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The World’s Most Extraordinary Hotels

Hotels can be sterile affairs, with a room in Hong Kong sometimes indistinguishable from one in Holland or even Brisbane. But there are some hoteliers bucking the trend, offering accommodation where the star attraction is the hotel itself, rather than a place to take a break between sightseeing.

Hotels can be sterile affairs, with a room in Hong Kong sometimes indistinguishable from one in Holland or even Brisbane. But there are some hoteliers bucking the trend, offering accommodation where the star attraction is the hotel itself, rather than a place to take a break between sightseeing.

Flight Centre marketing manager Zoë Heywood said as people travel more frequently, some are searching out unique holidays that very few people would have experienced.

Being the first to try something is quite important to some people’s holiday experience, and staying in really unusual properties can be a way of trying something memorable that very few others have dared to do.

From downtown New York to Dubai, for those looking for an original experience while never having to stray too far from the bedroom, here are ten of the world’s most extraordinary hotels:

Gone to the Dogs

The owners may be considered barking mad, but the Dog Bark Park Inn is a bed and breakfast guesthouse in the body of the world’s biggest wooden beagle, also known as ‘Sweet Willy’. Located at Dog Bark Park on Highway 95 in the small Midwest town of Cottonwood, Idaho, guests enter Sweet Willy from a private 2nd story deck. Inside and up another level in the head of the dog are a loft room for sleeping and, of course, a cosy reading nook in the dog’s muzzle.

Dog Bark Park artists Dennis Sullivan and Frances Conklin built Sweet Willy and Toby, his companion 12-foot tall beagle statue, and they have this to say about the Park:

“Dog Bark Park is one of America’s latest additions to the type of roadside architecture popular in the early days of automobile vacation travel when travellers would often buy gas, eat meals or stay overnight in a building that looked like something else. Remember coffee pot or teacup gas stations, milk bottle shaped restaurants or the shoe and duck houses? For today’s travellers Dog Bark Park Inn offers a glimpse into those bygone days with all the modern day comforts.”

The Weather Up There

Designed to resemble a billowing sail, Dubai’s Burj al Arab Hotel is the world’s tallest hotel building, and at a height of 321 metres, dominates the Dubai coastline. Part of the Jumeirah Beach Resort complex, the hotel overlooks Jumeirah Beach Hotel and the Wild Wadi Water Park by day, while at night it is surrounded by coloured sculptures of water and fire. Burj Al Arab is taller than the Eiffel Tower and only 60 meters shorter than the Empire State Building.

This all-suite hotel is the epitome of Arabian luxury. With a chauffeur driven Rolls Royce, discreet in-suite check in, private reception desk on every floor and a brigade of highly trained butlers who provide around-the-clock attention, guests are assured of a highly personalised service throughout their stay. Topping all other suites are the two palatial Royal Suites that include a private cinema, rotating beds, majlis (Arabic meeting room) and dressing rooms larger than the average hotel bedroom.

Reading Rooms

The Library Hotel in New York City is the first, and possibly last, hotel to arrange guestroom floors, room art and reading material in the 10 major categories of the Dewey Decimal System of book classification.

Floor choices include Science and Maths, Language, Literature, History and Technology, with sub topics for individual rooms. Each of the 60 rooms have collections of books and art exploring these topics. Housed in a landmark 1900 brick and terracotta building, the hotel has been restored into a memorable mansion-style luxury hotel.

Personal service goes one step further as guests can request their rooms based on personal interests. On the literature floor visitors can chose from poetry or the classics to even erotic literature, and all up there are 60 rooms like this to choose from.

Other distinctive features guests have at their disposal include the Writers Den a mahogany panelled room with a large fireplace and The Poetry Garden, in case the Library atmosphere means you’ve just got to write.

Among the Treetops

Brazil’s Ariau Amazon Towers Hotel is located around 60km from Manuas, at the meeting of the Rio Negro and Ariau Creek. Built entirely at the level of the rainforest canopy, Ariau’s towers are linked together by six and a half km of sturdy wooden catwalks and offer a unique glimpse of the region’s abundant flora and fauna while leaving the fragile eco-system completely undisturbed.

Ariau Amazon Towers is the only hotel complex at tree top level in the Amazon Rainforest and is part of the National Park of the Negro River and at the beginning of the Anavilhanas Archipelago, the largest fresh water archipelago in the world.

One for the Kids

While Blackpool may not be the cultural capital of Europe, it does have its charms, especially for the young ones. Sparkles Hotel is designed with kids in mind, with eight childhood fantasy themed suites with toys, books, Disney and costumes for children aged from two upwards. It also offers supervised children’s activities a huge playroom stocked with models, toys, doll houses and is very close to all the major tourist attractions.

Sparkles does also cater for the whole family however, and in true Blackpool style also has facilities for the budget conscious, such as the bring your own takeaways restaurant and the bring your own drinks bar, when it’s the clock strikes adult time.

Camping it Up

Indonesia’s Amanwana is a luxury nature camp and wilderness hideaway. Set in a secluded cove the camps 20 luxury tents are surrounded by tropical forest and looks out over Amanwana Bay and beyond to the Flores Sea.

Unlike the traditional camping holiday, each one of these waterproof tents has windows, is air-conditioned and is furnished with Indonesian island artwork, hardwood flooring and a sitting area with two divans. For guests there are a host of water sports activities including fishing and waterfall jumping. Amanwana, meaning ‘peaceful forest’ has been an official wildlife reserve since 1976, and guests can spot rusa deer, banteng buffalo, boar, monkeys and bats, as well as the white-breasted sea eagle. Again, a bit different from the local DOC campsite.

Go Jump in a Lake

While traditionally the Australian dream is to own your family home on a quarter acre block, apparently the Swedish dream is to have a small red house with white gables on your own island.

The Otter Inn (Utter Inn in Swedish) fulfils this dream and much more. The Inn is on a small, man-made island on Lake Malaren in Vasteras, Sweden, and while the main house (with red exterior and white gables) is above the surface, the bedroom lies 3m below, containing just twin beds and a table, offering panoramic window views in all directions for a real alternative sensory experience, where guests are often watched by fish in a reverse aquarium scenario.

Guests of Otter Inn arrive at the port of Vasteras and they are taken the 1km out on the Lake Malaren and left alone. They have the opportunity to use an inflatable canoe to visit the closest uninhabited island, swim, sunbath and watch the fish, although the question is, who’s watching who?

Taking the Underground

Australia’s Desert Cave Hotel in the outback, 650km from Alice Springs, allows visitors to experience dugout style living, with suites, shops and a bar all found underground.

In the heart of Coober Pedy, the underground suites are a place to escape the heat, as they remain quiet, cool, dark and airy, with a spacious design and high ceilings.

The Desert Cave Hotel, famous as the only international rated underground hotel in the world, has 19 underground suites, but for those a little claustrophobic, it also offers 50 above ground as well.

Woodlyn Park, Otorohanga, New Zealand

Woodlyn Park, two hours from Auckland is both unusual and eclectic in its accommodation offerings, with guests able to stay in a train, a plane, or even in hillside hobbit holes.

For plane enthusiasts, a 1950’s Bristol Freighter has been fully refurbished into two self-contained motel units, while the ‘Waitomo Express’ is a 1950’s rail carriage transformed into a completely self-contained motel unit with three separate bedrooms.

The latest edition to the park is the world’s first Hobbit Underground Motel, cut into the hillside and sporting with circular windows, it has taken a leaf straight out of Tolkien.

Lord of the Rings enthusiasts have been known to book these Hobbit holes out months in advance, so don’t be precious if you miss out first time.

Underwater World

While Dubai’s Hydropolis is not yet complete, it’s worth a mention as one the most extraordinary hotels ever built.

Constructed from a combination of concrete, steel and clear Plexiglas, Hydropolis will be the world’s first underwater luxury hotel, offering 220 suites, all sitting on the Persian Gulf floor 66 feet (20 meters) below the surface.

Covering 27 acres, the project will feature a wave-shaped above ground ‘land station’ and the jellyfish-shaped underwater hotel, linked by a submerged transparent train tunnel more than half a kilometre long.

Among the project’s other unusual architectural details are the hotel’s two translucent domes, which will house a concert auditorium and a ballroom that break the water’s surface, with the ballroom featuring a retractable roof, and the hotel’s bubble-shaped suites, with clear glass comprising both the sleeping areas’ walls and each room’s bathtub.

Hydropolis will open for the first guests in late 2007.

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