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Restored to its historic grandeur in 2010, this mountain top hotel can be reached by cable car all year, or by the world’s steepest cogwheel railway during the summer. Rooms have spectacular views and guests can enjoy clean, clear mountain air, and delicious food in the Queen Victoria dining room, named after a royal visit to Lucerne in 1868. There’s a snow fun park nearby offering toboggans, airboards and snowbikes. — at Hotel Pilatus-Kulm, Lucerne, Switzerland.
Mira Mira in Gippsland, 120km from Melbourne, offers self-catering guests three fantasy retreats. Whether you choose the Cave, the Japanese Zen Retreat or the Gaudí-influenced Tanglewood, with its treetop balcony, each is designed to let imaginations run wild and provide the experience of living within a piece of art. The mouth of a giant sculpted sunshine face leads to one room; a bed swings on chains from a four-poster; a bathroom in a cave has natural spotlights made from small glass windows all over the ceiling. Mira Mira Accommodation, Victoria, Australia
One of four Unusual Hotels of The World properties in Nantes, Le Voyage Extraordinaire is based on the writings of local science fiction pioneer Jules Verne, and themed to suggest souvenirs from his travels. There is a double bed inside a giant wooden packing case, and a children’s bed, accessed by ladder, perched on top of the bathroom. There’s also a kitchen, and an electronic library of the collected works of the author in the lounge area. Le Voyage Extraordinaire, Nantes, France .
This unusual B&B comprises nine antique railroad cabooses in northern California’sLake County – known for its antiques, hot springs and wine. All have been individually decorated, from the Las Vegas bordello-themed La Loose Caboose, with red velvet and Mustang Ranch memorabilia, to the art deco Orient Express. The Easy Rider caboose has a Jacuzzi for two, Harley Davidson touches and a headboard with handlebars. Featherbed Railroad, California, US.
Guests can channel their inner Viking in this themed hotel, whose 42 rooms feature art, crafts and traditions of West Nordic countries including Greenland and the Faroe Islands. As host of the annual Viking Festival in June, the hotel has recently added 14 traditional Viking log cabins – though with modern bathroom facilities. The wooden dining room has taxidermy on the walls and serves proper Viking-style feasts, and the hotel also has a rock-walled sauna, a spa pool and a cave room. It’s just 10km outside Reykjavik, so easy to get to. Hotel Viking, near Reykjavik, Iceland.
In this enchanting hotel, the rooms are hidden inside a conical stone tower from whose roof a waterfall cascades down past the windows. In the Huilo Huilo reserve in the Los Rios region of southern Chile, Magic Mountain was originally a place for friends of the creators to stay while they enjoyed hunting and fishing in the reserve. Magic Mountain, Panguipulli, Chile .
ompleted in 1993, Hippo Point is a welcome change from all the luxury safari tents in Kenya’s national parks. It’s a pagoda-style tower nine storeys tall, containing five luxurious bedrooms, spiral staircases and a minaret meditation room within its Kenyan cypress-clad walls. Surrounded by acacia trees in a wildlife sanctuary home to 500 bird species and 1,100 animal species, the tower is a base for “slow safaris”, where wellness experiences are as important as game-spotting. The two can merge, though, as zebras join in your morning jog or giraffes wander over to the pool. Hippo Point, Naivasha, Kenya .
Guests can sleep 155m underground in a suite in historic Sala Silvermine, one of the world’s best preserved mines and the world’s deepest bedroom. Its dark winding galleries, vast caverns and magical lakes can be explored with a guide on arrival, and basic refreshments are provided in the suite, plus breakfast in the morning. Corridors are cold, damp and dark but the bedroom is heated to a comfortable 18C and features silver candelabra and silver leather chairs. The site also has an (above-ground) hostel, and a high-wires adventure course. Sala Silvermine, central Sweden.
Lovers of Siberian Huskies don’t have to travel to the Arctic Circle to befriend these tough but lovable canines. At this hotel in the Swiss canton of Schwyz, east of Lucerne, they can sleep in wooden cabins (with woodburning stoves) next to the dogs’ kennels. By day they can join in their training runs around woods, fields and mountain trails as they pull sledges in winter, and bikes and carts in summer before returning to a wood fire in the cabin. Husky-Lodge, Schwyz, Switzerland.
Hans & Wil Hoogeboom offer guests straw-themed B&B accommodation on their farm near Groningen in the northern Netherlands. There are straw bed in a hayloft dorm, or a “straw castle” with drapes around the bed, chandeliers and soft cow skins on the floor. The owners have even created a straw igloo with a clear glass central viewing panel so that guests can stargaze from the comfort of their bed. With fresh straw covered by sheets and a comfortable mattress, these beds are soft, springy and comfortable all year round. Hayema Heerd, Oldehove, the Netherlands
Livingstone Lodge at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park, a few miles west of Folkestone, is the UK’s first overnight safari lodge and has 10 comfortable safari tents with proper beds, overlooking fields of wildebeest. An “out of Africa” night under the stars includes African fine dining and safaris guided by expert rangers. While the views are of the Kentish savannah, the animals are very real and the reserve is home to the largest breeding herd of black rhinos outside Africa. Livingstone Lodge, Kent, UK.
A landscape hotel with rooms embedded in the forest, Juvet has seven stark glass-box dwellings on stilts above birch, aspen and pine forest. When you open the door, it’s as if nature rushes in to greet you through the massive panoramic windows, though the interiors are sleek. The river Valldøla tumbles by just outside, and there’s a communal hot tub and sauna, equally minimalist, to ensure that the stunning beauty of the landscape takes centre stage. Juvet, Valldal, Norway.
It seems the walls are alive at this resort hotel on the shores of Lake Garda, where four animatronic theme rooms feature Hollywood-style animation effects that will fascinate children. (There are also 233 normal rooms.) One has a talking parrot; another, on a meadow theme, has special effects to make nature come to life; while in Aki’s Cave the wall has a mouth and eyes, and talks. The hotel is 10 minutes’ drive from the Gardaland theme park, and offers children’s games, dances and shows during the day. Hotel Parchi del Garda, Lake Garda, Italy.
Hüttenpalast is a reto treasure trove in the central Berlin district of Neukölln. Inside a former vacuum-cleaner factory, guests can sleep in a cute cosy caravan surrounded by potted trees, or in smart wooden cabins with “outdoor” picnic tables. With the amenities of a modern building, including guaranteed warmth spring, summer, autumn and winter, visitors can enjoy an outdoor lifestyle, while still indoors. — atHüttenpalast, Berlin, Germany.
The once-proud Neemrana Fort Palace, built in 1464, fell into decay after India’s independence in 1947, but the ruins were acquired for restoration in 1986. In a stunning redevelopment, faithful to its rich cultural past, Neemrana Fort Palace, near Delhi, opened as one of India’s most beautiful heritage properties in 1991 and is a vast complex of seven palace wings built in 12 tiers up a hill, with hanging gardens, two pools and India’s first zipwires. — at Neemrana Fort Palace, Alwar, near Delhi, India .
The V8 Hotel has 34 car-themed bedrooms, including Mercedes, Morris Minor and VW versions, with cars made into beds, plus car wash, mechanic’s workshop and petrol station-style rooms. Part of the Meilenwerk classic car restoration complex, in a Bauhaus-style building on a former Zeppelin airfield, it is handy for Porsche and Mercedes Benz factory tours, and guests can also watch historic car restoration in progress. — at V8 Hotel, Böblingen, Germany.
Luxurious and surrounded by unadulterated nature on all sides, Verana is an amazing spa with 10 guesthouses on a five-acre plot. Recently added are four “V-house” buildings that offer views from their upstairs balconies, above the forest canopy and overlooking the Bay of Banderas. Buildings taper towards the ground, creating tiny building footprints that minimise ecological damage. There’s an infinity pool and a spa offering facials, massage and yoga. — at Verana, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
To create a hotel that’s more like a scene from the TV show Lost, the Costa Verde team transported and refurbished a 1965 vintage Boeing 727 fuselage to create a fantastic two-bedroom suite on a coastal rainforest bluff. A favourite for weddings, honeymoons and romance, it’s set on a concrete plinth that juts up 15m into the jungle canopy, so looking out of the windows feels like flying. There’s a wooden cabin built around the aircraft, with furnishings in hand carved teak, and the rear bedroom has a handcrafted deck on the wing, from which guests can watch toucans, sloths and monkeys. The site has bungalows and a guesthouse too. — at Costa Verde, Quepos, Costa Rica.