Prepare for some serious wanderlust courtesy of this extract from Lonely Planet's latest book, 50 Places to Stay to Blow Your Mind
Ashford Castle, County Mayo, Ireland
We could get used to this. Who wouldn’t be swept up in the fantasy of medieval castle life? Especially considering this place is now packed with modern five-star amenities.
This place is enormous. Built in 1228 by Anglo-Normans, the castle has received numerous add-ons and extensions over the years, including a French-style chateau in 1715 and Victorian buildings by the then-owners, the Guinness family, in 1852. Nowadays it’s a spectacular 83-room hotel with a cinema, spa, golf course, tennis courts, fishing, lake cruises, horse-riding, clay-shooting, archery, zip-lining, tree climbing, and of course, falconry. We’re not even kidding.
We don’t know where to start. Considering the sumptuous, spacious and elegant design of the rooms and suites at the hotel it’s amazing anyone makes it outside to partake in all the activities. Each room has been lovingly realised with antique furnishings, bespoke beds and carpets, chandeliers and one-of-a-kind works of art. There’s 24-hour in-room dining available, an in-room bar, cable TV with on-demand movies, as well as deluxe toiletries and plush bathrobes and slippers. You will never want to leave.
Huettenpalast, Berlin, Germany
Not another converted factory warehouse. We’re going to hedge our bets and say you won’t have seen one quite like this before. Sure, from the outside it’s an old vacuum cleaner factory, but on the inside you’ll see it has been turned into a whimsical indoor camping site fitted with renovated, retro caravans and wooden cabins as accommodation.
Image: Jan Brockhaus
How cute. As well as the charming caravans and cabins, the hotel serves breakfast by hanging little bags of croissants, fresh fruit and juice on a painted tree each morning for guests to collect and share in the common dining areas. There is an onsite café serving more substantial dishes if your foraged meal doesn’t fill you up.
The only thing missing from this camping experience is the outdoors. They’ve thought about that too. Outside there’s a garden patio complete with shared seating so you can get to know your fellow campers, or hammocks for lounging around. And for a truly authentic camping adventure there are (clean) communal toilets and showers.
Berggasthaus Aescher-Wildkirchli, Schwende District, Switzerland
This place is surely the stuff of Swiss Alpine dreams... This magnificently situated guesthouse is quintessentially Swiss. The picture-postcard façade is all wooden angles and shuttered windows, while the body of the guesthouse backs into the spectacularly cleaved cliff-face of the Ebenalp Peak; the back wall of the guesthouse is actually the mountain itself. From the front there are expansive Alpine views stretching all the way to the remote Seealpsee Lake.
What a spectacular setting. This is definitely the fairy-tale version of Switzerland on show. The sleeping arrangements, however, may not be everyone’s cup of kirsch. From its modest days as a mountain hut housing farmers and their goats and cows, the guesthouse has evolved to include shared dormitory accommodation, but no private lodgings.
There’s nothing like sharing sleeping quarters to get the party started. That’s the spirit. The communal-style sleeping arrangements lend themselves to good times and you’ll have no trouble finding a friend to share a beer with after a long day of hiking in the mountains.
Treehotel, Harads, Sweden
This place looks so cool we don’t know which tree house to choose. We think you’ll need to make a few trips. It’s impossible to say which striking structure is the most impressive – is it the UFO, the Bird’s Nest, or the Mirrorcube? Even the more traditional looking rooms, the Blue Cone, the Cabin, and the Dragonfly, are stunningly beautiful.
You’ll have to help us with the decision. Consider the UFO if you’re bringing the kids along for the ride – it sleeps five and has a living area and bathroom. The Mirrorcube suits couples with its cool, classic Birchwood interior and romantic, rooftop terrace. We love the contrast of the Bird’s Nest from its shambolic exterior of jumbled sticks to the spacious interior with two bedrooms, lounge room and bathroom.
We couldn’t help noticing there are no kitchens. A short walk away is Britta’s Pensionat, where all guests of the Treehotel are welcome to come and enjoy a home-cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is possible to have meals delivered to the privacy of your own room if you don’t feel like socialising. Britta’s also provides tree house guests with access to a bar, sauna, lounge area and TV.
Bivacco Gervasutti, Mont Blanc, Italy
This is one for the adrenaline junkies, right? It’s fair to say that couch potatoes will want to settle for the pictures. The Bivacco Gervasutti perches precariously on the Frebouze Glacier on the Mont Blanc massif in Italy. Yes, that’s Mont Blanc of the ‘highest peak in Europe’ fame.
Wow, that is totally extreme. Everything about this place is extreme. The striking red and white capsule, containing living and dining areas as well as two sleeping quarters for up to 12 people, cantilevers dramatically out over the cliff-face. From the inside it’s like you’re floating over the mountain. Solar panels keep the tube toasty year-round and there’s even internet access so you can show off to your mates back home.
Ok, how do we get in there? That’s the tricky bit: it’s only accessible by foot. The architects of the structure were forced to build by helicoptering in one section at a time. There is no such luxury option for prospective guests. Only those who put in the hard graft to hike to the top reap the rewards of the spectacular views.
Hotel Marques De Riscal, Elciego, Spain
Basque country, vineyards, medieval townships, what more could we want? Sometimes a mind-blowing place to stay is about its location, sometimes its historical significance, and sometimes its architectural excellence. Rarely does a place tick all the boxes. Hotel Marques De Riscal is one such place, predominantly because it’s the one and only hotel ever designed by architectural genius Frank Gehry, he of Guggenheim and Bilbao fame.
Strange setting for a piece of postmodern architectural perfection. Rising dramatically from the rows of verdant vines is the unmistakable vision that is Gehry’s work. Enormous metal ribbons flow in organic forms from the dramatic angles of the rest of the building, a breathtaking juxtaposition.
We can’t wait to see inside. As with all beautifully designed buildings the hotel’s interior complements the exterior. Floor to ceiling windows zigzag at sharp angles letting in floods of light. The 43 individually dressed rooms are painted crisp white with wooden accents, they’re sparingly furnished to make the most of the views.
If you tire of marvelling at the surrounds there’s a spa, restaurant and pool at your disposal.
Reproduced with permission from 50 Places to Stay to Blow Your Mind, © 2017 Lonely Planet.