Top 8 unusual luxury retreats

There are countless beautiful hotels these days, with luxurious interiors and perfect locations making them pretty hard to beat. But we’ve been seeking something a little more extraordinary. From incredible tree houses you’ve always dreamed about to hidden underwater boltholes, we’ve uncovered the best places for a unique yet luxurious get away. A night in an igloo? Sure.

The Underwater Room at the Manta Resort, Pemba Island, Zanzibar

Imagine if you could experience the underwater delights of the Zanzibar archipelago without even having to actually get in the water. Manta Resort’s underwater room on Pemba Island allows you to do precisely that, as well as sleeping in its specially designed turquoise bubble four metres below the surface. The floating structure has three levels to make the most of; at sea level you can lounge in the living area, before climbing the ladder to the viewing deck for panoramic views of the shimmering aquamarine ocean.

Manta Resort, Zanzibar

The deck offers a platform, ideal for stargazing – with perfect clarity and the gentle lulling of the waves providing the ultimate ‘one with nature’ feel. By day, shoals of fish dance around the subaquatic retreat with many making a home in the structure, and by night the spotlights attract even the shyest of creatures, such as Octopus and Spanish Dancers. A stay in this underwater bolthole really is a once in a lifetime experience.

The Mirrorcube at the Treehotel, Sweden

Tucked away in the village of Harads, Sweden, with a population of just 600, Treehotel has 5 distinctive rooms perched in the forest offering spectacular views of the Lule River valley. Our favourite is The Mirrorcube, which without a doubt lives up to Scandinavian’s reputation for minimal and subtle designs. Designed by leading Swedish architects, the 4x4x4m cube is clad in mirrors that reflect the surrounding forest to give the illusion of invisibility, perfect for those that want to escape real life.

TreeHotel, Sweden

As sustainability and ecological values are central to TreeHotel’s philosophy, both the daily operations of the hotel and room’s construction are one hundred percent eco-friendly. Consistent with these values, a layer of infrared film envelops the mirrored cube to prevent the prolific bird-life from crashing into the structure. Whilst the resort offers an abundance of winter and summer activities, most guests choose to soak up the surroundings under the anonymity of their invisible bedroom suspended in the sky.

Bambu Indah Hotel, Ubud, Bali

Nestled in the lush rice paddy fields of the Sayan Valley close to Ubud in Bali, this eco-luxury hotelis a picture-perfect resort which gives you a real sense of Balinese culture. We love the traditional teak villas, restored from antique Javanese Bridal homes to create a magical hamlet tucked away on the edge of a river ravine. Our favourite room is the Udang house; sitting on stilts above a fresh water shrimp pond you can gaze at the underwater wildlife as you relax in the privacy of your own room.

Bambu Indah Hotel – Ubud, Bali

Traditional shrimp baskets have been converted to furnish the house and really add to the natural vibes of the surrounding bamboo structures. Unwind in the semi-outdoor shower room, with its glass roof you will marvel at the unparalleled views of the Balinese moon and stars and indulge in sunset cocktails overlooking the Ayung River, where you can set free Balinese lanterns into the dazzling night sky.

Glass igloos at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, Finland

The glass igloos of Kakslauttanen have projected this resort onto the world map of must-stay luxury hotels. Situated in the north-east corner of the Finnish Lapland, the secluded village is the perfect location for a wintery escape. There’s no better way to watch northern lights than from own comfort of your own bed, without having to brave the cold.

Glass igloos, Finland

The thermo glass of the igloo is specially designed to insulate from the cold outside, but does not frost, ensuring you have the clearest view of the world’s most famous light show. When you do decide to step outside, we recommend starting your day with a sauna or a fresh dip in a nearby ice pool, followed by the chance to venture into the wilderness on a husky ride or mingle with the locals and learn the art of ice-fishing.

Le Grotte della Civita, Matera, Italy

Concurrent with Italy’s growing trend of the Albergo Diffuso whereby the historical features of original sites are preserved, Le Grotte della Civita is a series of ancient caves carved into the rugged mountain landscape in the town of Matera in Italy. The former monastery encapsulates a hybrid identity, which combines an ancient way of life with contemporary luxury.

Le Grotto della Civita, Italy

The UNESCO World Heritage site has just 21 rooms of varying sizes furnished with antiques such as iron bedsteads and roughly carved wood furniture. Candlelit dwellings guarantee to set a romantic tone for your stay in the honey-coloured caves, whilst stepping outside the atmospheric suites, you’ll find yourself immersed in a timeless jewel of a city.

Iglu Dorf in Engelberg-Titlis, Stwizerland

Iglu Dorf’s multiple resorts across Europe all provide authentic igloos, but our favourite has to be the Engelbery-Titlis resort in Stwizerland, namely because of the open air whirlpool. At 1800 metres high, civilization is sparse, yet you’re bound to feel on top on the world. To construct the village, inflatable balloons are covered in snow creating igloo shapes that eventually form this settlement of snow.

Iglu Dorf, Stwizerland

Iglu Dorf provide guests with a sleeping bag that can withstand temperatures of -40 degrees Celsius, with average temperatures inside the igloos between 0 to -5 degrees.

Amangiri in Canyon Point, Utah, USA

Amangiri lies in the USA’s Four Corners:  the meeting point of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Positioned right in the centre of Grand Circle, the hotel easily accessible to the region’s iconic sites such as the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and Grand Staircase. Unique in that it appears to rise out of the desert as an angular mirage, Amangiri was designed with the intention of merging into rocky plateaus and the mottled sand dunes.

Amangiri, Utah

Sandy hues and textures feature heavily in the hotel’s design, which emphasise the feel of it melting into the rugged desert landscape. All rooms enjoy desert views and the angular terraces frame this starkly raw landscape, giving it the appearance of a delicately composed painting.

Tsala Treetop Lodge in Harkerville, South Africa

Acclaimed as the best retreat on the Garden Route, this treetop lodge is built high above the forest floor making it easy to take advantage of the unobstructed views. The stone masonry and Blackwood columns give a rustic feel to the outside of the lodge whilst the inside of each villa and suite is suavely adorned with gold fixtures and a wood burner, which is lit for you every night.

Tsala Treetop Lodge, SA

Suspended on a cliff edge overlooking a dense indigenous forest, each private hideaway enjoys a terrace with an infinity pool melting into the luscious greenery below. Complimentary port is served to each suite every evening – perfect for unwinding in front of the fire whilst marvelling at the sumptuous surroundings of the Harkerville Forest.

Tom Marchant is Co-founder of Black Tomato.

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Comments (6)

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  1. Mat Lewis says:

    Awesome list Tom. I’d happily stay at any one of these, but I think the underwater room in Tanzania would be my preference if I had to choose one – looks truly magical and much less hassle than diving!

  2. Great list. Especially the Ubud and South Adrica ones make me want to go there as soon as possible! Now start saving for a plane ticket…

  3. Bryan says:

    Wonderful post on exotic accommodations around the world. World is so vast, and there are so many unique accommodations to stay.
    It is my great pleasure to see these articles, and I wish to visit some of them in the very near future. Waiting for other articles as well~

  4. Amanda says:

    I want to go to all of these!! I could realistically get to Amangiri in Utah, since I’m in California, but the others will have to wait. For now, that is.

  5. Tanvir says:

    Its a great list. Although these resort are expensive but they are great place to live :)

    Thanks for share

  6. John says:

    Wonderfull list Tom, I have actually stayed in The Underwater Room at the Manta Resort and the views are imaginable. such a great experience. Would recommend it to anyone!

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