5 Unique Vacation Spots You’ll Never Forget

This photo shows a lounge made of ice in Quebec City's Ice Hotel

Sometimes, a trip comes together around not just a destination, but the actual place to stay. Unique vacation spots and the out-of-the-ordinary hotel can become the perfect foundation for a larger excursion—or sometimes it’s the only reason to hit the road, with the accommodations being the destination in itself.

I’ll admit that I’ve planned trips around a hotel before—as a lifelong fan of “The Sound of Music”, I took my first trip to Stowe, Vermont, specifically to stay at the Trapp Family Lodge. I’ve since gone back on subsequent locations not just to stay at the lodge again, but also to visit the region’s amazing restaurants and specialty food shops, hike the surrounding Green Mountains, and soak up the gorgeous New England small-town and pastoral atmosphere. It’s a place where the hotel piqued my interest, and the destination then only deepened the love affair.

And an unusual hotel can often take on an even greater sense of intrigue: It may be a quirky structure, built from unexpected materials, in an unanticipated setting. If you’re looking for a little inspiration for your next getaway, check out these five unique vacation spots that are sure to kick-start your wanderlust.

You’ll soon find, too, that sometimes just the hotel makes the trip.

1. Cappadocia Cave Suites, Goreme, Turkey

No two rooms are alike at Goreme’s Cappadocia Cave Suites, designed to complement the surrounding ancient cave dwellings and stone structures of the Hittite, Roman, and Byzantine civilizations. But while the rooms may have an old foundation, the comforts are decidedly modern, including Internet access, coffee makers, and towel warmers – and some rooms even have Jacuzzi tubs. The on-site restaurant offers daily breakfast and dinner buffets focusing on local ingredients and traditional recipes. And if you want to see and learn more about the region, the hotel partners with local tour operators for guided museum and walking tours, hot-air balloon rides, and canyon hikes.

2. Costa Verde, Quepos, Costa Rica

Like something out of “Lost” (but somehow even more quirky), the Costa Verde hotel redefines high-end accommodations by reinventing a retired 747 airliner as a luxury suite – all against the backdrop of Manuel Antonio National Park, a gorgeous Costa Rican rainforest abutted by a pristine beach. If you don’t want to stay in the one-of-a-kind fuselage suite, there are also more traditional bungalows, apartments, and hotel rooms. The refurbished 727, however, is the big draw, featuring private balconies (over each wing, of course), hand-carved teak furnishings, and tip-top views of the ocean and rainforest.

3. Giraffe Manor, Nairobi

Some hotels have an on-site dog or cat to make the guests feel more at home, or B&Bs double as working farms where hens provide fresh eggs for breakfast each morning. While such touches are certainly special, they’re perhaps not quite as distinctive as the resident giraffes at The Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, Kenya. The Art Deco-style grand resort is home to a herd of Rothschild giraffes, who often stop at the hotel room windows to indulge their curiosity (and request treats). Room rates include three meals per day and most beverages, as well as complimentary car-and-driver transportation to local attractions such as a nearby elephant sanctuary and art galleries.

4. Ice Hotel, Quebec City

Are your kids “Frozen” fans? (That was a trick question. Of course they are.) Indulge their inner Elsas this winter with a stay in a real-life ice palace at Quebec City’s Ice Hotel. Constructed each winter entirely of ice, the hotel has rooms with thermal sleeping arrangements (and some even have fireplaces). Add-on packages featuring dog sledding excursions, “under the stars” hot tub and sauna dips, and gourmet meals are also available. And each spring, when the weather warms up, the hotel melts … to be reconstructed anew the following winter. As such, if you go each winter, year after year, you’ll never stay in the same building twice.

5. Jules Undersea Lodge, Key Largo, Florida

Divers, get your fix for hours on end: You can stay under the sea (literally!) at Jules Undersea Lodge 21 feet below the ocean surface in Key Largo, Florida. Post-dive, down at the hotel, guests will find a fully stocked kitchen, hot showers, TV, a stereo, and books to pass the time. Who needs TV, though? The lodge’s large windows give guests an up-close view of the aquatic surroundings – a much better show, in my opinion. And for the sheer novelty of it, book the “Undersea Luxury” package and get dive gear to access the hotel, a pizza dinner delivered by a diver, breakfast the next morning, and beverages. Packages are available for solo travelers or groups up to six.

Where’s the most unusual hotel you’ve ever stayed? Which unique vacation spots have been most memorable to you? Share your recommendations by leaving a comment below!

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Photo courtesy Allen’s Vision via Flickr Creative Commons