My Top 10 Unique Stays from Around the World

My Top 10 Unique Stays from Around the World

It’s important for me to align with what people would like to read. And so, I asked, you answered and I listened. I really hope my top 10 selection of unique stays from around the world is as exciting for you to read as it was for me to write. Putting this post together had some ups and downs. On the one hand, going through all the photos of my past travels was incredibly hard for me. As many of you know I LOVE TO TRAVEL and for more than one year now, due to the pandemic, I have been confined. On the other hand, it allowed me to travel back in time and recall all my past experiences with so many different magical places and people from all over the world.

I also found it quite hard to narrow all my stays down to only 10 but I felt if I didn’t limit myself I could go on and on and most of you would lose the patience to read.

Without further ado, let’s dive into my top 10 stays list! (Clicking the highlighted texts below will take you to the individual websites of the places I talk about)

Camp Kwando | Zambezi Region, Namibia

This place deserves to be both in this blog post and the experience one (coming soon…). Where else in the world can you wake up with a tea in hand and watch a herd of elephants drinking water from the Kwando river about 2 meters away from you? A few places and this is definitely one!

Deep in the Namibian bush, nestled next to the one of the major watering holes in this region, you can find Camp Kwando. In these parts, location is key and being next to the river means you get to see all the wildlife that cohabits here – literally. It’s a magical place your soul will keep on craving as soon as you leave. The beautiful tents (they’re called tents but they are actual houses) spread throughout the bush, feel like you have the whole place to yourself. Run by Anke, Michiel and their amazing team you know you are in the best of hands as soon as you meet their enthusiast smiles. Their knowledge of the fauna and flora in their backyard extends past anything you can possibly read in your lifetime.

I discovered this place during my MA fieldwork and by fluke met Anke on a flight from Windhoek to Katima.

It was Anke that calmed my nerves when my mind was racing as I was about to embark on the biggest adventure of my life. I can still recall her words to this day… We had never met before and I think she could sense I was both new and frightened and after exchanging briefly our story she looked deeply and calmly into my eyes and said: “You will be ok! You will fall in love with Namibia”. And SHE WAS SO RIGHT! I call Namibia my third home and I keep coming back here. Camp Kwando has a special place in my heart!

My Top 10 Unique Stays from Around the World

Kilmartin Castle | Scotland, U.K.

Our trip to Kilmartin happened in November for my hubby’s bday. I had booked this as a surprise for him and we both got the surprise of our lifetime.

The drive from Edinburgh, a rainy, foggy affair (totally expected in November). The scenery – as much as we could see – was stunning. The smells of moss, plants, cold water and whisky entered our car through the window I insisted stay slightly open, even though all the heat was escaping from our car and we were both freezing.

If you know Stef and Simo (the owners of the castle) you’ll know that staying in their 16th century Scottish castle means so much more than just borrowing their palace for a couple of nights. It means getting recommendations galore of: epic restaurants nearby, museums to visit, churches, ancient stone hunts, walks in the forest, magical whisky tours and lots more… It also means, walking in and finding a cart full of local whiskys left for you to enjoy and an old record player with records to appease all sorts of personal musical tastes.

We were lucky and got the entire place to ourselves and we never felt more at home than we did here.

I had prearranged a local chef to meet us at the castle to cook on our first night – she even baked hubby a birthday cake which was AMAZING!! The dinner, the wine, the dessert, the whisky, the fire place and the lit candles really made this one a kind experience. I love baths and their bathtub is incredibly comfortable… After a long day, we slid into the covers which felt like clouds and we were fast asleep.

The next morning, the sun was out, the fog had lifted and this was love at first sight. Looking out the second floor bedroom was pure magic. Rolling hills of moss, hot tea in hand and rain boots on our feet we explored our surroundings. It’s also worth to mention that this beautiful castle had a total make-over recently and with all the upgrades in place you can bet that we will go back very soon! What a treasure this place is…

Ocean Village Resort | Tofino, BC Canada

Cozy, with a spirited “beehive” design, right on MacKenzie beach, Ocean Village resort is equipped with multiple rustic cabins for you to explore. They have a number of activities for you to enjoy, such as, paddle boarding, surfing, kayaking. You can also make use of the heated pool and epic outdoor BBQ area located right on the beach.

The design of the interior and exterior is rustic meets comfort. You will sink in plushy warm beds, have a fully functional kitchen and plenty lounge space with a fireplace. Their shop is full of locally made products, which I encourage you to try – the organic mosquito repellent is a lifesaver!

This is the perfect place to bring your family, friends, pets and surf board and stay awhile.

It was a warm August and my friends and I decided to head to Ocean Village for a couple of days to chill and enjoy the Tofino vibe. On the drive down we saw one mama black bear and her two cubs, bald eagles, and goats on the roof of a farmer’s market. As we neared Tofino, fog started to set in and we watched the temperature drop by a couple degrees. We settled into our one bedroom cabin, unpacked and immediately went for a walk on the beach barefoot. I can’t describe how healing earthing is in this part of the world – it grounds your whole being. Some highlights from our week:

  • whale watching adventure
  • surfing
  • hiking the Pacific Rim
  • nightly bonfires
  • daily beach walks
  • ridiculously fresh and delicious meals
  • Hot springs soaks
  • swims in the ocean (with wet suits on)

Life doesn’t get much better than this!

My Top 10 Unique Stays from Around the World
View as you drive in ©Ocean Village
My Top 10 Unique Stays from Around the World

Mazzarelli Creative Resort | Puglia, Italy

Tucked at the end of a long winding dusty road this resort lives perched overlooking the Apulian hills full of olive groves and lavender fields. This place is a place of true beauty.

We arrived in early July for my birthday and temperatures soaring high 20s. As all good hosts, we were met with a cold sparkling refreshing drink followed by a tour of the establishment. After we checked in we had lunch on the terrance to take it all in. Their restaurant is superb – everything is organic and supplied from nearby farms and when I say everything, I mean e v e r y t h i n g.

The resort is close to a couple of local beaches but if you don’t want to wander – there is a limestone pool you can dip your toes in right on the premise. You can even buy a tailored linen shirt from their boutique shop. Due to zero light pollution around the resort – sky gazing at night is truly breathtaking here. Tip: due to the location of this resort it does get quite windy, so pack accordingly.

My Top 10 Unique Stays from Around the World

Houshi Ryokan | Ishikawa, Japan

This ryokan had been on my radar since I was 27 years old and found a Vimeo video talking about Houshi Ryokan having the oldest onsen (natural hot springs) in the Hokuriku area. I vowed I would see this place for myself at some point.

In 2016, the time came. From the time my feet stepped on the bullet train in Tokyo to get to this region, to the time it came to dress into my normal clothes and leave the ryokan, I felt like I was living in a euphoric dream and I was the only one who did not speak Japanese (except for one word: Arigato!) It’s difficult to describe this place, so I have written some of my personal reflections/thoughts in a rather freestyle form to help put the pieces together.

Houshi ryokan: is complex in its’ family history; has a unique location; is necessarily tranquil to its visitors; is steeped in century old traditions; has meals worked and re-worked until each bite provides an unforgettable experience; and their attention to detail puts me to shame.

The word ‘perfect’ doesn’t do this place justice.

I don’t know whether I will ever be back here again, but god I hope so. I dream about the meals I had here, my nightly bathing ritual in the onsen, the daily matcha ceremonies, my comfortable yukata attire I wore for the four days we were there, and how my five senses were working on overdrive.

My Top 10 Unique Stays from Around the World

Cede Resort | Kho Phayam, Thailand

Leave all your worries on the flight from Don Mueang airport to Ranong. When the plane gets ready to land on what looks like a runway floating in the middle of the Andaman Sea, take a deep breath and exhale upon leaving the aircraft.

From here on, all you need is a chilled-out island vibe about you, a hat, flip flops and cash (there are no bank machines on Kho Phayam). Unlike many Thai islands, this island is not overrun by foreign tourists – that is one of its attractive features.

Cede resort lives comfortable on Aow Yai beach, one my favourite beaches on the island (you can see why below…) They offer surfing lessons, yoga, paddle boarding, and can arrange pretty much any other activity you might want to do.

Between Celi, her staff and the stunning sunsets, they will charm you into coming here at least once a year, I promise.

You get to pick from a number of modern bungalows right on the beach, settled among freshly manicured grasses and plant trails. You wake up to birds chirping next to your window and fall asleep listening to the sounds of crickets and geckos. They have an Italian cafe attached to the resort and they can make many excellent hot or cold beverages. Their well stocked beach bar gives off a slight Hawaiian vibe.

Speaking of alcohol, one night we were all sitting in a group and Celi was describing one of her adventures, which this time happened at NYE. Here is how it went. She ended up going to her friends bar, because she was promised a special edition bottle of wine. All excited and knowing this must be good because it’s New Years. She arrived and was handed a bottle of red wine with a homemade sticker glued on it saying “Château de Phayam”. We still laugh about this! I too have a bottle to mark the occasion, thanks Inken. Every-time I see it, I chuckle to myself. In short, it’s an epic place to relax, meet kickass people, enjoy white sandy beaches, catch some surf, indulge in epic Thai food and have comfortable amenities right at your finger tips.

My Top 10 Unique Stays from Around the World

Hotel Plaza Grande | Quito, Ecuador

Built right out of a Spanish drama series, this hotel is conveniently located right next to the Presidential Palace in the middle of Quito. You are within walking distance (if you don’t mind up hill climbs) to a lot of famous attractions. If you are lucky to have a balcony overlooking Plaza de la Independencia, you might get to witness the changing of the guards ceremony happening once a week from the privacy of your own chamber.

Hotel Plaza Grande offers spacious rooms decorated in classy yet traditional Spanish tones. If you want to be amongst local bankers, and politicians, I recommend having lunch in the hotel’s restaurant.

After 14 hours our flight landed at Quito airport at 1AM. We got our bags and were quickly greeted by the hotel’s chauffeur, who provided us with water and made sure we were comfortable. The drive from the airport was about 40 mins – I think I dozed off. I remember thinking the hotel looked like a museum. Art adorned the walls, sparkly glass everywhere and dark wood panels engulfed the area. The checkin was seamless and when we got to our room we were greeted by a table full of cakes, muffins, croissants, fruits and local artisans chocolate truffles – we were in heaven. A huge bouquet of fresh flowers adorned the study area. With all the scrumptious food around, all I wanted to do was take a bath and eat the truffles – which is exactly what I did.

Gasthof Bad Dreikirchen | South Tyrol, Italy

In the summer, this Gasthof is full of families that have been coming here for years, if not decades. It’s a place that doesn’t show off, because it knows exactly who they are and what they need to provide to its’ visitors.

Perched on a steep hill with a stunning vista, next to three quaint churches and surrounded by forest and wildlife, it’s easy to understand why they have so many loyal customers. But, it’s more than just the nature – it’s about sourcing your ingredients locally, and making meals representative of your surroundings. It’s about bringing the outdoors indoors when it comes to decor and styling each room accordingly.

Gasthof Bad Dreikirchen paints your plate with seasonal vegetables, local wild meats, freshly caught fish, and berries picked from their property. They even have spirits made from local pine cones. The Gasthof worries less about hand holding you through an experience, rather it charms you from a distance and allows you to have your own experiences.

The library is filled with books written by many of their loyal guests, pretty special, I think…

When I arrived here for a week long family stay I didn’t know what to expect. What ended up happening is I never journaled and read as much as I did in this week. I hiked everyday, which prompted me to take daily long baths losing myself in my bathtub views of the valley. I looked forward to daily family dinners where we all discussed a wide range of topics. The nights were short (way to tired to stay up past 9PM) and the mornings were early (7AM) – I liked that. I walked away with a couple of scrapes which I wore proudly for conquering the local mountains. I miss that crisp alpine smell in the morning and at night!

My Top 10 Unique Stays from Around the World

InterContinental | Bucharest, Romania

Bucharest is often called little Paris and for good reasons.

This hotel is the perfect example of that. Everything from the architecture, to the room decor, to even oddly the smells in the lobby, and the blue and green street signs right outside of the hotel transports you right to Paris. The staff bend over backwards to ensure your stay is as comfortable as possible. I feel like Eloise every time I am here! You are a stone throw away from the National Theater – so be sure you ask them to book your tickets. The view of the city is stunning from any room.

Bucharest is very often my landing pad before I head to my home town – Constanta. I am thrilled to see that in the last five years more and more international faces are roaming the streets with city maps in their hands. I always make a point of helping out tourists and pointing them to my favourite spots in town.

Last time I was in Bucharest was for a surprise visit to catch up with my sister. We were passing the Parliament building, and quickly wanted to see what the ground floor looks like. Right before heading in we were met by a tourist from India who also wanted a peek. I replied, ‘follow us’. We were met by security guards. I proceeded to explain that we just wanted to take a quick look at the ground floor. He allowed us five minutes to look, normally this NOT ALLOWED (the guard made that very clear!). After we walked out, the tourist was incredibly grateful to have seen it and generously thanked us more than once. Ah to be a tour guide in your own town feels so good!

My Top 10 Unique Stays from Around the World
View from hotel room
My Top 10 Unique Stays from Around the World

Kempinski Hotel | Berchtesgaden, Germany

A place of wonder has to have three things: beautiful nature all around, surrounded by history, and an epic brunch. This hotel has all three. Set in the Bavarian alps, having digested and accepted it’s past history and armed with the ins and out of top service you will quickly find yourself extending your stay.

We arrived spontaneously at this hotel and decided to explore all the nature, history and culinary aspects. I was overwhelmed by the front lobby – it felt like the entire hotel circles around the lobby. First thing I did was try their house blend teas made with herbs found around the property. Second, was their brunch – it’s truly something I still crave sometimes. Third, was the heated pool with a pretty cool view. For photos of this hotel and more details about the surroundings, you can click the highlighted text above.

If you enjoyed reading my top 10 unique stays from around the world, drop me a quick comment below and let me know what you liked or even didn’t like. Questions are also welcome. Stay tuned for another blog post about my top 10 unique experiences from around the world!

It’s funny coming home. Nothing changes. You realize what’s changed is you.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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