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    World's Most Unusual Hotels

    By By Adam McCulloch
    June 20, 2012, 7:02:13 AM EDT

    On a Sri Lankan riverbank stands a lone, slightly misshapen, enormous elephant. As you approach cautiously, you realize this creature isn’t some freak of nature; it’s an eco-lodge of grass and twigs that sleeps up to 10 people in its belly.

    Kumbuk Hotel belongs to a peculiar breed of hotels that continue to crop up worldwide, winning over travelers with their sheer novelty. Some of these unusual hotels have never-knew-you-needed-them amenities like an in-room sailboat, while others go for shock factor: ever slept in a coffin bed or a rescue pod? Still others are in improbable locations: the depths of a silver mine; atop a coral reef. But what all the world’s most unusual hotels promise is that you’ll be talking about your stay long after you check out.

    Make no mistake: while these unusual hotels may look crazy, they aren’t the result of hoteliers gone mad. The owners are often forward-thinking architects or tinkerers inspired to make their small hotel creations into quirky destinations in and of themselves. They’re well aware that anything strange attracts publicity and curious travelers.

    Berlin’s Propeller Island, for example, has become popular among artists, who seek stimulation among the green padded walls, floating beds, and fun-house interiors, which, not surprisingly, have been featured in many music videos. While it jives with Berlin’s artsy reputation, some other unusual hotels go to more radical lengths to blend in with their surroundings. The salt pans of Bolivia make the Palacio de Sal hotel—constructed entirely from salt blocks (even the beds)—a true product of the environment.

    Sure, your usual tastes probably run sweeter—say, to a hotel pool, a king-size bed with a down comforter, and tasteful decor. Yet there’s something liberating about letting loose and giving in to a strange suite once in a while—just as there’s something reassuring about knowing these properties exist and thrive. In cases like Sweden’s futuristic all-suites Treehotel, unusual hotels can even be beautiful examples of out-of-the-box design.

    Still, that doesn’t account for a life-size hamster hotel where guests are greeted with masks on arrival. That’s just downright strange—and you need to see it to believe it.


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    Propeller Island, Berlin, Germany

    Lars Stroschen is the German artist behind this quizzically named Berlin hotel, where each room is stranger than the next—and offers amenities you never knew you needed. One room has a bath in a giant plastic bag; another uses an oversize guillotine to divide a king bed into two singles. There’s a jauntily painted prison cell, a room with coffin beds, and a suite completely decorated in mirror fragments. One of the most requested is an apparently ordinary bedroom. It’s unremarkable except for the fact that it’s completely upside down: all furniture is suspended from above, except for a sunken Murphy bed, a table, a couch, and a TV, which all fold out from the smooth floor.


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    Treehotel, Harads, Sweden

    Childhood treehouses never looked like this. Leading Swedish architects give the backyard staple a strange futuristic makeover at the Treehotel (completed in 2010, it was inspired by a film about three men who rediscover their roots by building a treehouse). Each treetop suite has its own look, whether resembling a bird’s nest or a flying saucer, or seemingly constructed entirely from Lego blocks. The most ingenious appears constructed from nothing at all: the mirrored exterior reflects the forest on all sides—as if creating a gap in the space-time continuum.


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    Hang Nga Guesthouse, Dalat, Vietnam

    In what could be seen as an homage to either Antonio Gaudi or mental illness, this trippy hotel by Vietnamese architect Dang Viet Nga has become a popular attraction. Mushrooms, spiderwebs, portholes, and tree roots are sculpted into the organic concrete form, and each of the 10 guest rooms at “The Crazy House” is named for an animal. Choose wisely; those burning-bright eyes in the tiger suite will surely keep you awake.

    011-84-063-822-070, 3 Huynh Thuc Khang St.

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