Sheer inventiveness and the sharing economy have opened up a new world of sublime and ridiculous places to spend the night, from submarine suites and dinosaur sleepovers to an igloo overlooking the Matterhorn – or even a padded cell…
So grab your PJs and bed down for a night to remember with these quirky hotels and overnight experiences.
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.
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.
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 (dogbackparkinn.com) 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.
French Louie Caye, Belize
For the ultimate in tranquillity and romance, why not hire your own private two-acre desert island? French Louie Caye (frenchlouiecaye.weebly.com) is one of the many idyllic islands off the coast of Belize, and only a few minutes’ boat ride from the mainland. With its shimmering coral-sand beach, kaleidoscopic reef and a rich and colourful mangrove ecology it’s a daydream come to life. Accommodation is in a simple wood cabin that sleeps six, with tents available for more people. A guide-chef cooks freshly caught fish, and then leaves you to enjoy the seclusion.
A House for Essex, UK
Opened in 2015, the gold-roofed A House for Essex (living-architecture.co.uk/the-houses/a-house-for-essex/overview) 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.
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.
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.
Iglu-Dorf, Zermatt, Switzerland
Building starts on Iglu-Dorf (‘igloo village’, iglu-dorf.com) 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.
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.
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 (jesterhouse.co.nz)?