World’s 10 most extraordinary places to stay

Ever wanted to spend the night in a lighthouse in New York state? A treehouse in Laos? Or a cave hotel in Turkey? These are just three of the 10 most extraordinary places to stay in the world – according to travel experts Lonely Planet.

To accompany the launch of their first ever collection of world’s best hotels, Lonely Planet has revealed its top 10 list of unusual accommodation choices. We reported the Lonely Planet ‘eco accommodation’ list last week and now pick out some of the Goodtrippers-friendly options on the ‘extraordinary’ list: here are our picks…

Planet Baobab, Gweta, BotswanaPlanet Baobab, Gweta, Botswana

Second in Lonely Planet’s list, this funky lodge is a must if you’re visiting Botswana’s Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. You can choose to stay in a traditional mud hut (en-suite and adorned with art made with the natural pigments found in the many termite mounds in the area), or a traditional grass hut (en-suite and constructed using the same methods as the original bushmen of Botswana). If you fancy it, camping facilities are also on offer. Walkways wind through the baobabs (which are lit up at night) to a pool and bar-restaurant. Spot meerkats and elephants while you sip your sundowner…


Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge, AustraliaPeppers Cradle Mountain Lodge, Tasmania, Australia

No. 5 in the Lonely Planet list, this eco-friendly lodge is located on the edge of the spectacular World Heritage site Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. Cabins are nestled privately in the bushland, with wallabies bounding past the windows and wombats shuffling amid the trees. Locally sourced game, wine, cheeses and honey permeate the restaurant’s menu, one of Tasmania’s best. The view from the spa is a dense thicket of King Billy pine trees. Guests can choose from couples’ or family cabins, right up to suites with private outdoor tubs and fuel-efficient fireplaces.


Free Spirit Spheres, British Columbia, CanadaFree Spirit Spheres, British Columbia, Canada

Treehouses for grown-ups! These fantastic handmade orbs, suspended among the tall trees of west coast rainforest, are kitted out like cosy boat cabins inside (mod cons including iPod docks all present and correct) and are accessed by rope walkways and spiral ladders. You’re encouraged spend time in your swaying sphere to immerse yourself in the local wildlife – the chattering birds and squirrels, now on your eye-level. The site also has showers, a sauna, kitchen and barbecue.


Thonga Beach Lodge, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South AfricaThonga Beach Lodge, South Africa

This luxury resort by the beach is environmentally-friendly and remote – it’s one of few such lodges within the 328,000 hectare iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its spacious huts are scattered through dune forest, some with spectacular views of the Indian Ocean. Whales frequently pass by, and Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles nest on the nearby beaches. Take a nature trek with a local expert, a deep sea dive, or simply relax in the spa or indulge in the lodge’s fresh seafood and salads.


The Gibbon Experience Treehouse, Bokeo Reserve, LaosThe Gibbon Experience Treehouse, Bokeo Reserve, Laos

Completing the Lonely Planet top 10 is this outstanding experience in Laos. Imagine waking to the sonorous call of the endangered black-crested gibbon, stretching in your bed a hundred feet up in the triple canopy, and nursing a coffee on your balcony as you watch the dawn mist crowd in over the jungle valley below. The tree houses, erected by conservation group Animo, are a thing of wonder straddling the giant trunks of strangler fig trees. You have to take a zip wire to ‘fly’ into your night’s accommodation! Dinner is delivered fresh from the nearby campfire, and music is the ambient sound of cicadas as fireflies dance in the night air.


The full Lonely Planet Top 10 Extraordinary Places to Stay

  1. Mihir Gahr, Rajasthan, India
  2. Planet Baobab, Gweta, Botswana
  3. Prendiparte B&B, Bologna, Italy
  4. Qasr Al Sarab, UAE
  5. Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge, Tasmania, Australia
  6. Free Spirit Spheres, British Columbia, Canada
  7. Taskonak Hotel, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey
  8. Thonga Beach Lodge, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa
  9. Saugerties Lighthouse, New York state, USA
  10. The Gibbon Experience Treehouse, Bokeo Reserve, Laos


You may also be interested in the Lonely Planet’s top 10 eco stays


Lost in Laos? Volunteering in Vang Vieng

Guest blogger Ellie Cambridge, of NGO Frontier, lifts the lid on the Laos Volunteer Adventure project

the beautiful landscape of Vang Vieng150km north of Vientiane, the capital city of Laos, you will find the quaint town of Vang Vieng which sits within a breathtaking and mesmerising location – it’s no surprise that this town has become a hot destination on the tourist and backpacker trail. The town is completely surrounded by limestone cliffs, at the foot of which you can find the town’s most famous natural resource – the idyllic Nam Song river. Tourists and locals alike gather here for kayaking or tubing – and you can hop off your chosen river transport and explore the numerous caves that Vang Vieng boasts. The town, which still manages to maintain a peaceful lifestyle, despite its popularity, also has several lagoons which are every bit as exotic as you’d expect.

But for those wanting to also make a positive difference to the area, Frontier’s Laos Volunteer Adventure makes the most of the beautiful surrounding while getting volunteers involved in work that greatly benefits the local community.

The project has one clear and precise goal – the sustainable development of the children in Vang Viengcommunity. This is reflected in the project itself uses environmentally friendly building methods and farming practices (bio-gas, permaculture, and mud-brick), which will all assist in encouraging sustainable future development and will help preserve the natural environment for future generations.

Teaching for the future

The activities that volunteers get involved with on a daily basis are teaching, sustainable building, organic farming, bio-gas technology, water supply, and waste management. Teaching is valuable tool in terms of creating awareness and will help change the way that future generations approach sustainable development and farming. Volunteers on the project can make a real difference in the way the community flourishes by teaching (as creatively as possible) the importance of sustainability. Teaching English to young and enthusiastic children and young adults at the projects community centre is also conducted on a daily basis, which is important for their further education.

delicious local food in Vang ViengFarming the land and new technologies

An emphasis is put upon the ideals and practises of organic farming within the community. An important part of the project is to tend to the various crops of fruit and vegetables that are grown naturally in the fertile soil found on site. Tasks will also include replanting and harvesting when necessary, and volunteers will of course get to enjoy the fruits of their labour by eating the produce during meals! Bio-Gas technology is something that the project is currently setting up, and it is hoped that in the future all of the local homes will use this form of technology for energy; it decreases the use of firewood and generates natural fertiliser that can be used as part of the organic farming programme.

Click here to find out more about the Laos Adventure Volunteer project.

Recommended for… Anyone who wants to be submersed within a new culture and get hands on experience making a tangible difference in the lives of villagers.farmland in Vang Vieng

Be aware that… Accommodation is clean and comfortable, but sleeping arrangements are shared dormitory-style.

‘Good’ credentials:

  • Grassroots, authentic volunteering experience
  • Long-term and sustainable green development


About the author: Ellie Cambridge works for Frontier, an NGO dedicated to safeguarding biodiversity and ecosystem integrity, and building sustainable livelihoods for marginalised communities in the world’s poorest countries. Find out more about Frontier’s volunteer projects, ethical adventure trails and gap year planning.

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