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100 things to do before you die: unusual hotels

Thursday, August 24, 2006

14. Ice Hotel, Canada If you've ever wondered what it's like to sleep in an igloo, then the Ice Hotel in Quebec is for you. Open only during the northern hemisphere winter, from January to April, this frozen holiday spot — just about all made of ice — lives up to its name.

The Ice Hotel covers 3000 square metres and consists of 500 tonnes of ice and 15,000 tonnes of snow. Its solid ice walls provide insulation and the temperature hovers around –2 to –5°C. Specially made bedding made is provided to give a cosy night's sleep. Easy access bathrooms, separate from the complex, are heated and for that reason, they're probably one of the most appreciated bathrooms in Quebec!

The Ice Hotel isn't just for sleeping. It features a bar complete with edible glasses made of, you guessed it, ice. There are also amazing ice art exhibits, a winter sports centre and daily tours.

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15. Coober Pedy dugout, South Australia It's not unusual to sleep on the ground when you camp, but at this Coober Pedy campsite, you'll be sleeping about seven metres under. Riba's Underground Camping, in the opal-mining mecca of Coober Pedy, is considered the world's only public dugout campground.

Located four kilometres from the heart of town, Riba's is the perfect place for adventurous travellers who want to stick to their camping routine but also need to beat the heat, which can sometimes climb to 50°C. Along with a place to roll out your swag, there are bunk beds, Internet access, an entertainment room, kitchen and bathroom facilities. Riba's also features its own nightly mining tour and if you prefer sleeping under the stars, powered above-ground sites are available.

16. Capsule hotel, Japan When it comes to expensive cities, Tokyo is way up there. Everything is expensive, particularly accommodation. But if you are just looking somewhere to lay your weary head, why not try one of the city's many capsule hotels? The dinky spaces are what the name implies — a capsule with just enough room for you to slide in and lie down. The capsules are generally in rows of two with bathroom facilities nearby. Many have a lamp and television. Instead of doors, most have a shade or thin curtain you slide over the opening. Most capsule hotels are men-only, but some offer spaces to women.

17. Barberstown Castle, Ireland Barberstown Castle in Straffan, county Kildare, was one of Ireland's first to open its doors as a hotel and is a mix of structures from the 13th, 16th and 19th centuries. About 30 minutes south of Dublin, the castle oozes history. Stone walls, antiques, artworks — mostly Elizabethan and Victorian — are spread through the buildings and grounds. Barberstown has hosted a range of guests from royalty to rock stars, like Eric Clapton, who loved the place so much, he owned it for a while.

For those who like to keep to royal leisure activities, there are equestrian lessons, hunting and clay pigeon shooting.

18. Madonna Inn, California Sandwiched between San Francisco and Los Angeles in the little town of San Luis Obispo, the Madonna Inn has been entertaining visitors for 45 years. It has 109 whimsically named rooms (Daisy Mae and Yahoo) and all are individually decorated.

The funky themes don't stop where you sleep — there are touches and colours throughout, including pink toast in the Copper Café and a rock wall urinal in the men's bathroom. It has a steakhouse, pastry and gift shops. Through travellers are welcome.

19. Playpen at the Palms, United States There are endless choices of places to stay in Las Vegas. One of the hippest spots is the Palms Resort Hotel and Casino where they want you to "get your fantasy on". With rooms like the Hefner Sky Villa, a reality TV suite and suites devoted to basketball, they certainly mean it.

The Palms has a 9000-square-metre casino but the fun is really had behind closed doors. The grooviest rooms to score here are the Playpens — suites that were designed especially for bucks' and hens' nights and practically everyone else who wants to do more than sleep in their room. The Playpens are done up in '60s décor and feature plasma TVs, booming stereo systems, strobe lights and of course, an exotic dancer's pole for swinging the night away.

20. Splash Spa, United States Getting a room can mean anything — a place to crash for a day or, if it's a room at a bathhouse, a place where you can take a quick bath for an hour. In the US, bathhouses are generally on a par with nightclubs and are tailored towards gay men. While you can rent rooms with spas, the main agenda of these places is to rendezvous with like-minded people.

Splash the Relaxation Spa in Hollywood is advertised to couples as a place to unwind after a late night on the town. The rooms, rented by the hour, are themed jacuzzi suites with a steam room, sauna and waterfalls.

For further information:

14. Ice Hotel
Tel: 0011 1 418 875 4522
Fax: 0011 1 418 875 2833

15. Coober Pedy
Riba's Underground Camping
Ph: (08) 8672-5614

16. Capsule Hotels Tokyo

17. Barberstown Castle
Phone: 0011 353 1 628 8157
Fax: 0011 353 1 627 7(02)7

18. Madonna Inn
Ph: 0011 1 805 543-3000
Fax: 805 543-1800

19. The Palms Resort and Casino
Phone: 0011 1 7(02) 942 7777
Fax: 0011 1 7(02)-942-7001

20. Splash: the Relaxation Spa
Phone: 0011 1 323 653 4410

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