You’re traveling, sleeping somewhere besides your own bed. Where will it be? How about something unusual? Get travel inspiration from these ingenious hotels.
There is something exhilarating about being up in the trees, feeling the breeze and hearing the rustle of leaves and wildlife. The Costa Rica Tree House Lodge is located on 10 acres of oceanfront property in the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge in Limón, Costa Rica. Tsala Treetop Lodge, about six miles west of Plettenberg Bay, South Africa, has a stone, timbers and glass lodge — a style called Afro-Baroque — and 10 tree house suites, open decks high above the forest floor, infinity pools and fireplaces. Tranquil resort offers a homestay experience in Wayanad, India, on a 400-acre coffee and spice plantation with eight regular rooms and two luxury tree houses 35 feet in the air. Hinchinbrook Island, Australia, a 96-acre national park with rain forest and beach, hosts the Hinchinbrook Island Wilderness Lodge with its 15 tree houses connected by boardwalks. Out ‘n’ About Treesort in Takilma, Ore., has 18 themed tree houses and an array of platforms, forts, swinging bridges, and zip lines.
Designed as a portable home away from home for nomadic tribes, yurts of today are posh, private tents in stunning, rugged destinations. The Hoopoe Yurt Hotel near Cortes de la Frontera, Andalucia, Spain, sits among olive groves and cork oak forest, with views of the Grazalema Mountains and the Serrania de Ronda. You’ll fall asleep to the sound of goats’ bells and crickets. Rockwater Secret Cove Resort’s oceanfront “Tenthouse Suites” perch on a rocky promontory overlooking Malaspina Strait on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast. In addition to the fireplaces and private verandas, the tents offer hydrotherapy tubs with views. Costanoa in Pescadero, Calif., has cozy “Tent Bungalows,” offering guests access to a spa, dry sauna and outdoor fireplaces.
Traveling to colder climes? Ice hotels are ephemeral works of art constructed each winter. Everything — buildings, sculptures, furniture, chandeliers, drinking glasses — is made of ice. Everything, that is, but the subzero sleeping bags that keep you cozy while you sleep on a bed of ice. In Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, architects, designers and artists use snow guns and blocks of ice to create the Icehotel, gradually adding on sections — guest rooms, an ice chapel, an ice bar — over the course of six weeks. Hôtel de Glace Québec warms you up with outdoor spas and saunas or you can splurge on a themed suite with fireplace and private spa. The Igloo Hotel in Sorrisniva, Norway, on the banks of the Alta River offers front-row views of the Northern Lights. A bit more rustic, Iglu-Dorf in Engelberg and other Swiss locations are villages of individual igloos connected by tunnels. Pass the time with winter sports like snowshoeing, or take an igloo workshop to learn how to build your own igloo at home. Just remember that like other ice hotels, it will melt away come spring.
The ultimate in romance and a thrill for history lovers, castle hotels can be found throughout Europe. Cross the drawbridge of Ashford Castle in Cong, County Mayo, Ireland, and you’ll amble into the elegant rooms with period furniture, fine art objects and suites with claw-foot tubs. Parador de Alarcón in Spain doesn’t skimp on comfort while fully embracing its original defensive nature with its medieval stonework, arrow slit windows and location atop a rocky peak surrounded on three sides by the river Jucar. Rent a room or the entire medieval village of Castello di Gargonza surrounded by olive trees, grapevines and woods in Tuscany, Italy.
Few American buildings are more picturesque than the country’s lighthouses. At bed and breakfast inns made from former lighthouses, Victorian ambiance, lazy lighthouse cats and stunning coastal views are included. East Brother Light Station is located on an island near San Francisco. The station features five guest rooms — four in the keeper’s quarters and a more rustic one in the fog signal building — with views of the San Francisco skyline, Mount Tamalpais and the Marin coastline. Heceta Head Lighthouse and Bed & Breakfast between Florence and Yachats, Ore., warms guests fireside in its parlors and serves up a seven-course — yes seven! — breakfast. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Big Bay Point Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast in Big Bay, Mich., has a sauna and 40 acres of wooded trails on the shores of Lake Superior. Another Great Lakes stay, Braddock Point Bed & Breakfast is a still-working lighthouse on Lake Ontario near Rochester, N.Y.
Trains, planes and more
Some of the most unusual of unusual hotels are made from retired conveyances. At the Aurora-Express Bed and Breakfast in Alaska, train car rooms sit on railroad tracks overlooking the city of Fairbanks, the Tanana River and the Alaskan Mountains. Jutting out from a hill in Costa Rica, a 1965 Boeing 727 lives out its retirement years as a teak-paneled luxury suite with ocean and jungle views and a wood deck atop of what was once the airplane wing. The famous trans-Atlantic ocean liner Queen Mary spends her elder years at Long Beach, Calif., as a destination hotel with art deco salons, 314 original guest rooms, a spa, restaurants and dinner theater. Return to the 1950s at The Shady Dell in Bisbee, Ariz., where you can sleep in Airstream and other vintage travel trailers, a Tiki bus with a hand-carved bar, or a landlocked pleasure boat. Here vintage radios play era-appropriate radio programs and televisions broadcast in two colors. Bring your poodle skirt and penny loafers.