You know that old adage ‘it’s about the journey not the destination’? Well, that just doesn’t apply here. Each and every one of these spectacular places to stay is a destination in its own right.
This selection from 50 Places To Stay to Blow Your Mind includes places that give us a thrill, open our eyes and make us catch our breath – and we hope they’ll motivate you to go on a journey of discovery.
Bivacco Gervasutti, Mont Blanc, Italy
This is one for the adrenaline junkies, right?
It’s fair to say that couch potatoes will want to settle for the pictures. The Bivacco Gervasutti perches precariously on the Frebouze Glacier on the Mont Blanc massif in Italy. Yes, that’s Mont Blanc of the ‘highest peak in Europe’ fame.
Wow, that is totally extreme.
Everything about this place is extreme. The striking red and white capsule, containing living and dining areas as well as two sleeping quarters for up to 12 people, cantilevers dramatically out over the cliff-face. From the inside it’s like you’re floating over the mountain. Solar panels keep the tube toasty year-round and there’s even internet access so you can show off to your mates back home.
Ok, how do we get in there?
That’s the tricky bit: it’s only accessible by foot. The architects of the structure were forced to build by helicoptering in one section at a time. There is no such luxury option for prospective guests. Only those who put in the hard graft to hike to the top reap the rewards of the spectacular views.
Longitude 131, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia
Not giving much away with the name.
There’s no mistaking the image though. Yes, that is Australia’s world-famous and iconic landmark Uluru that you can see from your own private white-topped tent.
Oh, so we’re camping in the desert?
Not exactly. There’s no sagging canvas or dinky fly-nets here; this is next-level glamping. You’ll be staying in one of only 15 luxuriously kitted-out tented cabins all positioned to make the most of the view of the serene and dramatic expanse of the Simpson Desert and the major drawcard, Uluru.
It’s not often a holiday in the red centre turns into a top-end experience.
One of the most memorable things about a trip to Longitude 131 and Australia’s vast outback is the connection the resort honours to the land and to the land’s traditional custodians. Alongside the extravagant five-star features, the resort sports serious eco credentials and provides guests with the opportunity to learn about the centuries-old culture of the Anangu people. Listening to ancient creation stories as the sun sets over Uluru and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) is an experience not soon forgotten.
The FloatHouse River Kwai, Kanchanaburi, Thailand
Floating on a house on the River Kwai sounds more fun than building a bridge over it.
This is a world away from the fictional drama that played out in Pierre Boulle’s internationally renowned novel A Bridge over the River Kwai – where prisoners of war were forced to build parts of the Burma Railway across the river in 1942–43. Instead, the FloatHouse is an oasis of peace and calm.
Are we going to wake up miles downriver?
The FloatHouse is tethered to the lush, wild jungle that spreads out behind the resort. In fact, the only way to get to the private rooms on The FloatHouse is to arrive by boat. If the absence of typical Southeast Asian traffic noise isn’t enough to begin the destressing process, then step inside your private sanctuary decorated in traditional style and be soothed by the panoramic scenery from your private balcony and sundeck.
Once we wake from our soothing stupor, can we get off to explore?
Absolutely. Private boats are available to ferry you to spectacular local attractions like hot springs, waterfalls, the Hellfire Pass, Lawa Cave and Mon Villages and temples, among others.
Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge, Manaus, Brazil
Visiting the Amazon rainforest should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Few places deliver a luxury Amazon experience quite like this. There are 22 private cabins divided up into 16 standard cottages, four superior bungalows and two top-of-the-range panoramic bungalows with, you guessed it, spectacular views.
What’s there to see if we venture beyond our beautiful cabin?
Perched at the tip of an island in the Anavilhanas Archipelago, the largest freshwater archipelago in the world, the Jungle Lodge has a 13m-high observation deck with stunning views over the Rio Negro (there’s a pretty good view from the pool too, just saying!). If you're looking for adventure the lodge will organise a personalised itinerary so you can hike to local villages or take a boat tour around the tributaries, for example.
Will our footprint be light in this fragile and endangered area?
The lodge is sensitive to and conscious of its pristine surrounds. It is staffed almost exclusively by local people; there is no waste disposed of in the waters; preservation areas are strictly respected and they help to run social and educational programs with the help of the Brazilian government. All good.
Hotel De Glace, Québec, Canada
Aren’t we over the whole ice hotel/bar thing?
As gimmicky as an ice hotel can seem from the outside there’s nothing quite like spending a night encased in a room made entirely from exquisitely carved ice to stave off your scepticism.
Alright, we’ll ask the obvious question: aren’t we going to get a little chilly?
The staff at the hotel are so confident of your comfort in the ice suites that their information sheet on staying the night recommends light clothing to sleep in to avoid getting too hot! Each enormous ice slab is topped with a wooden wedge and a mattress to prevent you from shivering in your sleeping bag.
And when we’re not tucked up in bed?
There’s a long list of suggested items of clothing to bring and wear during your stay to keep the cold at bay. That said, it’s hard to imagine the cold creeping in when the surroundings are so spectacular. The Hotel De Glace is like one giant ice sculpture with individual suites designed in unique and magical themes. It’s so beautiful it will warm the cockles of your heart.
Huka Lodge, Taupo, New Zealand
It seems like every square inch of this country is a natural wonder.
I know, right? But if you get tired of parking your campervan at breath-taking sites alongside the roadside then how about soaking up a little luxury at the exclusive Huka Lodge. Honestly, it’s magic. That’s what you get with a mix of manicured grounds, spectacular wilderness, and five-star pampering.
Can you magic me there now?
I’ll try... Huka Lodge sits on 17 acres of private grounds right on the edge of the powerful turquoise waters of the Waikato River, just upstream from the dramatically beautiful Huka Falls. A short drive in almost any direction will take you to snow-capped mountains, lush wilderness, or pristine lakes and streams. After a day of exploring nature’s bounty you’ll dive into the sweet, sweet luxury of your suite. Are you there yet?
Almost... tell me more.
Did we mention the exclusivity? There are only 25 suites, dotted throughout the Huka Lodge grounds. Each one carries a certain opulent, colonial style, with grand French doors that open wide to take in the stunning surrounds. And when lying around in the lap of luxury gets boring, there’s always the swimming pool, tennis courts, croquet and petanque courts, and the private spa pools. You’re there now, aren’t you?!
Discover many more jaw-dropping spots around the world in Lonely Planet’s 50 Places To Stay to Blow Your Mind.