Forget bowing to the algorithmic gods of your chosen hotel aggregator, I’m done with seeing accommodation as a purely practical purchase. It’s time for me to embrace the unique, the boutique, the traditional and, in some cases, simply the coolest places to stay.
Maybe it’s my frugal nature – I come from a part of rural West Wales teased for our reluctance to part with money – or maybe it comes from a mindset that sees booking flights and accommodation as the practical, stressful first step of planning a holiday – the fun stuff comes after, right? Well, I’m sick of penny-pinching hostels and snore-fest, copy and paste chain hotels that are very conveniently placed to explore the city, actually.
But why do so many of us treat the place we’ll spend half of our trip like an afterthought? Why can’t it be a treat, or even a key part of the itinerary? Budget, of course, is a major factor. Much of my travelling life has been done with limited disposable income, and I’d be the first to admit that my eyes can quite often have an appetite my wallet is unable to satisfy. So I understand the mentality of setting your bare-minimum standards and finding the cheapest option that fits those filters.
The high-end hotel world undoubtedly belongs to the mega-rich, but there are plenty of ways to inject some excitement into your holiday without blowing the budget on a room with a view. Even if luxury is the dream, there are ways to make five stars a reality. If staying at a fancy hotel is your desire, then why not choose your destination with that in mind? Paris and New York might require some compromise, but there are cheaper destinations that offer luxury accommodation for the price of a bog standard London hotel.
Me and my partner are heading to Krakow later this year, a decision heavily influenced by the quality of hotel we could book within budget. You can swap the eye-watering cities of Northern Italy with the far-more reasonable prices of Sicily (and play out your own White Lotus storyline as you go), for example. Asian cities like Ho Chi Minh, Siem Reap and Bangkok can offer great value for money, while cost-cutters should swap North America for the likes of Mexico City and Santa Ana in El Salvador.
But my desire to get inspired with accommodation is about more than spa treatments and posh restaurants. The place you stay should surely represent the place you’re in. There’s nothing more depressing than walking around a hotel that, if you blacked out the windows, could be absolutely anywhere on Earth.
There’s a real romance to the idea of staying in traditional lodgings. A night in an authentic ryokan (an old-fashioned Japanese inn) is high on my bucket list, as are the adorable Trulli houses of Puglia in Italy, and any Berber-style desert camp for a night under the stars. I can say with confidence that any visitor to the UK can expect no experience more British than that of a night in a cosy independent countryside B&B.
Then there are the accommodations that are designed to make the most of the surrounding area’s beauty. Glamping pods have become almost eye-rollingly trendy, but I would love to be kept up all night gazing at the Northern Lights in Scandinavia. If you’re in Iceland, a volcanic landscape with naturally occurring geothermal hot springs and baths, why wouldn’t you stay somewhere that takes advantage of this glorious bounty? The same can be said for the jungle hot springs of Costa Rica – eco-lodges are everywhere there, so you can sleep in a treehouse, immersing yourself in the area’s incredible biodiversity.
All of these variations showcase what makes the place you’re visiting special. They tell a story, reflect local communities, giving you a taste of what it’s like to be a local. They can transport you to a time when only real adventurers ended up in these nooks and crannies, when travellers really were weary, and didn’t expect a familiar brand with familiar breakfast and an array of incredibly multilingual hosts.
Although, to be honest, unique accommodation doesn’t have to be super culturally relevant to catch my attention now. Thanks to Culture Trip’s brand new Rail Trips I’ve recently become obsessed with the idea of spending a night on a sleeper train. Isn’t the thought of nodding off in A and waking up in B as thrilling as it is efficient?
If I’m being totally honest I have to admit that, as well as binging both seasons of The White Lotus, our own trips have without a doubt inspired my latest travel philosophy. Our trips are all about immersing you in the local culture of wherever you end up. This isn’t only done through activities, culinary exploits and the insight of our Local Insiders. Our Travel Experts put a lot of work into securing the right places to stay, with almost every itinerary featuring at least one culturally relevant or totally unique accommodation experience. Here are some of our favourites.
Stay in limestone cave dwellings within the cliffside town of Matera in Seductive Southern Italy
Camp among giant tortoises as you Go Wild in the Galapagos
Cruise down the Nile and experience Nubian hospitality on Ultimate Egypt
Spend the night in a floating raft house on Sublime Southern Thailand
Enjoy traditional tatami rooms and a steaming outdoor onsen at a ryokan as you explore Japan by Train
Desert camp under the rocky canyon stars as you Discover Jordan, or try out Bedouin-style luxury tents in Myriad Morocco
Stay in a volcanic hot springs lodge, a cloud forest eco-lodge and a beach resort in The Real Costa Rica
Doze off somewhere between London and Scotland, waking up in the Highlands on our Scottish Rail Trip
Unwind with three nights of tropical island accommodation in Blissful Bali
Stay onboard a premium Catamaran on our Sailing Trips in Greece, the Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands
Experience luxury living within a cave in Cappadocia on our Majestic Turkey trip
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.