It can be comforting to stay in a chain hotel, where everything from the bed linens to the waffle maker is consistent around the world. However, your hotel can be much more than a place to lay your head. Stay at one of these incredible hotels and your accommodation will become an essential part of your experience. From an igloo in Sweden to a bubble in France to a troll’s lair in Belgium, these six unusual hotels are lifelong memories waiting to happen.
1. Icehotel: Sweden
Ever wanted to sleep in a five-star igloo? Now’s your chance. Book one of the Icehotel’s 55 guest rooms for an opportunity to spend the night in a work of custom-built frozen art. The entire hotel is made of snow and ice blocks from the nearby Tornne River. No two rooms are the same – each one is designed by a different artist. After waking up in your polar-tested sleeping bag, you can immerse yourself in the “chill” culture with ice sculpting classes and a visit to the Absolut Bar. For one of the best views in the world, plan your visit around the aurora borealis.
2. La Balade Des Gnomes: Durbuy, Belgium
The motto of this quirky hotel? “All that you can imagine is real.” Located near the tiny 17th century town of Durbuy, La Balade Des Gnomes is a fairy tale come to life. Each of the 10 rooms is inspired by a traditional fairy tale. Sleep in a suite filled with wooden toadstools or beside an indoor beach featuring real sand. You can even spend the night in a troll’s lair, if you dare. By the time you check out, you’re guaranteed to have your own magical stories to tell.
3. El Cosmico: Marfa, Texas, USA
El Cosmico feels less like a place that takes reservations and more like an off-the-grid artist’s colony – and that’s the point. Book a spot on El Cosmico’s 18-acre property and you can stay in one of their beautifully designed tents, teepees, or trailers. The colorful campsite creates a sense of community, drawing guests to communal spaces like the campfire and the shared kitchen. During the day, attend classes on cooking, design, self-empowerment, and more; spend the night gazing up at the stars.
4. Treehotel: Harads, Sweden
Childhood dreams really do come true at the Treehotel, where you’re given a key to your very own treehouse. The seven private treehouses – ranging from a traditional cabin to a mirrored cube to a UFO – meld seamlessly into the natural environment, creating an experience that’s both relaxing and sustainable. The best way to arrive is by private guided tour. A Treehotel guide will pick you up at Lulea Airport, then provide a fascinating introduction to the Lapland region and the arctic lifestyle while driving you to your new abode. Don’t think this trip is all napping and tree-climbing. On-site activities range from zip-lining and hiking to northern lights photography and something called a “moose safari.”
5. Montaña Mágica Lodge: Chile
You’ll find the Montaña Mágica Lodge deep in the rainforest of southern Chile, where a rickety rope bridge beckons you to enter. Once you’ve summoned your courage and crossed the bridge, you’ll arrive at the most otherworldly hotel on this list. The lodge was built to look like a volcano, but water – not lava – erupts from the roof. There are plenty of activities at this tucked-away escape, including an all-natural mini-golf course (the holes are part of the terrain) and a chance to experience the longest zipline in South America. For a bit of relaxation, grab a huilo huilo cocktail and take a dip in one of the hot tubs carved into real tree trunks.
6. Bubble Tree: France
If you’re big on privacy, the Bubble Tree may not be for you. But for a night of stargazing just 10 miles from the city of Marseille, these super-sustainable bubbles made from all-recyclable materials are simply unbeatable. As you wake up with a 360-degree view of the French woodlands, you’ll feel more at one with nature than ever before. Guests are provided with complimentary telescopes to view the night sky and a chart to log their astronomical findings. And don’t worry – you’ll receive a curtain to cover the bubble at bedtime.
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