Discover the 15 most unique hotels in the world

We hold a lot of love for the Waldorfs and the Four Seasons of the world, but it’s the weird and wonderful lodgings we’ve stayed at that wind their way into our most perfect memories. Whether waking up in the jungle to the sound of howler monkeys or coming out of the shower to find a curious giraffe at our window, sometimes it’s the small quirks that have us raving to our lucky friends for months after. Sleep on a bed of ice, or dangle from the treetops in a glass ball, whatever you do, the hotels below will ensure you do it in upmost style. Without further ado, we bring you the 15 most unique hotels around the world.

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UnderWater | Photo: Manta Resort, Zanzibar

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Benefiting from all the wonders of laid-back island life, Manta Resort comes at one with the local habitat, providing an eco-friendly sanctuary amongst a whole host of marine and mammal life

1. Treehotel, Sweden

As the name might suggest, Treehotel lies way up in the pristine forest canopy in Sweden’s Lule River Valley region. Bringing back memories of your childhood treehouse, Treehotel consists of just seven living pods suspended 20 feet from the forest floor, accessible via ladder, bridge or electric stairs. All look different; one is designed to resemble a bird’s nest, another a UFO and another a ‘Mirrorcube’ that reflects the enchanting wood scenery. Eco friendly and well-designed, Treehotel is a ton more fun and convenient than camping, allowing guests to rid themselves of their everyday stresses with a deep steam in the Swedish sauna. As well as offering myriad daily activities, including hiking along the Lule River, mountain biking and dog-sledging, by night (not easily distinguished from day in the summer months) visitors can join guided tours to view the aurora borealis after dining out at the village of Harads.

Treehotel, Sweden | Photo: Peter Schulz

2. Giraffe Manor, Kenya

The aforementioned giraffes really do come within petting distance of your suite’s window here at Giraffe Manor. Based in a 1930s stately mansion built for elite safari-loving Europeans, Giraffe Manor remains as the place to stay within the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. There are just 12 rooms at the manor, each of which offers unique views over 12 acres of privately owned land, all within a wider 140-acre preserve of indigenous forest where endangered Rothschild’s giraffes roam. As well as intimate interactions with giraffes from the property, the manor also boasts proximity to the city and a number of famed safari parks. Discover how to make the most of your time in the nation with our 10 days Kenya itinerary.

Giraffe Manor, Kenya | Photo: Jason Zhao

3. The Muraka, Maldives

An unlikely offshoot of the supremely popular Conrad Maldives Rangali Island resort, The Muraka can’t be seen from the shore. Instead, journey to a world below the waves to find a mesmerising underwater residence 16-feet below sea level that features domed glass walls with a front-row view of Maldives’ marine life. Bringing a whole new meaning to sleeping with the fishes, The Muraka won’t be forgotten in a hurry. What’s more is that the residence is also the height of luxury, at no less than $40,000USD per night, you’ll of course be granted a 24-hour butler and private chef, as well as a private speedboat or seaplane concierge service to whisk you off to wherever you need. If you fancy working out in the face of sharks, call your own personal trainer, or simply go up deck to view pinnacle Maldives sunsets from the infinity-edge pool. Choose one of four travel itineraries curated by the hotel, including ‘The Wanderers’ for culture buffs, ‘The Flavors’ for foodies, ‘The Soul’ for wellness gurus and ‘The Thrill’ for adventurers. Discover what else you could get up to with our gay travel guide to the Maldives.

Maldives | Photo: Nattu Adnan

Photo: Ishan Seefromthesky

4. The Villa Casa Casuarina, Florida

Catching a breather on Miami Beach, we arrive at Villa Casa Casuarina, also known as Versace Mansion, for reasons that will become apparent. Built in the 1930s, the villa holds renown as the former property of Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace who was gunned down on the mansion’s front staircase back in 1997. Today the villa stands as a testament to time, refurbished a number of times and serving as a TV set before becoming the luxury boutique hotel it is today. Despite its dark past, Villa Casa Casuarina maintains lofty elegance across its 10 custom suites, each of which come carved in marble and complete with private balconies or patios. Covering 19,000-square-foot of ornate frescoes and elaborately furnished living rooms, the villa is never boring, but there’s also much beyond the mansion, including South Beach’s finest restaurants, shops and entertainment just moments away.

Villa Casa Casuarina | Photo: Pedro Sostre

5. Hotel Palacio de Sal, Bolivia

Something salty yet regal in Bolivia meanwhile comes by way of Hotel Palacio de Sal, a luxury hotel built from salt right in the heart of the Bolivian Desert. Though it sounds crazy, the 48,500-square-foot hotel is made almost entirely from salt gathered from Salar de Uyuni salt flats, to create thirty simple yet stylish rooms decorated with salt sculptures and wooden flooring, plus windows with panoramas over the stark desert flats. Dine at the in-house restaurant for specialities of salt chicken and llama, digesting a while before trying the full-service spa. While at night the starry skies become the main attraction, the in-house tour operator can also arrange trips across the flats to see other attractions. See our ultimate Bolivia itinerary for more from gay La Paz, Cochabamba and beyond.

Photo: Kachi Lodge, Bolivia

6. Kachi Lodge, Bolivia

A second unusual hotel from Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni region, Kachi Lodge melds five-star luxury with a desert camping experience. Looking like something designed by NASA, Kachi Lodge features a series of domed tents, each futuristic on the outside to offer protection from the high altitude and cold nights, while also celebrating Bolivian indigenous influences with wooden design pieces inside. Don’t be put off by the term ‘camping’ because Kachi Lodge has all you could ever need, using solar energy to provide heated showers and warm rooms centred by super comfy beds. As well as cacti-strewn desert views, the lodge is in close range of colourful lakes and volcanos, with alpacas, llamas and even flamingos for neighbours. When hungry, join the other guests on the wooden deck for gourmet award-winning dishes from La Paz restaurant, Gustu, looking to the night sky for out-of-this-world starscapes.

Photo: Kachi Lodge, Bolivia

Photo: Kachi Lodge

7. Snowhotel Kirkenes, Norway

One of the more extreme options in our rundown of interesting hotels, Norway’s Snowhotel Kirkenes will have you sleeping within snow- and ice-carved rooms kept at steady temperatures of -4°C. Fret not however because the hotel’s 20 Arctic-inspired chambers all come kitted out with the finest of thermal sleeping bags and even insulated mattresses to ensure you’ll sleep through the night soundly without freezing. Before bedding down, warm up with a cool drink at the ice bar or head to the sauna to rid the chill from your bones. Gladly, there’s much to do during the day to keep your heartrate up, including Northern Lights tours, King Crab safaris, snow-shoeing and snow-sledging with huskies leading the way! Bear in mind the Snowhotel Kirkenes is only open from December until late April, less than a kilometre from Bøkfjord. Uncover more of the nation with our list of things to do in Norway.

Snowhotel Kirkenes | Photo: Michelle Raponi

8. Hotel Marqués de Riscal, Spain

For something that little bit warmer, we head next to the Hotel Marqués de Riscal in the medieval town of Elciego, Spain. Seeing sunshine all year round, the Álave province is never a bad shout, but it is this Frank Gehry-designed hotel that has us all a fluster. Built in 2006 with quirky zigzag windows, lofty ceilings and bespoke furniture, Hotel Marqués de Riscal is a Gehry calling card in the heart of the historic Basque country. While outside old-world Spain lays on top gastronomic experiences of local Riojas and fresh produce, inside avant-garde luxury awaits, with the 1860 Tradición Restaurant putting an artsy spin on classic northern dishes. As well as black marble bathrooms and the Vinothérapie Spa to get some much needed R&R, the rooftop library lounge or a choice of eight terraces are all choice settings for panoramic landscapes and wine tasting.

Hotel Marqués de Riscal, Spain | Photo: Jun Lee

9. Manta Resort, Pemba Island, Zanzibar

Named after the rays which patrol the surrounding reefs, Manta Resort is a Zanzibar special, based on the remote Pemba Island. Benefiting from all the wonders of laid-back island life, Manta Resort comes at one with the local habitat, providing an eco-friendly sanctuary amongst a whole host of marine and mammal life. If that doesn’t wow you then the Underwater Room surely will, allowing for lucky guests the chance to view reef fish, octopi and rays from their bedroom window. Whichever room you stay in, there will be plenty of opportunities for diving and snorkelling within the island’s ‘blue hole’ conservation area, coming to the surface for kayaking, safari excursions and stargazing by night. Otherwise, sunbathing by the lounge deck is also recommended, breaking for cocktails and spa treatments at will. Discover the full majesty of Freddy Mercury’s birthplace with our gay Zanzibar guide.

Photo: Manta Resort

Photo: Manta Resort

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The Golden Crown’s unique glass igloos, serving miniature homes for visitors to view the Northern Lights without ever having to leave the warmth of their bed

10. Golden Crown Levin Iglut, Levi, Finland

Another unique hotel hailing from Northern Europe is the Golden Crown Levin Iglut in Levi, Finland. The calling card isn’t just its ultimate views of the Northern Lights, nor is it that Finnish Lapland is the real home of Santa, but rather it’s the Golden Crown’s unique glass igloos, serving miniature homes for visitors to view the aurora without ever having to leave the warmth of their bed (or, in some cases, hot tub!). Though small, the igloos have everything you could need, including a stocked kitchenette, a bathtub and adjustable double bed. The resort also has its own Scandinavian Restaurant, Aurora Sky, split across two levels – the upper for sky gazing and the lower for cosy fireplace conversation. Other than that, the Levi Ski Resort and town lie just 9 kilometres away for fun on the pistes followed by lively Après Ski. If Golden Crown comes fully booked on your dates check out another in the region by the name of Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort for more frosty vibes.

Photo: Golden Crown Levin Iglut

Northern lights | Photo: Golden Crown Levin Iglut

11. Icehotel, Sweden

Sticking to colder temps for the minute, we can’t help but return to Sweden to find Icehotel in the small village of Jukkasjärvi 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle. Remodelled every year in advance of winter guests, Icehotel features rooms made entirely of sculpted ice chiselled from the nearby Torne River. Sleep on an ice bed covered in reindeer hides, or opt for the warm rooms which feature full bathroom facilities and flat-screen TVs. Regardless of the number on the thermostat, Icehotel is a true work of art, showcasing sculptures throughout its ice church, ice bar and pillar hall. Learn how to craft your own icy works in the sculpting studio, or take part in other daily activities including river rafting, reindeer sledging and snowmobile tours. While winter guests can often experience the northern lights, summer guests will have the strange opportunity to see midnight sun and tackle lengthier hikes.

Photo: IceHotel

Photo: IceHotel

12. Kokopelli’s Cave, Farmington, New Mexico

If walls of ice don’t cut it for you, how about cave walls carved by Native Americans of centuries past? This is what you’ll find at Kokopelli’s Cave, a remote bed & breakfast in the Alamo sandstone cliffs above the La Plata River Valley. Pack lightly to descend the steep stairs from the mesa top to find a vast man-made cavern now outfitted in modern décor, complete with jacuzzi, waterfall shower, full kitchen and a replica kiva with fireplace. As for the bedrooms, all branch off from the central pillar and come fitted with balconies that overlook the desert valley below. The sunsets here will also take your breath away highlighting the ‘Four Corners’ of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado in orange hues. To see the four states’ attractions up close, arrange day trips to Chaco Canyon, the Mesa Verde National parks or Navajo Nation.

Photo: Golden Crown Levin Iglut

13. Free Spirit Spheres, Canada

If you thought your accommodation couldn’t get weirder, then Free Spirit Spheres on Vancouver Island, Canada, will cause you to think again. This time you’ll be staying in a floating ball hung from the coastal rainforest canopy, getting lulled asleep by the sway of the trees and the sounds of nocturnal wildlife surrounding. Each of the three eggs (with an additional two in construction) come made of cedar and spruce with electric facilities and large round windows for viewing the action among the trees. A unique spin on the ‘glamping’ trend, Free Spirit Spheres is a top choice for nature lodgings, while enjoying outdoor activities such as caving and ziplining within the forest, or kayaking and SUP on Pacific shores can enrich your waking hours.

Free Spirit Sphere | Photo: Kerry Maguire

14. Finn Lough Resort, Northern Ireland

Returning to our Irish roots, there are more pod stays to be had in the woods at Finn Lough Resort in Northern Ireland. The selection of bubble domes at Finn Lough come set within the forest and offer uninterrupted 180° views of both wilderness and stars from the comfort of its lavish four poster beds. Besides retreating into your bubble, guests at Finn Lough can take advantage of the private relaxation spa, seasonal restaurant and vintage theatre room, before convening on the fireplace for a cocktail or hot chocolate come nightfall. By day, the vast grounds of the family-run estate are also worthy of exploring, located just a mile from the Donegal border and surrounded by the Lough Erne lakes, and as you can expect, there’s much in the way of hiking, fishing and cycling to be had.

15. Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita, Italy

Lastly, we settle in the caves of Matera, southern Italy, like the humans of 9,000 years past, to stay at the carved hotel residence of Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita. Despite offering all the modern amenities, the old aesthetic lives on across 18 rooms which feature antique accents and cave art décor. Authentic with a capital A, Sextantio lies within a series of UNESCO-listed caves and features centuries-old archways once lost among rubble. After ten years of renovation, the grotto was at last ready, now featuring candlelit alcoves, communal areas and balcony rooms, with a focus on sustainability. Enjoy a traditional meal in The Tasting Room within the ancient rock-carved church, venturing out by day to experience the nearby wonders of southern Italy’s lakes, national parks and forests.

Photo: Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita

Photo: Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita

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Photo: Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita

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