Tourist accommodation is big business worldwide. Switch on the computer or turn on the TV, and you are bound to find advertisements for the “best hotels.” Most people look for fairly standard options—comfort, good Wi-Fi, breakfast, and maybe a pool or spa.
However, in the quest to secure the tourist dollar, accommodation operators around the world have come up with some unique and imaginative hotel ideas. Some are only for the adventurous, while others cater to children and kids-at-heart. From fantasy designs such as a UFO, a sandcastle, and even an oversized beagle to a night in a volcano or even a toadstool, there are now some truly unique hotels across the globe.
Here are ten unusual and quirky hotels to spark your imagination.
Many of us like to curl up with a good book in bed before drifting off to sleep. However, in Tokyo, book lovers can actually sleep for the night in a bookshelf.
The first “Book and Bed” opened in Ikebukuro in 2015 to provide a quiet and unusual accommodation option. The concept of crawling into a bookshelf for the night became so popular that the hostels are now available in six locations across Japan. They provide a huge collection of books for guests to choose from before climbing into their “shelf” to read for the night.
The private bunks are surrounded by plywood bookshelves, with very basic bedding provided. The largest of the cubbyholes are just 1.8 by 1.2 meters (6 ft x 4 ft), so you will certainly be “curling up” with your book for the night.
Fancy falling asleep in the middle of a mythical fairy ring? A hotel in Sweden houses its guests in fantasy toadstools and tree stumps. The Norrqvarn Hotel by the Gota Canal looks fairly unconventional at first glance. It also provides a couple of quirky cabins for a very unusual stay.
A chainsaw artist crafted rooms fit for a troll out of wood, concrete, and plywood within the grounds of the old mill. Red and white spotted mushrooms or gnarly tree stumps provide alternative guest accommodations by the canal. The cabins look like something straight out of a children’s storybook.
Inside, the cabins make for fairly comfortable rooms, which, surprisingly, can sleep up to four people. Given the cold Swedish winters, this might be one unique accommodation experience best reserved for the warmer summer months.
Looking to combine your hotel stay with a little adrenaline-filled activity? Amsterdam hotel guests can book a room in a disused crane in the city’s old industrial center as well as take in a spot of bungee-jumping from the top.
The 45-meter-high (148 ft) crane in Amsterdam-Noord has been converted into three boutique hotel suites, and the top of the crane features a Jacuzzi and a bungee-jumping platform. Entry to the suites is via a glass elevator. Just don’t look down.
Despite the very industrial beginnings of the hotel, it does now boast “high-end luxury.” The crane does tend to sway in the wind, though. Guests are even able to operate the crane in order to swing it around for a better view over the city.
Initially, the Hang Nga Guesthouse in Da Lat, Vietnam, may look more like something out of a nightmare. Inside, it is designed to resemble something out of Alice in Wonderland and other children’s stories. There are no straight lines, and the curvy internal layout looks like something out of an Escher drawing.
The Crazy House, as it is known to the locals, was designed by a Vietnamese architect who created a somewhat surrealistic guesthouse resembling a large, gnarled tree from the outside. Inside, the house resembles a forest, with spiral staircases and bridges connecting the various levels, in a virtual maze of rooms and garden walkways. As you explore the tunneled hallways, you will find toadstools, spiderwebs, and even eagles throughout the ten themed guest rooms. There would certainly be no shortage of things to dream about.
You could be forgiven for thinking a serviced apartment complex outside Christchurch, New Zealand, was actually a grain storage depot—not really somewhere you would think of staying for the night. However, the shiny, round, silver silos have actually been repurposed to provide a unique accommodation experience.
From the outside, the nine grain silos look like unlikely accommodation. But they have actually been converted to provide award-winning eco-friendly accommodation. Guests enjoy a living area including a kitchen on the ground floor, with a bedroom and bathroom on the upper level. The hatch of the silo opens to provide a starry view from bed, as well as an effective cooling system in the warmer months.
Science fiction and space enthusiasts might enjoy the opportunity to spend the night in a UFO. A number of UFO-themed hotels have appeared around the world to cater to sci-fi fans or guests just looking for something a little different.
A Welsh couple purchased a container from the London Olympics, which they renovated to provide a UFO-styled Airbnb. The “Spodonic’s” decor includes space suits and LED lighting to set the extraterrestrial theme inside the UFO-shaped accommodation.
A similar UFO option is available in a Swedish themed hotel, which also offers guests the opportunity to sleep in a bird’s nest or a giant bauble swinging from a tree. A Chinese “UFOtel” gives guests the opportunity to enjoy underwater views in their partially submerged UFO.
For those not adverse to swinging in the air for the night, a tree pod may be an attractive accommodation option. The Lost Meadow Tree Pods in Cornwall, UK, are bauble-like rooms hoisted three meters (10 ft) into the air.
The tree tents are halfway between “glamping” and hotel. While you have a conventional bed to sleep on, kitchen and bathroom facilities are located on the ground below. The tree tents’ construction is based on the designs of early airships. Guests climb a narrow staircase to their rooms, which contain a bed and a wood burner to keep the cold at bay.
A part of the wall can be lifted back to enjoy views over the forest or enjoy the sunrise with your neighboring wildlife. You will, however, need to come out of your pod to spend a penny or make the morning coffee in the communal kitchen.
We’re all familiar with the term “sleeping in the doghouse,” but a US bed-and-breakfast gives a whole new meaning to the phrase. In Central Idaho, dog lovers can enjoy the novelty of sleeping inside a giant beagle.
The two-story beagle-shaped building is known affectionately as “Sweet Willy” to the locals. A wood-carving couple specializing in dog carvings eventually extended their passion to create a unique dog-themed accommodation.
Operating as an Airbnb, the guesthouse has a very dog-themed decor, right down to the bone-shaped biscuits you are served. The top floor of the building allows you to take in the views across the area from Willy’s snout.
Deep in the Chilean rainforests, you might not be surprised to come across the odd volcano. However, tourists looking for a Hobbit-like experience can try staying in a vine-covered mountain. Complete with a waterspout simulating a volcanic eruption, Chile’s Montana Magica Lodge is located in a remote nature reserve.
The conical hotel may seem authentic but is man-made, complete with vegetation planted down the walls of the building. Tiny, gabled windows peek out from the guest rooms between the natural foliage. Amenities include hot tubs carved out of tree stumps and a golf course through the surrounding rainforest.
You almost expect a hobbit or a woodland elf to jump out and greet you on arrival. Guests must navigate a swinging rope bridge to access the rainforest hotel. Hopefully, there isn’t a mythical troll at one end of the bridge.
As children, many of us may have dreamed of living in the sandcastles we built on the beach during our summer vacations. In the Netherlands, it is possible to book one of two specially crafted sandcastles for your night’s stay. The temporary sandcastles were originally built in 2015 as part of an annual sandcastle-making festival in the inland towns of Oss and Sneek. Curiously, neither town is anywhere near the sea.
Zandhotel sculptors rebuild the elaborate sandcastles each summer, allowing guests to stay in rooms made entirely from sand. The sandcastles are complete with elaborate turrets and moats. The walls and ceilings have been treated to prevent crumbling, and the rooms are adorned with sand sculptures. The sandy floors are covered with rugs, so there is no need to take sandy feet to bed with you at night.
Lesley Connor is a retired Australian newspaper editor, who provides stories for online publications and her travel blog.