A deluxe suite on the Blue Train, South Africa

Guide to unique and special places to stay

Fancy staying overnight in an elephant hide? Or on a train? Or in a palace? Or geodesic dome? Yes, we do too!

A deluxe suite on the Blue Train, South Africa

© BlueTrain

Not just a place to lay your head

The best kinds of places to stay are those which add a little je ne sais quoi to your overall travel experience. Perhaps it’s the quirky décor or ridiculous luxury, maybe it’s the unique location or the people who run the lodging who make it special, or it could be that the place has some incredible history.

Hacienda Zuleta is a most wonderful charming hotel. A stay here was described to me as like being a privileged guest in someone's luxurious home. What can I say? That is exactly how it was.

tracy
Tracy Edwards - Travel Consultant

Travel is in Tracy's blood. It's her escape and her passion - especially Africa. Tracy is good fun as well as being a stickler for detail.

Call:  01473 890499

Unique and special places to stay

Mashpi Lodge in the cloud forest, Ecuador © MashpiLodge

Whether you’re travelling in Africa, Latin America or India, where you stay plays is a huge part of your holiday. Finding the right fit is important and adding something a little different into the mix could just be the icing on the cake.

Over the years we’ve stayed in some very special places and new ones are popping up all the time. Perhaps you enjoy a more rustic experience such as sleeping outdoors under the stars in the Okavango Delta - we can arrange it. Some of you might be looking for a floating haven, perhaps along the Amazon River - we can arrange that too. There’s everything on offer from houseboats, luxury trains, treehouses, repurposed buildings, opulent palaces, to cosy homestays and that’s just scratching the surface.

Whatever your destination, if you want somewhere a little unusual to lay your head, then we’ll be able to make some excellent suggestions. We’ve done some extensive research and pride ourselves in seeking out these gems for you, many of which we’ve been lucky enough to experience first-hand.

Contents

In this guide we will share suggestions for more unusual places to stay. As we tailor-make all our trips, it’s easy to include the accommodation that suits your wants and needs. The list is by no means complete, but it’s here to give you some ideas.  If you don’t see what you are looking, let us know and we’ll do our best, together with our knowledgeable partners to find the perfect fit for you.

  • TREE HOUSES
  • HOUSEBOATS & RIVERBOATS
  • TRAINS
  • REPURPOSED BUILDINGS
  • PALACES & FORTS
  • HOMESTAYS
  • SUPER LUXURY
  • AMAZING ARCHITECTURE
  • STAR BEDS
  • FLY CAMPING
  • QUIRKY

Finding unique and special places to stay

The Nest at Ngare Serian, Masai Mara

If you’re staying at Serian or Ngare Serian in the Masai Mara, spend one night in ‘The Nest’ on a limb of a warburgia tree overlooking the Mara River.

Bisate Lodge, Rwanda

Bisate Lodge A treehouse but not as you know it. Six exquisite thatched forest villas tucked away in a beautiful forest setting.

The Treehouse at Tongabezi, Livingstone, Zambia

A hidden refuge overlooking the Zambezi, set amongst the thick sturdy branches of riverine ebony trees.

Jaguar Flotel, Cuiaba River, Brazil

A good opportunity for jaguar spotting while you stay on a delightful air-conditioned floating hotel.

The Zambezi Queen Collection, Botswana

Leisurely luxurious cruising on the Chobe River in one of four beautifully furnished houseboats.

Lady Jacqueline, Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe

Cruise Lake Kariba in Matusadona National Park. Simple luxury for up to 10 guests as you enjoy game viewing from the deck or tender boat, perhaps a spot of fishing, and of course a ubiquitous sundowner.

Belmond Andean Explorer, Peru

South America’s first luxury sleeper train. As you travel between Cusco and Lake Titicaca or Arequipa, enjoy the scenery from the observation car, socialise in the lounge and bar to the gentle tunes played by the resident pianist.

Rovos Rail, South Africa

The style and luxury of a bygone era. Superb meals served with flair, sunsets from the observation car and privacy in your comfortable Pullman Suite. A variety of routes to choose from.

The Blue Train, South Africa

From gourmet cuisine to your own butler on call. Elegant lounge, club cars and a choice of luxury or deluxe suites. A 5-star hotel on train tracks.

The Singular Patagonia, Chile

Once a cold-storage warehouse, you can now stay in cosy warm comfort on the shores of the Señoret Channel in Patagonia, near Puerto Natales.

Lounge/dining room at The Singular Patagonia, Chile © AGMarks

Pelican Point Lodge, Walvis Bay, Namibia

A peninsular jutting into the Atlantic Ocean near Walvis Bay is a perfect for spot for a lighthouse, but a lodge?! The harbour control tower next to the lighthouse is now a very remote lodge with incredible ocean views.

Belmond Palacio Nazarenas, Cusco, Peru

Once a nun’s convent, now an elegant place to stay as you explore Cusco and surrounds.

Belmond Hotel Monasterio, Cusco, Peru

Not to be outdone by the nuns, you could also choose to stay in what was once an ancient monastery, minutes from Plaza de Armas in Cusco.

The Silo Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa

Where history meets art. This luxurious hotel started out as a grain elevator. Now it’s a luxurious hotel in Cape Town’s Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, located above the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art.

Palacio Duhau, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Classic elegance of thirties Buenos Aires. Super stylish with a modern twist.

Bhainsrorgarh Fort, Rajasthan, India

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Samode Palace, Jaipur, India

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Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur, India

Built by a prince and fit for a prince, the palace sits proudly on an island in the middle of Lake Pichola in Udaipur.

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Hacienda Zuleta, Ecuador

Homestay with a difference as you are welcomed into the luxurious family home of former president Galo Plaza Lasso. The hacienda is still owned and run by members of his family.

Hacienda Zuleta, Ecuador © PCook

Barwara Kothi, Jaipur, India

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Amantani Island Homestay, Lake Titicaca, Peru

A simple, no frills homestay showcasing the traditional way of life on the island surrounded by the waters of Lake Titicaca. A great way to get to know the local community.

Hotel Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Feel the heartbeat of Rio’s historical quarter when you stay at this Relais and Chateaux property. A charming former coffee plantation mansion that is both stylish and elegant.

Awasi Atacama, Chile

All ‘i’s dotted and ‘t’s crossed. Beautiful, elegant accommodation, exquisite cuisine and your own private guided excursions – it’s all about you!

Tierra Patagonia, Chile

Enjoy your adventure in the lap of luxury. A welcome base in the hostile yet beautiful environs of Torres del Paine.

Casa Gangotena, Quito, Ecuador

A beautifully restored historic mansion in the heart of Quito’s colonial old town. The high standard of service and accommodation offered is befitting the magnificent building.

Mashpi Lodge, Ecuador

A luxurious rainforest hotel in the clouds

Mashpi Lodge in the cloud forest, Ecuador © MashpiLodge

Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra, India

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Miavana, Madagascar

If you have deep pockets and want to get away from it all, this magnificent beach getaway showcases modern minimalism at its best.

Titilaka, Peru

A modern and luxurious getaway on the shores of Lake Titicaca. A valued member of the Relais & Chateaux portfolio.

andBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

Wake to a view down into the Ngorongoro Crater from your sumptuously-furnished thatched stone cottage – with butler – on the crater rim.

Tierra Atacama, Chile

Exceptional architecture that reflects the beauty of the surroundings. A sustainable desert stay that reflects the heart and soul of the Atacama Desert.

Hotel Remota, Puerto Natales, Chile

Inspired by the traditional sheep shearing sheds of Patagonia, Remota is a striking piece of architecture set on the Last Hope Sound just outside Puerto Natales.

Andaz Peninsula Papagayo, Costa Rica

Modern, state-of-the-art architecture with more than a smattering of cool.

Hotel Plaza Grande, Quito, Ecuador

A sublime example of a 16th century Belle Epoque mansion, now a delightful classy hotel in Quito’s old town.

RAAS, Jodhpur, India

Painstakingly restored original buildings sit side by side with the new, contemporary spaces. Step back in time to a bygone era of royalty, Rajput rulers with luxurious surroundings.

The Highlands, Ngorongoro, Tanzania

Space-age geodesic domes are your home from home. Cosy log burners keep the evening chill away, while huge perspex windows showcase sweeping views and the twinkling night sky.

Greystoke Mahale, Tanzania

You come here to see chimpanzees, but you stay in an open thatched banda on a remote lakeshore. Robinson Crusoe chic.

Skybeds, Khwai Reserve, Botswana

An unconventional night under the stars on your own five metre high sleeping platform in the Khwai region of the Okavango Delta. Rustic yet stylish.

Loisaba Star Beds, Laikipia, Kenya

Arrive by horse, camel or 4x4 and spend the night in a four-poster bed set safe and high on a wooden platform.

Nkwichi Lodge, Mozambique

Choose from a deserted beach or a small rock island close to shore and fall asleep to the sound of the waves of Lake Malawi gently lapping the shore.

Bubble Lodge, Mauritius

A unique experience built to have no impact on the environment. Enjoy nature and the night sky from the comfort of your own private luxury bubble.

Little Kulala, Namibia

A sleeping platform on the flat roof of your cottage. No light pollution, just the beautiful stars of the African sky at night.

Sasaab fly-camping, Kenya

Simplicity as you camp alongside a dry riverbed, beneath shady trees, or out under the star-studded sky. Wherever you are, you can bet there won’t be anyone else around.

Hotel Palacio de Sal, Bolivia

When surrounded by salt, why not build a hotel from it? Palacio de Sal is a great example of simplicity and style with an artistic flair.

Chhatra Sagar, India

Sleep in splendid luxury in your own canvas palace perched on a dam wall. Revel in the views overlooking a lake.

Giraffe Manor, Nairobi, Kenya

The ruminants give this former manor house its quirky status. The giraffes roam the grounds freely and think nothing of joining you for breakfast.

Shipwreck Lodge, Namibia

Cosy wooden chalets evoke the shipwrecks that once littered the coastline. Set amongst the bleached dunes, the lodge is whimsical, stylish and unique to boot.

Bush Rover, Serengeti and Selou, Tanzania

Unique, fun, quirky – enjoy a different type of stay in beautifully converted Land Rover. The bedroom is up an ornate spiral staircase, and the bathroom (with bath!) is in the seating area of the vehicle. Toilet? Try the passenger seat! Hard to believe this is a mobile operation that can be placed in the best locations.

Manta Resort, Pemba Island, Tanzania

Sleep in your own personal aquarium in a floating underwater room in the Indian Ocean off Pemba Island near Zanzibar. Now that’s special!

Titilaka on Lake Titicaca, Peru
© Titilaka

The best times to visit

This table gives you an idea of when might be a good time to go to the country you have in mind. It is not a definitive guide as there are often reasons why other months might also work, but it is a good starting point. Please feel free to talk to us for more specific details.

Row Title Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Argentina Months: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, Oct, Nov, Dec
Bhutan Months: Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Sep, Oct, Nov
Chile Months: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, Oct, Nov, Dec
Ecuador Months: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec
India Months: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec
Kenya Months: Jan, Feb, Mar, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec
Lesotho Months: Feb, Mar, Apr, Aug, Sep, Oct
Malawi Months: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec
Namibia Months: May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct
Nepal Months: Mar, Apr, Oct, Nov
Peru Months: Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov
South Africa Months: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec
Tanzania Months: Jan, Feb, Mar, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec