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