Fall asleep swaying in the breeze in a hand-hewn wooden orb suspended in the coastal rain forest of Canada’s Vancouver Island. Kick back in a sunny, art-filled SoHo flat stocked with fluffy hotel towels, Kiehl’s bath products, and an iPhone loaded with your host’s tips on the neighbourhood’s finest. Check out a pair of your hotel’s Google Glass eyewear for a tech-enhanced spin around San Francisco.
“For millennials, the thought of staying in a hotel that’s exactly like a hotel in another city is a negative, unlike in other generations when it was a selling point,” says Bjorn Hanson, a hospitality professor at New York University. And no matter their age, Hanson says, travellers now look to lodging as an extension of the destination, often favouring novelty and cultural relevance over minibars and late checkout. The result is a staggering array of new ways to sleep away from home.
Land accommodation is too mainstream for some, but thankfully for these boundary-pushing travellers, there are hotels that feel the same way.
The Mirrorcube room in Sweden’s Treehotel is camouflaged by reflective glass exteriors. The cube is coated with a transparent ultraviolet paint visible only to birds, to prevent them from colliding with the glass. Photo courtesy The Treehotel
Where To Find Somewhere between a tree house and a wooden boat, Free Spirit Spheres are suspended in Vancouver Island’s rainforest with little besides the trees to distract their inhabitants. Visitors say the effect verges on the spiritual (freespiritspheres.com; doubles from CAD180/ ₹9,000). Six imaginatively designed rooms suspended 4-6 metres above ground make up The Treehotel in the woods of Harads, Sweden, just 50 kilometres south of the Arctic Circle. Rooms are named and resemble a Bird’s Nest, UFO, or a Mirrorcube. They are accessed by wooden bridges, retractable stairs, and walkways amidst treetops (treehotel.se; doubles from SEK4,700/₹34,700). Sleep in raindrop-shaped Tree Tents at the Hertshoorn campground near Garderen, an hour from Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Green tents are suspended from trees on a secluded spot at the campsite and guests climb into the bulbous belly via a wooden ladder. Each tent has a light, wooden base and mattresses that can accommodate two adults and two children.(www.ardoer.com/en/camping/hertshoorn/verhuur/tree-tent; prices from €56/₹3,930 for 4 people.)
Best For Travellers who are unafraid of heights and in love with the outdoors.
Caveat Getting to some of these accommodations may involve a little hiking and climbing.
Tip Read up on birds of the region so you can identify the twittering creatures outside your window.
Experience the thrills of living close to nature, with top-notch food, luxurious spa treatments, and dirty martinis by the bonfire.
The tents at Sher Bagh, Rathambore, are furnished with Edwardian furniture. Sun beds, hammocks, armchairs, and mud-decks scattered around the camp create quiet, shaded places to unwind and admire the wild setting. Photo courtesy Sher Bagh
Where To Find The brainchild of a family of wildlife lovers and conservationists, The Bison Resort, Karnataka, is a cross between an African wildlife camp and Raj-era hunting lodge. The luxurious tents are on the bank of the Kabini River, and each has sit-outs offering stunning views of the jungle. Its proximity to Nagarhole and Bandipur national parks ensures great sightings (thebisonresort.com; doubles from ₹11,000, including all meals). At the sumptuous Sher Bagh in Rajasthan, recount Ranthambore tiger tales with a chilled G&T. The resort has won accolades for its green initiatives. Its 12 luxury tents are done up in the polished safari style favoured by royals of the 1920s (sujanluxury.com; doubles from ₹35,000, including all meals). Banjaar Tola in Kanha National Park, puts the spotlight on the region’s wildlife and the rich traditions of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. Evening safaris are followed by dips in the tree-shaded swimming pool and elaborate dinners served under the stars (www.tajsafaris.com; doubles ₹43,600, including meals, park fees, and two jungle drives daily).
Best For Nature enthusiasts who want to experience the wild in style and comfort.
Caveat Luxury camping experiences often come at a premium heftier than 5-star properties.
Tip Plan visits according to your wildlife wish list. Summers are brutal but are good for tiger spotting.
Today’s boutique hotels embrace their city’s past and celebrate its eccentricities. They are perfectly suited to travellers seeking stays that distil the spirit of their destination.
Rooms at The Corner Courtyard in Kolkata are named after colours. Vermilion has bright red accents, Ivory and Charcoal are done up in muted monochromes, and Indigo (pictured) has a wall with blue motifs. Photo courtesy Corner Courtyard
Where To Find Like so many residences in Mumbai, Abode in Colaba has mostly matchbox-sized rooms. But the 20-room hotel is so ingeniously designed, guests are too busy Instagramming their digs (and taking notes for their own homes) to mind. Rooms have teakwood and Minton-tiled flooring, art-deco furniture, and framed art works by some of India’s best graphic designers (abodeboutiquehotels.com, doubles from ₹3,500 plus taxes, including breakfast). The Corner Courtyard in Kolkata and Amarya Villa in Delhi have bolder, brighter aesthetics and rooms with deep crimson and sunshine-yellow walls. Both hotels were once stately homes that have been lovingly repurposed into lodgings that are contemporary, chic, and unabashedly Indian (www.thecornercourtyard.com, from ₹5,000 plus taxes, including breakfast; www.amaryagroup.com; doubles from ₹5,330). Le Dupleix in Pondicherry prefers the vintage aesthetic. The tasteful hotel occupies the 18th-century home of the last French mayor of Pondicherry. It was restored over four years, following traditional methods of construction, down to the Chettinad egg plaster that gives the snow-white walls its subtle shine (ledupleix.in; doubles from ₹5,000 including breakfast). Nilaya Hermitage in Goa has used local materials like laterite stone and a vaguely Moorish aesthetic to create villas that blend in harmoniously with its habitat, but are striking on the inside (the spa is a brilliant lapis blue). A far cry from party Goa, Nilaya encourages guests to slow down, take a yoga class, or a leisurely dip in their freshwater pool (www.nilaya.com; doubles from ₹18,000, including breakfast and dinner).
Best For Folks who appreciate edgy design.
Caveat Hanging with the cool crowd sometimes comes at the sacrifice of old-school niceties such as valet parking, porters, and 24-hour room service.
Tip Build time into your stay to soak up the scene.
The Abode in Mumbai blends colonial charm with modern-day chic. Photo courtesy Abode
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