Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Unique Accommodations Around the World

I love to travel and I am always looking for unique things to see and do and ways to save money so I can travel more. One of the things I have researched in my travel planning is unique places to stay. When most people think of accommodations, they think regular, run-of-mill hotels, motels, resorts, inns and bed and breakfasts. Not that there is anything wrong with these places, its just that I and many other travelers out there like to be a little more adventurous and prefer to stay in places that most people wouldn’t even know exist. I’ve come across a number of unique places to stay in my travels and in my trip research over the years and have compiled a list to share with other travelers.

10. Quebec City, Canada can get mighty cold in the dead of winter and the first thing anyone wants to do while visiting the city during those months is find a warm, cozy hotel and snuggle up next to a warm fire. Wrong. Many people actually seek out The Hotel de Glace or Ice Hotel as it is known in English and it is growing in popularity with people from all over the world making reservations during the four months of the year it is open. The hotel itself is made of ice that is, on average, four feet thick and even the furniture and dinnerware is made of ice. The hotel holds a nightclub, movie theater, heated washrooms and outdoor hot tubs.

9. Not many people think of taking a vacation somewhere colder than where they live but little do many people know, there is a thriving tourism industry in northern regions, particularly in northern Canada, and many travelers are choosing to go North for a unique travel experience rife with culture, spectacular scenery, the Northern Lights and snow. Staying in a hotel is always an option no matter where you travel but hotels are the same all over the world and are not a great way to experience a new place or culture. Many adventurous travelers to Northern regions prefer to stay in Igloos. The website offers information on booking an igloo for your stay and there is an entire Igloo Village in Iceland that is open to travelers looking for a unique place to stay. These igloos are comfortable and warm and allow visitors to get a taste of what daily life is like in these very cold, northern regions.

8. A lot of people who have never been to Costa Rica think that the images of tree houses in the rainforest is just a marketing ploy to get potential visitors thinking the place is like something out of The Pirates of the Caribbean. But in reality, tree houses are a common site in the country and not only do some people actually live in them, there is a tree house hotel in La Fortuna. The hotel has private tree houses on-site. Most of the amenities and services that are available at other hotels are available and each tree house has a full bathroom, air conditioning, refrigerator, safe and balcony. Tree house hotels are becoming increasingly popular around the world with similar properties located in Nicaragua, Sweden, Mexico, Australia, South Africa, France, Brazil, The United States and China.

7. Almost every child envisions what it would be like to stay in a castle and little do they and most adults know, Europe is home to most of the world’s castles and many of them are open to the public and available for overnight accommodations. Hotel de la Cite in France, Swinton Park in England, Schloss Hotel Igls in Austria, Ashford Castle in Ireland and Castel Parrona in Italy are just a few of the Castles one can stay in while traveling in Europe. Castles that have been transformed into hotels are also located in other parts of the world. If you are looking for a unique experience steeped in history and old-world charm, there is no better place to stay than in a centuries-old castle. However, if ghosts and things that go bump in the night are something you would rather avoid, than you are best to avoid staying in certain castles as many of them are said to be haunted by previous owners.

6. When some people think of camping, they think of family outings to a campground close to home where they pitch a tent and sing and roast marshmallows around a fire. Camping is not just a North American phenomenon; it’s a common activity everywhere and there are campgrounds all over the world. That being said, have you ever considered scrapping the idea of staying in a hotel and roughing it at a campground or in the backcountry of your destination? Camping is cheap, it’s widely available and most campgrounds have at least all the basic services needed to sustain a decent living on the road. Many campgrounds are located in rural, scenic areas on the outskirts of cities and towns and camping offers travelers a more local experience because it will be easier to meet local people and you will get a better feel for the place because you won’t be surrounded by tourists and touristy things that come with staying in hotels and resorts.

5. We spend our lives trying to stay out of jail but some tourists who travel to Ottawa, Canada, seek out the Ottawa Jail Hostel. Hostels are located all over the world and offer a unique experience in themselves but this hostel takes it a bit further. It actually was, at one time, an actual prison that now offers both dorm rooms and private rooms to budget-seeking travelers of all ages.

4. Native American history is interesting and it goes back further than any other recorded human history in North America. You can learn a lot by visiting museums and attending cultural events but the best way to immerse yourself in Native American culture is to stay in a teepee in an area populated by native Americans. Most of these accommodations are located in Western Canada but there are some located in areas of the United States as well. Staying in a teepee is a sure way to learn what the lives of pre-colonial natives were like and learn more about their intriguing story, past and present.

3. Lighthouses are becoming a rare sight in many coastal areas because they are no longer needed with all the new navigation technologies that are available. Many lighthouses are now being torn down or are falling apart from neglect but fortunately, many of them have been turned into accommodations for travelers seeking a unique place to stay. One thing that is guaranteed when staying in a lighthouse? You will always have a million dollar view of the ocean and surrounding coastline. The architecture is also unique and that is something that catches the attention of many people and you will experience what it must have been like for the lighthouse keepers of the past who spent most of their lives living in such accommodations as part of their job.

2. When all else fails and you still don’t want to resort to staying in a hotel or motel (whether it be for financial reasons or other reasons), you can always sleep in airports, train stations and ferry and bus terminals. I’ve slept in every airport I have ever been in and no one seemed to care. I’ve also slept in ferry, bus and train terminals but have come across some that frown upon the cheapskates who don’t want to pay for a hotel room! If you plan to try your luck at sleeping in one of these places, I will warn you that it takes some skill. These places can be noisy, cold and brightly lit. Make sure to have a blanket and pillow, some clean clothes to change into in the morning, some snacks and water for when the concessions close and some travel toiletries to wash up with in the bathroom sink because showers are rare in these places. Carefully select your sleeping area by choosing a place that will most likely be darker than other areas after hours. Stay away from windows because they tend to be cold and keep your belongings as close to you as possible at all times. The main bonus about sleeping in these places is you are always close to food and coffee, there is usually free Wifi throughout the building and there are tons of new people to meet that can make for some interesting conversation…or you may make a new friend or find the perfect travel buddy!

1. Couchsurfing is basically what it sounds like; sleeping on available couches in homes around the world. I know it sounds like something more suited to younger people are backpackers but this travel trend is becoming more and popular with all kinds of travelers of all ages. It’s a great way to meet new people and be immersed in a new culture and, often times, these local hosts will show you around and introduce you to places that are off the beaten track. There is no better way to see and do things that you normally wouldn’t have access to while embarking on a guided tour or staying at a resort.

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