Sure, the top suite at a hotel is glamorous. But it still has four walls and a ceiling, just like every other room you’ve stayed in, right? Unless you’re watching fish and rays swim by in one of the underwater suites at Atlantis the Palm in Dubai or the Underwater Room at Manta Resort on Tanzania’s Pemba Island, that is. Maybe you have a pretty state-of-the-art aquarium at home and that’s still a little too domestic for you. No worries, there are plenty of unique accommodations that can take you out of your comfort zone while still making you feel warm and cozy.
An inflatable bubble
Iceland’s Bubble bills itself as a “5 million star hotel” and is a perfect spot for viewing the Northern Lights. Most bubbles are fully transparent, but privacy is not a problem, as trees separate each from bubble from the next. The hotel doesn’t even tell you where it’s located until you book, so there aren’t a lot of gawkers milling around. The bubbles are temperature controlled and wired for electricity, with bathroom, shower and dining facilities in the service house. In winter, the bubbles make for a personal IMAX theater with the Aurora Borealis playing often. In summer, you can enjoy outdoor activities late into the night and see the last rays of the midnight sun fade away. Virtuoso-preferred destination management company Iceland Encounter can help with the arrangements and help you select which bubble is right for you.
Virtuoso-preferred tour operator Remote Lands has a special relationship with Three Camel Lodge in Mongolia, where the guest rooms are 30 yurts, or gers, covered with felt and canvas with wood-burning stoves supplying the warmth. The lodge also utilizes solar and wind energy with an eye toward environmental and cultural sustainability. One of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World, Three Camels is a great base for excavating dinosaur fossils under the tutelage of a paleontologist or camel-trekking through the Gobi Desert. The meals are traditional and served in an over-sized ger, and in the Dino House lounge, you can learn Mongolia’s favorite game: shagai (played with the ankle bones of sheep and goats) while enjoying a drink from the Thirsty Camel bar.
A cliffside pod
The mountaintop view overlooking Peru’s Sacred Valley and Urubamba River is one you won’t forget. Especially if you spend the night in a pod hanging over a cliff, gazing up at the stars and down at the heartland of the Inca Empire, experiencing the sort of connection the Incas had with the heavens. Booking your place at Skylodge through Virtuoso-preferred Metropolitan Touring is easy. Getting to your room is more of an adventure. Guests climb about 1,300 feet of Via Ferrata (metal handholds and footholds in the rock face) or do a combination of hiking and ziplining to reach the pods. Once you’re there, a gourmet dinner with wine awaits as your reward. Pods contain a bed and sitting, and, yes, there is a separate bathroom.
“The ultimate bush bedrooms,” the treehouses at Virtuoso-preferred Lion Sands private game reserve will bring the sights and sounds of the South African wilds into your living quarters. You arrive at sunset to a gourmet picnic and observe as the diurnal wildlife scampers off to sleep and the nocturnal animals take over. A field guide drops you off and offers a tutorial on what to expect, and remains on call should things go bump in the night. Among the sounds you’re likely to hear are hippos honking, lions roaring, leopards calling and hyenas cackling. With three locations (Chalkley Treehouse in the Sabi Sand, Kingston Treehouse in the Sabi Sand and Tinyeleti Treehouse in Kruger National Park), there are distinct options for couples and families, with a varying range of amenities depending on how much you want to rough it.
An ice hotel
About 125 miles inside the Arctic Circle stands the small village of Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, once frequented only by the reindeer-herding Sami people and those trading furs with them. Since 1989, though, it has been home to Icehotel. Not all the rooms are made of ice, and the hotel actually recommends that you spend most of your nights in a “warm room.” But the real attraction are the “cold rooms,” which are rebuilt every year once the weather is right. It’s a good idea to spend either your first or last night in a cold room, where temperatures can be as low as 23 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll need to bring your own long johns, but Icehotel supplies outer clothes and thermal sleeping bags that are warm enough for temperatures between 10-15 degrees below 0 Fahrenheit (it won’t get that cold). Hot lingonberry tea and trips to the sauna are also provided so you can snuggle in. Virtuoso-preferred tour operator 50 Degrees North has activity packages available to fill your days, and Icebar is open until 12 a.m. for a nightcap.