Hotel Marques De Riscal, Elciego, Spain
Basque country, vineyards, medieval townships, what more could we want?
Sometimes a mind-blowing place to stay is about its location, sometimes its historical significance, and sometimes its architectural excellence. Rarely does a place tick all the boxes. Hotel Marques De Riscal is one such place, predominantly because it’s the one and only hotel ever designed by architectural genius Frank Gehry, he of Guggenheim and Bilbao fame.
Strange setting for a piece of post-modern architectural perfection.
Rising dramatically from the rows of verdant vines is the unmistakable vision that is Gehry’s work. Enormous metal ribbons flow in organic forms from the dramatic angles of the rest of the building, a breathtaking juxtaposition.
We can’t wait to see inside.
As with all beautifully designed buildings the hotel’s interior complements the exterior. Floor to ceiling windows zigzag at sharp angles letting in floods of light. The 43 individually dressed rooms are painted crisp white with wooden accents, they’re sparingly furnished to make the most of the views. If you tire of marvelling at the surrounds there’s a spa, restaurant and pool at your disposal.
Hotel De Glace, Québec, Canada
Aren’t we over the whole ice hotel/bar thing?
As gimmicky as an ice hotel can seem from the outside there’s nothing quite like spending a night encased in a room made entirely from exquisitely carved ice to stave off your scepticism.
Alright, we’ll ask the obvious question: aren’t we going to get a little chilly?
The staff at the hotel are so confident of your comfort in the ice suites that their information sheet on staying the night recommends light clothing to sleep in to avoid getting too hot! Each enormous ice slab is topped with a wooden wedge and a mattress to prevent you from shivering in your sleeping bag.
And when we’re not tucked up in bed?
There’s a long list of suggested items of clothing to bring and wear during your stay to keep the cold at bay. That said, it’s hard to imagine the cold creeping in when the surroundings are so spectacular. The Hotel De Glace is like one giant ice sculpture with individual suites designed in unique and magical themes. It’s so beautiful.
Hang Nga Guesthouse, Dalat, Vietnam
We don’t quite know what to make of this.
You’re not the only ones. Hang Nga Guesthouse is also known locally as ‘the crazy house’.
So what’s the deal?
The eponymous project, or should we say folly, of a quirky local architect, this is a tree house with a difference. Well, a considerable number of differences actually. For one, the body of the building is the tree as opposed to a structure being perched in the canopy of a tree. The additional building materials, which include concrete and stone, seem to ooze into the spaces within the tree’s branches. Rooms are across five levels and are accessed by ladders and twisted tunnels – it’s a little bit Gaudi, a little bit Dalí, and a little bit Hobbit.
And the crazy bit?
Have you been listening? If we haven’t given you the impression that this place is one out of the box then here’s some more examples of rampant eccentricity. There’s a teahouse inside a giant giraffe, and themed rooms that feature exotic animals carved from stone. The monkey cage is surely, however, a step too far.
The Plaza, New York City, USA
Oh sure, The Plaza, you could buy a car for the price of a room.
The Plaza definitely sits in the splurge category, no doubt. But everyone can dream, right? And if one day you do just happen to be on the receiving end of a windfall there are worse ways to get rid of money than a night in this New York icon of luxury and style.
We’ll suspend our disbelief and come along for the ride.
Welcome to another world. Built in 1907, the Plaza was immediately celebrated as one of the most elegant and opulent hotels in the world. This reputation for sophisticated sumptuousness has never slipped, and was certainly in no danger of going south after the building received a $450 million facelift in 2008. The lure of luxury has long attracted the crème de la crème of NY society, as well as countless celebrities, dignitaries and even royalty.
Is there any way we can follow in these footsteps without selling our firstborn?
We’re happy to report there are ways ordinary folk like us can get a Plaza experience. Try a tipple in the Oak Room, Rose Bar, or Champagne Bar, or wander the enormous Plaza Food Hall.
Berggasthaus Aescher-Wildkirchli, Schwende District, Switzerland
This place is surely the stuff of Swiss Alpine dreams…
This magnificently situated guesthouse is quintessentially Swiss. The picture-postcard façade is all wooden angles and shuttered windows, while the body of the guesthouse backs into the spectacularly cleaved cliff-face of the Ebenalp Peak; the back wall of the guesthouse is actually the mountain itself. From the front there are expansive Alpine views stretching all the way to the remote Seealpsee Lake.
What a spectacular setting.
This is definitely the fairy-tale version of Switzerland on show. The sleeping arrangements, however, may not be everyone’s cup of kirsch. From its modest days as a mountain hut housing farmers and their goats and cows, the guesthouse has evolved to include shared dormitory accommodation, but no private lodgings.
There’s nothing like sharing sleeping quarters to get the party started.
That’s the spirit. The communal-style sleeping arrangements lend themselves to good times and you’ll have no trouble finding a friend to share a beer with after a long day of hiking in the mountains.
Junk Cruise, Ha Long Bay, Quang Ninh Province, Vietnam
A boat cruise? Shouldn’t we be saving that for retirement?
Banish thoughts of bingo and 4pm dinners. Picture instead an amenity-packed private cabin replete with spa and up-close views of the spectacular karst formations that make up the UNESCO-listed Ha Long Bay.
It’s sounding special now.
Each luxury boat that sails these waters comes with an experienced crew that caters to the culinary needs of guests on board. Lunches and dinners are extravagant banquet-style affairs showcasing traditional Vietnamese cuisine, often with a focus on local seafood. Come hungry.
And do we get a chance to get up close to the unspoiled wonder of the bay?
The itineraries for each cruise are slightly different but every one factors in some time for off-the-boat activities. Think kayaking around the karsts, visiting local floating fishing or oyster-farming villages, or exploring stunning caves like the colourfully-lit Sung Sot.
How long do we get to soak up the serenity?
Most travellers choose either the one- or two-night itinerary. There’s only so much wonder one can take, right?
Reproduced with permission from 50 Places to Stay to Blow Your Mind, © 2017 Lonely Planet