Seeking the extraordinary? A holiday experience that would be ingrained in your mind for the rest of your life? Look no further! Here’s our TOP 10 MOST UNIQUE STAYS IN THE WORLD!
Image courtesy of Safari Collection
Mention vacation – and visions of crashing waves, white sandy beaches, fancy drinks, picture-perfect meals, rooftop pools, tourist hot spots and endless photos on the nifty smartphone fill the mind of the avid holidaymaker.
Ahh ... what a glorious respite. True. But it’s also done to death. Blah. Typical.
So what if you’re done settling for ‘typical’? What if you desperately want to seek out that off-the-beaten track, outrageously unique, once-in-lifetime experience (which would undoubtedly make you the envy of your Facebook friends – and “friends” – for sure)?
Well you’re in luck, fellow travel fiend. Check out our TOP 10 MOST UNIQUE STAYS IN THE WORLD list. (And you’re welcome!)
Montana Magica Lodge | Chile
If you’ve never stepped foot in South America – and have been dying to do so – well this lodge, located between the southern Andes, gives you a compelling reason to make that long-haul trip!
Tucked away in the midst of the 120,000-hectare Huilo-Huilo UNESCO biosphere reserve in Chile, the enchanting guesthouse, shaped like a volcano and adorned with moss and vines, spews out water (instead of lava) – a sight to behold as it flows on the outside.
Inside the lodge, which is only accessible by foot (and a swinging rope bridge to enter the lobby), its windows, walls, doors and stairs are carved out of wood in whimsical forms, making you feel like you’ve just entered the realm of elves, wizards and hobbits – right off JRR Tolkiens’ Middle Earth.
The “magical” experience is complemented by a list of activities to choose from such as hiking, horseback riding, wild-course mini golf as well as the longest zip wire in South America (which runs through the grounds at a height of 1,500 feet).
* Images courtesy of Huilo-Huilo Magica Montana Lodge
Giraffe Manor | Kenya
An African safari is on top of travel ‘bucket lists’ of many – and if you head to Nairobi in Kenya, you could even get to dine with giraffes!
With its appeal dating back to the 1930s (when European visitors first flocked to East Africa to enjoy safaris), Giraffe Manor is one of Nairobi’s most iconic boutique hotels, set in 12 acres of private land within 140 acres of indigenous forest in the Langata suburb. Modelled after a Scottish hunting lodge, it features a stately façade, elegant interior, verdant green gardens, sunny terraces and charming courtyards.
But the biggest draw here is visits from the resident herd of endangered Rothchild’s giraffes who might insist on sharing your breakfast through windows before retreating to their forest sanctuary.
Apart from sneak visits from these elegant creatures, there’s plenty to do here including a guided walk in the sanctuary and adopt-and-meet a baby elephant at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
* Images courtesy of Safari Collection
Palacio de Sal | Bolivia
So you’ve heard of seasonal ice hotels in the Arctic regions such as Finland, Sweden and Norway – but how about a salt hotel? For that, you’ll have to jet-set to South America, specifically to Bolivia where Palacio de Sal is located in La Paz on the banks of Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat (which is an amazing experience in itself as it resembles a frozen lake).
The first of its kind, Palacio de Sal is built entirely of salt blocks – even the furniture such as beds, tables, chairs and sculptures – making it literally the most perfectly “seasoned” hotel in the world. (geddit?)
Its 16 private rooms resemble igloos with domed ceilings. Amenities include a restaurant and bar as well as wellness facilities such as a dry sauna and a steam room, a saltwater pool and whirlpool baths.
Whether you visit during the dry or wet season, Palacio de Sal will be a visually stunning experience. Just don’t go licking the walls (seriously – it’s prohibited).
* Images courtesy of Palacio de Sal
Whitepod Hotel | Switzerland
Spell-binding sunrise. Jaw-dropping vista. Plush trappings of a modern lodge. Your own private haven.
It would be hard to top the aura of romance that the Whitepod Hotel exudes, a world unique hotel concept where eco-tourism and luxury combine, proving that hospitality and environmental conservation can co-exist to create a unique and positive experience. Here at the Whitepod, located in the Swiss Alps, the use of energy and water is controlled; the waste is recycled; ingredients are purchased locally; the staff lives nearby and simply walks to work; and motorised transport is limited.
The geometrical shape of the pods is called geodesic: a spherical structure consisting of a network of triangles, and their colour is adapted to each season: white in winter, green in summer. Available suite styles are 007, Swiss, Zen, Forest, Cosy, Deluxe Pod and Family Pod.
Summer activities here include mountain biking, paragliding (with a certified pilot) and hiking. In winter, meanwhile, holidaymakers can enjoy a dogsledding tour and go on an alpine odyssey.
* Images courtesy of Whitepod Hotel
The 727 Fuselage Home | Costa Rica
Ever seen ‘Lost’, the TV series about survivors of an airline flight which crash-lands onto a mysterious desert island? Well, the 727 Fuselage Home kind of gives you that vibe – but instead of the beach, the plane crashes into mammoth trees in the rainforest – in Costa Rica!
Nestled on the edge of the National Park in the Costa Verde II area, the refurbished vintage 1965 Boeing 727 airframe (which used to shuttle globetrotters on South Africa Air and Avianca Airlines) is one of the most sought-after stays in the small Central American country.
Perched on a 50-foot pedestal, the Boeing 727 fuselage suite juts out from the jungle canopy, making you feel like you’re flying – allowing guests to enjoy scenic ocean and jungle views from the hard wood deck.
There are two air-conditioned bedrooms (en-suite) along with the basic amenities, complemented by a private entrance up a river rock, spiral staircase and surrounding gardens.
* Images courtesy of Costa Verde/727 Fuselage Home
Fairbanks Alaska Bed & Breakfast | Alaska, USA
Picture this: breath-taking views of pristine nature, majestic mountains, icy rivers, the mesmeric lights of the Aurora Borealis … brown bears waiting to catch leaping salmon … moose and bison roaming freely. Indeed, Alaska plays out like a dream, especially for nature lovers.
But for history buffs there’s an equally memorable experience in the Aurora Express, a bed-and-breakfast made out of authentic Alaska Railroad cars renovated to historical periods. The trains sit on 213 metres of railroad track, providing guests with vistas of the Tanana River, the Alaskan Mountain Range and the city of Fairbanks.
‘The National Domain’ comprises four elegant suites; each room individually decorated and unique, with its arched high ceilings hand-painted, reflecting the grandeur of the Victorian era. ‘The National Emblem’ has been restored to its original state, providing cosy accommodation of grand sleeper cars in the past. Offering the ultimate in luxury and privacy, ‘The Golden Nellie’ has golden ceilings and heavy burgundy velvet drapes, complete with a ladder leading you up to the observation deck.
Originally used as a hospital car during WWII, ‘The Arlene’ has since been remodelled to a private 25-metre car with two bedrooms, a private bath and living room with a TV.
* Images courtesy of Fairbanks Alaska Bed & Breakfast
Yunak Evleri Hotel | Turkey
Mountains and cave explorations are some of the most thrilling, awe-inspiring activities for those who appreciate the wonders of Mother Nature. And in Turkey, you’ll find an equally extraordinary ‘wonder’ in Cappadocia’s magical landscape of fairy chimneys. In the ancient village of Urgup lies the Yunak Evleri, a unique cave hotel carved into a mountain.
A truly incredible sight, the hotel’s labyrinth of narrow passageways and curved stone stairways lead to seven cave houses, 46 rooms dating back to the 5th and 6th centuries, and a 19th-century Greek mansion.
The exotic luxury accommodation retains much of the caves’ natural characteristics, and features Emperador marble flooring, traditional carpets and handcrafted furniture along with antique chests and bedside tables.
Whether you’re soaking in the beauty of historic Urgup from your room’s balcony or checking out the nearby underground cities and hidden cavernous churches, Yunak Evleri will be one experience that would be hard to top.
* Images courtesy of Yunak Evleri Hotel
Thorngrove Manor | South Australia
Dungeons and dragons ... knights, kings and fair damsels … fortified stone walls and turrets. Get ready to fall under the spell of Thorngrove Manor, an inspired and captivating artistic escape dripping with a sense of wonder, magic and timeless romance.
Located in South Australia’s oldest wine-producing region, 20 minutes from the Adelaide CBD, the five-star boutique property has distinctive iconic baroque towers and turrets – clues to its flamboyant idiosyncratic interiors; antiques, finest bespoke furnishing, hand-painted friezes and signature artworks – together they exploit the diverse room shapes to create an escapist’s dream.
The fantasy continues to unfold within the rooms with The King’s Chambers, The Queen’s Chambers, Castle Chambers, Tower Room and Observatory wonderfully fitted with antique furnishings, ecclesiastic stained glass windows, vaulted timbre ceilings, Georgian Gothic oak chairs and ornate fireplace as well as luxurious tapestries and silk tassels.
Rediscover romance by stepping into your very own “fairy tale” at Thorngrove Manor – certainly a journey beyond the destination.
* Images courtesy of Thorngrove Manor
Hotel Marques De Riscal | Spain
One of the must-do’s when holidaying in Spain, especially if you’re a lover of modern and contemporary art, is a visit to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, designed by famed Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry. The complex flaunts avant-garde architecture, its swirling forms expressing vibes of industrial urban.
And if you think that’s extraordinary, wait till you set your eyes upon Marqués de Riscal – a Gehry masterpiece you could actually “reside” in! Located in the vineyard of Elciego, the luxury retreat of 43 rooms and suites bears the unmistakable stamp of Gehry’s design: tilted walls, zigzag windows, cathedral-height ceilings and bespoke details.
Spectacular curves, titanium roof and asymmetrical walls – in cascades of titanium (canopies) in pink, gold and silver symbolising the reddish hues of red wine – provide a striking contrast to historic wine cellars.
Facilities available include a rooftop library-lounge and a wine bar, as well as a spa offering a range of grape-based treatments, an indoor pool, Finnish sauna and massages.
* Images courtesy of Marqués de Riscal
KumbukRiver | Sri Lanka
Remember that friendly neighbourhood woolly mammoth (with the long, flirty eyelashes) from Sesame Street? Apparently “Mr Snuffleupagus” has found a new home – on the edge of Yala wildlife sanctuary about 260kms in the southeast of Colombo, Sri Lanka!
A stay at KumbukRiver’s Elephant Villa is sure to bring out the impish child in you as you soak in the surrounding nature, the rustling waters of the Kumbuk River ridding you of all your worries. Towering majestically high at 40 feet (height of a three-story building), the elephant-shaped edifice serves as the eco-lodge’s primary villa. Its upper floor features two capacious, unique bedrooms and a lounge in an airy setting, with a large bathroom on the ground level – with a tree in the shower area!
Other accommodation options at KumbukRiver include a double-decked tree cabin (with a glass wall overlooking the river), a charming boat house and a spectacular jungle cabin overlooking the river.
As graceful peacocks and gentle elephants roam the sanctuary, be still … take it all in. ‘Snuffy’ promises a larger-than-life experience.
* Images courtesy of KumbukRiver
Though they’re far-flung destinations strewn across the planet, and would definitely cost you more than a pretty penny, the once-in-a-lifetime experiences would be absolutely priceless.
(And hey, what better way to boost those ‘Likes’ on your Insta page, right?)