World's Most Unusual Hotels 2008
Harlingen Harbour Crane, Netherlands
What It Is: A former timber-hauling derrick repurposed into one bi-level room, 60 feet aloft, along the banks of the Wadden Sea off the Dutch coast.
The Experience: A pair of specially designed elevators takes you to your sleeping quarter in the Harbour Crane, with luxe appointments like touch-screen lighting systems and Eames chairs. Take in the aquatic view from the panoramic windows or your balcony. Want a change of scene? Man the crane’s controls and swing the 143,000-pound crane in whichever direction tickles your fancy.
Giraffe Manor, Kenya
What It Is: A genteel six-room country estate outside Nairobi where a herd of giraffes intimately interacts with guests.
The Experience: Located on land owned by the Langata Giraffe Centre, a wildlife conservancy, sanctuary, and reserve, the estate of Giraffe Manor is done up in 19th-century period furnishings. Anything unusual about the rooms? Nope. The draw here is walking the grounds with the giant giraffes nearby, and sitting down to breakfast and dinner while giraffes poke their heads through the windows to eat right out of your hand.
What It Is: A collection of 10 eco-geodesic domes on a glacier-topped ridge above the village of Les Cerniers, about 90 minutes from Geneva. It’s one of T+L’s favorite green hotels.
The Experience: The ecochic pods of Whitepod, ranging in size from 270 to 538 square feet, are open only from December through April and come with plenty of luxe creature comforts like wood-burning stoves, sheepskin rugs, 14-tog duvets, Tilley lamps, iPod speakers, and round windows with views onto the snow-covered Alps peaks. Being über-eco tents means there’s no running water or electricity, though suites (the pavilion pods) have a bathroom. (Bathrooms for the other pods are in the main lodge.) The property can accommodate no more than 20 guests at a time.
Canopy Tower, Panama
What It Is: A onetime U.S. radar installation inside Panama’s Soberania National Park with 12 double rooms.
The Experience: Spread across five levels, the spacious, wood-paneled rooms in the Canopy Tower come with mosquito nets, windows, and most with en suite bathrooms. But the real reason to stay is what’s up above: a 30-foot-high geotangent dome that rises above the canopy, affording birders 360-degree views and potential sightings of such unique species as the slaty-backed forest falcon, the bicolored antbird, and the spot-crowned antvireo.
What It Is: A trio of 10-ton reinforced-concrete drainpipes measuring 6.5 feet in diameter.
The Experience: Situated along the banks of the Danube, in Ottensheim, Austria, the electronically secured enclosures of Dasparkhotel are set in a leafy park. But claustrophobes beware: while there’s a comfy mattress, a lamp, and an abstract silk-screen wall decoration, there’s only a tiny skylight.
Kokopelli’s Cave Bed & Breakfast, New Mexico
What It Is: A onetime geological research outpost turned one-room B&B, 70 feet below the New Mexico mesa in the northwestern part of the state.
The Experience: Accessible via a cliff-face trail cut into the side of the 65-million-year-old sandstone formation, this expansive refuge features a cascading waterfall-style shower and a flagstone hot tub in its 1,650 square feet, along with living areas done up with authentic southwestern-style furnishings, a kitchen, a washer and dryer, and, once the crepuscular light appears, stunning sunsets and stargazing from the balcony or cliff tops above.
The Kakslauttanen Hotel, Finland
What It Is: A collection of 20 geodesic glass igloos set 155 miles north of the Arctic Circle in the heart of Finnish Lapland.
The Experience: Indoor space isn’t the attraction at the Kakslauttanen—outdoor space is. After all, the spartan rooms are just 161 square feet and have a small toilet. But each also has a panoramic thermo-glass casing that enables guests, from the comfort of their adjustable double beds, to take in the night skies. Not surprisingly, they’re particularly in demand during the northern lights.
Marmara Antalya, Turkey
What It Is: The world’s only revolving hotel, set on the southern coast of Turkey and overlooking the pristine Mediterranean.
The Experience: The modern, circular Marmara Antalya, aided by six enormous electric motors, completes a full revolution every seven hours, ensuring a changing landscape of Mediterranean views for guests in its 24 minimalist and whitewashed rooms. Just be sure to book a room in this part of the hotel—there’s also a nonrevolving building behind it.
Jules’ Undersea Lodge, Florida
What It Is: A 70’s-era research lab turned two-bedroom capsule in Key Largo that can accommodate six guests on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico.
The Experience: Guests scuba dive to this unique unit, located 21 feet below the surface. Once inside the 600-square-foot capsule, there are all the accoutrements of a regular hotel, including a spacious living room with TV and stereo and a dining area. But that’s where the similarities end. In the pair of bedrooms, the lodge makes full use of its location, with 42-inch circular windows that offer views of passing sea life, including barracuda and angelfish.
Hotel im Wasserturm, Germany
The Experience: While there’s still a sense of the water-tower architecture from inside Hotel im Wasserturm’s rooms, they were completely redone. The real magic in the rooms is the 15-foot-tall windows that offer views of the Rhineland. The sight lines are even better from the aptly named Michelin-starred rooftop eatery, La Vision.