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Unusual Holiday Accommodations

Updated on March 6, 2013

Looking For Somewhere Offbeat To Stay?

Bored with ordinary hotels and guest houses? Across the world, there are quite a few options for a different vacation experience. Here's a few suggestions for holiday accommodations you might never have thought of.

Cabin at Phantom Ranch, in the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
Cabin at Phantom Ranch, in the bottom of the Grand Canyon. | Source

English Narrowboats

Fancy staying on the water? An English narrowboat gives you access to hundreds of miles of canals and navigable rivers. Easy to drive, most modern or renovated narrowboats have diesel engines. They move at about four miles an hour, a literal walking pace that allows you to slow down and appreciate the English countryside. It's possible to find one that has an electric engine and a few places will even rent one that comes complete with a horse (although this is an option recommended only for people with at least some equine experience - you need to be able to groom, feed and harness the animal). No drivers' license or similar is required for boating in England. It is also possible to rent a 'cabin cruiser' - a faster, more modern boat, but really, with the old canal boats available... (Some larger cabin cruisers also will not fit through the narrow locks and are limited to rivers and wider canals).


Most of the surviving Christian monasteries and convents in Europe have guest houses, and while most of the people who stay there are seeking religious solace or a "retreat," they welcome anyone. Generally cheaper than hotels, most monasteries serve food communally. Others do not serve food, but give you access to the kitchen. They do provide fairly spartan accommodation and may not have en-suite bathrooms. If you want to go off the grid, monasteries are a great choice, as they often lack internet access, phones and may even require that cell phones be turned off for the duration of the stay. The downside is that all rooms are single (even married couples are not generally allowed to sleep together) and many have curfews. However, the single rooms make this a great option for the solo traveler, especially for women traveling alone.

Buddhist Temples

If you are traveling in Asia or the Far East and really want to do as the locals do...and save money with it...then consider staying at a Buddhist temple. Like Christian monasteries, they tend to offer very spartan accommodations and any provided food will be vegetarian or even vegan. Some temples charge a small fee, others may allow you to stay for free, but ask you how you can 'contribute' to the temple...meaning that if you are somewhere with a Buddhist community and out of money, you can often get room and board in return for a donation of labor - washing dishes, helping cook, sweeping, etc. If you are interested in Buddhism, most temples offer retreats.


One of the most popular yurts on the planet is the one on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon that can be rented by winter hikers.

However, yurts can be found all over the world. They are, essentially, a special kind of tent, furnished inside like a real home. Because they were designed for cold steppes, they are very warm tents and quite comfortable. It's the nearest thing you'll find to the tents in Harry Potter.

A similar option is a static gypsy caravan, which can be found in Ireland and parts of England. These accommodations are generally 'self catering' and treated like vacation rentals.


Yes. It is possible to stay in a real castle in many parts of Europe. These range from castles converted to hotels (common in Scotland) to small castles and chateaus that can be rented as self-catering accommodation for larger families or groups. Most of them are fully restored and have all modern facilities, but they are still castles. Often, these castles have beautiful landscaped grounds and are definitely a 'luxury' option'...the rent generally runs to several thousand dollars a month.



A few Eastern European cities have 'botels'. These were introduced in Prague to address a shortage of downtown hotel accommodation.

A botel is a huge houseboat, the size of most small hotels. They operate exactly like hotels and have restaurants...but are moored on a river that runs through the city. If you want to experience an interesting hangover from the Communist era (often for a reasonable price), botels are an option that has all of the facilities of a regular hotel.

A Few Others

If even these suggestions aren't enough for you, then there are plenty more. Old lighthouses, disused windmills, houseboats... You don't have to stay in a hotel or a vacation condo or cottage, especially if you're traveling in parts of the world that have a lot of history. Stepping off the beaten track is always a lot of fun, so why not take it all the way and find holiday accommodation that's outside the 'norm'.


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