World's Weirdest Hotels 2011
Why book a Standard Double when you could sleep in an opal mine? Or bunk in the world's most luxurious oil rig? For the fourth year in a row, we present 10 hotels so strange they couldn't possibly be fiction.
What makes a hotel "weird"? Each year, we search for out-of-the-ordinary experiences that you can't find anywhere else in the world. "Weird" is our way of saying "one of a kind," and in this lighthearted survey, uniqueness sometimes trumps BT's typical price point of $150 per night. Our goal is to showcase special corners of the globe, where you can literally slumber Down Under in an Australian "opal mine" lodge or tuck yourself into a vintage plane's cockpit for a nightcap. If our annual roundup is evidence of anything, it's that even your wackiest dreams can come true!
Seaventures Rig Resort, Malaysia
An oil rig in the middle of the ocean isn't the first venue that comes to mind for a dive hotel. But that didn't stop the folks behind Seaventures Rig Resort from creating an immersive, ecofriendly experience like few others. Situated in the center of the coral triangle of three Malaysian islands, the bright blue-and-orange converted rig is built over a cultivated reef teeming with undersea life. Rooms are outfitted with the basics, but diving is the focus here: Days are spent inhabiting the underwater home to all forms of sea creatures, from cuttlefish and sea turtles to barracuda and eel. A lift lowers divers directly into the water below to explore the reef, which the rig now serves to protect. With just 23 rooms, the sundeck's never crowded, and spectators can come up anytime they'd like for 360-degree views of the surrounding islands. Come nightfall, there's a house band and outdoor BBQ. Any time an oil rig is helping a marine environment, we're on board. 011-60/88-261-669, seaventuresdive.com, two-night diving packages from $433.
Set in Harads near Sweden's Lule River, Treehotel puts a high-concept twist—as only Scandinavian design can—on the well-worn idea of a tree-house hotel. Fixed about 20 feet up in the trees of the Harads woods are five separate "rooms" that each offer distinct tree-house experiences. The Bird's Nest is exactly what it sounds like, with a wild twig exterior on grand scale. The Mirrorcube is a square unit that reflects its surroundings, doubling as a kind of forest camouflage. (Bird lovers, don't fret—it's covered in an infrared film that's visible to our feathered friends, to avoid crashes.) The UFO evokes a spinning spaceship from just about any '60s sci-fi movie. Each structure is only accessible by an individual ladder, staircase, or bridge, so to wander among them is to stroll the forest floor. While doing so, you'll also encounter the eight-person Tree Sauna, which includes a hot tub for soaking in after you've soaked up the great outdoors. 011-46/928-10403, treehotel.se, doubles from $590.
9 Hours, Japan
Sure, the capsule concept is far from new—the first one opened in Osaka in 1979 as a conveniently located base camp for business travelers. But Kyoto's 9 Hours hotel marries this original conceit of convenience—it is, after all, located in one of the main commercial centers of the city, a two-minute walk from the train station—with amenities you would expect from a four-star hotel (rain-forest showerheads, complimentary mineral water, pillows specially designed to ensure healthy posture during sleep). Awash in a Space Odyssey–style—white, with single-person sleeping quarters and technology designed to make sleep easier—9 Hours is like the iPod of hotels. Each capsule includes a computerized-lighting/alarm-clock system to facilitate sleeping and waking. Once inside, you might expect a soothing mist to put you into a time-traveling slumber, only to wake in the year 2057 wondering what happened to your crew. No such luck, as 9 Hours pays far too much attention to time: 9 Hours = 1 hour to shower (in the hotel's locker rooms), 7 hours to sleep, and 1 hour to prepare before leaving. Get it? Don't worry, though, the staff is not that literal—if you want to linger longer in the computer lounge or lobby, guests are allowed to spend up to 17 hours in a single stay. 011-81/075-353-9005, 9hours.jp, capsules from $63 per stay.
"Good" is god in Swedish—and we can't deny there's something heavenly about being tucked away in a forest along the shore of Lake Skärsjön. Imagine being led through the woods to a tall pile of grass and branches. There seems to be a stovepipe sticking out of the top of it, and on further examination, a door! Inside one of 12 primitive forest huts at Kolarbyn, you'll discover a rugged getaway from modern-day bustle (and a marked absence of Ikea furnishings). Candles and fireplaces provide the only night-lights, and guests cook their own meals over an open fire. After a night's sleep on the simple beds, the closest thing you find to an alarm clock will be the birds chirping in the morning. But Kolarbyn isn't completely without comforts: After a guided forest hike, you can take a wooden boat ride on the lake and finish with a cathartic sweat in the floating sauna. Ah, the god life. 011-46/70-400-7053, kolarbyn.se, doubles from $59.