation only,” but you can inquire about a reservation by e-mail. Because every experience is especially made to the personal tastes of each guest, you’ll communicate with the hotel beforehand to craft the perfect stay in the mountains of Mexico.

The Divine Comedy, France

The divine comedy
The Divine Comedy

In the South of France, The Divine Comedy hotel has a history that dates back to the 14th century. But today it’s an elegant and newly renovated property bursting with artistic spirit. Each of this exclusive hotel’s suites tells its own story through decor and featured artworks. From the grandiose Consul Suite, which is decorated in the style of the Napoleonic period, to the esoteric Anatole Suite, which imagines the collection of a seasoned world traveler. It’s like living in an art museum.

The hotel also features luxurious salons for lounging and a dining room overlooking the private outdoor garden—it’s all about the delicate touches and inspiring contemplation. With only five suites, rooms book up fast, but it’s worth it to call this well-dressed mansion your temporary home as you explore the medieval French city of Avignon.

Diamonds Star of the East, Zanzibar

Diamonds star of the east
Diamonds Star of the East

For millionaire travelers, there are plenty of private islands and villas to escape to. But for an exclusive hotel that still gives a taste for the local culture, they look just off the coast of Tanzania. On the island of Zanzibar, Diamonds Star of the East is a luxury hotel made up of just 11 villas that radiate a contemporary African style. Each has its own private pool and sunbathing area.

An incredibly romantic place, Diamonds Star of the East makes the perfect grand finale for any African honeymoon. With few rooms and a high price point, you’ll feel like you’ll have all of Zanzibar’s sugar-white beaches all to yourself.

More from SmarterTravel:

Jamie Ditaranto is a writer and photographer who is always looking for her next adventure. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto.

We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Top Fares From