Here Are Five of the Most Extraordinary Hotels in The World

By: Freelance Contributor
Motorsports: FIA Formula One World Championship 2013, Grand Prix of Singapore, Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Pool (Photo by Hoch Zwei/Corbis via Getty Images) Hoch Zwei/Corbis / Getty Images

Whether it’s on paper or in our heads, many of us have some form of a travel ‘bucket’ list. You may have daydreamed about hiking the Amazon Rainforest, snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef, or taking a gondola ride down the Venice Canal. Well, while you’re making those future travel plans, you might want to add some of these hotels to your list. These accommodations are far more than simply places to sleep — in fact, in many cases, they’re the main attraction themselves. Here are our top five picks for the world’s most unique hotel experiences.


1. The Madonna Inn, California, U.S.A.

Think of the most ridiculous themed party you’ve ever attended, then imagine if it had been hosted inside Barbie’s Dream House, and you’ve basically nailed the Madonna Inn’s aesthetic. This quirky, flamboyant hotel near San Luis Obispo is now a famous tourist destination, but when it first opened in 1958, it was actually a relatively average and inconspicuous motor lodge. It was only after a 1966 fire torched the building that Alex and Phyllis Madonna decided to rebuild – and rebrand – the inn into an iconic landmark of pure kitsch, offering up deliciously tacky themed rooms complete with glitter wallpaper, waterfall showers, and a healthy dose of glaring Pepto Bismol pink. Talk about the phoenix rising from the proverbial ashes. Unleash your inner diva in the ridiculously pink Madonna Suite, or rough it in the stone-walled Caveman Room (basically the Flintstones’ house, if the Flintstones had lived in a 1970s brothel.)

2. Giraffe Manor, Nairobi, Kenya

Can you imagine sharing a casual meal with a giraffe? At Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, that’s exactly what guests get to do. The Manor and its adjacent Giraffe Centre, maintained by the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, serve as a sanctuary for the endangered Rothschild Giraffe. Because Giraffe Manor has only ten rooms, hotel guests get to learn about and interact with these magnificent creatures up close. The eight giraffes currently residing on the property spend most of their time in the one-hundred-and-forty-acre forest surrounding the Manor, but guests are treated to an unparalleled experience every morning and evening when the giraffes crane their necks into the windows of the hotel for a bite to eat. I can’t think of a better dinner date.

3. Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, Lapland, Finland

This resort in northern Finland completely redefines the concept of sleeping under the stars. The hotel is famous for its series of private glass igloos, perfect for falling asleep under the magical colors of the Northern Lights, which grace the area from late August to late April each year. If you’re the kind of person who prefers ‘glamping’ to camping and doesn’t exactly relish the idea of roughing it, fear not. Each igloo is heated and features a private bathroom; you also have the option of staying in one of the resort’s cozy, rustic log cabins. During the daytime, visitors can go ice-swimming, sweat it out in a traditional smoke sauna, or channel Santa Claus on one of the resort’s popular reindeer sledding trips.

4. Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

This five-star resort in the city of Singapore is the newest project by famed hotel and casino developer Las Vegas Sands, and it’s every bit as glamorous and luxurious as you’d expect. Designed by Moshe Safdie Architects in 2010, Marina Bay Sands features a casino that spans fifteen thousand square meters, an ice skating rink, and a whopping 44 restaurants to choose from. However, the biggest draw of the resort is arguably its rooftop infinity pool – the largest in the world. At fifty-seven floors above ground level, the pool provides the ultimate observation deck for anyone hoping to get a great view of Singapore’s skyline, and its vanishing edge gives the illusion that you’re floating on the edge of the city.


5. Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort & Spa, Bora Bora, French Polynesia

If you’re dreaming of the perfect beach vacation, you may not get any closer than this. Set in the crystalline blue waters of the Bora Bora Lagoon and flanked by white sand beaches, the Hilton Bora Bora Nui is famous for its overwater villas with private decks, where a swim in the Pacific Ocean is literally right at your doorstep. Each villa also features glass floors, so guests can marvel at the various species of marine wildlife – including manta rays – that call the lagoon home. High rollers can rent out one of the resort’s Presidential Overwater Villas, which feature two stories of luxury (and a price tag upwards of three thousand dollars per night).