20 of the coolest hotels in the world
From treehouses in Thailand to rooftop tipis in Australia, we’ve scoured the globe to find the coolest hotels you never knew existed...
Published: Friday 29th April 2016
The word ‘cool’, we’ve realised, doesn’t actually mean much. Well, it means being a bit chilly, or a little aloof. But ‘cool’ as in “That’s COOL!” is subjective.
So what you need is one definitely cool person to track down the coolest hotels in the world and drop them into one handy cool list. Here it is…
Hotel Gotham, Manchester, UK
Manchester’s hippest hotel is housed in an old bank, so expect nods to this throughout: jars of pig-shaped biscuits in the bedrooms, gold bullion toiletry stands, swag-bag door stops (you can even use the bag to scoop up things you like in your room then pay for them at check-out). When you’re not collecting items to take home, order the martini trolley to your room, and a bartender will shake or stir you a cocktail or five. Rooms are named after Manchester icons including Tim Burgess, Bernard Sumner and Foo Foo Lamar. Wonder if there’s a Steven Gerrard suite…
Kolarbyn Eco-Lodge, Skinnskatteberg, Sweden
Showers are good and everything but, let’s face it, they’re not essential. Come to think of it, electricity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be either. If you agree, then the Kolarbyn Eco-Lodge – set in the lush Bergslagen forest just two hours from Stockholm – could be the perfect earthy retreat for you. The beds – by the owner’s admission – aren’t plush, but the tiny, mud hut-style accommodation is cosy, and anyway, this is a place where you’re encouraged to collect moments, not things. When you’re not sleeping you’ll be enjoying Sweden’s wilderness; the lodge’s beaver safari is a chance to spy beavers, moose, squirrels and naked bums making their way to the floating sauna on a lake. Moments don’t get better than that.
this is a place where you’re encouraged to collect moments, not things
Ekies All Senses Resort, Halkidiki, Greece
If unpretentious luxury is what you want, unpretentious luxury is what you’ll get at the Ekies All Senses Resort in Halkidiki, Greece. The owner’s aim at the start of the 11-year-long design and build project was to display Greek culture in a modern way, so she hired four architects of different ages, visions and views – and voila, a £65-a-night, barefoot luxury retreat was produced. Take that literally – some of the rooms are so crisp and white you’ll feel guilty for even thinking about walking around in shoes. It’s not all sterile stuff, though – zingy works of art coat entire walls and jade-coloured furniture will store your clothes. When you’re not lapping up the shores of mainland Greece’s Halkidiki peninsula, laze around the curvy pool and kick back with some souvlaki and an ice-cold Mythos beer.
25hours Hotel Bikini, Berlin, Germany
Berlin’s the king of cool hotels, but the high-rise 25hours Hotel Bikini is the only one for animal lovers. Rooms combine industrial vibes with colourful fabrics, but the high-rise part is the most important here: the hotel overlooks Berlin Zoo, giving guests city and tiger, monkey and elephant views – pretty rare stuff for a capital city. Hammocks hang across the floor-to-ceiling windows, or you may prefer to watch the goings on from the jungle sauna (with a view) or rooftop bar.
the hotel overlooks Berlin Zoo, giving guests city and tiger, monkey and elephant views
*Insert your own joke about monkey business here.*
Memmo Alfama, Lisbon, Portugal
We’ve been banging on about Lisbon for ages now – we love the food, the people, the vibes and the price (a pint will set you back less than £1.50). In the hilly, alleyway-filled district of Alfama is the Memmo Alfama, a hotel that boasts some of the best views of Lisbon’s skyline – this part of the city was largely unaffected by the 1755 earthquake, so historic buildings are just some of the epic poolside views. Bedrooms are contemporary with vibrant flourishes – bright-yellow loo roll (a nod to the colour of the city’s famous trams) and breakfast comes with unlimited pastéis de nata and croissant loafs. Yep, a loaf of croissant. We know – dreamy.
Oyster Box, Durban, South Africa
Lighthouses do something special to us – we can’t explain what it is. Perhaps it’s their functionality, or their pointy shape, or maybe, even, their fancy colours – case in point, the bright red and white lighthouse that stands at the Oyster Box on Durban’s Umhlanga beachfront. The beachside hotel’s sunloungers even match the red and white lighthouse, which enjoys blockbuster views over this particularly beautiful piece of the Indian Ocean. Inside the hotel (which was originally used as a navigational beacon when it was constructed in 1869), the bedrooms boast nan-friendly colonial charm (think floral bedspreads and statement headboards), while the impressive, secluded spa is set in tranquil gardens. When you’re not braving a dip, tuck into the hotel’s signature curry – it’s a source of real pride for the Oyster Box’s head chef.
Vumbura Plains Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana
the huge suites are on raised platforms and open on three sides – expect elephants parading past your bedroom as standard
You won’t be disappointed by any rooms in a luxury safari camp, but the 14 bedrooms at Wilderness Safaris’ Vumbura Plains are truly kick-ass. Set deep in the Moremi Game Reserve in the far north of the Okavango Delta in Botswana, the huge suites are on raised platforms and open on three sides – expect elephants parading past your bedroom as standard. Each room comes with its own plunge pool and ‘sala’ – a place where you can lounge around and appreciate the sound of the grasses rustling around the floodplain. Day and night drives are packed with elephant and lion sightings, while a peaceful float down the crystal-clear Okavango waterway on a mokoro boat is frog-spotting heaven. If such a thing exists.
How: Yellow Zebra Safaris offers four nights at Vumbura Plains and three at Duma Tau from £4,185, including flights, yellowzebrasafaris.com
Latin America and the Caribbean
Sanara, Maya Riviera, Mexico
If you’re a fully signed up member of the yoga brigade, you’re sure to love Sanara, a new 17-bedroom holistic hotel located on the dazzling turquoise shores of Tulum, Mexico. Sanara – which translates to ‘it will heal’ – is run with a gentle, restoring philosophy focused on serious relaxation. And how could you not zone out and heal here? Rooms are trussed-up with crisp white linen, arty dangly ceiling lights and free-standing, open-air bath tubs, while the spa combines traditional Mayan therapies with more contemporary treatments – perfect after some beachside downward dogging (#yoga).
Castara Retreats, Tobago
For some rustic chilling on one of the most underrated Caribbean islands, check out Castara Retreats, Tobago. The 15 wooden, open-air suites (think natural and homely, not swanky) come with bouncy four-poster beds and are located in the hills of this sleepy fishing village. By day you can head to the local beach and watch the fishermen hauling their nets and bob on your back in the calm water; by night you can join the locals for some liming (that’s chilling with a Stag beer on the beach), then let the distant calypso music from surrounding homes send you off to sleep.
Heywood Hotel, Austin, Texas
This seven-room repurposed craftsman’s bungalow is located in cool Austin’s even cooler East Side, which is becoming increasingly famous for its indie music and arts scene. That theme continues in the bold, retro hotel – much of the locally produced artwork is available to buy, and wooden platform beds have been meticulously handcrafted by the owner. Hop on to one of the free-to-use bikes and explore the city at your own pace, and in the evening check out the dive bars – try the punter-packed White Horse for live honky-tonk and sticky, beer-soaked floors.
Bespoke Inn, Scottsdale, Arizona
Soak up the Arizona rays and take a dip in the 13m stainless steel infinity pool, or enjoy a coffee underneath the century-old olive trees in the courtyard
Dubbed the Miami of the desert, Scottsdale is Arizona’s hippest city. The Bespoke Inn is the place to rest your weary party head – each of the four rooms is named after one of the owner’s family members, and a luxury resort vibe is combined with a homely B&B feel. Soak up the Arizona rays and take a dip in the 13m stainless steel infinity pool, or enjoy a coffee underneath the century-old olive trees in the courtyard. Don’t chill too long – Scottsdale is rammed with decent bars and quirky shops. Guys should try We Do Men, a male-only spa, with a website guaranteeing a “seriously happy ending” – of the radiant complexion variety.
Field Guide Stowe, Vermont
For a hotel that combines stellar interior design with the big outdoors, the new Field Guide hotel in downtown Stowe, Vermont, is the place for you. Designer Rachel Reider has embraced the hiking the area is famous for (try skiing in the winter), while also providing casual hip touches – bird wallpaper and papier mâché animal heads. True to its name, the hotel provides vintage field guides (you’re here to hike mountains, baby!), and for guests visiting in the winter there’s a heated pool in the middle of the doughnut-shaped property. Nearby you’ll find the famous Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream factory (you can try all the flavours), and distilleries and breweries galore.
The Jalakara, Andaman Islands, India
Havelock Island in the Andaman Islands isn’t the easiest to reach, but The Jalakara – a new, colourful and cool six-suite hotel – will make every sweaty hour of the trip worth it. The former banana plantation has been converted into a laid-back property that blends traditional Indian colours and fabrics with modern, clean-cut lines. Laze at the infinity pool or trot around the badminton lawn, and if you’re keen to explore the island (you’d be crazy not to) you’ll find strolling elephants, pretty palm-fringed beaches and mangroves begging you to kayak through them.
Keemala, Phuket, Thailand
instead of being located on the beach, the rooms are seemingly suspended from the rainforest canopy
Phuket needs no introduction, so we’ll keep it brief: it’s gorgeous. The island has seen a flurry of new hotel openings over the last few years, but the one that’s really caught our eye is the Keemala. Why? Well, instead of being located on the beach, the rooms are seemingly suspended from the rainforest canopy in a treehouse style. That doesn’t mean you have to forgo any luxuries, however – each room comes with a private pool, rain shower and beds they claim are big enough for six (although we recommend you stick with two).
You know the score – white sands, dazzling water, luxe hotel plonked on an island. For the dreamiest sunny break with some added cool, try NIYAMA, a ‘luxury playground’ where bright yellow sun brollies complement vivid interiors. Chill out on your private deck, making the most of the free mini-bar, with popcorn, booze and chocolate. When you’re not lazing around catching rays there are watersports galore, a 24-hour spa, Tribal (a safari-style restaurant), and a restaurant in a treehouse. There’s even one underwater – which beats trying to snorkel and eat at the same time.
How: ITC Luxury Travel offers seven nights B&B from £2,169, based on two sharing with international flights and seaplane transfers. itcluxurytravel.co.uk
Book and Bed library hotel, Tokyo, Japan
There’s a lot of kooky stuff going on in Tokyo, like owl cafés, loo restaurants and five-person micro bars. Accommodation can be similarly, er, novel, and the Book and Bed hotel is just that – the ‘accommodation bookshop’ is essentially a library hotel. According to the owners, you’ll experience that “blissful instant of falling asleep” – you know, that moment, mid bedtime reading, when your eyelids start to droop and your book clatters to the floor. Don’t expect comfort in this compact, wood-panelled booth hotel – the traditional components of a good night’s sleep won’t be found here (mattresses are spartan and you can forget that pillow menu) but you will have 1,700 books, in English and Japanese, to choose from. Next up from the group? A sleep-in bar. We do that anyway.
Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort, Oman
Set 2,000m above sea level, the 88 canyon-view-room resort will be the highest in the Middle East
You may think one of the highest hotels in the world would be a towering skyscraper, and you’d be right. But to reach new heights – of the mountain variety – book into the new Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar, opening this summer in the rocky contours of the Saiq Plateau and Oman’s fabled Green Mountain. Set 2,000m above sea level, the 88 canyon-view-room resort will be the highest in the Middle East, and one of the highest in the whole world. Along with that, it’ll also be home to the only restaurant in Oman that includes a fort, star-gazing and canyon-viewing platforms, while nearby you’ll discover ancient forts, eclectic souks and Damask roses in full bloom.
How: Nightly rates are TBC; Oman Air offers return flights to Muscat from £310, the airport is two hours’ drive from the hotel, omanair.com
St Jerome’s Hotel, Melbourne, Australia
Love Instagramming your breakfast in bed? Stop being so smug. Although we’ll just about forgive you if it’s breakfast in bed, in a tipi tent, on the roof of a Melbourne skyscraper. Yep, thanks to this ‘hotel’ in Melbourne, you can do just that. The luxe, 20-tent campsite comes complete with bathrobes (but no bath, sorry), bulging breakfast hampers delivered directly to your double bed and free tai chi and meditation sessions in the morning. If it all sounds a bit hot, sweaty and uncomfortable, don’t worry: each bell tent comes with air conditioning, free craft beer and tablets loaded with films. Ok, we’re in.
each bell tent comes with air conditioning, free craft beer and tablets loaded with films
The Boatshed, Auckland, NZ
You’re probably not going to fly all the way to New Zealand just for a hotel, but if you do decide on a big tour of the islands (recommended) then head to the Boatshed on Waiheke Island. The seven vintage-style beach huts are kitted out in a relaxed nautical vibe (shutters, armchairs, yacht ornaments) and located directly on the gleaming white sands of the island. Elsewhere you’ll find lush vineyards, lighthouses, and secluded coves to explore – all just a 35-minute ferry ride from Auckland.
White Desert, Antarctica
You could use your spare £45k to buy a one-bedroom flat in Scunthorpe, or perhaps a paving stone-sized patch of carpet in Notting Hill. Or, you could say sod it and drop your dollar on an eight-night stay in one of six state-of-the-art camping pods at White Desert, Antarctica. During the trip you’ll visit the South Pole, climb ice mountains and stand among a crowd of thousands of emperor penguins. If sitting at a computer screen is more your thing, the camp’s website is loaded with rare drone footage of the ethereal landscape, and hundreds of pictures of penguins (afternoon: wasted). Right, we’re off to buy a scratch card.