The world is full of amazing places – more than we can see in lifetime. But while it’s easy enough whittling your dream destinations down to a workable shortlist for each trip, it’s much tougher finding the best place to stay once you’re there.
The fundamental question any hotel needs to ask is, who are the guests and why would they stay here? With so many accommodation options available, hotels need a way to stand out.
Some choose the conventional route of clean, comfortable rooms and stellar service. The way others strive for unique selling points can be a little unorthodox, opting for outlandish gimmicks and architectural one-upmanship.
Whether through precarious location or ambitious design, here are seven of the most innovative, inspiring and downright weird accommodation options from around the world.
Arte Luise Kunsthotel, Germany
Pitched as a ‘gallery with rooms’, creativity is at the heart of the Arte Luise Kunsthotel in Berlin. Each room has its own unique theme conceived by different artists (who receive royalties based on how often their design is booked).
ALK is located in the stylish district of Mitte, within 10 minutes walk of the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag (parliament building). Berlin is a city renowned for its street art, most notably the East Side Gallery. Here, the canvas follows you into every room.
So much for soothing, neutral colour schemes.
Hotel Kakslauttanen, Finland
A permanent fixture in most amazing hotel lists, Kakslauttanen can be found 250 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland. Its rooms are ‘glass igloos’ designed to optimise your view of the famed northern lights, all from the warmth and comfort of your bed.
Despite its secluded atmosphere, Kakslauttanen is relatively accessible, just 30 minutes from Ivalo international airport.
The hotel recently advertised for the ‘best job in the world’, a designated northern lights spotter. One lucky night owl is paid to gaze up at the stars and alert guests when the lights become active.
The ideal time to go is during winter, so you get the full snowy experience and optimum northern lights viewing. Bear in mind, Finnish winter might look quaint in photos but the cold bites hard. Rug up.
Giraffe Manor, Kenya
Structurally, Giraffe Manor in Nairobi is pretty conventional. Built in the style of a Scottish hunting lodge, you’d be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss is about – that is until you come down for breakfast and see multiple giraffe heads craning in through the windows.
The hotel features 10 luxury guest suites, with diverse wildlife, including an elephant orphanage. But the giraffes remain the stars of the show. By the end of your stay you’ll be well acquainted, on first name terms and feeding them by hand.
Giraffe Manor is located on the western fringe of Nairobi National Park, just 20 minutes from Nairobi International Airport.
Conrad Maldives, Maldives (Rangali Island)
The Maldives has long established its reputation as a luxury travel destination. With a string of idyllic huts suspended above crystal clear water, Conrad Maldives resort is what smug postcards are made of.
The undisputed centrepiece, however, is the Ithaa Undersea restaurant, fully submerged five metres underwater. It’s like dining in an aquarium only better, because it’s an actual reef with exotic marine life swimming in its natural habitat
It turns out underwater entertainment is something of a theme in the Maldives. You can also check out Subsix at PER AQUUM or Sea at Anantara Kihavah Villas. It’s surely the most decadent and least anxiety-inducing way to witness sharks, turtles and all manner of fish up close in the wild.
The Mirrorcube, Sweden
The name pretty much gives you all the information you need. On first glance, you might not even spot this camouflaged hideaway. The Mirrorcube is a 4x4x4 metre room built around a tree trunk in Sweden’s Lule River Valley. The mirrored glass exterior makes it blend into the surroundings, making guests feel like an unobtrusive part of the wilderness.
The interior, meanwhile, places you right in the centrefold of a Scandinavian minimalist design catalogue. It accommodates two people at a time, with separate shower and sauna facilities just a short walk away.
You’ll be glad to know the exterior glass is coated with a UV laminate to stop birds unwittingly colliding with the structure. Humans can expect to reach the cube with an hour’s drive from Luleå airport.
Karosta Prison, Latvia
Flying in the face of conventional hospitality, Karosta Prison invites you to spend the night like a Soviet prisoner. There’s regular cell accommodation but for an additional 2 euros you can upgrade to the ominously named ‘Extreme Night in prison’ package. The latter requires you to sign a waiver to say you won’t take the guards’ orders personally – if you’re into that sort of thing.
If you’re not, thankfully there are other activities on offer. The hotel runs museum tours and activities such as spy game escape, labyrinth of the senses, and Behind Bars (an interactive live show). Thoroughly educational, but this is one hotel that will make you appreciate the comforts of home.
Barin Ski Resort, Iran
In a game of word association, exactly zero people would follow the words ‘ski resort’ with ‘Iran’. And yet, here we are. Quite possibly the coolest ski resort in the world exists in Shemshak, just an hour outside Tehran.
The Barin Ski Resort looks like a giant coral sculpture, or indeed something carved out of the surrounding snow-capped landscape. Each room is like a futuristic igloo.
The hotel sits at 2,500 metres elevation among the Alborz Mountain Range. The Iranian ski season potentially runs from November through until May. You may not have considered Iran as a skiing destination until now, but normal snow holiday safety rules still apply.
Just remember that some travel insurers do not cover you for skiing and snowboarding or you may need to add optional cover, so check your policy, and terms and conditions before you hit the slopes.
Hotel safety tips
There are a few key points to remember, regardless of how safe and secure your accommodation appears. By not doing these things, you’re likely to forfeit any right to claim on your insurance policy.
Keep your valuables secure
When safes or locker facilities are available, use them to keep any valuables secure. If you have downtime before you check in, for example, you might want to leave your bags while you go sightseeing. If the hotel doesn’t have secure storage, you’re better off finding somewhere that does.
Don’t let strangers into your room
This might seem like common sense, but on holidays we often exist in a bubble of false security. Especially if you’ve been out drinking, your decision-making could be somewhat impaired. There are examples of unsuspecting guests being drugged and robbed once they’ve fallen asleep.
Criminals may also try to impersonate hotel staff. If anyone comes under the pretence of housekeeping or room service duties, or calls to ask for your room number, check with the front desk that this is legitimate.
Beware of fraudulent bookings
Take particular care when booking your accommodation online. Ensure you read the rules of the website, for example, don’t send money via places such as Western Union to people you don’t know. And compare the hotel you’re looking at with other booking websites to see whether it’s available - some sites may claim to be affiliated with your accommodation that are not.
Any number of variables can stop you from taking a trip you’ve already booked. Things like sickness, injury or family obligations can occur on short notice. That’s why it’s a good idea to take out travel insurance as soon as you’ve bought any flights or put down deposits on accommodation.
Wherever you stay on your next adventure – whether it’s a Scandinavian treehouse or an old Soviet prison – make sure you read the policy wording carefully so you know exactly what you’re covered for and what you’re not. There’s no better travel companion than peace of mind.