The world's treasures may be disappearing, but that doesn't mean you should forgo comfort and style when you go see them. Our picks:
THE COMMUNE BY THE GREAT WALL, CHINA: Located an hour's drive from Beijing, these 11 contemporary villas and clubhouse were designed by cutting-edge Asian architects ($65 per night for a clubhouse room to $3,000 or more for a whole villa with butler service; commune .com.cn ).
THE ROYAL LIVINGSTONE, ZAMBIA: A member of the Leading Hotels of the World, it sits on the edge of the Zambezi river and consists of numerous colonial-style buildings--including a main lodge with a sequence of thatched roofs and a strong African influence in its decor and ambiance (from $650; suninternational.com/resorts/the falls ).
THE SAN CLEMENTE PALACE, VENICE: Beat the crowds by staying at this sumptuous former monastery on your own private island, just 10 minutes by gondola from St. Mark's Square. Dine at the world-class Ca' dei Frati Restaurant and watch the sun set over Venice every night from any of the palace terraces ($315-$730, thi.it ).
THE GRAND HOTEL VESUVIO, NAPLES: Enjoy sweeping views of the bay and the volcano over a glass of wine from your own private balcony ($485-$4,850, vesuvio.it ).
As we've discovered, even luxury can leave light footprints or coexist with traditional cultures:
FOUR SEASONS TENTED CAMP, THAILAND: This ultra-exclusive resort of 15 luxury "tents" offers everything from elephant rides and a river cruise to spa treatments and gourmet meals (starting at $2,400; fourseasons.com/goldentriangle/ ).
HORAI, JAPAN: At this traditional spa ryokan founded in 1849 on the rugged Izu peninsula, each room has its own hinoki cypress bath and the food--rarefied kaiseki , or haute cuisine--is sublime ($400-$850 per person per night; japaneseguesthouses. com/db/shizuoka/ horai.htm ).
KING PACIFIC LODGE, BRITISH COLUMBIA: Your stay on this luxurious floating barge includes a champagne reception, an open bar, all meals and activities ranging from ocean fishing to hiking and kayaking ($3,700-$9,450 for a three-night stay; kingpacificlodge.com ).
SONEVA GILI, MALDIVES: Positioned on its own coral island, the resort has stilted water villas joined to land by wooden jetties, with indoor and open-air bedrooms and glass panels in the bathroom floors for watching reef sharks. Guests are given bicycles for getting around the island (from $1,055; sixsenses.com/soneva-gili ).
Some of the best holidays take place in completely manufactured destinations, from Disney World to Macau. Our favorite spots:
THE MANDARIN ORIENTAL, MACAU: This plush and elegant hotel is set in the middle of the city but feels far removed from it all. The excellent spa comes in handy after a night of hard gambling (from $179; mandarinoriental.com/macau/ ).
FERNANDO'S, MACAU: This beach-side bungalow has great food in a casual setting. Be sure to order some vino verde (green wine) to sip with dishes like grilled fish, king prawns, and bungalow chicken (9 Praia de Hac Sac, Coloane, Macau, 853-882-264).
SKI DUBAI: This domed indoor ski slope attached to the Mall of the Emirates offers skiing and snowboarding down five different runs, as well as private lessons ($220 for a one-day ski pass, including snow gear; skidxb.com ).
TROPICAL ISLANDS, GERMANY: Wander through the rain forest, visit "authentic" homes from six different tropical countries, splash in a waterfall, play volleyball or lie on the world's largest indoor beach. For $268, you can be "maharajah for a day," and get waited on royally as well as spend the night in a tent on the beach ( my-tropical-islands.com ).