TRAVEL TIPS: UNIQUE HOTELS OF THE WORLD
Recently I set out to write an informative article about all the different forms of accommodation around the world, from free to budget to mid-range to luxury. My list quickly swelled. I soon realized a much better approach was to write a series of shorter posts, each devoted to just one category: free, budget, mid-range, luxury. And so I bring you the first of my ‘accommodation around the world’ series, in the luxury accommodation category: types of unique hotels of the world.
Without a doubt, luxury hotels and resorts can be wonderful, rejuvenating vacation get-aways / experiences. But, let’s face it, most 5-star hotels/resorts offer rooms with that same standard ‘hotel room’ feeling, a result of their typical color-scheme, layout, decore, and interiors.
The first few times, that can feel luxurious, but it gets old quickly. Besides that, many large chain hotels and resorts are massive, leading to a very impersonal experience. You can quickly feel like just another one of hundreds or thousands of other guests. In addition, many resorts cater to families, so they can be excessively noisy and hectic- hardly the stuff for de-stressing and tranquility.
You can avoid all the monotony and impersonal ambiance of standard luxury hotels by staying at more unique types of accommodation. Next time you’re looking for a luxurious hotel or resort, consider these alternatives instead. Starting with the least unusual:
1. Design Hotels / Boutique Hotels / Art Hotels
Alternately referred to as Design, Boutique, or Art Hotels, these special places are found in abundance all over the world. They are generally independent hotels, small to medium in size, and have their own unique flair. They’re especially noted for outstanding architecture, cool interiors, unique decore , interesting rooms, attention to detail and excellent, personalized service. Many display art on walls, incorporate designer furniture, and use stimulating color schemes. Their restaurants usually serve extremely high quality gourmet food, drinks, and cocktails, some by well-known chefs.
Boutique, Design, and Art Hotels/Resorts are generally in the same price range as more standard luxury hotels. So why not opt for a much more personalized, unique, and interesting experience for the same price?
Recently, I’ve had the great pleasure of staying in several excellent boutique hotels/resorts. Each one was unique: A Chinese cultural hotel, one that simulated a real apartment, an art hotel showcasing famous chairs, and a petite personalized beach resort. If you’re interested in finding out more, read one of my reviews or simply google ‘design hotel’ ’boutique hotel’ or ‘art hotel’ plus the location you’d like to visit. My reviews:
2. British ‘cottages’
The Lake District is one of England’s most famous and beloved vacation destinations. It’s a large, beautiful natural area of rolling hills, lakes, country gardens and many walking trails. A very popular type of accommodation there are what the Brits refer to as ‘cottages’. But they are certainly not what Americans think of as ‘cottages’. The Lake District Cottages are not small wooden cabins in a forest. They are generally renovated historic estate houses from the 18th-19th centuries, built of stone, complete with fireplaces, well-tended gardens, fully-equipt kitchens, and stunning views of the surrounding countryside. They’ve been further upgraded to include all the modern amenities you’d find in a 5-star hotel.
The Brits refer to cottages as ‘self-catering’ – there are no hotel staff or restaurant services. Guests cook their own meals in fully-equipt kitchens or visit nearby restaurants. Literally, guests are staying in a house. Lake District Cottages are usually rented out by the week, rather than nightly, though some rent out for 3-4 nights. The nightly cost works out to much less than you’d pay for a mere hotel room. Instead, you get an entire estate house to live in for the same price- or less- of a luxury hotel. Besides that, there are pet-friendly cottages, child-friendly cottages, honeymoon cottages, group and corporate size cottages. Guests will enjoy much more independence, privacy, and the use of a full home.
So whenever you fancy a visit to the charming English countryside, don’t forget to investige cottages as an alternative to hotels!
3. Japanese ‘ryokan’
Ryokan are the traditional Japanese equivalent of luxury resorts and spas. Most are situated in gorgeous natural surroundings, particularly mountains. A large percentage are located at natural hot springs and incorp0rate hot baths, saunas and steam rooms. Many are also located near significant Japanese temples and shrines. Most cities also have at least one traditional ryokan in their midst.
Ryokan are noted by their traditional Japanese architecture, interiors, customs, and cuisine. They are immaculately clean and impeccably maintained. Staff manners and etiquette are without equal. Rooms feature tatami mat floors, sliding wood-glass doors, and futon mattresses and bedding, which are put away into closets during the day then laid out for guests at night. Sliding doors and wall panels are often hand-painted in black n white or delicate colors. Sliding doors or windows usually open onto stunning views of landscaped gardens, forests, or mountain scenery.
Traditional yukata are supplied as robes, which Japanese guests are fond of wearing all over the hotel and spa. Guests are served an exquisite multiple-course Japanese dinner and an equally beautiful breakfast, usually in their rooms. Guests are given unlimited use of the baths (onsen), saunas, steam rooms and any other hot water facilities. Many have jugs of sake sitting beside the onsen for guests to drink in square wooden mugs at their own discretion.
While living in Kyoto, Japan for six years, I took the opportunity to stay at several ryokan, and I can tell you it’s an entirely different world!
If you ever want an utterly unusual and luxurious hotel experience, head to Japan and book into a ryokan.
4. Finland’s Snow Hotel
In the past year or so I’ve seen photos and articles of a magnificent hotel built entirely of snow and ice, up in northern Finland’s Lapland. Not only are the reception, hallways and rooms made of ice, but so are the beds! I can’t help but wonder what it’s like to sleep on ice? But what really caught my eye in the photos were the stunning colored lights illuminating crystal clear ice walls and ice sculptures located around the property. Despite my great distain of cold, even I’m tempted to go try it out!
Recently my friend and fellow travel blogger, Keith Jenkins of Velvet Escape, had the enviable opportunity to do just that. He’s written up a personalized first-hand account of his experience. Go check out his story for more details: Inside the Snow Village
5. Underwater Hotels
As a PADI Dive Instructor and avid reef lover, I was totally captivated by recent articles I’ve seen about underwater hotels. The rooms are actually located under the sea, with windows or walls looking onto tropical reefs teaming with colorful fish and marine life. How awesome would that be?
Upon investigation, I discovered not one but three underwater hotels around the world. Jules’ Undersea Lodge is located in Key Largo, Florida. The underwater ‘rooms’ were originally scientific marine labs that have been converted into cozy living spaces. Inside they look something like a trailer or furnished submarine, with a big round window looking out to the sea. Guests access their room by diving to it and making a special entry, like a spaceship or submarine. They’re first instructed on exactly how to enter. Generally speaking, guests should be certified divers, but if not Jules’ dive team will give non-diving guests basic training so they’re qualified to dive and reach their room.
Fiji boasts a more upscale, luxurious version at Poseidon Resort. (photo above) The rooms are rounded domes of glass, something like ‘pods’. According to their website, 70% of the room surfaces are clear acrylic plastic (not actually glass). Essentially, guests are entirely surrounded by the sea as they sit in their living room! Underwater rooms are accessed by an elevator and then a hotel-like corridor, with doors leading to each room. Guests never have to get wet, either entering, staying , or leaving their rooms.
A third luxurious underwater hotel has been designed in Dubai. Dozens of online newspapers and magazines have written up articles, complete with photos, videos and explanations. Simply Google ‘Underwater Hotel Dubai’ to see more.
If you like luxury travels like me, check out this awesome guidebook:
The Luxury Traveler’s Handbook
by Sarah and Terry Lee, founders of LiveShareTravel - online travel & lifestyle magazine
In the authors’ words, “The Luxury Traveler’s Handbook proves that luxury travel doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s a show and tell guide on how to source luxury for less. Exploring everything from flights and hotels to shared ownership and glamping. The Luxury Traveler’s Handbook is your passport to smarter, more luxurious travel.”
Which of these unique hotels would you like to stay at?
Do you know of any other unique hotels of the world? Share !