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.
Madonna Inn Resort & Spa, California
The name predates the pop icon, but something tells us Madge would approve of this landmark motel. Situated in the California coastal town of San Luis Obispo, the Madonna Inn is a living shrine to retro kitsch. "Anybody can build one room and a thousand like it," says Jack Madonna, son of owner Phyllis. "I try to give people more than they pay for." With 110 individual theme rooms, this may be an understatement. The Country Gentleman, outfitted with gauche brown-leather sofas, portrays a circa-1960s suburban living room. The Caveman Room and Rock Bottom share a love of faux-rock ceilings and floors—and showers. The Love Nest revels in floor-to-ceiling magenta. Among the remaining 105 units, monochromatic color schemes, heavy carpeting, and faux retro touches rule. "I want people to come in with a smile and leave with a smile," Jack says. 805/543-3000, madonnainn.com, doubles from $179.
Airplane Suite, Netherlands
Welcome to the Airplane Suite. Once a government-owned Ilyushin 18 aircraft that carted around former East German officials like Hans Honecker, this vintage plane now only offers flights of fancy. In a feat of genius and excess, Dutch entrepreneur Ben Thijssen saved the craft from the trash heap, then promptly converted it into a five-star hotel suite. Parked permanently on the edge of Teuge International Airport's runway, the 131-foot cabin now ticks off a litany of posh amenities, including a whirlpool bath, a sauna, flat-screen TVs, and Wi-Fi. Guests can watch arrivals and departures without ever leaving the comfort of their queen-size bed. Naturally, the cockpit has been left intact for when you want to play pilot. 011-31/30-221-0568, hotelsuites.nl, one suite from $472.
Desert Cave Hotel, Australia
Part underground refuge, part desert oasis, few properties delve as deep into the Australian Outback as the Desert Cave Hotel. Literally. Taking a cue from nearby opal mines, 19 of the hotel's 50 rooms are underground to evoke a dugout, cave-like experience (albeit with modern-day amenities). Sandstone is the principal design element here, buttressing walls, floors, and ceilings throughout the property. As a result, even a visit to the gift shop can feel a little like a lunar walk. Of course, that's part of the charm. Those who can't do without natural light can stay aboveground in units that showcase stunning views of the expansive red desert. Given the setting, it may be your extracurricular activities that distinguish your stay at Desert Cave: Special tours offer the chance to explore real opal mines (complete with hard hat) one day and then tour the 80-million-year-old Painted Desert in a four-wheel-drive vehicle the next. 011-61/-8-8672-5688, desertcave.com.au, doubles from $184.
Medieval Hotel Detenice, Czech Republic
Bound to call to mind troubled visions of the Medieval Times franchise (for some American travelers anyway), this hotel on the outskirts of Prague survives comparisons to its gauche counterpart with admirable attention to authenticity. Part of a larger resort that features a castle, brewery, and tavern, the hotel's decor isn't just charmingly anachronistic; it pays loyal tribute to the details of the Middle Ages. Candles and sconces light the way to dim guest rooms without electricity (but with indoor plumbing, thankfully). The rooms themselves are outfitted with furniture made from solid timber beams (as they would have been around the 13th century A.D.). Sheepskins and weaponry hang on the walls—but historical accuracy stops short of horsehair ticking in the mattresses, which are topped by plush down comforters. Maintaining the medieval illusion, the staff dresses and acts the part, sometimes with bawdy banter aimed at guests themselves. Foodies won't be disappointed, either, as the adjacent tavern offers enough banquet fare and ale to make King Henry I, II, or III proud. 011-420/493-599-161, detenice.cz, doubles from $80.
Marmara Antalya, Turkey
Offering a new spin on the notion of 360-degree views, Turkey's Marmara Antalya is the world's only fully revolving hotel. Sitting in 400-plus tons of water to ensure a smooth rotation, the hotel can be sped up or slowed down as various events require—the fastest (and most novel) 360-degree rotation takes two hours, for, say, a cocktail party; the slowest, a regular setting for everyday guests, takes 22 hours. Perched atop the Falez cliffs near Antalya, this circular Revolving Loft annex serves up multiple vistas for each room in the process. You might go to sleep overlooking the surrounding foothills only to wake to a vista of the Mediterranean Sea. White linens and natural wood accents lend a warm-and-airy feel to rooms, but the views are the main attraction. If the novelty of a hotel spinning on its axis isn't quite enough, guests can also canoe a man-made river, ascend a rock-climbing column, or even channel their inner Banksy at a graffiti station, all without leaving the hotel complex. 011-90/242-249-3600, themarmarahotels.com, doubles from $127.