When you think of China, you don't immediately think "romance". But a trip to the Great Wall needn't be all bustling crowds, tour guides and cheap souvenirs. There's gasp-inducing scenery, amazing dining and wonderful authentic culture to take in here as well, both in China's great modern cities and off the beaten path. And near China's most romantic destinations, there are always sublime suites or a romantic relais nearby just waiting to be discovered.
These can be difficult to find given the cacophony of noise and information blaring from China's rapidly rising mega-cities and the hotels proliferating among them, so we've taken the time to sift the rough and come up with a few diamonds.
To create this list, we've gone over a year of hotel reviews on ChinaTravel.net and other sites, looked at hotel and travel awards lists and spoken to everyone from corporate public relations heads to the heads of family-run establishments.
This list represents an exceptional group; hotels aren't ranked from best to worst—they are one and all standout properties where you'll find exceptional service, attention to detail, romantic atmospheres and indulgences, great creature comforts and amenities, as well as something unique in China. From sophisticated urban pieds-à-terre sensibilities to secluded cultural retreats, these hot China hotels are sure to fan the flames of romance with experiences best shared a deux:
Owners/operators of TripAdvisor's best China hotel 2010, the Linden family spent two years searching for the appropriate historical complex in which to house their hotel, and settled on the nationally-protected Yang family complex.
The romance of the Linden Centre lies not only in the lovingly-preserved architecture, beautiful surrounds and year-long spring-like weather. This is a place where you can be immersed in the local culture like nowhere else in China and couples can go out to the morning markets, into the fields to pick local produce, or enjoy late afternoon horse cart rides to the lake shore for wine and cheese.
If you are looking for stunning scenery and something original look no further. Design pervades the HOMA Chateau inside and out, and offers a continuous visual journey in a stimulating, though tranquil setting. Situated in the Yuzi Paradise Art Park, an enormous sculpture park set among verdant hills, you can spend days appreciating the park's displays and exploring the region's photogenic karst tower and cave formations.
The Chateau is within day-trip range of most of Guilin's top attractions, but between individually designed rooms, a world-class Thai/acupressure spa with special treatments for two, art lessons, cycling, yoga, tai chi and al fresco dining in situ, there may never be reason to leave the premises.
2011 is all about Tibet and it is hot, hot, hot, having been named one of the hottest travel destinations of 2011 by both Travel + Leisure magazine and Kiwi Collections. It's no wonder why, with its majestic top-of-the-world scenery, beautiful Tibetan culture and quiet seclusion, it is ideal for romantic getaways—a House of Shambhala specialty.
Nestled in the maze of alleyways east of the Barkor, all nine uniquely-designed rooms in this delightful boutique guesthouse aspire to Lhasa luxury and exude the romance of a by-gone era. Here you'll spend hours of languor enjoying Tibetan Tantric Spa treatments, and feasting your eyes on fabulous views over the Potala Palace; a fine locally-produced organic wine in hand...
St. Regis Lhasa Resort, Tibet:
While lovers of boutique modesty and cultural authenticity will flock to the House of Shambhala, fans of great service and unparalleled luxury will want to check out St. Regis brand's (famed for it's top luxury property in New York) newest Lhasa location.
For those who want to mix Lhasa's rugged beauty with 5-star refinement, this is the place to go. Here you'll enjoy signature St. Regis Butler Service, world class restaurants to please any epicurean taste, a long list of fine wines and access to the hotel's expansive Iridium Spa, where you can experience "mystical Tibetan wellness" in their ornate gold-tiled pool.
Read more about the St. Regis Lhasa Resort.
Does any place fire the imagination more than Shangri-La? With its lush valleys, tempestuous rivers and jagged peaks, it's a place that brings the fervor of mother nature's creation vividly to life. That's exactly what Banyan Tree wanted to share when they set up in China's most alluring, mysterious locale—and that's just what you'll get.
With a limited number of rustic log-house suites and villas you'll enjoy plenty of privacy and comfort for those times alone, but once out-of-doors it's not just the award-winning Banyan Tree Spa you'll love, but the opportunity to explore the exotic, forlorn beauty of the area's mountain lakes, rhododendron-carpeted forests, hot springs, gorges and karst terraces by way of pony trek, nature walk and botanical exploration.
Continue to part 2 of China's sexiest stays: Check-in at China's top 10 romantic hotels