house in French wine country; an igloo in the
Swiss Alps; a hotel located 21ft
under the sea in Florida – chances are you won’t find these holiday accommodations
on your favourite online booking site.
few out-of-the-ordinary lodging websites – Canopy and Stars, Unusual Hotels of the World
and Welcome Beyond – have cornered
the market in alternative, independently owned accommodations that are sure to
make any vacation more memorable, such as a desert cave
hotel in Australia, a modernist-style
houseboat in Berlin or a former
radar tower converted into a bird-watching station in Panama.
sites don’t charge membership fees; they list more than merely boutique or
“design” hotels; they cover broad geographic areas with varied types of
structures; and they only list private properties (instead of home stays, where
the owners are typically in the room next door).
Canopy and Stars
2010, this UK-based site is overseen by Toby Sawday, son of travel guide
publisher Alistair Sawday. Its listings emphasise places for “glamping” (glamorous
camping) – which could even mean staying in a spacious, air-conditioned tree
house. The site’s 265 listings are limited to Britain, Spain, France and
Portugal and are dominated by tree houses, yurts and cabins. Yet it also provides
about 35 eye-popping accommodations, including a
model of a Hobbit house on Cornwall’s coast and an
Airstream trailer in Bordeaux.
design hotels and villa rentals make up most of the listings on this Berlin-based
website, which includes about 137 properties in more than 37 countries. Users
can use a map or a drop-down menu to search by categories, such as “unusual
destinations” and “food and drink”, with about 25 truly off-the-radar finds,
in Switzerland and Germany and a
hotel in an ancient cave in the Italian village of Matera.
Unusual Hotels of the World
properties around the world, this site has the deepest selection of the group, including
such borderline weird places as a giant Trojan
horse in Belgium, a
converted jail in southwestern Australia and a Bauhaus-style motel on
a disused airfield outside Stuttgart where all of the beds are set inside vintage
Mercedes, Porsches and other classic cars. About half of the site’s listings
are of comparatively normal (yet still distinctive) properties, such as a
pagoda-tower made of cypress wood in a Kenyan wildlife sanctuary.
Sean O’Neill is the travel tech columnist for BBC Travel