This year’s World’s Best Awards survey was open for voting January 11 through May 10, 2021, as destinations around the world were lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Survey rules have always allowed readers to reflect on their travel experiences over a three-year period. We hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your own travels as you get back out into the world.
The Iberian peninsula has only become more alluring over the years. While Spain has long received the majority of travelers’ attention for being a culinary and cultural powerhouse, Portugal’s profile has steadily risen as more people feel drawn to its colorful cities, stunning landscapes, and wealth of charming restaurants. (Its wine has also gained global prominence.) But when you look at the properties that T+L readers have honored as the best resorts in Spain and Portugal, they do seem to have one particular thing in common: the ability to create a deep relationship with the surrounding landscape.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Hotels were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Properties were classified as city or resort based on their locations and amenities.
“We arrived and threw out any plans to leave the property for the next few days,” one reader wrote about Six Senses Douro Valley, which placed fifth. “We called from the pool phone on Day One to ask the concierge to cancel everything!” Being that this plush and intimate hotel is situated in the world’s oldest demarcated wine valley, in a landscape of terraced hills, is there any greater praise?
No. 4 Reid’s Palace, a Belmond property on the island of Madeira, is situated on a cliff with wide-angle views of the Atlantic. To get guests deeper into the scenery, its expert team can arrange a number of immersive experiences, including a tour of subtropical gardens and a birding hike in nearby mountains. Another Belmond property, La Residencia, on the island of Mallorca, impressed enough readers to snag the No. 3 spot. It’s nestled in the mountains above the coast, a short distance from Deia, a picturesque village that has long attracted artists and writers.
Last year’s winner, the dazzling Finca Cortesín in Andalusia, may have slipped to No. 2 this year, but its perch between a mountain and the Mediterranean remains one of the most spectacular settings travelers could hope for. Of course, it’s also renowned as a golfer’s paradise, but readers also praised other on-site facilities and overall hospitality. “One of the best spas I have visited, with a magnificent pool area,” wrote one voter. “Service was all-around impeccable.”
Read on to find out how Penha Longha Resort managed to unseat it and, of course, which other properties made this year’s list of the best resorts in Spain and Portugal.
1. Penha Longa Resort, Sintra, Portugal
This beloved hotel combines the best of both worlds — it’s a short drive from busy, vibrant Lisbon, but situated in a sylvan setting outside historic Sintra. “Make sure you visit the Castle of the Moors,” one guest said of the town’s signature attraction. But the property itself is steeped in history; its grounds include a 15th-century monastery that is worth a visit. “Walk around and check out the historic stuff,” advised another guest. Elsewhere on site there are two golf courses, a spa, and an infinity pool, plus a whopping seven restaurants — two of which each have a Michelin star.
More information: penhalonga.com
2. Finca Cortesín Hotel Golf & Spa, Malaga, Spain
More information: fincacortesin.com
3. La Residencia, a Belmond Hotel, Mallorca, Spain
More information: belmond.com
4. (tie) Reid’s Palace, a Belmond Hotel, Madeira, Portugal
More information: belmond.com
4. (tie) Six Senses Douro Valley, Lamego, Portugal
More information: sixsenses.com
See all of our readers’ favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World’s Best Awards for 2021.