In a world where your average Joe or Jane can hire concierge services at the push of an uberX or Seamless button, it’s no wonder experiential hotels have become trendy hotspots for travelers across the globe. Simply put, we’re needier than we once were. We want more than crisp sheets and room service. We want to sleep beneath Sweden’s starry skies colored by the Northern Lights or under the sea like marine mavens off the coast of Pemba Island. So here’s a visual journey through some of the coolest experientials out there...
Treehotel, Sweden: This is exactly as it sounds: a hotel amid a lot of trees. Multiple mini-hotels, actually. At Treehotel, guests can choose between The Cabin, The Mirrorcube, The UFO, The Blue Cone or The Bird’s Nest (legitimately a massive bird’s nest with a bed inside). All offer green panoramic views and simple aesthetics, and they’re all positioned just off the ground and ensconced in forestry.
Aspaki Luxury Hotel, Greece: Live life on the edge in a lux suite off the side of volcanic cliffs in the majestic embrace of the caldera. The Aspaki Luxury Hotel sits in the heart of the preserved village of Oia, renowned for the famous blue domes and white cave houses of Santorini. Private, sun-swathed balconies and pools that reflect the azure shade of the Aegean Sea make this a hotel a retreat of its own.
Conrad, Maldives: Voted one of “The Maldives’ Leading Water Villas” at the 2012 World Travel Awards, the Conrad’s King Water Villa boasts a private sun deck replete with a jetted plunge pool and steps that delve into the enticing lagoon below. The glass desk, set over glass panels, give guests the impression that they’re floating over the blue water.
Fairy Chimney Hotel, Turkey: Hewn out of tufa rocks of Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys, the Fairy Chimney Hotel is a cultural, historical destination in itself. From its perch in the upper southwest end of the Göreme village, guests can enjoy walks through the Cappadocia valleys and lunar landscapes, exploring tufa caves, old Byzantine churches and, of course, fairy chimneys. The hotel itself has been restored to preserve tradition and local style coupled with modern function, such as under-floor radiation heating and luxurious hamam-style bathrooms.
Kwanini Manta Resort, Pemba Island: Imagine floating on a private cruise ship that boasts serenity and closeness with nature. You’re sunbathing or stargazing on the top deck, and now imagine sleeping four meters beneath the water’s surface in your own real-life aquatic escape. The Manta Resort offers the one and only floating hotel, just off the coast of Pemba Island, ideal for anyone seeking a truly tropical marine environment.
ICEHOTEL, Sweden: The ICEHOTEL is more than just an ice hotel. It’s an art exhibit made of natural ice and snow from one of Europe’s last wild rivers, just north of the Arctic Circle. The hotel is made entirely of ice, designed by artists from all creative disciplines across the globe. And, just like any exhibition, the work varies each year. How? The hotel melts and returns to Mother Nature every spring. Until then, guests can sleep in standard rooms with ice décor and a bedframe made of ice, or lavish large suites with lounges, sleeping areas and three-dimensional sculptures carved by hand. One room even projects Northern Lights animations onto the chiseled ceiling.
Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, Finland: This resort has something for all comfort levels. Choose from glass igloos, where you can admire the Northern Lights beneath a starry sky from mid-August through April (the Northern Lights season), snow igloos that dip to -3 to -6 degrees centigrade, a kelo-glass igloo that combines the comforting warmth of a log cabin and the sensational views of the glass igloos, or your choice of a multitude of kelo log cabins that fit couples or big groups and are replete with saunas and fireplaces.
The Glass Floor Udang House, Indonesia: The Udang House is unique to the Bambu Indah, originally situated close to the Ayung River and above a shrimp pond that was used for food production. While the pond is no longer used for food, the house has been opened for guests to enjoy, and the tempered glass floor panels still offer an underwater panorama over the streaming water. Authentic shrimp baskets have since been converted to lamps; the shower is partially indoor and outdoor and the glass-tiled roof lets in plenty of Balinese sunlight.
Tree Houses Hotel, Costa Rica: Relax on a private deck set in the midst of the lush Costa Rican jungle, just a short drive from tourist attractions like La Fortuna and the Arenal Volcano. You’ll find shelter in one of the seven treehouses on 10 acres of jungle, surrounded by a 70-acre unspoiled wildlife refuge. The only tenants you’ll have to share your space with are sloths, toucans and some armadillos. They’re cool.
Madonna Inn, United States: This kitschy, Californian resort boasts 110 whimsically adorned guest rooms. Enchanting décor make for a fairy-tale-cottage style vibe from the Victorian Gardens room to the Oriental Fantasy option. Or, go back to your roots for the weekend in the Cavemen suite—a rustic den of solid rock replete with animal prints, a rock pond and stone-age clubs to add to the primitive surroundings. A waterfall spills from overhead in the stone shower and flows into a stone sink basin in the cavern-style bathroom. But you won't live like just any caveman; you'll have a king bed and room for two primates to bring along.