World's Strangest Bars
These wild watering holes—lodged underwater, built within a tree, or carved of ice—make for memorable happy hours from Scandinavia to Antarctica.
At first, all you see is a tree—a huge, bulbous one with wild, grasping branches. Then you notice that this particular tree, on a South African farm just south of the Zimbabwe border, has a small door in its trunk. Open it, step inside the surprisingly roomy space, and you’ve entered the Baobab Tree Bar and Wine Cellar, an entire drinking establishment housed within the recesses of a living plant. This might be the world’s only opportunity to get drunk in a trunk.
The call of the wild—and wacky—is luring intrepid drinkers to similarly eccentric spots around the world. Perhaps out of a desire for increasingly unique experiences, travelers are driving through the Australian outback to a remote outpost, descending into a candlelit Mexican cavern, and wading into an Icelandic lagoon.
Some of these places are turned out as proper clubs with fancy cocktails, while others are ragtag affairs dreamed up by enterprising locals with a cooler of beer and a pinch of business savvy. The Baobab Tree Bar—founded by the family that owns the surrounding land—is one of the latter. Envisioning a highly unusual tavern inside this 6,000-year-old tree’s massive 51-yard circumference, the van Heerden clan cleared out the interior and outfitted it with the comforts of a typical drinking hole, including a sound system and benches that easily seat 15 visitors. The joint even has a dartboard. Whiskey’s available, and so is beer on tap.
More waterlogged—but equally entrepreneurial—is Floyd’s Pelican Bar, a ramshackle shanty one mile off Jamaica’s coast, run by Floyd himself. Local fishermen shuttle customers out to this party in the sea, where some stand waist-deep in the water (the dress code, of course, involves bathing suits). It’s a popular spot: Floyd has no website but has amassed hundreds of friends on a Facebook page started in his bar’s honor.
Then, of course, there’s the opposite extreme—the ice bar—where drinkers bundle up before tying one on. Ice bars are such a hot trend that they’ve been opening all over, from Orlando to Las Vegas, and have even inspired an ice-bar chain, Minus 5. But you’ll find the original—the Absolut Icebar—inside the Icehotel in the small town of Jukkasjärvi, Sweden. The bar, the seats, even the glasses are remade each year out of ice from a local river.
A main attraction of these singular bars, of course, is that their locations and vibes quicken pulses on their own. Add a potent drink to the mix and you’re in for quite a night.