Unconventional hotels for the curious traveler

ice hotel-sweden

See StoryMap: 18 Memorable hotels around the world

I began this project to satisfy my insatiable curiosity as an adventurous traveler. I decided to research the oddest, wackiest, and most unusual hotels I could find anywhere in the world. I did not think it would turn out to be a serious project. 

I was wrong.

Soon I discovered that hotels can be found underwater, in a desert of salt or even high up in the sky. These hotel operators run clever enterprises and they mean business, thus, I began to lean into my project more seriously.

Over the last few months, I have scoured the internet, looked closely at maps and geography, made phone calls to Hawaii and traded numerous emails with staff at an ice hotel in northern Sweden. I discovered that people who run “unconventional” hotels are passionate and serious about what they do.

Initially, I intended to call my project “Odd, peculiar, eccentric, wacky, unique places to stay” but I soon realized that staying in a former industrial crane, now a hotel, is not wacky at all. In fact, it can be quite exciting. 

According to a media company for the travel industry called Skift, today’s travelers are seeking “a new adventure.” Hotel guests want more authentic experiences and ways to engage with the local culture and natural wonders.

These unconventional hotels succeed because today’s travelers are seeking ties with the arts and “finding experiences through hospitality,” writes Resonance, a consultancy in tourism and economic development.

The island of Hawaii offers chances to stay in lush surroundings. The Treehouse in Volcano, Hawaii, featured in my “18 Memorable Hotels with StoryMap,” is surrounded by rainforest and near beaches and local hikes. Couples visit the Treehouse because “it is romantic,” said Gail Armand, the proprietor. 


Yet, given the media coverage of the recent volcanic eruption on the island, she expressed concern about stories “that frighten people that they may not be safe,” Armand said. She emphasizes that the Treehouse is open for business and guests can check with her in advance for updates.

There are several benefits of visiting an unconventional hotel as they can offer a detox from technological devices due to their remoteness. They can bring us closer to nature and if you are a skywatcher, you can “catch the Northern Lights dancing in the sky,” said Josefin Lindberg, in media and PR at the ICEHOTEL in Sweden. 

About 70% of visitors to the ICEHOTEL are international, coming from all over the world. “It is a magical experience to stay in a hotel room made totally out of ice and snow,” said Lindberg.

Experiencing a memorable, unusual hotel can be costly so it is not suitable for all budgets. Another challenge of staying at an out-of-the-ordinary hotel is that they can be more of an effort to get to. (When was the last time you had to rappel on the side of a mountain to reach your hotel room?) 

Always book your unconventional hotel experience months in advance as they often sell out.

Begin your journey with StoryMap to chart your discoveries and find inspiration. I hope you enjoy this data visualization “18 Memorable Hotels with StoryMap.” Safe travels!


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