Unusual places to stay
If tower hotels and beach villas are a little too safe or traditional, try one of these options for your next holiday. From ice and caves to planes and oil rigs, Amelia Hungerford has quirky accommodation covered.
Waldseilgarten Höllschlucht, Germany
Deep in the heart of Bavaria is a treetop adventure park where the action doesn’t have to stop when the sun goes down. Waldseilgarten Höllschlucht has suspended ropes courses, obstacle courses and archery for a fun day trip full of excitement, but for maximum thrills, the park also offers guests the chance to sleep in the trees. Their ‘floating’ sleeping platforms can be set up among tree branches, dangling from a tree or – for the truly insane – hanging onto a cliff. Naturally, sleeping on the platforms of the forest rope course is the most family-friendly option with plenty of space for four people and belts to make sure no one rolls off in the middle of the night (I know you were imagining it). Unlike the dangling ‘Portaledge’ and extreme rock-face options, the platform makes it relatively easy to get down. All options, though, let you and your kids admire the wonder of the night sky in peace.
Hôtel de Glace, Canada
If you think a hotel should always be changing, you’ll appreciate the lengths that Hôtel de Glace in Québec City goes to in order to keep things interesting. Each year this hotel of ice and snow is rebuilt from scratch, making it bigger and better than the year before. Local university students can even contribute a design idea to the final product that opens in December each year. Previous features have included an ice slide, an ice chapel and an ice bar, as well as toasty saunas – who knows what 2014’s hotel will reveal? One thing you can be sure of, though, is that your whole room, from the bed to the champagne glasses, is made of ice. When the temperatures drop inside and out, make sure the kids snuggle right down into the heavy-duty sleeping bags as they slumber at this one-of-a-kind hotel.
Hotel Kakslauttanen Igloo Village, Finland
Everyone should see the spectacular phenomenon that is the Northern Lights and there’s never been a better time to head to the Arctic Circle to see them for yourself: this winter is expected to host the best Northern Lights in a decade. The kids will love this magical experience of colour playing in the sky. A tour of Lapland, such as Bentours’ Follow the Lights expedition, is a great way to see the wonders of aurora borealis. Hotel Kakslauttanen Igloo Village in Finnish Lapland, however, gives you a view without leaving your bed. With their special glass igloos, you can remain cosy while the lights dazzle above. Even without the lights, the glass igloos are magical, surrounded by snow. Hotel Kakslauttanen is also home to a range of snow activities and Santa’s resort, so you know you’re guaranteed a magical winter wonderland holiday.
Hotel Costa Verde 727 Fuselage Home, Costa Rica
In a landscape abounding with monkeys, Hotel Costa Verde along the Costa Rican coastline is a family-friendly paradise with a very peculiar attraction. The Boeing 727 Fuselage Home is the hotel’s most fascinating suite, combining a tree house with a plane crash. Confused? Stay with me. The hotel rescued the plane from a life of rust on an airport runway and transformed it into a suite with a difference. The fuselage was hoisted into the treetops and then turned into a wood-panelled, two-bedroom getaway with a view, complete with intact cockpit. Kids will love all the exploring there is to be done where the jungle meets the sea, as well as the pools on offer and the region’s best pizza. The resort also features a second rescued aeroplane that serves as a restaurant and bar with spectacular sunsets. Seeing a theme here?
La Balade des Gnomes, Belgium
La Balade des Gnomes makes all your fairytale dreams come true. This quirky hotel features 10 rooms that reinvent myths, legends and childhood stories to create a world of wonder. From sleeping under the stars in Moroccan-style splendour to celebrating the crazed genius of Spanish architect Gaudì, the rooms of La Balade des Gnomes take you on a journey of the imagination. The Trojan Horse of Greek legend fame finds a place here as a room sleeping four in a giant wooden horse set against the Belgian countryside. Even Tasmania gets a look in as a sailing boat bed drifting on a sea in the Macquarie Island room. Located near the town of Durbuy, filled with winding cobbled streets for a fairytale vibe of its own, La Balade des Gnomes is a place where kids’ fantasies come to life – no matter how old they are.
Titanic Beach Lara, Turkey
If the usual glut of beach resorts has you a little underwhelmed, try sleeping in a cruise ship on land at the Titanic Bearch Lara resort in Antalya, Turkey. The main hotel, overlooking the Mediterranean, takes the shape of a cruise ship, complete with ropes to ‘moor’ it to the ‘marina’. Inside – and in the surrounding suites – you’ll find all the luxuries and amenities you expect from a family-friendly resort, and all with a nautical twist. There are plenty of activities to keep the kids busy, including the kids’ club. The Santa Maria Kids’ Club, named after Columbus’ first ship to reach America, is (naturally) shaped like a sailing ship, complete with waterslides for quick entry into the pool below. The private beach is also the perfect place for the whole family to unwind, with cabanas set up over the sea.
Kagga Kamma Private Game Reserve, South Africa
Combining wildlife safaris, ancient rock art and cave accommodation, Kagga Kamma has everything you need for a holiday off the beaten track. Explore the wonders of South Africa from this cave lodge embedded in the craggy mountainside where the Bushmen of old roamed some 6000 years ago. Their rock paintings are one of the region’s attractions, reminding visitors of the spiritual past of the southern Cederberg Mountains; discover the art for yourself with a guided tour. Although you are just three hours from Cape Town, the city seems but a dream when confronted with the endless skies of the reserve. Families can enjoy their own slice of tranquillity from one of five thatched-roof huts or one of the cave suites. From quad bike safaris to discover the untamed corners of the reserve, to wildlife drives to spot the elusive mountain leopard, Kagga Kamma has something for everyone.
La Montaña Mágica Lodge, Chile
Are you looking for a real dose of magic on your next family holiday? Montaña Mágica Lodge is no plastic-fantastic imitation of wonder; this is the real deal. The hotel is a man-made volcano, spouting crystalline mountain waters over its window-sprinkled, mossy sides; all that movement and greenery makes you feel that Montaña Mágica is alive. After you have crossed the rope bridge (an adventure in itself for young ones) and have stepped into the lobby, the illusion continues where the boundaries of inside and outside are frequently confused. The activities on offer vary from the longest zip line in South America to year-round skiing and a spa for mum and dad; the surrounding jungle offers a wealth of adventures for the whole family. Little ones also have their own kids’ club in Magic Corner so they can also learn about this amazing environment.
Jumbo Stay Hostel, Sweden
If you prefer your planes grounded in Sweden (as opposed to in a tree in Costa Rica), you’ll love the novelty of Jumbo Stay Hostel at Stockholm’s Arlanda International Airport. No more the limited inches of leg room; here the modern revamp of Liv, the rechristened 1976 Boeing 747-212B jumbo, includes 76 comfy beds and – hallelujah – showers. With options from quad dorms (this is a hostel after all) to private rooms with bathrooms, as well as the covetable cockpit suite with airport panorama, Jumbo Stay welcomes everyone to its quirky accommodation vision, including families. Kids will love the idea of sleeping in a plane, and even the inflight canteen meals will seem like a novelty. The new left wing observation deck is also guaranteed to thrill. Jumbo Stay also has the added convenience of being close to the airport, so it’s a perfect choice for early-morning flights.
Giraffe Manor, Kenya
Animal-lovers of all ages won’t be able to resist the wonder that is Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, Kenya. Here in a 1930s colonial manor house surrounded by 56 hectares of forest sanctuary, guests are invited to interact with the hotel’s unconventional residents: eight Rothschild giraffes. These friendly animals love to ‘dine’ with the hotel visitors, taking breakfast in the same room courtesy of open windows and elegantly long necks, and gifting the occasional kiss (or lick) while they’re at it. The giraffes also come by during the evening, leaving guests plenty of time during the day to enjoy the surrounds. Giraffe Manor is also home to a museum dedicated to author Karen Blixen, and is close to Nairobi’s key attractions, including an elephant orphanage – which is always a delight for little ones – and excursions to the Ngong hills to visit with the legendary Masai tribe.
Iniala Beach House, Thailand
We've all heard of kids' clubs, but how about a kids' hotel? While mum and dad relax among the modern design of Phuket's mind-boggling Iniala Beach House (a place unusual in itself!), Asia's first hotel for kids is a secret retreat of caves and treehouses. Medieval styling meets cartoon fun with rocky battlements and lofty sleeping spaces decorated with painted shields, creating a place where the imagination can run wild with a dedicated staff always on hand. Designer Chris Jones designed the Island of Iniala to "entertain, amuse and engage" kids from four to 11 in a "land of adventure". Unlike a regular kids' club that hands the little ones back at the end of the day, Iniala's kids' hotel is a place where children can have a break of their own, eating, sleeping and playing together. Daily activities bring structure, but there is also a play area, a theatre and a climbing wall, as well as a dining room offering 'healthy choice' cuisine and enough space to sleep 12 adventurers.
Dog Bark Park Inn, Idaho
This quaint little B&B takes the concept of "dog lover" to a whole new level. If you have kids that can't get enough of their four-legged friends, or are seriously itching along the campaign trail to own their first puppy, then Dog Bark Park Inn is a perfect, unusual destination for you. From its nine-metre tall Trojan Beagle exterior (named "Sweet Willy") to its quirky dog-themed décor complete with bedding, wall hangings and literature - your family will think they've died and gone to puppy heaven (the nice kind, of course). They manage to pack plenty into the experience, with 26 carved dogs around the place, dog-shaped cookies to nibble, and a comfortable single room with queen size bed and a side room with two twin beds. This unique doghouse also incorporates a bath, microwave, air-conditioning, other creature comforts and, most importantly, complimentary breakfast!
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Dog Bark Park Inn
Seaventures Rig Resort, Malaysia
Welcome to the world’s first dive rig, north of Sipadan Island, Malaysia – one of the best diving destinations in the seven seas. If you and your family are keen divers (or would like to become keen divers), you’ll love the freedom offered by Seaventures Rig Resort, perched atop a former oil rig. The industrial setting, however, belies the comfortable rooms found within and general joie de vivre that makes Seaventures such a special destination. Kids aged five and over are welcome, and are entitled to a 50% discount if they won’t be diving, but children over the age of 10 are encouraged to get their diving qualifications and join the fun. The rig’s lift lowers guests directly into the diving area below the resort, making it easy for all levels to give it a go. Don’t leave without trying the famous Rig Jump – a thrilling plunge from the rig platform into the sea below – though it’s best the little ones give it a miss.
Controversy Tram & Train Hotel, Netherlands
All aboard this cosy choo-choo tram! All budding engine-buffs would certainly love to spend some time exploring this highly unique accommodation. From the remnants of two trams (previously functioning in Germany and Amsterdam) they've managed to create four apartment rooms - each with shower, toilet, TV and a basic mini-kitchenette. There is also a train complex, which features a boat as a bed, living room and even a Jacuzzi. Set in the small and beautiful village of Hoogwoud, you'll be able to settle down and learn to enjoy the quirks of these quarters that you certainly won't find anywhere else!