Quirky hotels make a stay special from the moment your clients check in, reports Katie McGonagle
Ask a Godfather fan if they want to sleep with the fishes, and you might not get the reaction you were hoping for – but tell them you’re talking about one of the world’s most spectacular underwater hotels and it will be an offer they can’t refuse.
Unusual properties are the perfect way to add a twist to any trip before clients even step outside their hotel, so Travel Weekly has rounded up a few exciting ideas to offer inspiration.
From tree-houses towering over the jungle to overwater villas with nothing but blue sea below; from converted castles or convents to rooms carved into caves or out of ice, there’s no excuse for being boring when it comes to choosing the right hotel.
Clients will definitely need a few bob to spend a night in the mind-blowing underwater suite at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, but imagine the joy of waking up to tropical fish swimming overhead. It’s £7,766 a night, which includes private champagne dinner and breakfast in bed the next morning.
When it’s not hired out by high-end honeymooners, the undersea suite doubles as exclusive Ithaa restaurant, where diners can gaze at colourful sealife while enjoying a six-course meal of caviar, lobster and champagne.
It’s not the only underwater spot in the Maldives. Niyama Maldives boasts an underwater club that attracts international DJs, and fellow Per Aquum property Huvafen Fushi has underwater spa treatment rooms.
Life is just as exciting above the ocean in the Maldives’ signature overwater villas. The Shangri-La Villingili Resort & Spa (pictured below) counts 60 water villas among its 132 rooms, built on stilts above the resort’s lagoon and connected to the island by a wooden walkway. A five-night half-board stay in a water villa starts at £3,204 with Kuoni, including Emirates flights and group transfers in July.
While the Maldives is best known for overwater suites, other spots offer a similar sense of luxury. In French Polynesia, the Four Seasons Bora Bora is just one of the resorts offering overwater bungalows, while other destinations such as Malaysia are increasingly investing in this style of property.
TENTS AND TREETOPS
If you’ve ever been on a safari, you’ll know staying in a tent doesn’t necessarily mean sleeping under canvas in a muddy field – the top-notch service at luxurious tented camps would rival any five-star hotel.
Banyan Tree Al Wadi offers pool villas with canopied ceilings in the desert sands of Wadi Khadeja. There’s no need to compromise on comfort, with a huge hydrotherapy spa, nature reserve and private beach access at Banyan Tree Ras Al Khaimah Beach. A week in a deluxe pool villa with breakfast, British Airways flights and private transfers, starts at £1,285 in September with Kuoni.
Other high-end options include Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa, part of Starwood’s Luxury Collection, featuring 42 tented suites each with private deck and pool in vast sand dunes less than an hour’s drive from Dubai. A Bedouin suite starts at £730 a night including three meals and two desert excursions.
Safari camps are special by their very nature, but Travel 2’s Africa product manager Michael Creighton highlights the Dwyka Tented Lodge in South Africa’s Sanbona Wildlife Reserve.
He says: “Surrounded by awe-inspiring rock formations, each of its nine luxurious and spacious tents has a plunge pool affording complete privacy. The reserve is one of the finest in southern Africa, and that combined with the wonderful accommodation makes for a unique experience.” A three-night full-board stay with game drives starts from £669, excluding flights, between July 1 and September 30.
Travellers to Peru can also experience life among the treetops at Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica, a 40sq mile ecological reserve in the Amazon rainforest. Among its 35 thatched cabanas is the canopy tree-house, built on a private platform adjoining the 27-metre-high canopy walkway. Prices start at £196 per person with two sharing, featured by Journey Latin America, Rainbow Tours and others.
Forget identikit hotel rooms – some buildings have a story to tell. The Gritti Palace in Venice has undergone a €35 million restoration to preserve its past as home to 16th-century doge Andrea Gritti. Signature suites take their names from former guests – Ernest Hemingway, Somerset Maugham and Peggy Guggenheim among them – plus the antiques and artworks lining the halls add to the sense of heritage. A deluxe room, including breakfast, leads in at £415.
In Spain and the Canary Islands, the historic Paradores properties are truly unique. One of the most notable is 14th-century Parador de Cardona, and with moats, turrets and four-poster beds, this is everything you would expect of a medieval castle (£109 per night).
In mainland Europe, many historic properties owe their foundations to the church. While it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea to stay in a converted convent or monastery, these buildings are often at the heart of the area’s history. Small Luxury Hotels of the World counts 8th-century monastery Kloster Hornbach in western Germany, and 12th-century priory Le Prieuré on the River Loire, among its portfolio, with prices from €149 per night with breakfast at the former, and €110 room-only at the latter.
Convento do Espinheiro was at the centre of life in Evora, Portugal, since the church and convent were built in 1458, and played host to Portuguese monarchs throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. Rooms start at €176.
NATURE KNOWS BEST
Sometimes Mother Nature makes the best building materials, and never more than with the spectacular ice hotels dotted around the world’s chillier spots.
Travel 2 highlights the Hotel de Glace near Quebec City, open from January to March 2014; a one-night stay plus two nights at the Manoir Victoria Hotel starts at £395, excluding flights. Closer to home, take your pick from Romania’s ice hotel at the foot of the Transylvanian Alps (Explore has a five-day trip with one night there, from £757 with flights), Sweden and Iceland.
Getting back to nature is also the focus at 1,000-year-old monastic retreat Gamirasu Cave Hotel, a 30-room property in the famous troglodyte caves of Cappadocia, Turkey. Anatolian Sky Holidays pairs four nights in the cave hotel with three in Istanbul, from £1,145 in October, including all flights, B&B accommodation, transfers and excursions.
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