If your idea of an unforgettable vacation includes igloos, yak hair tents or underground cave dwellings, you may want to consider reserving a room at one of these extreme hotels from around the world, as voted by GAYOT‘s worldwide team of discerning professionals. Located in one-of-a-kind destinations from the Arctic Circle to a remote Patagonian rainforest, these adventurous accommodations offer unbelievable perks – stunning Northern Lights views, sea kayaking and thermal baths, to name a few. However, while some of these lodgings may take you to the edges of the Earth, all offer comfortable living quarters and top-flight amenities that make guests feel right at home.
Key Largo, Florida
Jules’ Undersea Lodge
There’s no need to head 10,000 leagues beneath the sea for an underwater adventure. Instead, you can scuba dive just 21 feet below the surface through a mangrove habitat in Florida and drift to your heart’s content. Named in honor of the fantastical world created by author Jules Verne, Jules’ Undersea Lodge began life as an authentic research habitat, and today, it serves as a two-bedroom hotel. Guests with dive certificates are invited to enjoy unlimited diving. As for novices, a Discover Scuba certification course is required in order to reach the hotel. This program also allows newbies to enjoy dive excursions in the lagoon with an instructor. Although the lodge is by no means a luxury retreat, it does offer a thoughtful selection of creature comforts, including packages featuring gourmet dinner prepared by a “mer-chef.”
Go under the sea by booking a room at the Jules’ Undersea Lodge official website
Farmington, New Mexico
Being at one with the Earth takes on new meaning at Kokopelli’s Cave. Originally intended as a geological research office, this manmade one-bedroom B&B sits 70 feet below the surface of a mesa and is accessed through an entrance carved into a cliff face. Complete with a working kiva fireplace, this rustic retreat is reminiscent of the nearby Anasazi cliff dwellings … with the exception of electricity, comfy Southwest furnishings and a rock-walled bathroom with a hot tub and waterfall shower. Along with a full kitchen, a patio barbecue is on hand for outdoor grilling. Of note is the breathtaking sunset view spanning across La Plata River Valley and the four states region of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.
Book your subterranean escape at the Kokopelli’s Cave official website
Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort
Next to Urho Kekkonen National Park in Lapland, 155 miles north of the Arctic Circle, this resort features a variety of lodgings, including gorgeous glass igloos. Built of thermal glass and designed to stay frost-free, these unique guest rooms offer the opportunity to watch the Northern Lights from the toasty comfort of your own bed. You can also stay in classic snow igloos, log cabins or log cabin/glass igloo hybrids. The resort is home to the largest smoke sauna in the world, and dining venues include a picturesque log restaurant with a menu that showcases Lappish specialties. To round out your unforgettable experience, you can embark on a gold panning excursion or try the reindeer-drawn sled safari.
Grab your parka and plan your stay at the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort official website
Located outside the monastic village of Labrang at an altitude of 10,000 feet, Norden Camp introduces travelers to the nomadic way of life. This unique outpost was founded in a destination where itinerant herders graze their animals in the winter and fields are filled with flowers throughout the summer. Facilities are simple, with a dining area, fire pit and sauna, and accommodations include four traditional yak hair tents along with eight log cabins. Both types are portable; all have wooden floors and are furnished with local antiques and wood furnaces. The camp practices ecological and cultural responsibility, and activities vary from stargazing and hiking to visiting the Labrang Monastery and shopping at the local Norlha textile workshop.
Book your Tibetan escape at the Norden Camp official website
Quinta Real Zacatecas
From breweries to jails, we’ve seen our fair share of neglected properties repurposed into hotels. But Quinta Real Zacatecas is among our favorites. Incorporated into the restored 19th-century San Pedro bullfighting ring, this singular place saw its last match in 1975. Among the 49 colonial-style suites, the most appealing feature views of the cobblestone-paved bullring. The tri-level house restaurant, La Plaza, also overlooks the ring, while Botarel bar is in the old brick-walled bull pen, offering live music and wines from Mexico and around the world. Adding to the appeal of the experience is the surrounding town of Zacatecas. In this UNESCO World Heritage Site, guests can explore colonial-era architecture, as well as take a cable car to the top of Cerro de la Bufa. ¡Olé!
To stay in a former bullfighting ring, plan your holiday at the Quinta Real Zacatecas official website
Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve
La Montaña Mágica Lodge
In Chile’s remote Patagonian rainforest, Huilo Huilo — a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve — practices sustainable conservation through community development programs and tourism. Among the accommodations for adventurous travelers are a lodge shaped like a mushroom, rustic cabins, a tree house “village” and La Montaña Mágica Lodge. This volcano-shaped hotel features water cascading down its sides rather than lava. Visitors can choose standard rooms or suites (on the ground level), all built by local craftsmen, with walls, floors and ceilings made of native wood. Naturally heated bathtubs are crafted from ancient tree trunks, and rates include a welcome drink and buffet breakfast. Along with luxuries like a spa and artisanal brewery, the vast property offers a wealth of activities, from trekking to mountain biking to the thermal baths of Pirihueico Lake.
Discover your remote lodge vacation at the La Montaña Mágica Lodge official website
For those who dream of starring in their own space odyssey, this family-owned enterprise provides an ideal setting. Campy meets camping in bubble accommodations with themes ranging from Zen to 1,001 Nights. But these bubbles offer more than just a unique experience. Made from recycled materials, they are eco-friendly, and are deflated at the end of the season, ensuring minimal impact on the surrounding pine forest. Although the bubbles are sheer, privacy is ensured, from individual bathrooms to secluded locales within the property. Packages heighten the experience, with extras such as organic wine, gourmet dinner, massages and a telescope and star chart for the ultimate in bedtime stargazing. Though this Provençal property feels isolated, you can easily visit the pottery makers of Aubagne or the nearby town of Allauch overlooking Marseilles.
Book your extreme accommodations at the Attrap’Rêves Allauch official website
Built in the 1920s by a self-appointed count and later owned by the expatriate writer Paul Bowles (who penned “The Spider’s House” here), this two-and-a-half-acre private island boasts just one sumptuous, five-bedroom villa. Although guests can wade to their exclusive hideaway from the shores of Sri Lanka, it’s more fun to ride in on an elephant. The concept behind the villa’s design was to avoid closed spaces, which means that there are views of the sea from almost every point in the house, including the gorgeous infinity pool and the individual terraces attached to the four double bedrooms. Adding to the sense of luxury is the island’s attentive staff, which includes security guards and a dedicated chef who makes delicious Sri Lankan curries.
Plan a private island getaway at the Taprobane Island official website
For the ultimate outdoor retreat, Whitepod delivers. Situated in the Swiss Alps at an altitude of 1,400 meters, the camp consists of 15 pods. With the look of giant boulders, these dome-shaped tents are pitched on raised wooden platforms surrounding a refurbished alpine chalet. Each mountain-chic lodging is heated by a wood-burning stove and has its own private front terrace overlooking the valley. The chalet features a Swedish sauna, massage area and communal space, where guests gather for breakfast and evening drinks around the fireplace. Along with majestic views of the snow-covered mountains, the camp offers ski lessons, guided snowshoe tours and dog sledding. At the camp’s starting point (a 20-minute walk from the pods), Chalet Les Cerniers is home to a full restaurant serving regional fare.
Check out the unique accommodations at the Whitepod official website
Santa Cruz Island
Eco-adventure meets urbane luxury at this architecturally stunning resort. The main building sits atop two extinct volcano craters with guest rooms built along the slopes. Some suites come with private plunge pools, and all accommodations have shower areas with sweeping Pacific Ocean views. Equally dramatic vistas can also be enjoyed from Evolution Restaurant, DNA Bar and Homo Sapiens Explorers Lounge with a library dedicated to science and the Galapagos. The infinity pool and Sumaq Spa embrace guests with a sense of tranquility, and two yachts are available for day trips. The entirety of the Galapagos and the surrounding marine reserve are a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site, and several excursions include snorkeling, mountain biking and sea kayaking — all with an emphasis on sustainable tourism.
Begin your Galapagos exploration at the Pikaia Lodge official website
Ned’s tip: for more down-to-earth but no less exclusive accommodation, check out Le Royal Hotels & Resorts in several locations around the world.