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Andrew Harper picks the best luxury hotels

Luxury travel expert Andrew Harper of Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report today will reveal his 2012 Grand Award hotel winners – and, just like last year, Hotel Check-In has an exclusive peek at the winners.

PHOTO GALLERY:  Tour Andrew Harper’s picks for best luxury hotels

The list of 2012 winners includes luxurious, mostly small hotels in every corner of the globe, in places such as Rome; Hangzhou, China; Corsica, France, and Quito, Ecuador.

A few hotels in the USA also receive Harper’s accolades.

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Harper, for instance, gives the “best spa” title to Montage Deer Valley in Park City, Utah, a mountain Craftsman resort with ski-on/ski-off access that opened in December 2010 (see photo). Operator Montage Hotels and Resorts also runs a luxury hotel in downtown Beverly Hills and an oceanfront resort in Laguna Beach, Calif.

Chef Michael White’s restaurant, Ai Fiori, on the second floor of the luxury Setai Fifth Avenue hotel in New York City won one of Harper’s “best restaurant of the year” titles.

See our photo gallery for photographs of Montage Deer Valley, the Setai Fifth Avenue and the other winners, and keep reading this story for a full list of the winners.

How Harper picks the winning hotels

To assemble the list of winners, Harper picks his favorite properties visited over the past calendar year.

He doesn’t use a checklist, but determines winners by finding those with exceptional character, a commitment to classic hospitality and a profound sense of place. He’s been tracking luxury travel since 1979.

The No. 1 winner this is year is the Southern Ocean Lodge, a tiny hotel perched above Kangaroo Island, Australia’s southern coast. It has just 21 suites with sweeping ocean views.

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Most of the hotels that Harper declares winners are small.

But for the second consecutive year, Harper gives Chicago’s Trump International Hotel and Tower the “Grand Hotel” title as the top large hotel of the year.

And the winning hotels are…

Hideaway of the Year: Southern Ocean Lodge (Kangaroo Island, Australia)

North America winners: Ocean House in Watch Hill, R.I., and Glenmere Mansion in Chester, N.Y.

Central/South America winners: Panamonte Inn and Spa in Boquete, Panama, and Hotel Plaza Grande in Quito, Ecuador

Caribbean winners: Jumby Bay on Antigua and Hôtel Le Toiny on St. Barths

Africa winners: Sasaab in Samburu, Kenya and Elsa’s Kopje in Meru National Park, Kenya

Europe winners: Casa Manni in Rome, La Coquillade in Gargas, France, The Yeatman in Porto, Portugal, and Domaine de Murtoli in Corsica, France

Asia/Pacific winners: Amanfayun in Hangzhou, China, Four Seasons in Hangzhou, China, Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa in Blue Mountains, Australia, and The Louise in Barossa Valley, Australia

Grand Hotel: Trump International Hotel in Chicago

Grand Resort: Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport, Calif.

Hotel Manager of the Year: Joost Heymeijer of Australia’s Wolgan Valley Resort

Sommelier of the Year: Cara Schwindt, Glitretind in Stein Eriksen Lodge in Deer Valley, Utah

Chef of the Year: Daniel Humm at Eleven Madison Park in New York City

Best Spa: Montage Deer Valley in Deer Valley, Utah

Best Cruise: Hebridean Princess, Scotland

Restaurants of the Year

Gastronomic – Ai Fiori at New York City’s Setai Fifth Avenue hotel

Informal – Primo in Rockland, Maine

Restaurants of the Year outside the USA

Gastronomic – Matsalen in Stockholm, Sweden

Informal – Septime in Paris, France

The Hideaway of the Year and the rest of the Grand Award winners will be profiled in the January 2011 issue and listed on

Readers: Enjoy the photo gallery!

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