For me, one of the most exciting things about travel is stepping outside my comfort zone and exploring ‘the other’. On holidays we spend our days hearing (and sometimes speaking) different languages, eating different foods, and observing different cultural practices – but then usually retreat to a somewhat standard hotel room and bed to sleep. Some of my favourite travel experiences however have involved sleeping somewhere different, unusual ‘hotels’ that provide a chance to really immerse myself in ‘the other’. Here are five of the most unusual places to stay that I’ve discovered.
Mongolia is still largely a wilderness, one of the last places where most people live a semi-nomadic life. This wonderful land of unpaved roads and spectacular scenery is dotted with ger camps, where visitors sleep in comfortable tents, furnished with simple beds and warmed by wood stoves.
Desert Caravanserai (Iran)
A yard full of camels and goats sets the scene at Ateshooni, a 300-year-old mud-brick guesthouse in Iran’s central desert. Mattresses on carpeted floors are surprisingly comfortable, traditional meals (served communally) are delicious and 4-wheel-driving in the desert dunes is unforgettable.
Canal Barge (France)
The beautifully restored, 80-year-old Barge Colibri with just two ensuite double rooms is bucket list stuff! As husband and wife hosts, Earl & Fiona Pilatti, navigate the Canal du Midi, they share their knowledge, passion, wine collection and Fiona’s great cooking with a maximum four guests at a time.
Tree House (Zambia)
Arriving by boat along the Zambezi River, you spot what look like tree houses among the wild greenery. Welcome to The River Club, where ex-British Army officer, Peter Jones, combines the charm of colonial history with 21st century comforts. I love the outdoor claw-footed bathtub.
Baronial Castle (Scotland)
Drive through the wilds of the Outer Hebridean Isle of Harris, to Amhuinnsuidhe (Aven-sue-ee) Castle overlooking West Loch Tarbert. Built in the mid-1800s, it’s great for fishing, hunting and hiking … but I just love stepping back in time in the period-furnished bedrooms and eating in the grand, wood-panelled dining room.