Chain hotels are so last century. These days people are looking to stay in unusual hotel rooms, in places with personality and a sense of the exotic.
Alex Stewart, head of marketing for luxury tour operator Exsus, says: “At Exsus, incredible journeys and unusual ways to experience a place have always been at the heart of the way we tailor-make travel all around the world.
“However, over the last two years we’ve seen a definite move away from pure, traditional, luxury accommodation to what we describe as ‘intelligent luxury’, that’s to say, luxury defined in terms of location, immersion and experiences.
“Over this period, we’ve seen around an 80 per cent increase in requests for accommodation that’s more experiential and unique, whether it’s a treehouse in New Zealand, an underwater bedroom in the Indian Ocean or a pod on a cliffside in Peru.”
Here are six of the world’s most unusual hotel rooms, as chosen by Exsus…
Available to book since 2013, these transparent sleeping pods have been fixed directly to the cliffs, 1,300ft above the ground, allowing panoramic views of Peru’s Sacred Valley in Cusco. There is space for four people in each but you’ll need to either climb or zipline your way to them. They are made from aerospace aluminum and high-resistance polycarbonate, and are (mercifully) equipped with a toilet and sink.
Located on the endless white salt flats of Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni, the largest expanse of its kind in the world, at 4,000 sq miles, travellers in search of solitude can book a stay in one of three vintage Airstream trailers parked out in the wilderness.
Andres Schipani, Andes correspondent for the Financial Times, describes what they are like: “The van sleeps two (with the option of a third traveller on a sofa-bed) and was kitted out with everything I might need: a toilet, toiletries, a shower with hot water, a heater, a comfortable queen-size bed with electric blankets, an iPod dock and a fully stocked minibar.
“It is towed behind a 4×4. It is followed by the ‘teardrop’, a smaller supporting wagon that carries a kitchen and other necessities, which vanishes after dinner, taking chef, driver and guide off to stay in the nearest village at the edge of the salt pan, and leaving the guest with just a radio and satellite phone in case of emergency.”
Three years ago, the Manta Resort, on a tropical island off the east coast of Africa, unveiled a three-storey floating raft with the ultimate unusual hotel room – an underwater suite that “literally” let’s you sleep with the fishes (at night the water is illuminated).
It was built by Swedish company Genberg Underwater Hotels, and gently bobs on the surface of the Indian Ocean, 250 metres from shore. The hardwood structure also features a sundeck on the roof and a sea-level lounge and bathroom. A one-night stay costs US$1,500.
4. Ion, Iceland
Just an hour from Reykjavik, set into the volcanic terrain of the Icelandic interior, the Ion hotel looks more like an alien module set down on another planet. Its 24 stark, uber-modern rooms overlook craggy lava fields and the Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Plant.
An on-site spa has a ten-metre outdoor hot pool. A review in The Telegraph reads: “Guests can admire outstanding views from within the warmth of a glass-fronted sauna, and then retreat into the tranquillity room after the remedial water works its magic. Treatments on offer include ion Heal, featuring Icelandic herbal tea, a thermal blanket wrap and use of local products.”
For many, sleeping in a treehouse is a childhood dream. The Hapaku Lodge in Kaikoura, on New Zealand’s South Island, has turned this into reality, with its unusual hotel rooms perched ten metres above the ground in the canopy of a Manuka grove. The interiors are stylish, with handmade wooden furniture, a fire place, rainshower and access to a tree-top deck for views of the sea and mountains. Rates are from about £460 a night.
If you are looking for an unusual hotel room on your travels in Namibia, head for Pelican Point Peninsula, and the lighthouse at its end. With nothing but sand and sea all around, it’s a great place to spot seals, whales and jackals. The old Harbour Control building has been renovated and now offers nine elegant suites, including one at the top with 360-degree views.