12 Alternative-Design Hotels Around the World
Opt for unconventional lodging during your next trip, from cliff-hugging capsules in Peru to eco-friendly pods in Switzerland.
Photo By: Skylodge Adventure Suites
Photo By: The Grand Daddy
Photo By: Tiny Digs Hotel
Photo By: Whitepod
Photo By: Entre Cîmes et Racines
Photo By: Bar 10 Ranch Hotel
Photo By: Ken Seet / Four Seasons
Photo By: Nick Simonite
Photo By: Tubohotel
Photo By: Lisa Werner#121365
Photo By: Woodlyn Park
Photo By: Peter Lundstrom; WDO
Skylodge Adventure Suites, Peru
The three see-through capsules clinging to the side of a mountain in Cuzco, Peru, are considered the first of their kind in the world, and judging by the logistics, it’s easy to understand why. Just reaching Skylodge Adventure Suites is more than half of the adventure, and involves some arduous climbing straight up the 1,200-foot mountain overlooking the Sacred Valley. (Consider it a good way to conquer that fear of heights.) Your efforts are rewarded with a multi-course meal (including wine) that’s prepared by guides and served in a separate dining capsule. Afterward, settle into your own surprisingly comfortable suite, which somehow contains a large bed and separate bathroom (alas, no shower). Fall asleep while contemplating the Milky Way, unsullied by light pollution. Following a hearty breakfast, feel like James Bond as you zipline back to terra firma. Plan ahead, since the capsules book months in advance.
The Grand Daddy, South Africa
It’s not every day you can stay in an Airstream (a vintage aluminum trailer), let alone ones that are parked on a hotel rooftop. But you can do just that in Cape Town at The Grand Daddy, where seven individually themed Airstreams await. Themes reflect iconic South African places and eras; examples include vineyards, the Karoo desert, the Gold Rush and, of course, a luxury safari. Meanwhile, inside each cozy trailer you’ll find all the creature comforts: a full bathroom, queen-size bed, TV and air-conditioning. And just because you’re on the roof doesn’t mean you’re missing out on all the fun. Thanks to a rooftop cinema and bar, you’ll only need to venture downstairs for meals.
Tiny Digs Hotel, OR
Portland is often associated with the hit show Portlandia, coffee, and now, tiny houses. Find some of the best tiny house lodging at Tiny Digs Hotel, seven individually themed houses in East Portland. (The owners plan to add five more.) Commonalities involve a deck, bathroom, kitchen, queen-size bed with high-end bedding and air-conditioning. A number are even pet-friendly. Beyond that, each tiny dig artfully reflects its theme: Train, Barn, Beach, Gypsy, Modern, Cabin and Bamboo. All are worth writing about, but of note is the sophisticated Bamboo (pictured), as it draws inspiration from Asia with its Tansu stairs, Japanese wood-staining technique, and yes, plenty of bamboo. Modern is another standout as it perfectly embodies the concept with a floating living room, transparent acrylic wall and LED bath faucet.
If not for the decks, it’s unlikely you’d spot this pod cluster from a distance, since they were designed to blend into the Swiss Alps scenery (white in winter, green in summer). At a minimum, the 15 eco-spheres at Whitepod are each heated by a pellet stove, and contain a full bathroom and king-size bed. Deluxe pods are also equipped with satellite TV, Wi-Fi, a minbar and Nespresso coffee maker. Don’t want to leave? Have breakfast and a massage in your deluxe pod too. New this winter are three pod suites, which are like deluxe pods on steroids. Besides being bigger and offering more bonuses, from champagne to iPads with Netflix, each features a different theme: traditional Swiss (cow bells, chalet feel); forest (actual birch trees inside, plus a hammock); and James Bond (Bond décor, gin-stocked bar). However, the best part may be that each suite also houses a sauna.
Entre Cîmes et Racines, Canada
Admit it, you’ve wanted to stay in a hobbit house ever since watching Lord of the Rings. This one from Entre Cîmes et Racines, an eco-lodge in Quebec with 12 one-of-a-kind units, is a pretty satisfying approximation. Called Le Hobbit, the round, one-room lodge possesses the requisite greenery-topped roof, round entryway, round windows, a wood-burning stove and rustic furnishings. There’s no electricity, possibly in keeping with the theme, but there is a dry (non-flush) toilet. However, there are also bathroom facilities in the main building. Otherwise, bring your own food, bedding and towels and prepare to semi-rough it, hobbit-style.
Bar 10 Ranch Hotel, Arizona
Realize your Wild West fantasies by staying in a Conestoga-covered wagon on a working cattle ranch in the Grand Canyon. Each of the 14 wagons can accommodate two people, and provides the basics: bedding, a bench, and a battery-operated lantern. Just know that the wagons are only part of the adventure. While at Bar 10 Ranch Hotel, opt for a multi-day rafting trip along the Colorado River; go horseback riding; or try skeet shooting. And since the best way to reach the remote ranch is by plane, spring for the full adventure trifecta by taking a tiny charter from Las Vegas — you won’t regret the spectacular aerial views.
Four Seasons Tented Camp, Thailand
The lodging at Four Seasons Tented Camp in the Golden Triangle is part tent, part treehouse, and luxury all the way. You’ll have almost 600-square-feet to sprawl out in, and that doesn’t include the 400-square-foot deck. In between visiting the dining and spa pavilions, retreat to your own open-air views of the surrounding jungle, (Air conditioning is also available.) Here you can snooze in the mosquito-netted, king-size bed with down pillows, or soak in the amazing hand-hammered copper bathtub on the outdoor deck. An outdoor shower, Wi-Fi and décor that favors leather and local wood round out the pampering experience.
El Cosmico, TX
The remote desert town of Marfa, Texas, is automatically associated with the offbeat and unconventional. To that end, El Cosmico fits right in as a self-described “nomadic hotel and campground.” Here you’ll find a range of lodging options (tents, yurts, trailers), but opt for the Sioux-style teepees. Though only 22 feet in diameter, each is large enough to squeeze in a queen-size bed, loveseat and daybed. A heated mattress and propane fire provide added warmth, since nightly temperatures drop sharply when you’re at 4,800 feet. However, the teepees (and bath facility) are more likely to be enjoyed between the milder months of April through October. Of course, you can always warm up in one of the nightly wood-fired hot tubs on the property. For entertainment, check the schedule beforehand for concerts, songwriting workshops, cooking classes and more.
They may not be luxurious, but these tube-shaped rooms, grouped into small pyramid formations in an organic garden at Tubohotel, are certainly distinctive. Backpackers will find basic creature comforts, as each one is outfitted with a queen-size bed and blankets, towels, a fan and light. Bathrooms are in a separate building. Beyond a small pool there are few amenities on site, but the ancient town of Tepoztlán is close. About 45 minutes south of Mexico City, it offers a weekly craft market, historic former convent and a New Age vibe. Back at your tube, admire Tepozteco Mountain while mentally planning a hike to the storied Tepozteco Pyramid.
Treebones Resort, CA
It’s easy to dismiss yurts (round tents traditionally used by Mongolian nomads) as bare-bones accommodation. Not so at Treebones Resort, an eco-luxe retreat in famed Big Sur. Here you’ll find an entire yurt village, and some even offer ocean views. (Either way, you’re likely to hear elephant seals barking.) Individual redwood decks also offer those coveted Big Sur views, so you won’t miss out. Inside you’ll find a roomy bed piled with a comforter and quilt, seating area, pine wood floors, and, since this is glamping, electricity. There’s also a sink with hot and cold water, but you’ll have to step outside for the bathroom and shower facilities. Don’t expect cell phone service or Wi-Fi either, but there are weekly yoga classes, a pool and hot tub, two restaurants, and of course, the spectacular great outdoors.
Woodlyn Park, New Zealand
Unless you’re flying first or business class, few people enjoy sleeping on planes. But what about a grounded vintage war plane? Enter this 1950s Bristol Freighter, said to be one of the last Allied planes to leave Vietnam. It’s now enjoying a second life as a two-unit motel at Woodlyn Park — a quirky farm-stay motel where you can also room in a boat, train or hobbit house. Granted, you won’t find a ton of space inside the plane, but the cockpit room squeezes in a double bed, pull-out sofa and micro-kitchenette. Those over eight can even ascend a ladder and sleep in the actual cockpit. There’s another room in the tail of the plane that can sleep four, with enough space for a small dining area and bathroom. Hey, it’s still more room than you’ll get in coach.
Leading Scandinavian architects designed the seven unconventional treehouses that are found in Swedish Lapland. Modern design and streamlined Scandinavian décor are signature features of Treehotel, but the similarities end there. Ever dream of staying in a 1950s idea of a UFO? That’s possible. Just like it’s also possible to stay in what looks like a bird’s nest built by a Pterodactyl, or a cube completely camouflaged by mirrors (pictured). The Treehotel’s newest addition is the Seventh Room, and though it sounds like a sci-fi concept, it’s actually the ultimate modern treehouse. Here you’ll find a roomy interior that sleeps five, bathroom (with shower), floor-to-ceiling windows, skylights for viewing the Northern Lights, and perhaps most notably, a net instead of a patio, making for the world’s best outdoor hammock.