Think that a hotel is just a place for sleeping in and storing your luggage while you see the sights?
Not these multi-tasking hotels!
From the hotels borne out of necessity, to buildings of art, to preserving a piece of history, these hotels, though not voted the best hotels in the world, make up for it in their sheer uniqueness and atmosphere alone.
Palacio de Sal, Bolivia
Salt, salt and more salt, as far or as close as your eye can see.
This hotel’s not called the ‘Palace of Salt’ for nothing – the whole place (due to a scarcity of building materials) is made out of salt blocks, and a mix of salt and water – the walls, ceiling, chairs, beds and sculptures. It’s not 5 star luxurious – but it does offer a dry sauna, steam room, saltwater (of course) pool and whirlpool baths.
There is also a 9-hole salt golf course, and there are hot springs to be visited, amazing mountain ranges, open air markets and stunning sunsets.
If you visit at the right time (Oct/Nov) there are three species of South American Chilean flamingos which come to the area to start breeding.
Of course, if you needed more salt, the hotel is located at the edge of the beautiful, and world’s largest salt flats at Sala de Uyuni.
Fun fact: Licking the walls or furniture (which apparently is a great temptation for many guests) is not allowed, as it degrades the blocks.
Giraffe Manor, Kenya
If you fancy sharing your hotel with live giraffes, then this is the place to be!
Home to the endangered Rothschild Giraffes, the Manor was built in 1932 and was modelled after a Scottish hunting lodge.
Giraffe Manor accommodates only 25 guests at a time, so the giraffes truly have the run of the place.
There are large open windows just so the giraffes can join you for breakfast, greet you at the lobby and even through the curtains of some of the rooms!
The Manor is surrounded by 140 acres of native forest and is also home to the Giraffe Centre, which is dedicated to saving the Rothschild giraffe by rearing and re-introducing them into the national parks.
You can feed the giraffes, take photos with the warthogs, check out the bush buck (nocturnal spiral horned antelope), dik dik (tiny antelope) and more than 180 bird species and learn about the centre’s conservation practices.
There is also an elephant orphanage nearby too, where you have the opportunity to adopt an elephant.
What better way of seeing the Aurora Borealis (AKA Northern Lights) than by staying in the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden?
Open only five months each year and sculpted entirely out of ice from the Torne River, the hotel is designed and created by different artists each year.
Located 200km north of the arctic circle, the inside temperature is -7° C and everything is made by hand from ice and snow. Even the bed frames and chairs!
But fear not, you're kindly provided with thermal sleeping bags and a reindeer skin “mattress” to cover the ice slab frame of your bed. Your luggage is also stored in a warm building nearby, so you don't have to worry about your perfumes freezing over or delicate equipment getting damaged by the cold.
Survival courses are provided to all guests on how to sleep in such cold conditions, but guests usually only spend a night in the cold rooms. You can relax and indulge in a hot meal by the fire in the heated chalets next door.
Cappadocia Cave Hotels, Turkey
Cappadocia is famous for its unique cave accommodation, but the Elkep Evi Cave Hotel is the only one located at the top of a hill above the town of Urgup.
If you have ever wanted to live like a cave-person (but with a few more luxuries than the original cave people were accustomed to) this hotel just might fit the bill.
Carved into volcanic cliffs, the rooms are large, cozy and airy. They even have their own private rock-cut terrace to enjoy the warm evenings outdoors.
There are fantastic views of the area, and particularly Mount Ercyes, an extinct volcano best known these days for its snow, and the fun to be had tobogganing or skiing down its slopes.
There are also vineyards, orchards, old Christian monasteries and hot air ballooning on offer.
Montaña Mágica Lodge, Chile
The Montaña Mágica Lodge (The Magic Mountain Hotel) is located in the UNESCO listed natural reserve of Huilo-Huilo.
It resembles a volcano on the outside and has a waterfall which comes out from the top of the hotel and cascades down the windows and walls every day.
Most of the hotel is made out of wood and there are hot tubs made out of tree trunks, overlooking the forest.
The rainforest and wildlife are all on display in their natural environment here: waterfalls, toucans, lizards, iguana, eagles, condors and pumas.
From the windows of the hotel, you can also see the Arenal Volcano, one of the most active volcanoes in the world.
It’s not one of the most luxurious hotels on offer and is a little hard to get to, but may be worth the effort just to ‘live’ in a waterfall and to see the unique wildlife and plants.
Quinta Real Zacatecas, Mexico
This UNESCO listed hotel in Zacatecas is built inside a 17th century San Pedro bullfighting stadium!
Close your eyes, immerse yourself in history and imagine what the atmosphere would have been like all those years ago.
Lying alongside a 16th century aqueduct, its hallways circle the bullring, beds are recessed under a stone or wooden arch, the Cellar Bar used to be the bull corrals, and despite its violent past, the stunning colonial courtyards with its profusion of potted shrubs and plants are well worth a visit.
Walk the cobblestone streets outside, to the main part of town and visit the historical sights, fine mansions, markets, museums, restaurants and take a tour of the town’s rich past by visiting the old silver mines.