Ten obscure holiday spots
The Salar de Uyuni salt flats surrounds the famed Salt Palace. (Corey Wise/LPI)
Why settle for the ordinary? We found destinations that are so off the beaten track, one is up a tree.
Sleep in an oil-rig survival pod moored in the Hague
Roger Moore made the most of his survival pod in The Spy Who Loved Me, and the distinctive, bright orange Capsule Hotel moored in the Hague offers a similar experience. Built in 1972, the pods are 4.25m in diameter and not particularly luxurious (there is a chemical toilet are the pods are closed during winter because of the cold), but that kind of detail did not worry James Bond. The interiors are being refurbished by various designers and are set to have different themes that change seasonally.
Snooze in a shipping crane in the Netherlands
This hotel may be located in a dockside crane, but you will not be roughing it – the Harlingen Harbour Crane is a boutique hotel about an hour’s drive from Amsterdam. There are two sleek lifts, the chairs are by Eames, the lighting and audiovisual equipment are operated by touch, and the bed has panoramic views. Best of all, you can climb a rickety ladder to the cockpit and use the stick shift to rotate 65,000kg of steel 360 degrees.
Visit Mauritania, a desert the size of France
Mauritania, a country the size of France but with a population of 3 million, is off most people’s radars. It is 75% desert, with a climate that has two gears: hot and very hot. For desolate, undulating Saharan sand dunes, endless empty beaches and sand-drifted streets, you cannot do better. Mauritania also has the world’s longest train (around 2.5km long), which runs between Noudhibou in the northwest and the iron-ore mines in the northeast. It has one passenger car, or you can ride for free in the coal trucks. Travel here is a wild desert adventure: think bumping down unpaved roads in pick-up trucks, glimpsing horses galloping by in the night and sipping mint tea with Moorish fishers.
Stay in a sphere with a view in Canada
Across the Salish Sea from Vancouver, the Free Spirit Spheres look like spherical tree houses. Seeming to float in the treetops like huge wooden eyeballs, the eco-friendly accommodations are built from cedar, fastened by suspension points and have wooden stairways hanging from the trees like rigging. They wobble with the breeze – and your weight.
One of the spheres, Eryn, is big enough to sleep three and has a small kitchen. Another, Eve, is smaller and sleeps one comfortably or two cosily. Alternatively you can buy your own sphere to take home.
Travel in a horse-drawn caravan in Scotland, Ireland or Devon
Get a sense of what life on the road used to be like in an old Traveller caravan, meandering through back lanes in Scotland, Ireland or Devon. There is not a lot of room – the antique caravans sleep two to four at a squeeze — but the process is easy. You will be introduced to your horse, given some operating instructions, and then you will clip-clop away. This is slow travel. Rent through Outfitters like Old Spittal or Kilvahan Horse-Drawn Caravans.
Sleep in Bolivia’s Salt Palace
Bolivia’s snow-white Salar de Uyuni is one of the world’s great salt plains. It covers 40 sq miles at an altitude of 3,656m, is surrounded by mountains, geysers and flamingos, and becomes a shallow salt lake in the wet season. At its centre lies the Salt Palace, a hotel created from salt blocks, which you reach, not by boat, but by 4WD. Facilities are austere, the silence is deafening, the sunsets are stupendous. In this dazzling saltscape, there is no horizon; the sky merges into the lake. The only other landmark in the midst of the glaring white expanse is Uyuni’s Isla de Pescadores, with thousands of giant cacti that will make you feel lilliputian.