Stay cosy in a bedroom made of ice
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Each year, the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi in northern Sweden is constructed anew, using snow and ice from the nearby Torne River. Builders and artisans create everything, from the rooms’ decorative flourishes to the beds, chairs and bar, complete with glasses made of ice. There’s a chapel, hall, reception area and 100 guest rooms, each one a unique work of art. Guests sleep in thermal sleeping bags atop ice beds that are covered in reindeer furs. There’s no heating, of course, and the temperature is about -5 degrees Celsius. Bathrooms are located in a warm building near the Icehotel and there’s a sauna and outdoor hot tub for defrosting. Come spring, the hotel melts and returns to the Torne River.
Sweet dreams in a chocolate factory
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Portugal’s Fábrica do Chocolate is a hotel, restaurant and museum dedicated to the “food of the gods”. The century-old building in Viana do Castelo was once a chocolate factory that filled the streets with the aroma of cocoa. Today, the restored property is still all about the dark stuff and includes a restaurant that serves a four-course meal. Each hotel room is different, with dark, milk and white-chocolate themes. There are bedheads that resemble chocolate blocks, rooms created to look like chocolate is dripping from the ceiling and bathroom products that utilise cacao. Breakfast includes bread made with dry-roasted cocoa beans, chocolate cake and a chocolate fountain, plus there’s a spa with a decadent menu of chocolate-y treatments.
Breakfast with giraffes
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Giraffe Manor makes no bones about what it’s offering: a rather charming manor house and extremely tall ruminants. It’s set on almost five hectares of private land that’s home to a herd of endangered Rothschild giraffes. Once a private house, the boutique hotel on the outskirts of Nairobi in Kenya has a unique selling point: the giraffes are so accustomed to human interaction that they stick their heads through the dining-room window at breakfast time for a snack and they gather around at cocktail hour to get the news of the day.
Sleep in a faux ruin
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No, Hotel Colosseo isn’t a new tourist initiative from the Roman authorities. In fact, for all its frescoes, mosaics and columns, it isn’t in Italy at all. It’s in Rust, in south-western Germany. The hotel is part of Europa-Park, the largest theme park in Germany and the most popular after Disneyland Paris. The park is divided into regions and countries, including Scandinavia, France, England, Ireland and Spain. Italy was the first to get the theme-park treatment. Near Hotel Colosseo is the Volo da Vinci monorail ride, based on da Vinci’s flying machine, and a Carnevale di Venezia display. Behind the dramatic façade, the hotel’s rooms and public areas stick to the Colosseum theme and there’s a spectacular fountain show, pool and Roman bathhouse.
Catch water views fit for royalty
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Taj Lake Palace hotel takes up the entire Jag Niwas island on Lake Pichola in Udaipur, India, making it look like an enormous white ship. Once the winter palace of the Maharana Jagat Singh II, work on the original building was completed in 1746. The walls are made of marble studded with semi-precious stones and the grounds comprise leafy courtyards, fountains, terraces and gardens. The palace was a mouldering pile when Maharana Bhagwat Singh decided to transform it into a luxury hotel in the 1960s. Now it’s one of the most romantic and sumptuous stays in India.
Everything is awesome at Legoland
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Head to Windsor, England, to celebrate the colourful bricks beloved by children and constantly being trod on by parents. Slightly larger bricks have been used to construct Legoland Windsor Resort – possibly the most outlandish Lego project of all time. In each room there’s a Lego gift (only discoverable after cracking a series of clues); a dedicated Lego channel; a children’s sleeping area, complete with its own TV; and, of course, plenty of Lego. Each room is themed – will it be pirates, kings and queens or even ancient Egypt? Outside the hotel, there are 55 rides and attractions. Kids can go on an underwater adventure on the Atlantis Submarine Voyage or check out the Lego Star Wars Miniland Model Display.
Awaken with the king of the jungle
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What about having your own game park? Leobo Private Reserve comprises more than 8000 hectares in South Africa’s Waterberg mountains, three hours’ drive north of Johannesburg. It includes the stunning Observatory Bush Villa and the whole property can be yours and yours alone. Do whatever you like, whether that’s touring in four-wheel drives, riding elephants with a local guide or watching languid cheetahs snooze in the heat of the day.
Feather your nest
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Treehotel in Harads, northern Sweden, has rooms suspended four to six metres above the ground. There are seven different options: The Cabin, The Bird’s Nest, The UFO, The Dragonfly, The Blue Cone, The 7th Room and The Mirrorcube (pictured). This camouflaged reflective-glass cube looks austere from the outside but within, it’s a cosy hideout with a double bed, bathroom and lounge, plus a rooftop terrace that’s reached by ladder. There’s a sauna nearby and home-cooked meals are provided.
Bed down in a cave
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In the Italian city of Matera, ancient caves carved from rock have been transformed into a truly unique hotel. The complex of historical buildings that makes up Sant’Angelo Resort consists of an 18th-century court building, cave houses and the cave church of Sant’Angelo in the World Heritage-listed Sassi di Matera. The Sassi caves belonged to a prehistoric community that is thought to have been among the first human settlements in Italy. The 23 hotel suites wear their age well; they’ve been restored and each one is equipped with the comforts of a modern hotel.
Soak in a natural hot tub
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Surrounded by the Grindavik lava field in Iceland, Silica Hotel has its own geothermal mineral lagoon so guests don’t have to jostle with other tourists at the nearby Blue Lagoon. The rooms have balconies with some of the most miraculous views and at night the Northern Lights may be visible.
Sleep in utter isolation in a maritime fort
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Spitbank Fort was one of four built near Portsmouth, England, in 1878. It was designed as a line of defence against ships that made it past the two main forts, however in 1898 it was fitted with guns and searchlights and used to defend against light craft. It was decommissioned in 1962 and is now privately owned. Since 2012, it has been a luxury spa hotel with just nine suites.
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