10 of the Most Unusual Accommodations I've Slept in Around the World in 2018
As 2018 comes to an end, I am reflecting back on the traveling and adventuring I've had the opportunity to do this year. If there's anything I've realized in 2018 (don't worry there's a lot more where this one came from), it's that I'm a huge fan of "unusual accommodations." While there's plenty of opportunities for traditional hotel rooms, I'd much rather prefer to book the nontraditional lodging option. Here's 10 of the more 'unusual' accommodations I've stayed at this year that I'd highly recommend to those looking for an adventurous accommodation...
Growing up, every year my family and I would go camping at Allegany State Park - a state park in the Southern Tier of New York. Moving to California, I definitely missed Allegany and was pretty excited to find a cabin was available for New Year's Eve and New Year's Day to start 2018. The park is known for 65,000-acres of primitive, forested valleys, un-glaciated landscape, fall leaves, and wildlife. For January, the snow-covered trees, well groomed winter trails, and sitting around a campfire with my mom and dad combined with the snow flurries coming down around us were the perfect start to the new year.
On a solo trip to Iceland in March I knew it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to stay in a transparent bubble in the middle of Iceland. The company and locals call it the "Five Million Star Hotel" and it's clear why: sleeping under the dancing aurora borealis after touring the Golden Circle in a Chevy Suburban was literally life changing! Sleeping inside of my own personal bubble among the trees, wildlife, stars, and nearby kitchen and bathroom was something I could definitely get used to!
3. Camper Van all over the South Island of New Zealand
Although I haven't written a post about our time in New Zealand (it's coming June 2019), sleeping and traveling via a camper van thanks to Jucy Rentals was perfect and something I wish I could do again... talk about #vanlife! Our camper van was the "Jucy Champ" and slept two inside the van and had an attic of sorts to sleep 1-2 more. The kitchen in the back end of the van was complete with a kitchen sink! We were able to see so much more of the South Island because of the van while also crossing off a bucket list item. Want to experience New Zealand via Camper Van? Reserve here!
4. A Yurt in Wanaka, New Zealand
Even though we had the Camper Van for the South Island of New Zealand, a girls gotta shower and my friend Derek found this incredible yurt at Oasis Yurts in Wanaka. It was my first time staying in a yurt and I quickly understood why Mongolian people stayed in yurts - the circle formation of the yurt representing the entirety of all things and our connection with the elements and nature was ever present at this beautiful and remarkable location. For $159 NZD a night, this was one of my favorite places in all of 2018 and certainly a bargain. The shower and bathroom facilities reminded me of a spa and the kitchen was deserving of being featured in a magazine centerfold. Want to stay in a yurt? Consider Oasis in Wanaka, New Zealand. Reserve here and check out Florence's food store and restaurant (and that Wanaka Tree)!
Of course I wasn't going to Peru without trekking to Machu Picchu. I trekked with Karikuy Tours on the Salkantay Trail, a 4-night, 5-day experience that was truly life changing. The first part of the trek took us to our first camp - at the base of Humantay Lake. Humantay Lake at 4200 meters above sea level. My friend had warned me the hike was steep (300 meters or 984 feet in a mile or so) but I was up for the challenge. I knew the lake had to pop up eventually... turn after turn... it had to be there... Finally I was at Humantay Lake and was determined to hike up to the ridge to get the best view. The sun was starting to set; I had to get back before dark - and in time for dinner! My tent was just a mile from the beautiful glacial lake.
Oh what an absolute experience. Since I started this post by saying "I'd highly recommend..." these accommodations, I have to preface this one by saying I would highly recommend staying at Elliott Key anytime other than the time I stayed there. Spring, Fall, Winter, you name it - just not the hot, humid, sticky, sweaty, bug-filled summer months. The Biscayne National Park Institute provided us the opportunity to be dropped off at Elliott Key, located on an island in Biscayne National Park. We had the island entirely to ourselves for the majority of the day. It was perfect for pretending we were on a deserted island and snorkeling. It was not perfect for the swarms of mosquitos and other bugs ever present during July in Florida. I think our campsite reservation - which didn't exist because no one in their right mind camps in bug infested humid South Florida in the middle of July (they literally waive campsite fees from May 1 to September 30) - should have came with a free stay at the local mental institute because this adventure really challenged our mental strength. But, I'd do it again another time of the year - check out Bolsa Chica Key, too!
7. The Best Campsite in the Sierra Nevada, California
If you want to experience this epic overnight adventure for yourselves, you'll need to secure a permit for the Big Pine North Fork Trail, which allows 25 overnight hikers per day, 15 of which may be reserved ahead of time. And, you'll need to hike about five miles to get to the first lake. It should be noted you can enjoy the views without a permit if you are doing a day hike. If you want to set up a tent and stay the night, that's where the permit becomes a necessity. Whether its a day hike or an overnight backpacking trip, if you venture up the Big Pine North Fork Trail, you'll be among the seven varied, and dazzlingly beautiful Big Pine Lakes. The lakes are scattered along a forested, 2-mile alpine valley nestled against the eastern face the Sierra Nevada's Inconsolable Range - a jagged ridge of 13,000-foot peaks. I don't know what else to say besides: this 'site' is debatably the best campsite in the Sierras and certainly the most breathtaking.
8. A Lookout Tower in the Greenhorn Mountains, California
I first stayed at Oak Flat Lookout in 2016, just a couple months after I moved back to California. I was lucky enough to secure another reservation this past September and my Dad took the Amtrak train across the country (Buffalo to Los Angeles!) to spend two nights with me at this old lookout tower at an elevation of 4,900 feet. The lookout, constructed in 1934, provides phenomenal 360-degree views. Oak Flat was used as a crucial link in wild land management, providing a source of communication and fire detection, until 1984. Now, the lookout is open for a recreational use/self-service cabin of sorts. About 25 miles east of Bakersfield, the lookout is near the Kern River and some awesome natural hot springs. While there is no electricity or water in the lookout and all provisions, including food, water and bedding, must be carried up 40 steep steps to the tower space or pulled hand-over-hand in a small basket pulley system - it's completely worth the extra work to experience the panoramic views of the mountains, river, and valley and extra work is always worth the remote solitude.
I had been wanting to stay in one of the teepees or other unique lodging options at Lazy Sky Retreat outside of Joshua Tree National Park for a while. I figured it was the perfect time when there was vacancy the week of Thanksgiving when my mom and dad were visiting me in California. We stayed in the Nomad - The Nomad Yurt tent features a large king bed for two to sleep in extreme comfort. The daybed can accompany an additional guest for $25/night. The tent is equipped with a Yeti cooler to store your drinks and snacks (no running water).The tent is decorated in a modern Bedouin Desert Style. A private patio area with propane firepit (no wood needed) and hammock rounds out your private area.The restroom and kitchen are shared by the other tipis and tents (5 total) in the Lazy Sky Boutique Retreat. The building is equipped with two toilets, a beautiful outdoor shower, indoor sinks, a full kitchen including refrigerator, cooktop, dishes, french press (bring coffee) and pots and pans in case you want to cook and a barbecue grill and dining area on the patio. Did I mention it's right near Joshua Tree National Park? Check it out!
10. A Remote Island Somewhere in the South Pacific Ocean
Rounding out an indescribable year of travel was a trip of a lifetime to American Samoa. Why American Samoa? There's a US National Park on the remote island somewhere in the South Pacific Ocean and, I'm on a mission to visit all 60 US National Parks, so I put it on the list. Boy oh boy, I'm so thankful for my National Park quest because it's brought me to some of my favorite places in the whole world. American Samoa is a beautiful place filled with such rich culture. I started in Pago Pago and then boarded a plane to Ta'U to then take a boat to the remote island of Ofu. I stayed at Vaoto Lodge, a small, family-owned hotel located on the remote and idyllic Island of Ofu in American Samoa. Vaoto Lodge is on a tropical island 14-degrees south of the equator... The pristine reefs provided the best snorkeling I'll ever do in my entire life and the star-studded skies unveiled the Southern Cross. My favorite part, however, was Ofu Beach... Ofu's south shore is truly the icing on the cake. More than a mile of untouched, undeveloped, palm-fringed sand is part of one of the least visited National Park. You can walk its length every day and chances are the only footprints you'll see will be your own.
Although I didn't have a chance to actually sleep at Natura Vive in the Sacred Valley of Cusco, Peru, I did have the opportunity to take a tour of the transparent capsules that are suspended 1,200 feet on the side of a mountain. The capsules offer 300-degree views allowing guests to sleep in a completely transparent hanging bedroom. To sleep at Skylodge, people must climb 400 meter of Via Ferrata or hike an intrepid trail through ziplines. Each suite is able to sleep four people and each suite has a private bathroom separated from the bedroom by an insulated wall. Inside is a dry ecological toilet and sink, where you can still enjoy the gorgeous views through the 1.8 meter diameter dome. The dome also has curtains for privacy from the curious gaze of passing condors (your sky neighbors). Fine quality mattresses, cotton sheets, down pillows, and quilts ensure a warm and pleasant night 400 meters from the ground. I thought the Via Ferrata, tour of the capsule, and zip lines down were incredible enough so I can only imagine spending a night at this place... Maybe in the future my dream may come true!
Cheers to more unusual accommodations in 2019!
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