Hideaway hotels you can't reach by road

Leave your Samsonite above the wardrobe and your car keys on the dresser, you won't be needing either on this trip around some of the planet's more access-challenged accommodation. Travel light, wear sensible shoes, and take some deep breaths...

Hotel Pilatus-Kulm, Lucerne, Switzerland

The rail journey is all part of fun to reach the Pilatus-Kulm's vertiginous views. Image courtesy of Hotel Pilatus-Kulm The rail journey is all part of fun to reach the Pilatus-Kulm's vertiginous views. Image courtesy of Hotel Pilatus-Kulm

  • Access: cogwheel railway
  • Style: James Bond meets Grand Budapest Hotel

As Marvin Gaye might've observed, there ain't no mountain high enough that isn’t a shining example of Swiss engineering, be it a hotel, restaurant, railway station or cable car. Mt Pilatus, Lucerne's very own 2132m lightning rod, has the box set. Built in 1890 and perched just below the summit, the Pilatus-Kulm (pilatus.ch) is accessed by the world's steepest cog railway. The hotel serves up lavish old-world charm and fine dining, complemented by modern amenities and a view to die (another day) for. Most visitors return by cable car then cruise across Lake Lucerne to complete a 'golden' round trip. This is one place you should consider frocking-up.

For more altitude, check out Lonely Planet’s Switzerland travel guide.

Hotel Annapurna, Samar Village, Upper Mustang, Nepal

Hotel Annapurna, Samar Village, Upper Mustang, Nepal. Trekkers' packs outside the Hotel Annapurna in Upper Mustang, an ancient Tibetan-like kingdom in Western Nepal. Image by Steve Waters / Lonely Planet Trekkers' packs outside the Hotel Annapurna in Upper Mustang, an ancient Tibetan-like kingdom in Western Nepal. Image by Steve Waters / Lonely Planet

  • Access: foot, horseback
  • Style: old-school Tibetan

Mechanised road transport is still a comparatively new phenomenon in Nepal. Cut off from the rest of the country by the Annapurna massif, the ancient Kingdom of Mustang has more in common with Tibet, and for centuries, Samar has been an important staging post for trade caravans plying between the two. A good three-day walk from the closest transport, arriving on horseback is the cruisey option, though the Hotel Annapurna caters for all-comers; you may find yourself sharing with 30 pilgrim women from neighbouring Dolpo. True Himalayan hospitality abounds - hearty food, endless thermoses of hot drinks, cosy, traditional rooms and a stable for your horse. Try the house speciality, a magnificent apple crumble.

Finding Mustang is easy with Lonely Planet’s Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya travel guide.

Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India

  • Access: speedboat
  • Style: Raj royalty

Billed as one of the world’s most romantic hotels, the Taj Lake Palace is exquisitely located on a small island in Lake Pichola. Originally a summer palace for an 18th-century prince, the hotel's white marble walls and soaring cupolas appear to float mirage-like upon the water. Sumptuous rooms, airy terraces and courtyard lily ponds invoke a sense of grandeur and timelessness. Don't miss the sunset boat trip, when all that white marble turns cerise in the setting sun. In the day-to-day maelstrom of Indian life, the Lake Palace is a peaceful oasis where every guest is treated like a movie star. Or maybe every guest is a movie star? Apparently, 007's been here already.

For more about 'The Land of the Kings' see Lonely Planet’s Rajasthan, Delhi and Agra travel guide.

Estancia Ricanor, Piedra del Fraile, Patagonia, Argentina

Estancia-Ricanor Estancia Ricanor (Piedra del Fraile campground) in the beautiful Rio Electrico Valley to the north of El Chalten. Image by Steve Waters / Lonely Planet

  • Access: foot
  • Style: backcountry rustic

Not far from El Chaltén, gateway to adventure-packed Parque Nacional Los Glaciares in Argentinian Patagonia, is the beautiful Rio Electrico valley, in the shadow of 3405m Monte Fitz Roy. On the park boundary, a two-hour walk from the nearest road, Ricanor is a small campground with a collection of bunkhouses and a friendly bar-cum-restaurant. Though anyone is welcome, most guests are trekkers and climbers, who've tramped for several days from El Chaltén using the park's network of trails. The food is home-style hearty, and while that cold beer isn't really cost-effective, the local malbec certainly is. Eat well, rise early and climb up to Piedra Negra or Paso del Cuadrado for some heart-stopping views of Fitz Roy. Learn more over on their Facebook page.

To find your own way there, look up Lonely Planet’s Trekking in the Patagonian Andes.

Tree Hotel, Harads, Norbotten, Sweden

Tree-house-Sweden Flee to the forest and snooze in the Mirror  Cube, among other tree-borne accommodation options at Sweden's Tree Hotel. Image courtesy of Peter Lundstrom, WDO – www.treehotel.se

  • Access: foot
  • Style: Scandinavian cubbies

Architecturally boggling, the Tree Hotel (treehotel.se) is a futuristic collection of eco sleeping modules suspended metres off the ground in the middle of a pine forest in the far north of Sweden. Each module embraces the environmental principles of harmony, sustainability and minimum impact, ranging from the functional Blue Cone (actually red) and Mirror Cube (thankfully named for the exterior) to the wacky Bird's Nest and aptly named UFO. Of course, this being Scandinavia, there is also a Tree Sauna, as well as seasonal outdoor activities such as dogsledding, horse-pulled skiing, ice dining, kayaking, and mountain biking. Meals are available at a café a short Red-Riding-Hood stroll away in the village of Harads. Feel free to channel your inner Thoreau.

To discover what else lurks in those northern woods, check out Lonely Planet’s Sweden travel guide.

Berkeley River Lodge, The Kimberley, Western Australia, Australia

Fall off the map at a far-flung Australian hideaway, the Berkeley River Lodge. Image by Tony Hewitt / courtesy of Berkeley River Lodge Fall off the map at a far-flung Australian hideaway, the Berkeley River Lodge. Image by Tony Hewitt / courtesy of Berkeley River Lodge

  • Access: private plane, boat or helicopter
  • Style: Crocodile Dundee meets Tom Ripley

If you like your wilderness exotic, exclusive, remote yet within reach of a decent bubbly, then Berkeley River Lodge (berkeleyriver.com.au) on Australia’s ruggedly pristine Kimberley coast might just be the gin and tonic. As deserted as they come, rest assured there won't be a backpacker in sight. Enjoy full five-star service, gourmet meals, spectacular views, lots of wildlife and various exploratory activities including visits to waterfalls and rock art sites. This place costs a bomb, but that's the idea; if you want to get away from it all quickly, for a limited time, and money's no object, then fly right in. Just watch where you swim.

For more on 'Australia’s Last Frontier' see Lonely Planet’s Perth & West Coast Australia travel guide.

Burgh Island Hotel, Devon, United Kingdom

Burgh-Island---CC A sea tractor poised to make the journey to Burgh Island. Image by Paul Hardy / CC BY 2.0

  • Access: sea-tractor
  • Style: Brideshead Revisited

This fully restored art-deco hotel (burghisland.com) sitting just off the South Devon coast is reached at low tide by a sand-spit from nearby Bigbury-on-Sea. However, it’s much more fun to wait for higher water and take the 'sea-tractor', a quirky wagonesque contraption with a raised platform and submerged wheels that crawl along the shallow sea bed. Period-decorated rooms, named after notable guests, read like a who’s who of English pre-war society. Novelists and filmmakers have made the most of the atmospheric location, ironic given that none of the rooms have television. Guests are encouraged to get into the spirit and dress appropriately for dinner and 'social calendar' events.

Start planning further Devonian excursions with Lonely Planet’s Devon & Cornwall travel guide.

El Padrino Refugio, Isla Navarino, Chile

Refugio El Padrino, Puerto Williams, Isla Navarino, Chile.  Legendary traveller accommodation at El Fin Del Mundo. Image by Steve Waters / Lonely PlanetRefugio El Padrino, Puerto Williams, Isla Navarino, Chile.  Legendary traveller accommodation at El Fin Del Mundo. Image by Steve Waters / Lonely Planet

  • Access: Ferry through the Beagle Channel, speedboat from Usuahia, light plane, personal yacht
  • Style: el fin del mundo

Ok, there’s a road out the front, but you know it doesn’t go anywhere because you’ve just hiked along it for the last hour. Cold and misty, full of treacherous bogs, needle-sharp peaks, remote lakes and vast swathes of empty beech forest, the end of the world is seriously lonely yet numbingly beautiful. Such a place attracts and fosters camaraderie among a trickle of travellers, especially at El Padrino, a small refugio run by the indefatigable Cecilia. When you arrive soaking wet and footsore from your trek, forget five-star anonymity, Padrino’s has everything you need – hot showers, friendly smiles, pot-belly stoves, soft, cosy bunks and legendary nightly communal meals.

For all the advice on falling off the map, look up Lonely Planet’s Chile & Easter Island travel guide.

Jules’ Undersea Lodge, Key Largo, Florida, USA

  • Access: scuba dive
  • Style: Hostelworld meets The Abyss

While exotic, blinged-up underwater resorts are still in the planning stages, low-key Jules’ is one place you can visit now (jul.com). This converted underwater research laboratory sits 21 feet down on the floor of a protected mangrove lagoon at Key Largo. The lodge contains two utilitarian bedrooms, a common room and shared bathroom. The entrance is through a 'moon pool' in the floor of the central module, hence you’ll need a recognised SCUBA accreditation. Guests are free to explore the lagoon and accompanying reef marine life, or you can kick back inside and just gape from the generous viewing windows. There’s even a pizza delivery service, just go easy on the anchovies.

To get deeper and down in the ‘Keys, submerge yourself in Lonely Planet’s Florida travel guide.

Space Hotel, Low Earth Orbit

  • Access: Soyuz spacecraft
  • Style: out of this world

Well, it’s not built yet, but the Space Hotel, or 'Orbital Technologies Commercial Space Station', is reportedly opening for business in 2016. A two-day, GB£500,000 ride in a Soyuz, gets you to a room with the ultimate view - 350km above the earth. Another GB£100,000 secures a five-day stay, during which you’ll orbit the earth 77 times (not counting how many times you’ll breathe your own body odour and drink your own filtered urine). Enjoy that personal space while you can, as things might get a little crowded if the regular ‘nauts working over at the International Space Station have to jump ship – your cosy hotel will be doubling as their life raft. Definitely sort out the minibar bill before checkout.

Watch this space for Lonely Planet’s first extra-planetary travel guide.