The Alternative Bucket List: Ten Round-the-World Stays with Serious Wow-Factor

6 November 2019

The problem with traditional ‘bucket list’ experiences, is that they don’t tend to move with the times.

Swimming with dolphins? Ethically dubious. Climbing Everest? Far too dangerous. Jumping out of a plane? So last century!

See what we mean?

That’s why we’ve combed through our directory, for global stays that are seriously surprising, visually breathtaking, wow-factor-packed one-offs.    

From getting up close and personal with cared-for elephants in Thailand’s first luxury jungle camp, to relaxing in an transparent eco-bubble suspended from a Corsican cliff, we’ve got it all here.

So dust off that pen and paper…because it’s time to rewrite that bucket list of yours!

Main image: The Underwater Room, Tanzania
Panorama Glass Lodge, Iceland
OK, so viewing the Northern Lights is a more traditional bucket list activity.  

But once you’ve arrived at this gleaming glass ‘igloo’, with spectacular panoramic views that showcase the vast Icelandic sky in all its clear, ever-changing glory, you won’t care if the lights make their appearance or not!

Secluded in perfect privacy, your cosy double bed is completely surrounded by glass, for that amazing feeling of floating amongst the stars.  

Oh, and along with watching sunbathing seals and the occasional whale, you’ll also have front-row seats for those elusive Northern Lights…from the comfort of your very own hot tub. 

Elephant Hills, Thailand
Thailand’s first luxury tented jungle camp isn’t just situated in a lush tropical setting… you’ll also be able to meet friendly, cared-for Asian elephants!

Blissfully free from tricks, chains, or elephant rides, Elephant Hills is rated 100% for its animal welfare, as well as the recipient of a World Legacy Award for Sustainable Tourism.  

So you can relax in comfort, knowing everything and everyone is well looked-after (including you!)

Rest your heads in a hand-crafted African safari-style tent that’s reminiscent of a rainforest hotel room, as you enjoy meals at the camp restaurant, and take the occasional dip in the swimming pool, complete with its breathtaking limestone cliff backdrop.

You’ll also have the chance to really get to know those beautiful elephants, feeding, watching, and interacting with them all holiday long.


The Onion House, Hawaii

If you’ve seen Hawaii’s magnificent Onion House somewhere before, that’s because it’s famous in its own right. Complete with its very own Wikipedia page, this striking house has also been featured on TV, including MTV’s ‘Extreme Cribs’.

Perfectly positioned on the Big Island’s awe-inspiring Kona coast, this is art as organic architecture – a house that lives and breathes in harmony with its jaw-dropping surroundings.

A stay here is akin to ‘tropical glamping’, with cleverly translucent (‘onion skin’-like) roof panels that allow sunlight to flood cheerily inside, while stained glass panels bring all the vibrancy of the outdoors, indoors.
(But if you really have to spend time outside, the ocean-view terrace and 70-foot pool, bordered by tropical gardens, will make you feel like you’re in paradise itself).

Glamping Corsica, France
Corsica’s ‘Cocoon Village’ consists of four individually-styled eco-bubbles for two, magically suspended from a cliff for the most truly breathtaking views of the sparkling Gulf of Porto-Vecchio, all the way out to Sardinia.

This is eco-glamping, so you’ll find no running water or electricity here – but when you’ve got so much natural beauty and innovation all around you, who needs those, anyway?

By evening, your bubble is lit by the moon and stars, along with light from solar terminals that make for a magically romantic atmosphere as you gaze across the forest to the town below.

All you need now is a delectable Corsican wine basket, and your trip of a lifetime is complete.

El Coyol Private Island, Nicaragua
Come on, who hasn’t dreamed about their own private island?

When that island is a Nicaraguan oasis that’s just for you and seven of your favourite people, that dream just can’t get any better!

An idyllic wonderland, El Coyol is positioned on the freshwater Lake Nicaragua, and surrounded by exotic, butterfly-studded flora and fauna. 

In the main house await handmade accessories and supremely tasteful décor, while outside you can choose your relaxation spot from the pool pavilion with its hanging bed and barbecue spot, or two generous jungle garden view terraces that are ideal for cocktails. Cheers!

The Boot, New Zealand
Ever fancied living in real-life nursery rhyme? 

Re-enact ‘The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe’ with a trip to The Boot, a wonderfully creative haven nestled on New Zealand’s South Island.

Surrounded by a pebble rockery and sheltered by lush trees, this giant boot not only comes with laces, it’s also got a front door, windows, and plenty of luxury!

The walls are adorned with local art, while fresh-scented flowers and candles remind you that you’re on holiday. 

Meanwhile, waiting for you outside is a furnished garden and a crackling al fresco fireplace…an heavenly setting for those ‘getting to know you all over again’ evenings, dreamily filled with gorgeous scenery and long glasses of Tasman wine.


The Underwater Room, Tanzania

Paradise lives and breathes on the Manta Resort, a stunningly serene, naturally-crafted sanctuary found on the remote Zanzibar island of Pemba.

The resort’s pearl in the oyster is the Underwater Room, a Swedish-engineered, floating structure beautifully moored in the crystal waters of the island’s marine conservation area – complete with stunning coral heads. 

Located 250m from the shore, the three-storey room is a shrine to underwater luxury – and you’ll even be provided with a kayak, snorkel and fins to explore the local area up close.

Climb the ladder to enjoy the sun-soaked deck, while downstairs your bed is surrounded by panes of glass that showcase soft-lit, 360-degree views of glorious life lived under the sea.

(In fact, you could say the Underwater Room is like being in a beautiful aquarium, only you’re the attraction for the fish!)

Treehotel, Sweden
Spirit yourselves away to Swedish Lapland, where you’ll discover an architect-designed sanctuary in the form of seven individually-designed tree rooms.

With views of the beautiful Lule River Valley on one side, and miles of towering forests on the other (not to mention the exceptional hospitality of owners Kent and Britta), Treehotel promises to be unforgettable.

Whichever room you choose, you can be sure it will be a feat of architectural brilliance.  There’s an eye-catching UFO, an industrial cuboid suspended above a hillside, and not forgetting the 7th Room – located at the top of a ten-metre-high staircase!

Harbour Crane, The Netherlands
High above historic Harlingen sits a 1967 shipyard crane, stunningly transformed into an out-of-this-world hideaway for two.

Watch the comings and goings of Harlingen harbour on the north Netherlands coast from the comfort of your cosy sea-blue compartment (its colossal white jib stretches an almighty 45 metres into the air!)

You won’t have to worry about stairs either, as there are two specially-designed lifts. The first takes you up to a platform between the crane’s spider-like legs, while the second whooshes you up into the belly of the machine room.

Did we mention you can actually use the control stick, too? With a full 360-degree rotation, there’s simply no better way to enjoy those fantastic views of harbour, town and sea.

Billabong Falls, Australia
Surrounded by ancient tree ferns and sparkling waterfalls, this seriously luxurious treehouse-style villa is peacefully set within one of Australia’s most spectacular natural settings – Victoria’s Dandenong Ranges. 

The brainchild of award-winning landscape designer Phillip Johnson and his wife Sarah, the seven-acre grounds are also home to a beautiful natural swimming pool with waterfalls and a private, hot outdoor shower.

Discover the waterfall-dotted billabong (natural pond) itself just below the house – and with decking on both sides of the villa, you can catch the sun rising and falling every single day.

(Warning: this could get seriously addictive)

In the mood for even more bucket-list browsing? Grab a cuppa and surf our many Host Unusual categories, where you’re sure to find something that’s perfectly unique.


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