The ultimate mud hut welcomes visitors to an eco-village stay in Sierra Leone. ©Tribewanted
By Melisse Hinkle, Cheapflights Travel Expert
Many Travel with a Challenge readers are keen to spend their waking hours in adventurous exploration, pushing the physical boundaries and engaging in educational activities that more traditional vacationers rarely encounter. But how can we make those sleeping hours equally worthy of a grand adventure, thereby enhancing the experiences of destinations visited?
From a dangling tree house in British Columbia and sweet dreams in a deep silver mine in Sweden to making yourself at home in a double-decker bus in England or a 1950s freight-carrying plane in New Zealand, there are awesome sleeping spots that go way beyond predictable accommodation, even while offering comfort and sometimes downright luxury.
Free Spirit Spheres, Qualicum Beach, British Columbia, Canada
Harken back to childhood days for a night (or two) in the forest near Qualicum Beach on the charming east coast of Vancouver Island where you can sleep suspended in one of three Free Spirit Spheres. These spherical “tree houses for adults” are constructed using boat-building techniques and hang from rope tethers in the area’s giant Douglas firs. The spheres – named Eve, Eryn and Melody – are designed to fit seamlessly into the forest without disturbing their natural surroundings. They sway gently with the rest of the trees, some say giving guests a spiritual experience and a sense of connectedness. Insulated and wired for power (with built-in speakers), these funky tree houses feature open floor plans inside. Bedding, towels and complimentary snacks are provided, and separate shared bathroom facilities are available nearby on the forest floor.
Three handcrafted spheres are suspended like pendants from a web of rope. Tom Chudleigh / Free Spirit Spheres
These popular glass igloos are available right through the Northern Lights season. New four-person igloos for 2014/15 include private shower facilities. Kakslauttanen
Snow Igloos and Glass Igloos, Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, Saariselka, Finland
Snag a front-row seat to all the night sky has to offer at this resort in Finnish Lapland, about 155 miles (250 kilometres) north of the Arctic Circle. With plenty of annual snowfall, temperatures that can reach minus 40 degrees and no sun between December and January, this may just be the ultimate winter wonderland. You can stay at Kakslauttanen year round (in a variety of rooms and cabins), but the resort’s most compelling accommodations are no doubt its glass igloos, available from late August through late April. These cozy, glass-ceiling bedrooms shield you from the elements while still giving you a chance to slumber under the stars. If you’re lucky, you may even see the Northern Lights.
Each igloo sleeps two, has its own toilet and maintains a moderate temperature. Showers and saunas are located in separate buildings. If you’re a little more adventurous (and warm-blooded), book a night in one of the nearby snow igloos. The interior temperature of the snow caves stays somewhere between -7 and -4 degrees C., but don’t worry, the resort provides guests with down sleeping bags, hats and wool socks.
The Mine Suite, Sala Silvermine, Sweden
Formerly Sweden’s biggest source of silver (mainly used for coins and art), the Sala Silvermine now houses a museum, shop, restaurant and five different types of guest rooms. But it’s the mine’s signature suite that draws the most attention: At more than 500 feet (152 metres) below ground, The Mine Suite, which accommodates two people, has been dubbed the world’s deepest hotel room. There is no cell phone reception there but you’ll be able to communicate with staff above ground via intercom radio. In-room breakfast, refreshments and a guided tour of the mine are all included in the price of a stay. A toilet is located near the suite and guests have access to showers and a lounge in the mine’s above-ground hostel. Bring a few extra layers: The suite is warmed up to about 18 degrees C., but the mine is humid and hovers at about 2 degrees C. year round.
The Silver Mine experience includes a gift basket with wine, chocolate and cheeses and an in-suite breakfast. Pappilabild/Sala Silvermine
A Challenge to our Readers!
Would you like to tell us about some unusual accommodations you have personally sampled? Have you slept in a former prison, a converted airplane hangar, a former church, a former lighthouse or somewhere unusual that is not “former” at all? Send us an email description and a web address for the accommodation and we may be able to post them in a supplementary article, with credit to the contributor. All suggestions must be a present commercially-run accommodation and be bookable by our readers.
1950s Bristol Freighter, Waitomo, New Zealand
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a…bedroom? Thought to be one of the last allied planes out of Vietnam, this converted Bristol Freighter is situated in the center of New Zealand’s North Island about two hours from Auckland. Slightly kitschy and very quirky, the plane has two units for rent – one in the cockpit and one toward the plane’s tail – each of which accommodates up to four people. A stay here comes with a free evening walk through the dazzling glow worm caves of Waitomo nearby. Not sure an airplane is the ideal transport to lull you to sleep? Woodlyn Park – the compound where the freighter is located – also features a converted train and a ship to stay the night.
This vintage plane’s cockpit unit and tail unit each sleep up to four people. Billy Black
Roar & Snore, Taronga Zoo, just outside Sydney, Australia
If you’ve ever wanted to rise and shine to views of Sydney Harbour – and the sound of a lion’s roar – this slumber party is for you. Dubbed “Sydney’s ultimate sleepover”, this overnight experience offers guests the chance to glamp in Taronga Zoo, overlooking the Australian city’s iconic Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Guests will be treated to an educational zoo experience featuring a nighttime safari, behind-the-scenes tours and up-close encounters with animals. All tents are equipped with linens and electricity. Meals and drinks are provided, and bathrooms are within walking distance. Definitely zoo insiders, Roar & Snore guests may also spend the rest of the day there after the sleepover.
Roar & Snore is a fully hosted experience that includes drinks in the main tent, a sumptuous roast feast, architecturally designed tents, and up-close animal encounters. Lorinda Taylor / Taronga Zoo
Big Green Bus, Sussex countryside, England
Doze off for the night in a double-decker-bus-turned-apartment-for-rent. Now parked on a glamping site in the Sussex countryside, this converted 1982 West Midlands metro bus comfortably sleeps six people in its three upstairs bedrooms. The lower level features a lounge-dining room combo, full-size kitchen, wet room and toilet. The fact that you’re spending the night in a bus won’t escape you – part of this sleeping spot’s charm is that many of its original transportation-inspired elements have been incorporated into the new design. And if the bus seems a little confining, just walk 15 minutes down the road to the Six Bells Pub for a pint.
The entire bus conversion was filmed for Britain’s channel 4 Amazing Spaces program in 2013. Adam Collier-Woods / Big Green Bus
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