Why stay in a hotel when you can sleep in a sewer pipe in Austria? Or up a tree in France?
Here are 15 of the world’s most memorable accommodations.
1. The Oxford Mal, England
Most prisons are the kind of place you’d be desperate to escape from, not somewhere you’d possibly conceive of escaping to.
But this former Oxford prison has been converted into a boutique hotel by the fashionable Malmaison chain and offers the kind of luxurious living that former convicts could only have dreamed of.
With 94 sleek and chic bedrooms, a buzzy bar and brasserie, Malmaison Oxford is somewhere you would be more than happy to serve a lengthy sentence.
Rates: Double room £140 (US$233), suite from £195, duplex suite from £250, executive suite £350. Breakfast £12.95.
The Oxford Mal, Oxford Castle, 3 New Road, Oxford, OX1 1AY; tel. +44 (0)1865 268400; www.malmaison.com
2. Jules’ Undersea Lodge, United States
Originally a research laboratory, the world’s only underwater hotel sits at the bottom of the Emerald Lagoon in Florida’s Key Largo, and can only be reached by scuba diving down six meters.
The lodge can accommodate two couples and is kitted out with showers, a microwave and a fridge.
The real attraction are the fish; the lodge is like a goldfish bowl in reverse, where you sit and watch angelfish, parrotfish, barracuda and snappers peering in at you through the window.
Rates: From US$400 per night
Jules’ Undersea Lodge, Key Largo Undersea Park, 51 Shoreland Drive, Florida; tel. +1 305 451 2353; www.jul.com
3. Das Park Hotel, Austria
Stay overnight in a concrete sewer pipe on the banks of the River Danube.
The drainpipes are two meters in diameter and two and a half meters long, with a porthole to look out of, a front door to close and a cozy nest to snuggle into, which includes a low-slung futon, bedside lamp, woolly blanket and light sleeping bag.
It’s novel, it’s bold, and the best part is that you pay as much, or as little, as you want.
Rates: You decide
Das Park Hotel, Donaulände 21, 4100 Ottensheim, Österreich, Ottensheim, Austria; tel. +43 650 841 5850; www.dasparkhotel.net
4. Hotel Kakslauttanen, Finland
There is no more sublime experience than being suffused by the Northern Lights. To do so in a glass igloo must surely be one of the more novel and cosy ways of admiring one of nature’s most stunning phenomena.
Situated within the Arctic Circle, deep in the snowbound Saariselka area of northern Finland, the cabins are built from ice or glass; both are surprisingly warm and utterly chic, but somewhat lacking in privacy.
Rates: From €300 (US$444)
Hotel Kakslauttanen, F1-99830, Saariselka, Finland; tel. +358 1666 7100; www.kakslauttanen.fi
5. Utter Inn, Sweden
Created by a Swedish artist, the Utter Inn floats on Lake Malaren, an hour west of Stockholm and looks like a small shed perched atop a diving platform.
The red hut contains a bathroom and a hatch in the floor. Open the hatch and descend a metal ladder to find your bedroom — in a watertight chamber suspended in the water beneath the hut.
Rates: From US$333 per night
Utter Inn, Kopparbergsvägen 1, Västerås, 72213, Sweden; www.unusualhotelsoftheworld.com/utterinn
6. The Ice Hotel, Sweden
Thermal long johns are recommended for a stay at the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi where winter temperatures never rise above freezing — and can drop to minus 35C.
As well as 59 bedrooms, there is a cinema, a sauna, an art gallery, a chapel and an uber-cool vodka bar. And sleeping on a mattress of ice is less chilly than you might think, since the beds are covered with reindeer hides and guests are kitted out with super-warm sleeping bags.
Rates: From SEK 1150 (US$200) per person per night for a double room
The Ice Hotel, Marknadsvägen 63, 981 91 Jukkasjärvi, Sweden; Tel. +46 (0) 980 66 800; www.icehotel.com
7. Sant’Angelo Luxury Resort, Italy
Four-star boutique cave-hotel” is the proud boast of the Sant’Angelo in the city of Matera, which is famous for its sassi — houses dug into the rock.
Matera is the only place in the world where people can boast to be still living in the same houses as their ancestors did 9,000 years ago. The rooms have been fashioned from old sassi stables and workshops. There are two restaurants, a bar and an art gallery.
Rates: A three-night package costs from US$560 per person (two sharing) including some meals, a walking tour and car hire, but not flights
Sant’Angelo Luxury Resort, Piazza San Pietro Caveoso, 75100 Matera, Italia; tel. +39 0835 314735; www.hotelsantangelosassi.it; firstname.lastname@example.org
8. Milos windmill, Greece
How about a night in a charming converted windmill on the island of Milos, watching the sun set over the sea, with a glass of retsina in hand and a plate of olives on the table?
This converted mill has two bedrooms. They are sparsely but tastefully decorated and furnished in typically Greek style: white-washed walls, wooden floors and furniture and blue shutters.
There is no pool but the mill does have air conditioning. There are also some nearby outhouses that can be rented to accommodate a larger group.
Rates: From US$300 per night for two people
Milos Windmill, Tripiti, Milos, Greece; www.i-escape.com/milos-windmill
9. La Balade Des Gnomes, Belgium
A truly out-of-this-world experience, this hotel makes you feel like you’re on the moon.
You can sleep in a moon buggy, bathe in a lunar capsule, and the walls and ceilings are covered in twinkling stars and planets.
Other themed rooms include a newly opened Trojan Horse, a Troll Forest, a South Seas sailing ship and a Wine Room.
Rates: From €115 (US$170) per double
La Balade Des Gnomes, Rowe de Remoleu 20, 6941 Heyd, Durbuy, Belgium; tel. +32 472 20 86 23; www.labaladedesgnomes.be; email@example.com
10. The Dovecote, England
Regarded as one of the most romantic hideaways in Britain, the Dovecote would certainly fit the bill for most lovebirds.
The former dovecote, which fell into disrepair in the early 20th century, has since been restored and converted into a cozy self-catering love nest which can sleep up to four people, though would be ideal for two.
Within the one-meter-thick walls are a glass-fronted balcony bedroom, a glorious wooden lantern roof and a sauna.
Rates: From £300-600 (US$500-1,000) per week. Shorter breaks available.
The Dovecote, 9 Blacknest Gate Road, Sunninghill, Ascot, UK; tel. +44 (0)1344 622596; www.the-dovecote.co.uk
11. Hoopoe Yurt Hotel, Spain
Get back to nature in your very own yurt. Tucked away in a stunning corner of Andalucía, these individually designed yurts bask in three hectares of tranquil olive groves where guests awake to the sounds of goat bells and flocks of birds — sparrow hawks, turtle doves and honey buzzards.
Each yurt boasts spectacular views of the mountains, and are large and comfortable, complete with double beds. It’s an impressively environmentally-friendly stay and comfort is not compromised in any way.
Rates: A double yurt costs €120 (US$178) a day including breakfast. Chose from a three-, four- or seven-night stay.
Hoopoe Yurt Hotel; Apartado de Correos 23, Cortes de la Frontera, 29380 Málaga, Spain; tel. +34 660 668 241; www.yurthotel.com
12. Bedouin Camp, Jordan
Live out your Lawrence of Arabia fantasies in a Bedouin camp in Jordan’s vast Wadi Rum.
Sit round a camp fire while a hookah pipe slowly perfumes the air as tribesmen entertain guests with live music, stories and strong Arabic coffee.
Sleep in a goatskin tent just like the semi-nomadic herdsman, under the inky black night sky where stars dazzle like enormous diamonds, and wake to the stunning silence of the desert, where boulders and cliffs shaped by millennia of wind and sand stand like cathedrals.
Rates: From US$80 per night
Bait Ali Camp, Wadi Rum, Jordan; tel. +962 6 777 5481/6 201 6905; www.visitjordan.com
13. Hotel Monasterio, Peru
In most hotels, adequate oxygen is taken for granted. Not here at the luxurious Hotel Monasterio, a converted 16th-century monastery in Cusco.
As the hotel stands at 3,000 meters above sea level, 50 of the bedrooms are enriched with oxygen, which is gently pumped through filters to help guests avoid altitude sickness.
And you’ll be in good company; Leonardo DiCaprio, Jane Fonda and Gisele Bundchen are just some of the A-listers who have rested their heads on the linen pillows.
Rates: From US$300 per room per night
Hotel Monasterio, Calle Palacios 136, Plazoleta Nazarenas, Cuzco, Peru; tel. +51 84 60 4000 www.monasterio.orient-express.com
14. The Old Church of Urquhart, Scotland
The Old Church of Urquhart-by-Elgin stands in splendid rural isolation, surrounded by fields, not far from the Moray Firth. Constructed in what was called the Perpendicular style (its tower is 21 meters tall), it is set in 8,000 square meters of beautiful grounds.
There are two public rooms where you can enjoy fine Scottish cuisine, as well as a wee dram of whisky, while wood-burning stoves ensure you will be kept cozy whatever the weather.
Rates: £30 (US$50) per person per night
The Old Church of Urquhart, Meft Road, Urquhart by Elgin, IV30 8NH, Scotland; tel. +44 (0)1343 843003 www.oldchurch.eu
15. Cabanes du Bois Landry, France
These wooden cabins are in the Bois de Landry, 90 minutes’ drive from Paris. They have been skilfully built to incorporate the features of the oak trees they cling to, and access between them is via rope bridges and ladders.
There is no electricity or running water and breakfast has to be hauled up by a pulley system.
Rates: From €115 (US$170) per night for two, with breakfast
Cabanes du Bois Landry, Lieu dit la Graiserie, 28240, Champront Et Gatine, France; tel. +33 2 37 49 80 01; www.boislandry.com