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.

Explore (with guides) North Korea
Expensive, difficult to access, highly restricted, with economic woes and electricity shortages, and filled with faceless apartment blocks and mammoth monuments to deceased president Kim Il-sung, North Korea is an unusual holiday choice. But this isolated bastion of a kind of communism is the world’s most mysterious country, which alone is an enticing reason to visit. At all times, you will be accompanied by two government-approved local guides who will fill you in on an official version of history. It is a trip into another world, where mobile phones and the internet are unknown, and the Cold War never ended.

Camping on a raft in the Netherlands or Belgium
Camping in a field is for lightweights. You have not really camped until you camped on a raft. The tent-shaped huts are made out of logs hammered together and rest on floating barrels. The huts are only accessible by water: you paddle there via canoe, taking all necessary supplies with you. There is no electricity and no plumbing – the toilet is a bucket with a lid that you empty in a separate toilet block, a canoe trip away. The rafts are secured in remote idylls on lakes in De Heen, De Wissen and Marnemoende. Do not watch Deliverance before you go.

Klagenfurt, Austria
What? You’ve never heard of Klagenfurt? But it is Austria’s sixth biggest town. The capital of Carinthia. The town is picturesque, with a frothy, Italianate feel and sits on the eastern shore of Lake Wörthersee, the warmest and largest alpine lake in Europe. From April to October visit Minimundus Villacher park and marvel at the detailed mini-models of famous buildings from all over the planet. In the winter, visitors can skate 120km away on Weissensee. The ”white lake” freezes in the colder months.

Stay in a TV Tower in Rotterdam, the Netherlands
A 1960s TV tower is even more proof that the Netherlands has the world’s zaniest places to stay. The Euromast now houses a brasserie and two panoramic suites: ”Heaven” and “Stars”. Heaven overlooks the port, while Stars has city views and a jacuzzi. Both are minimalist but luxurious, with lots of gleaming white and monochrome. If staying in a TV tower is not crazy enough, you can also abseil down from the tower’s ledge, 100m in the air.  If you are not afraid of heights, take a lift to the top to look out from the 185m-high balcony.


The article 'Ten obscure holiday spots' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.