Sleeping under the sea, residing in a treehouse - these are just some of the unique lodging experiences available to those of us traveling the world. From luxe to quirky, these unique accommodations are special because they offer world travelers an alternative to the typical hotel stay. They provide us with a truly memorable experience. The following list includes a diverse selection of the most unique hotel experiences around the world and some tips on how to find unique lodging.
Thirteen unique lodges of the world
1. Çırağan Palace Kempinski, Istanbul, Turkey
How does living like royalty sound? In Istanbul, Turkey, you can do just that by staying in a palace. The Çırağan Palace Kempinski is a truly unique accommodation and the only Ottoman imperial palace hotel on the Bosphorus; the Strait of Istanbul. The Kempinski hotel group has done an amazing job of converting Çırağan into the ultimate luxury resort of a genuine Ottoman palace.
Çırağan Palace is regarded as Istanbul's premier business conference centre and meeting place for companies, weddings and social events. It’s famous for special occasions; creating memories to remember for an experience of a lifetime.
Luckily, you can also experience the life of palace luxury with their 310 rooms and several fine dining restaurants. Furthermore, it is located in the heart of Istanbul allowing you to easily explore this incredible East meets West city. You also have several options available for arriving in style, with Çırağan Palace being the only hotel in Istanbul accessible by car, cruise, or helicopter.
2. The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, New Zealand
Photo credit to The Farm at Cape Kidnappers
The Farm at Cape Kidnappers is a premium farm-stay accommodation located on the beautiful Hawkes Bay Coast on New Zealand's North Island. Distinctly New Zealand where the farm meets the sea, the farm is set on a 6,000 acre working beef and sheep ranch. The rugged landscape is spectacular with river flats and rolling hills which are the paddocks for the cattle and sheep.
Despite the unusual name, rest assured that Cape Kidnappers is extremely family friendly. The kids will enjoy watching the shepherding experience, where the farm dogs muster the sheep. Equally, they will love watching the impressive sheep shearing display. For the adults, you are spoiled for choice with The Farm’s golf course and winery. Yes, Hawke’s bay is a renowned wine region known for its syrah, cabernet and chardonnay, some of the best wines of the world. If you’re a golfer then this is a must-play course. Set along the rugged cliffs with ridge and valley landscapes, it has stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. Designed by legendary golf architect Tom Doak, it is hailed as one of the greatest modern golf courses in the world.
As for the accommodation, everything about the design is farm themed. Some rooms feel like they have been converted from barns. Luxury barns at that. From the Owners Cottage to the Hilltop Suites, nothing is ordinary about this truly unique farmstay.
3. Aman-I-Khas Tents, India
Photo credit to Aman-i-Khas Tents
Set on the outskirts of the Ranthambore National Park are the Aman-i-Khas Tents. Make no mistake, these are no ordinary tents. They are luxury glamping accommodations set amongst incredible nature and wildlife. The tents are well-spaced out, offering guests complete privacy. They are light filled, spacious and decorated with classic furnishings. A highlight is being in the middle of nature and hearing the wildlife at night.
Ranthambore is one of the world’s great wildlife destinations and home to the massive bengal tiger. Aman-I-Khas runs safaris to see tigers as well as jackals, leopards, crocodiles, sambar deer and over 300 different species of birds.
Besides the safari, you can explore the ancient forts of the region. A must-do is the Khandar Fort Trek which takes you down a steep and narrow old goat track along the edges of a cliff to the ancient temples and forts which you can freely explore. Just the view of the ravine and valleys alone makes the hike worth it. It’s these incredible experiences combined with the jungle tents that make this one of our top unique lodges of the world.
4. Thornbury Castle, England
While there are many excellent castle stays, we have chosen Thornbury Castle for its authentic feel. Whereas many converted castle hotels have gone overboard on the interior, Thornbury Castle has maintained many of the original features, including the exposed stone walls that remind you that you really are inside an ancient castle.
We recommend booking the Catherine of Aragon Tower Suite. It is located up at the very top of the south wing tower, accessible by ascending a stone spiral staircase. The room itself is massive, with exposed stone walls and artfully presented Tudor furnishings, including the largest four-poster bed of any UK hotel.
If you are in the mood to feel like a king or queen for a few days, then the Catherine of Aragon Tower Suite at Thornbury Castle is the unique lodging for you.
5. Shangri-La Boracay Treehouse, Philippines
Photo credit to Kated
The Shangri-La Boracay is the epitome of tropical luxury treehouse accommodations. It is set in the world famous Boracay, one of the Philippines most beautiful beaches and popular tourist destinations. So popular in fact, they had to shut it down due to over-tourism in 2019. Now Covid has given it even more time to recover, so once the Philippines reopens to the world, it will perhaps be the best time in a long time to visit Boracay.
For a truly unique lodging experience, we recommend booking a tree house villa. Set above the topical canopy, you will have uninterrupted sea views over two levels looking down to Punta Bunga Beach. Also included are outdoor whirlpool baths & daybeds, high-speed wifi and butler service.
The resort pool is next-level, massive and faces out towards the equally inviting crystal clear sea water. It is also a watersports paradise, with a full range of water activities including scuba diving, kite surfing, catamaran sailing and more. If a tropical escape amongst the treetops is what you are looking for, then Shangri-La’s treehouse accommodation must be experienced.
6. IceHotel, Sweden
The Ice Hotel is a Swedish Landmark which, as the name implies, is a one-of-a-kind hotel made of ice. Every winter the waters of the Torne River slow down until becoming frozen. In 1989, some Swedes decided to make something of the massive ice blocks and carved out the world's first ever ice hotel. In the decades since, the Ice Hotel has become a globally famous Swedish creation, second only to enigmatic ABBA.
As if a hotel made from ice wasn’t unique enough, it also serves as an art exhibition. Every year, the Ice Hotel reincarnates itself, with new ice sculptures on display. Even the hotel changes slightly every year as they carve out a new sculpture as soon as the water freezes. However, there will always be roughly 15 to 20 standard ice rooms available, as well as 12 art suites, all of which have been uniquely designed and hand-crafted for the very first time!
As a result, adventurous travelers and art enthusiasts come from all over the world to experience the unique accommodation before the spring melts and returns the ice to mother nature.
7. The Muraka, Rangali Island, Maldives
Photo credit to John O'Ceallaigh
Usually the Maldives are renowned for their overwater bungalows. As beautiful as they are, we’ve taken it a step further (well, under) to provide you with something truly unique; an underwater hotel, The Muraka, Conrad Maldives Rangali Island.
You can book this underwater accommodation which consists of a 180 degree curved acrylic dome, ensuring that you really are sleeping with the fish. Besides having your own private aquarium, the rooms are an architectural masterpiece. There are floor to ceiling windows inside the bathroom and walk-in closet. Having a shower underwater is a surreal experience, to say the least. There is even a dedicated tunnel and viewing theatre to watch the many varieties of tropical fish swim by.
You can even dine with the fish at the resort's Ithaa Undersea Restaurant; the only restaurant in the world underwater.
8. Skylodge Adventure Suites, Cuzco, Peru
Photo credit to Natura Vive
If you’re afraid of heights, then probably skip ahead to the next on the list, as these luxury capsule hotels are literally attached to the side of a cliff face. Located in the Sacred Valley of Cuzco, the Skylodge Adventure Suites are not for the faint of heart. Nicknamed the Condor’s Nest, the capsule accommodation is the world’s first ever hanging lodge, suspended over a cliff with incredible views down the mystic valley.
This is a good option if you are planning on doing the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, as Cuzco is your base-camp city. In fact, it offers you some hiking practice, as you will have to climb 400m on an intrepid trail just to reach your room for the night. They have excellent packages with breakfast, dinner, wine, transportation from Cuzco and bilingual guides included. Rappelling or zipline is the only way to get back down to earth after your night’s stay at Skylodge Adventure, so if adrenaline-inducing extreme sports are your thing, then this place is right up your valley… (see what we did there?)
9. Miidera Temple, Japan
Photo credit to Prince Hotel - Lake Biwa Otsu
The Miidera Temple is one of the most important temples in Japan. Located near Kyoto, the temple is steeped in history dating back to the three emperors on the throne around the 7–8th century. Moreover, the temple has survived several fires but every time it has burned down, the Japanese rebuild it, giving it the nickname, the Phoenix Temple. Miidera is the head of Tendai-jimon Buddhism, and the temple itself houses and preserves over a hundred national treasures and cultural artifacts.
Nowadays, you can also stay here. Staff at the temple can pick you up from Kansai International airport in Kyoto. Once there, the grand gate, built in 1452, and surrounding cherry blossoms create a warm welcome into a world of calm. Inside, there are 13 major historical buildings on the site for you to explore. You can enter some buildings to worship or simply see the wonderful Buddha statues.
As for the temple-stay accommodation, the rooms are called Waqoo Miidera and are surrounded by meticulously manicured Japanese gardens. Waqoo Miidera was built roughly 400 years ago to house monks but has since been renovated into a unique lodging that oozes Japanese sophistication and style. The rooms have tatami straw floors, an onsen-style bath, and large windows looking out to the Japanese garden. An experienced chef can cook you dinners or you can arrange a seat at one of the many famous restaurants in town. Miidera Temple is a Japanese cultural experience not to miss.
10. Wilderness Safaris Bisate Lodge, Rwanda
Photo credit to Crookes & Jackson
Perched on the edge of a volcano, The Wilderness Safaris Bisate Lodge is located in the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, famous for its endangered mountain gorilla. As such, the lodge offers walking safaris to see these incredible primates and close relatives of ours in their natural habitat; truly a bucket list experience.
The unique lodging itself is so definitively African; from the thatched roof to the cane chairs and the stone fireplaces, everything about the design and feel of the forest villas embody Rwanda’s rich culture combined with luxury comfort. The Bisate experience is so special that since opening in 2017, they have racked up an impressive 29 awards.
If you love wildlife destinations and are looking for unique accommodation combined with luxurious pampering, exceptional service and a safari experience you will never forget, then Bisate Lodge is the place for you.
11. Desert Cave Hotel, Coober Pedy, Australia
Photo credit to Design Hotels
We’ve gone up in the air and underwater; now we go underground in the Desert Cave Hotel in Coober Pedy, Australia. Coober Pedy is an outback opal mining town. It gets so hot out here in the desert, that residents built homes, hotels, motels, dive bars and a church underground to escape the heat. The locals call these “dugouts.” In more recent times, these unusual accommodations have become a tourist attraction.
The Desert Cave Hotel offers a truly unique experience, especially when it comes to sleeping. Many visitors report that they’ve had the best night's sleep they have ever had. After all, there is no noise down there, it’s cool, and when the light goes off it is pitch black. Want to sleep like a baby again? Then venture underground to the Desert Cave Hotel.
The hotel has been literally carved into the rock, and there is an earthy beauty in the underground walls. To compliment this, furnishings have been carefully chosen to reflect the light, colour and atmosphere of the outback. Additionally, the Desert Cave Hotel also has an underground cafe, shops, an opal interpretive centre, and an underground bar and mini-casino, which takes gambling to a whole new level!
The Desert Cave Hotel also offers day and night tours of the local opal mines. You can reach Coober Pedy via the luxurious outback train journey on board the Ghan.
12. The 727 Fuselage Home, Costa Rica
Photo credit to Vincent Castello
Okay, now we’re getting really weird. The 727 Fuselage Home is a converted jetliner in Costa Rica that you can stay in. The exclusive hotel suite is a refurbished vintage 1965 Boeing 727 airframe. In its past life it served for Colombian Avianca Airlines and South Africa Air, transporting travelers around the globe. Now, it juts out from the jungle canopy of Manuel Antonio National Park; and we have to say, it looks pretty awesome.
They’ve done an even better job on the inside, with the two bedrooms meticulously fitted out with a tiki-style design to suit the jungle feel. All furnishings are hand-carved, teak furniture all the way from Java, Indonesia. You have all the amenities you need including air conditioning, flatscreen TV and for peace of mind, it is cyclone proof!
Sitting fifty feet above the national park in Costa Verde II, you will enjoy the scenic jungle and ocean views from the hard wood deck built into the plane's right wing. Kick back with a glass of vino and take it all in. You may even see the resident toucans and sloths amongst the trees. Just watch out for cheeky monkeys, they might come and snatch your wine!
13. Floating home on board Storylines, MV Narrative
Storylines MV Narrative is a residential cruise ship, meaning you can purchase a home on board to live on while it travels around the world. When the ship launches, it will also have a rental program for those who want to experience this incredibly unique lodging, which just happens to be embarking on the ultimate maritime voyage around the world.
MV Narrative is different from a vacation cruise ship as it's designed for living on full time, which means that everything you need is on board. From business facilities enabling you to work remotely from anywhere in the world, to a school, library, medical centre, gym, post office, spa, marina, restaurants, racquet sports court, and the list goes on... You can even harvest organic produce grown onboard in the ship’s garden or brew some craft beer in the microbrewery.
But what makes Storylines MV Narrative arguably the ultimate of unique lodges of the world: you could wake up in any port on Earth. With ever changing views, you have the opportunity of exploring endless numbers of destinations for several days each, before rejoining the ship and embarking on your next adventure.