Forget the five star luxury rooms with their overpriced mini bars and boring, standard issue art on the walls – where’s the fun in that? There are far better, and more unique, places to spend the night. Not all of these options listed below mean giving up a proper bed and running water either; from glamping to luxury cabins, these places are comfortable, interesting and unique spots to lay your head.
Medieval castle, Europe
Okay, so the current reincarnation of Castle Clontarf dates from the 19th century, and the insides are (thankfully!) modernised with central heating and insulation, but historical records note that there has been a castle on this site in Dublin since the 12th century. There are stately turrets, and stone lions and yes, suits of armour in the hallways, and on wintry nights a crackling fire roars in the giant hearth. The rooms are all tastefully appointed, with all the amenities you might want in the 21st century – feather duvets, plasma tvs, telephones and internet.
There’s nothing quite like going to sleep watching some bush telly, the billy swaying in a slight breeze, your belly filled with tucker, and you, warm and snug in your swag after a hard day’s yakka. Translation: bush camping in Australia’s Red Heart, watching the sunrise over Uluru, falling asleep by the fire and watching the Southern Cross twirl above you, is magic. The only sounds are of the wind and the crackle of the campfire, and the only thing you have to worry about, safe and far away from civilisation, is how many dingos you wake up to in the morning, huddled around the fire for warmth.
Surrounded by water
Falling asleep on a yacht in calm seas is a meditative, calming experience. There’s the lull and lap of water across the bow of the boat, the give and sway of the vessel in the breeze, the creak of pulleys and rope and above it all, that fresh scent of sea spray and space. Whether it’s on a multi-country cruise, a sailing ship or a motorboat, a night away from land can give you a new perspective on things, especially when the night is clear and the stars are out.
If, however, being above it all doesn’t suit you, you’re not claustrophic and you’d rather be down where the action is, an underwater hotel like Jules’ Underwater Lodge should tick all the boxes. The first of its kind when it first started in the 70s, the lodge is a former underwater research facility and lab. It’s filled with compressed air and sleeps two. For luxury, you’ll have to wait for it to be completed before booking into a room at the Poseidon Undersea Resort in Fiji – they’re building the largest underwater hotel in the world there. Not sure how the fish feel about it.
Sami tent, Scandinavia
A lavvu is a traditional Sami tent. Made from a few forked poles and layers of reindeer hide, these structures were used by the nomadic Sami as temporary shelters. They are very similar in shape to Native American tipis. We slept on a thick layer of reindeer skins, which provided some warmth from the cold ground, next to an open fire. Smoke escaped through the opening in the top of the lavvu, while the cold crept in between the stakes. We used sleeping bags and snow suits to ward off the winter chill, and bar having to pile wood on the fire every hour, managed to survive the night.
On the subject of cold… if the idea of camping out in the Scandinavian winter doesn’t chill you to the bone, a night’s stay in the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, will. The oldest of them all, the Ice Hotel offers guests beds carved from ice and topped by reindeer skins, as well as thermal sleeping bags, which you will need! The hotel melts away in the summer and is carved anew each winter, which ensures that its structure is never the same year on year. Inside, ice sculptors fill the hallways with glittering, transparent art. Rooms are available from December to April.