Worldwide searches for the “most unusual hotels” have soared to record heights in 2023, having hit figures over 150% higher than in the same period of the pre-pandemic year of 2019, according to Google Trends.
And it looks like people aren’t just seeking unique stays, but those offering immersive experiences, with searches for “experiential hotels” hitting their highest volume in over 13 years.
These establishments go beyond aesthetic appeal. They place customer experience at the heart of their offering, providing an interactive and immersive stay.
The growing demand for alternative accommodation ties in with a larger 2023 trend. Tourists are shifting away from a focus on materialism to a more active, engaged and involved form of travel, according to reports.
Jan Luescher, Chief Executive Officer of luxury travel-focused social network, ASMALLWORLD, says: “Experiential hotels go beyond the classic ‘luxury hotel’ blueprint, providing a unique and unforgettable experience for guests. The offering is unique and carefully crafted, often in a way that puts the local landscape or wildlife center stage, delivering a ‘wow’ factor that extends far beyond that of a pretty place to spend the night.”
ASMALLWORLD is a social network at the forefront of the luxury tourism industry. The company connects high-end travellers from all over the world, bringing them together for over 1,000 year-round events and offering exclusive perks such as access to luxury hotels with VIP benefits, discounted car rental, airport lounges and much more.
In light of travelers moving towards active and engaged ways of exploring the globe, Jan has shared the top experience-led hotels to visit this year, from floating underwater suites in Zanzibar to English stately homes with giraffes wandering in the gardens.
1. A Thatched-Roofed English Manor Where Giraffes Greet You at the Window
Take a walk on the wild side in style, with a safari experience in an enchanting traditional English manor house in the rolling hills of Kent.
Giraffe Lodge in Port Lympne Hotel and Reserve exudes all of the charm of the traditional British countryside, with the Grade II listed home featuring a thatched roof, traditional beams and sweeping pastoral views.
However, instead of seeing cows and sheep ambling by the lofty drawing room and elegant suites, you can spot the resident herd of giraffes. These exotic creatures live amongst the flourishing greenery of the 15th-century home’s 600-acre reserve.
Something of a natural amphitheatre, guests can enjoy a front-seat view into the lives of the long-necked animals from the property, gazing over as they roam across vast, unspoiled Kentish wilderness.
An expert ranger is also on-hand to share insights into the conservation work going on in the estate, before guiding you to the canopied social area to catch the sun sinking below the nearby coastline.
The accommodation offers a charming, intimate experience, with five luxury cabins nestled within its magnificent grounds. Prices start from $680 per night based on two people sharing.
2.The World’s First and Largest Ice Hotel
Icehotel Winter is an extraordinary accommodation in Sweden. The unique establishment is hand-sculpted out of ice blocks from a nearby river by a select group of 40 artists from across the world every year.
These talented individuals meet in the quaint town of Jukkasjäarvi in November when the sparkling waters of the Torne River slow down and freeze onto the ice, allowing them to reincarnate the famous accommodation on the empty riverbank.
Quite literally seasonal, as spring comes, the hotel melts and disappears back into nature, until it is reborn the next winter, with an entirely new design. It is the first and largest ice hotel in the world.
Each hand-carved ice room is completely unique, never created before and made entirely of snow and ice, holding a temperature between -5 and -8 degrees Celsius. The premium art suites are meticulously redesigned by an exclusive group of hand-picked artists every year. They feature fluffy mattresses topped with cozy reindeer hides and thermal sleeping bags.
After a restful night in your private icy oasis, rehydrate with a cup of warming lingonberry juice before detoxing your body in the sauna. Ice Hotel Winter is open between December and April, with prices starting from £737 per night for two people.
3.Your Own Private Island in the Indian Ocean
North Island is an unspoiled paradise hidden in the Seychelles archipelago. Wild and untamed, the entire landmass is available for exclusive hire, providing complete privacy and the ultimate luxury castaway experience.
With the entire island to yourself, venture out to the wild forests of the island where you will find many of the world’s rarest wildlife species including Seychelles kestrels, Aldabra giant tortoises and blue pigeons.
You can choose to explore the landscape unaccompanied or be guided through by the island’s Environmental Team. The “Noah’s Ark” program spearheads conservation work on the island, having restored the landmass to its original glory after it was abandoned following the collapse of the coconut industry.
They have transformed North Island into a sanctuary for local creatures, playing a monumental role in rehabilitating and protecting critically endangered creatures. In short, they are wildlife experts who can show you all of the best viewing spots on the island.
You will even be welcome to join the team on conservation missions, locating nesting sea turtles and planting indigenous trees. When it comes to accommodation, North Island’s eleven stylish seafront villas are sure to impress.
Each property boasts direct oceanfront access and utmost privacy, only overlooked by the gentle turquoise waves. The handcrafted suites offer a sensational blend of rustic and luxury, with a thatched roof, handcrafted furniture and an elevated position to catch the refreshing coastal breeze. Prices start from $7753 per night.
4.Sleeping With the Fishes in an Underwater Suite
The Manta Resort on Zanzibar’s Pemba Island lies at the cutting edge of experience-led design, with its Underwater Room floating in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
Escape to this ‘blue hole’ oasis where you will wake up to shoals upon shoals of rare fish species swimming by your window. The Swedish-engineered structure is anchored to the ocean floor and has three carefully-designed levels.
The first is a landing deck where you will find a plush lounge and bathroom. Here, a ladder will take you to the upper deck where you can sunbathe by day. Come nightfall, look to the black sky as the absence of light pollution leaves stars, planets and the Milky Way dancing in the distance.
The sleeping quarters lie on the lower level and are complete with a soft double bed and huge glass panes offering panoramic views of the vibrant underwater world. Batfish and trumpet fish are even known to reside on the outside of the room, hiding from predators.
And the lively marine scene continues as the sun goes down, with underwater spotlights illuminating the nocturnal wildlife activity. Watch as squid and Spanish dancers manoeuvre over to rest on the glass panes. Prices start from $1732 per night.
5.An Ancient Cave Where Hot Air Balloons Fill the Sky
Escape to an enchanting cave hotel in Cappadocia and wake up to a morning sky full of colorful hot air balloons.
Sultan Cave Suites lies perched in an enviable spot above the village of Goreme, with its sleek rooftop terrace boasting the best aerial views in the whole of the region.
An authentic cave hotel, the suites have been forged out of ancient dwellings used by locals for centuries before they moved on to more modern homes. In keeping with its past, each room showcases its original walls, with a rustic design that appears in perfect harmony with the chic decor.
Those in the Sultan Suite will have their Jacuzzi bath, with floor-to-ceiling windows allowing you to take in the buzz of the old center of Goreme. In the mornings, meander to the
rooftop for the finest view of the hot air balloons in Cappadocia.
Sultan guests are also welcome to use the nearby Turkish Bath and swimming pool of its sister establishment, the famous Kelebek Special Cave Hotel. Prices start from $327 a night.
Booking through ASMALLWORLD, either online with the ASMALLWORLD Collection or with one of ASMALLWORLD Private’s Travel Designers, you can enjoy the full VIP experience with exclusive perks such as room upgrades, complimentary breakfast, 100 dollars resort credit, early check-in and late checkout.