The Luxe List 2009, Mongolia: Terelj Hotel, Gorkhi-Terelj National Park

Ulaanbaatar’s hotel scene is stodgy and staid, built around blocky concrete buildings of Soviet inspiration. Drive 70 kilometers east of the Mongolian capital, however, and you’ll discover designer digs at this 52-room inn on the banks of the Terelj River. Unrecognizable from its former incarnation as a Russian holiday camp, this smart property comes with every imaginable luxury, including beds topped with cashmere blankets. In the formal but unfussy Morin Khuur restaurant, French chef David Baruthio  prepares foie gras, honey- roasted duck, and risotto Milanese. Local flavor can be found in the hotel’s collection of folk art and in its staff, who are exceptionally helpful despite their limited English. In good weather, activities range from horseback riding to salmon fishing and bird watching (976/ 9999-2233;; doubles from US$125).

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