Gold List 2016: Our Favorite Hotels & Resorts In The World

This hybrid ryokan-hotel, a series of low buildings inspired by traditional Japanese houses, clings to the banks above the Hozugawa River in the temple-rich Arashiyama district, and is accessed by a lazy boat ride in a hinoki (Japanese cedar) vessel. Its 25 elegant rooms are also redolent of cedar, and although they don’t have TVs, they do have heated wooden floors, hand-blocked wallpaper, shoji-inspired sliding glass doors and picture windows (all the better to lean out and watch the foxes, deer, and occasional monkey that prance through the forest), deep cedar soaking tubs, and lofty duvets that sigh when you flop down on them. From the iron lanterns that light the moss-traced stone walkways to the lashed bamboo fences, every detail has been well considered. In lieu of a bar, there’s a library, refreshed throughout the day with complimentary snacks by the gracious staff (who speak excellent English). As in a traditional ryokan, there are some restrictions—the boat back to the docks runs only from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.—but Hoshinoya is a retreat not only from town but from modernity. At night, after you’ve eaten an excellent Japanese or French meal and changed into the provided lounging clothes (complete with raw-silk robes), you can sit in the Zen rock garden, look up at the star-smeared sky, and forget what century you’re in.

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