The Strangest Hotels in the World

 Hotels like the Treehotel in Sweden will guarantee an unforgettable stay
Hotels like the Treehotel in Sweden will guarantee an unforgettable stay | © Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Cassam Looch
Editorial Manager5 August 2021

For an unforgettable holiday – and a talking point on return – these truly bizarre hotels (all bookable on Culture Trip) set the gold standard.

Hotels can make or break a trip. Find the right one and you’ll be relaxing before you know it. Take a wrong turn and it’s eyebrow-raising anecdotes for years to come. Luckily, that won’t be an issue at these above-and-beyond hotels, which rip up the rulebook and do things their own way.

Icehotel, Sweden

Ice Hotel, Jukkasjarvi, in northern Sweden.
© Oliver Dixon / Alamy Stock Photo
The concept of a hotel made of ice is more than 30 years old. But the best and most original is in Swedish Lapland. What makes Icehotel the best of the lot is the fact it undergoes a drastic redesign every off-season (well, it melts every spring) so you never really know what to expect when you book. The suites are individually themed, too, so all you need to do is remember to pack your thermals.

Hotel Palacio de Sal, Bolivia

Salt hotel for tourists in the middle of the salt flat Salar de Uyuni, Altiplano in Bolivia
© Arterra Picture Library / Alamy Stock Photo
In the other-worldly Salar de Uyuni, this incredible structure is made entirely of… salt. That’s right, the largest salt flat in the world is also home to the first (and apparently only) hotel made of salt. In 1998, Don Juan Quesada Valda decided he was going to build a hotel that helped guests find the perfect balance between nature and comfort. Today, the Palacio de Sal is not only popular with tourists but also with film crews who’ve used the hotel as a backdrop.

Hotel on skis: Wilderness Camp, Finland

Hotel, Camping, Ski Chalet

Kilpisjärvi is one of the best places in Finland to glimpse the Northern Lights and Wilderness Camp has come up with an ingenious solution that means you keep all the creature comforts while placing yourself front and centre to take in the natural phenomenon. This mobile home on skis can be positioned anywhere in the Finnish tundra and also features a glass roof, which means you can constantly look into the wilderness.

Hotel Costa Verde, Costa Rica

Boeing 727 room at the Hotel Costa Verde, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
© Stuart Pearce / Alamy Stock Photo

This Central American hotel deserves to be on the list just for its cheeky slogan, “Still more monkeys than people…” But its lavish suite is what marks this place to stay as truly strange. The 727 Fuselage Home is a two-bedroom suite fashioned out of a plane, perched in a seemingly precarious spot in the rainforest. In reality, it’s all perfectly safe, but the visual impact is breathtaking. You get all the mod cons, plus toucans and monkeys as neighbours.

Treehotel, Sweden

Sweden, Lapland, Norrbotten County, Harads, Treehotel, Cabine hut
© Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo
There’s something in the Scandinavian air as we head back to Sweden for the exquisite Treehotel complex. In fact, we are quite literally climbing into the Scandinavian air for these elevated rooms built into the tall pine trees of Harads. The best-known room is the Mirrorcube, which reflects the sylvan setting. We’re also fans of the Bird’s Nest, which knits into the surrounding treetops. Better still, why not stay for a week and pick a new room for every night?

The Manta Resort, Tanzania

Resort, Hotel
In the Tanzanian archipelago of Zanzibar, Pemba Island is home to sandy beaches where you’ll be able to look out into the ocean and find a hotel room that defies all expectations. The three-storey Underwater Room at the Manta Resort has a roof terrace, ground-floor level and, obviously, a room submerged beneath the waves. The underwater bedroom offers a 360-degree view, enhanced by the arrival of passing marine life.

Quinta Real Zacatecas, Mexico

The Quinta Real Zacatecas is a Spanish-colonial-style hotel
© Karina Tkach / Alamy Stock Photo

Built around a 19th-century bullring – where fighting is thankfully a thing of the past – this modern hotel now has luxury rooms that overlook the central arena and a bar constructed in the old animal pens. The sumptuous setting is close to the historical part of the Mexican city of Zacatecas, but you’ll be hard pressed to find any reason to leave the hotel itself. When the exterior is lit up just before sunset, it looks as commanding as the matadors who once stood here.

These recommendations were updated on August 5, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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