Oyster hotel investigators have visited over 15,000 hotel properties around the world, so we've just about seen it all: crazy luxurious suites, creepy sex motels, itsy-bitsy rooms, castle hotels...but that doesn't mean that every now and then we come across a hotel stay that even we weren't expecting. From jail cells to ice rooms (yes, like literally made of ice), these are the eight weirdest places we've visited where you can actually book a room and stay the night.
This 95-room, upscale boutique hotel is housed in a beautifully refurbished former Victorian prison that retains a large portion of its original fixtures. Most rooms comprise three cells and are cozy and contemporary, though some can get stuffy. The rooftop bar looks out over the hotel’s prime central Oxford setting and is lovely on sunny days. It’s hard to imagine that the posh surroundings once housed (and hanged) British prisoners, though period furniture and preserved dungeon-like punishment cells are scattered throughout the property.
Overlooking the Bristol Channel, this historic lighthouse has just four rooms — all housed within the structure. Since it is so small, there are few on-site amenities, but highlights at West Usk include great views, free daily breakfasts, and the option of in-room spa treatments.
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The Hotel de Glace is an upper-middle-range property made entirely of ice and snow — one of only two such properties in the world. Situated 15 minutes north of Quebec City, the property changes its unique snow carvings and ice sculptures annually; in 2016, it will be available to book from January 4 to March 28. The hotel remains between 23 and 27 degrees Fahrenheit at all times, and overnight guests are given thermal sleeping bags for extra warmth. Guests may only retire to their rooms starting at 9 p.m. and must be out by 9 a.m. the next day, when free breakfast is served. Public tours are offered all day throughout the property, including guest rooms and the Ice Workshop. There are lockers and public bathrooms with stall showers, as well as a small cafe, three bars serving beer and cocktails in glasses made of ice, and an outdoor spa with hot tubs and saunas, which guests can use throughout the night.
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An exceptional property, the Tree House Lodge gives guests the opportunity to immerse themselves in nature: either lolling on the beach, exploring the jungle habitat, or sleeping in tree-top rooms. The mid-range property takes up 10 acres inside the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge. Countless animals skitter through the jungle grounds — there’s even an iguana habitat on-site. The five spacious guest houses have full kitchens, backyard decks, and hot tubs, but it’s their stunning construction, drawing on nature and folding around trees, that casts a spell. Rooms can get hot, and there’s no air-conditioning, so guests will need to cool off with ocean breezes.
The 45-room Hotel San Francesco al Monte is a charming property converted from a 16th-century monastery. The highlights here are panoramic views over the city rooftops to the Bay of Naples — from the seasonal outdoor pool, pleasant roof garden, and many of the rooms. The hotel is a little off the beaten path (a short walk from the Montesanto metro station) but there is a spa, seasonal pool bar, and two restaurants, one set in the monastery’s ancient vineyard. Rooms have frescoes and gilded headboards that remind guests of the property’s origins.
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Boutique Camping is a three-pearl bespoke “glamping” (glamorous camping) site set on a 100-acre organic sheep farm. There is an assortment of 26 different accommodations available, from traditional Mongolian Yurts to a range of boutique guest houses, huts, and free-standing caravans. Guests have shared access to the converted loft space, with a fully-equipped kitchen, large communal dining tables, fitness facilities, and a sauna. The hotel hosts a range of event spaces geared at business functions and wedding parties, with customized catering available and a quirky on-site tin chapel for wedding ceremonies.
The most luxurious hotel in the small, mountain town of Manitou Springs, the four-pearl Cliff House at Pikes Peak has roots dating back to the 1800s when it was a stagecoach stop. Rooms are spacious and cozy with flat-screen TVs; some have fireplaces and one is an upscale teepee. Reasonably priced compared to luxury chain hotels in Colorado Springs, the Cliff House is also a good choice for couples and families wanting to be within walking distance of shops and cafes and within easy reach of nearby natural attractions like Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods.
One of the oldest cave hotels in the area, Kismet Cave House has built a loyal following of repeat guests who return for the hospitality as well as the unique, affordable lodging. It’s an intimate hotel with just eight rooms operating like a bed and breakfast — slim on facilities but big on personality with simple but delicious food and distinctive furnished rooms that show off the owner’s collection of Turkish rugs.