Sheer inventiveness and the sharing economy have opened up a new world of sublime and ridiculous places to spend the night, and travel experts Lonely Planet have compiled the 10 most interesting spots to rest your head for the evening.
With nights underwater, in igloos, and even in the belly of a beagle, and including family-friendly, romantic and just plain bizarre options (as well as two UK spots), the list ensures next year's birthdays, hens, stags and anything else are well and truly covered.
Go forth and snooze in the unusual in 2016.
1. Dog Bark Park Inn, Idaho, USA
When in Idaho, where you do feel like staying? In the stomach of an enormous beagle? You’re in luck: we have just the place. Dog Bark Park Inn is the brainchild of two artistic dog lovers, and is an enormous structure – rather like a Trojan horse, but a dog, if you see what we mean. Things inside are dog-themed too, with dog-decorated cushions and dog-shaped biscuits. The owners specialise in ‘chainsaw art’, which isn’t as terrifying as it sounds – they produce wooden sculptures of various breeds, available in the shop on site. ‘Responsible pets, with well-behaved owners’ are permitted.
2. Dino Snores at the Natural History Museum, London, UK
London’s Natural History Museum offers the chance to stay the night with the museum’s famous bony dinosaurs. The children’s sleepover includes a torch-lit trail of the Dinosaurs gallery and a live science show, while the grown-up version includes a three-course dinner, science shows, live music, bars, edible insect-tasting, and an all-night monster movie marathon. The next morning there’s breakfast and more entertainment. You can bed down anywhere in Hintze Hall: for the biggest thrill, snuggle up under the shadow of the blue whale skeleton.
Dino Snores events are for kids aged 7–11. Sleepovers cost UK£60 (children)/£180 (adults) and take place regularly; book ahead on nhm.ac.uk
3. Nanuku Levu, Fiji
For the ultimate in tranquillity and romance, why not hire your own private 10-acre Fijian island, Nanuku Levu? With its ancient coconut palms and blindingly white sand, it’s a daydream come to life. You won’t be bothered by the neighbours: there are 15 miles of translucent, pale blue South Pacific between you and the nearest civilisation. The island has one small wooden beach hut and a beachhouse, and your only visitors are likely to be turtles and huge seabirds. Boat transfer is included in the price.
4. A House for Essex, UK
Opened in 2015, the gold-roofed A House for Essex looks as though a piece of Russian architecture from the Red Square crossed with a gingerbread house has been transplanted to the north Essex coast. The house has been co-designed by Essex-raised artist Grayson Perry and the architectural practice FAT to evoke a wayside chapel or folly. Perry has decorated the interior as if it belonged to an everywoman he’s called Julie. Staying here is to be immersed in an imaginary life, and become a part of a work of art. It’s more profound than your average holiday let.
A House for Essex is part of the Living Architecture project, which has various other superbly out-there places to stay. The current ballot to stay in A House for Essex has closed, but news on future ballots will be released via an e-newsletter
5. Propeller Island, Berlin, Germany
Where else but Berlin would offer you some of the world’s most mind-boggling beds? Propeller Island is the pseudonym used by German audio-visual artist Lars Stroschen, and one of his most popular projects is the Propeller Island City Lodge. Choose to sleep in a coffin, in the ‘upside-down’ room that messes with your perception, or have a snooze in a suspended bed. Plump for a room with electric wallpaper, a padded cell, or crank down an illuminated barrier to split a double bed into two. These choices are just the start, so take your pick for one of the weirder nights of your life.
Rooms at Propeller Island City Lodge cost from €79-190 for a double
6. Roar & Snore at Taronga Zoo, Sydney, Australia
There are lots of choices of zoo sleepovers around the world, including nights in the bughouse at London Zoo and the chance to snuggle (well, almost) with snow leopards at the Bronx Zoo Family Overnight Safari (NYC). However, the pick of the bunch has to be Sydney’s Roar & Snore. Here you nod off in luxury tented camps, complete with beds and wooden floors, with an astounding view of Sydney Opera House, the city and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Overnighters enjoy a gourmet buffet dinner, then a one-and-a-half-hour night safari, an extraordinary opportunity to explore the zoo without the crowds.
Roar & Snore costs A$320/205 for adults/children aged 5–17
7. Elqui Domos, Elqui Valley, Chile
All is well in a world where you have a wide choice of geodesic domes in which to spend the night. One of the most spectacular options is the Elqui Domos in Chile’s Elqui Valley, famous for its star-spangled skies. There are seven geodesic canvas domes, each with removable roofs so that you can stargaze from beneath the duvet. If you can’t make it to Chile, there are versions of these futuristic tents from Spain to South Wales.
8. Boot Bed & Breakfast, Tasman, New Zealand
Has a boot-shaped hotel not been on your to-do list? Amend that and step into a living fairy tale in the epically beautiful area of Tasman in New Zealand. Looking like something out of a children’s book, the boot sleeps two, with a cosy Hobbit-meets-Beatrix Potter-meets-twee feel. There’s a sofa and open fire downstairs, where you can kick back in the toe area. Is this the ultimate boot-ique hotel?
9. Iglu-Dorf, Zermatt, Switzerland
Building starts on Iglu-Dorf (‘igloo village’) every November. It’s made up of real snow igloos, near the smart Swiss resort of Zermatt, with incredible views over the Matterhorn. At 2700m, it offers various styles of igloo, including ‘romantic’ and ‘family’, but all are reliably chilly, though bedding is super-warm, on sheepskin and in sleeping bags. Decoration includes snow pictures carved into the walls, and flowers encased in ice. Jump in the Jacuzzi with Matterhorn views to warm up. And if you get tired of chilling out, you can join an igloo-building workshop.
Iglu-Dorf opens from Christmas to April, and igloos cost from CHF109-479 per adult
10. Underwater room at the Manta Resort, Zanzibar, Tanzania
Sleep with the fishes in the best possible sense. If you think sleeping underwater is impossible, think again. Various hotels worldwide are offering submarine experiences, but most spectacular is the Manta Resort in Zanzibar. A wooden hut stands alone in the ocean, 250m from a white-sand beach. It’s on three levels, with a lounge upstairs, a rooftop for diving off, and a bedroom beneath sea level, with 360° views of pale blue sea and colourful tropical passersby such as bat fish and trumpet fish. We’re just wondering what the sealife looking in makes of it all.
The underwater room at the Manta Resort costs US$1,500 per night for a double
Reproduced with kind permission from Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2016 © 2015, Lonely Planet
Words: Abigail Blasi for Lonely Planet
Images: Rex Features, Dog Bark Park Inn, Living Architecture, Taronga Zoo, Elqui Domos, Jester House, Iglu-Dorf, Manta Resort