Gone are the days when a hotel meant simply a bed, a desk and perhaps a minibar. A new wave of accommodations has bumped traditional lodging out of the way by offering unique experiences that are endlessly, irresistibly Instagrammable. Want to cosy up in a glass igloo to watch the Northern Lights? Or hang on for dear life from the side of a cliff in a transparent capsule? You can do all that these days — for a price, of course.
Getting close — really close — to wildlife
Africa is dotted with luxurious safari lodges for guests who want to get as close as possible to the continent's incredible animal life. But some get you closer than others. At Mfuwe Lodge in Zambia, 18 chalets are arranged around two large lagoons, creating the perfect setting for watching elephants as they visit in the late afternoons.
But Africa isn't the only continent to offer such close encounters of the animal kind. The Jungle Bubbles, at the Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort in Bangkok, offers resort guests the chance to spend a night in a transparent bubble, witnessing elephants pass by.
But if you live in the United States, you don't have to travel far to get close to animal life. At the Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York, guests can reserve one of a handful of tiny houses and mingle with some of the 800 farm animals rescued from abuse and mistreatment.
Mfuwe Lodge, from $640per person; Jungle Bubbles, doubles from $899 plus resort costs; Farm Sanctuary, doubles from $450per night.
Tree houses, a perennial favorite
Regardless of where you are in the world, there's a good chance you can stay in a treehouse-style accommodation. At Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge in the Amazon region of Brazil, guests can find themselves cocooned in the canopy of the Amazon, high above the Rio Negro river. Up in the tall trees of the pine forests of Northern Sweden, the Treehotel posits guests in mirrored cubes and cabins perched in the treetops, one of which is even shaped like a UFO.
On the edge of Kruger National Park in South Africa, the new &Beyond Ngala Treehouse opens this month, giving guests a chance to take a game drive out to the treehouse where they spend the night up high in the bush in a private tower. A different kind of treehouse greets guests in Costa Rica at Hotel Costa Verde, where a decommissioned airplane was reconstructed in the jungle canopy, so that guests actually sleep in a plane in the jungle canopy. But some travelers want to go even higher than the treetops. At Skylodge Adventure Suites in Peru, guests arrive either by hiking more than 1,300 feet up, or by zipping in like a superhero on a series of zip lines. The rooms themselves are transparent capsules hanging on the side of a mountain with panoramic views of the Sacred Valley.
Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge, from $514per person for a panoramic suite; Treehotel, doubles from $860; &Beyond Ngala Treehouse, from $1099per person; Hotel Costa Verde, doubles from $412; Skylodge Adventure Suites, from $740per person with transport.
Under the sea
Not into heights? You can always go deep thanks to lodging options that offer an underwater experience. At Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, guests can reserve the Muraka, a two-level hotel room that includes an infinity pool and also reaches 16 feet below sea level. At The Manta Resort, off the coast of Pemba near Zanzibar, a butler boats out to meet guests on their private underwater island. And in Key Largo, Florida, travelers with scuba certifications can dive down for a stay at Jules' Undersea Lodge.
Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, from $15815; The Manta Resort, doubles from $3000 per night with three night minimum; Jules' Undersea Lodge, singles from $1070.
A new group of hotels that have cropped up in some of the world's coldest places provides travelers the chance to experience hygge, the Danish concept of cosy contentment. At Cielo Glamping Maritime in New Brunswick, Canada, guests can cuddle up inside domes nestled in the forest, with clear sides for views of the snowy sunsets. Want to see the Northern Lights but don't want to feel cold? Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Finland is designed for you. Featuring glass igloos (for lying in bed to watch the lights) and snow igloos (caves dug out of a snow bank), it's the perfect place for fancy snow bunnies.
If you find yourself in the middle of the Gobi desert, stay warm under a camel-hair blanket in a traditional Mongolian tent (called a ger) at the eco-lodge, the Three Camel Lodge.
Cielo Glamping Maritime, doubles from $490 for two nights, Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, glass igloos from $895; Three Camel Lodge, tents with full board, activities, and transfer from $1580 per person.
And if animals, tree houses or the cold really aren't appealing, you can always settle for royalty. You may have heard of the famed Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai, India, the landmark hotel that since 1903 has signified luxury tourism. But you might not know that in Jaipur, India, you can reserve a room in a palace once home to the city's maharajah, Suján Rajmahal Palace. And for some British royalty vibes, check into The Newt in Somerset, where you can roam the grounds of the manor's English gardens and sip tea in your castle. Or for Scandinavian style galore, try Nimb Hotel in Copenhagen, a 1909 castle with exteriors inspired by Moorish architecture.
Taj Mahal Palace, doubles from $314; Suján Rajmahal Palace, doubles from $771; The Newt in Somerset, doubles from $343; Nimb Hotel, doubles from $440.
By Shannon Sims
© The New York Times Company