Years of traveling paints a pretty clear picture of what a “normal” hotel experience is, but these travelers stepped (way) outside the box. Waking up to elephants outside of your window in South Africa, hostels reimagined from *actual* forts on remote islands off the coast of France, hotels sculpted entirely of ice in Quebec (brrr), or library-themed capsule hotels in Tokyo: we’re talking about immersive, eccentric, adventurous, and totally unusual sleep experiences.
Forge your own path and get far away from continental breakfasts and miniature soaps — staying at any of these magical and unique destinations is a guaranteed once-in-a-lifetime experience that you will never forget.
“Is it a bookshop or a hotel? The very question I asked as I entered the capsule-style hotel that is Book and Bed. Warm light compliments floor to ceiling shelves filled with books of every sort, theme and size. Hidden among the shelves are single and double ‘rooms’, where you can tuck away and slumber among the stories contained in the pages of the titles that surround you. Pages of comics are strung from the ceiling, lounges are meant for sprawling, and cozy nooks are the perfect place to settle down with a book a beverage from thej in-house cafe and bar. It’s the place of bibliophile dreams!”
“I stayed at Hôtel de Glace in Quebec, an ice hotel! It was – literally and figuratively – the coolest place ever!”
“During my solo travels, I’ve stayed in my fair share of hostels, but this bamboo hut hostel in Panglao Island is quite unique. It’s a three-story open air hut with hammocks and mats as accommodation. Ideal for backpackers who are on a budget. Definitely a place to stay if you want to meet fellow travellers.”
“Nestled in between mountainous sand dunes, I found myself sleeping amid the Sahara Desert in a traditional Berber-style tent one time back in 2019. Honestly, I’ve woken up in a lot of sweet places — but there’s nothing quite comparable to walking out of a tent and being greeted by an absolutely staggering sea of orange dunes. Oh, and, there were a bunch of friendly camels nearby who really added to the atmosphere, haha.”
“We stayed at the Kwa Maritane Bush Lodge in Pilanesberg National Park and woke up to views of elephants outside of our room every morning! With safaris with plenty of sights of the “Big 5″, you really feel like you’re living in their habitat. Plus, the unobstructed view of the stars at night was dreamy.”
“I stayed in this cute cute converted greenhouse for two weeks while self-isolating in Tampa, Florida. The space is cozy and sunny—filled to the brim with plants and warm light. The greenhouse is in a private yard with access to a pool for cool dips, lots of yard space for doggos, and has direct access to Hillsborough River for mellow kayak trips.”
“I slept in a hammock, high up in a walnut tree, on a beautiful vineyard in New Zealand. We worked the harvest for about 30 days and got compensated with free bio-dynamic wine, and a fire bath overlooking the vineyard. We also got payed, but that felt like a bonus compared to the experience. It was like a dream. But I have photos and more to prove it.”
“It’s called Le Fort, and it was created as an army barrack in 1853 to defend itself from English invaders, but was built too late and never got used. It’s on the tiny, remote island off the West Coast of France called Ile D’hoedic and operates almost like a hostel now. It has dorm rooms with a shared kitchen.”
“A couple years ago, my friends & I stayed in a cozy, modern cottage on the coast of Eyjafjörður, one of Iceland’s many fjords. It was summer, so the midnight sun hugged the horizon as we stood in our backyard, breathing in the Arctic ocean air, and taking in the snowcapped mountains in the dead of night.”
“As we were driving down the windy dirt road towards our lodge in the South African bush, I knew we were headed for an adventure when a sharp left turn nearly caused us to hit a giraffe. There was an actual giraffe in the road. That was my first of many close encounters over the next 4 days. Sabi Sabi on the edge of Kruger National Park in South Africa is an unassuming 5 star experience tucked inconspicuously on 65,000 hectare of private game reserve. Awarded the prestigious title of Unique Lodges of World by National Geographic, Sabi Sabi is the ultimate African safari adventure.
Each day begins and ends the same at Sabi, with a mesmerizing drive through the game park, led by a knowledgeable ranger and tracker. During our 4 day adventure, there was no shortage of close encounters with large animals in their natural habitats including Africa’s mighty Big 5 – elephants, lions, rhino, buffalo and leopard. A herd of elephants galavanting past our car. Check. A leopard dragging its prey to the top of a tree for safe keeping. Check. A mama lion guarding her cubs. Check.
As if the animals don’t provide enough of a WOW factor, the resort itself is the epitome of African luxury. The rooms are exactly what you’d expect of a 5 star resort in one of Africa’s largest and most biodiverse game reserves. Designed for tranquility, luxury and connecting with nature, our lodge was tucked deep in the bushveld overlooking a waterhole, so we could take in more animal sightings right from the comfort of our room. Dinner was insane. Sabi boasts a world class kitchen and they aren’t kidding. The staff prepares the most epic African Braai, complete with ostrich and kudu meat, which we devoured (ok, I mostly stuck to the beef and chicken) to the sounds of African drums in a gorgeous outdoor dining experience nestled in the bush. After dinner, we enjoyed a walk back to the lodge by a personal, armed escort, just in case a leopard is waiting in the shadows.”
“On one of our many Disney World trips, we stayed in a Lion King suites at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. Outside our building there were larger-than-life characters from the film and the inside of the suite made us feel like we were in the movie! The dining table was painted with a jungle scene and the chairs were designed to look like leaves. The lamps looked like tropical flowers and the furniture was painted to look like trees. And, of course, the shower curtain had Timon and Pumba on it. It was so immersive and fun!”
“The most unique place I’ve ever stayed was a castle built in the 13th century!”