The most off-beat and experiential places to stay in

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We often consider accommodation just a place. A place where you throw your bags in, a place to take a shower and a place to sleep at while you’re doing the really interesting stuff outside, away from the place. Accommodation often doesn’t particularly contribute to a travel experience.

But what if we told you accommodation itself could become the travel experience? What if it was the main highlight of your trip? What if it contributes to your memories?

That’s right. The places you stay in may actually be the experience! And when we think about cool off-beat places we stayed in, tons of memories start to emerge. Unusual accommodation moving the focus on itself, and you’ll find out why within the following lines. So here are some of the most experiential stays we’ve had around the world.


The salt hotel in Uyuni, Bolivia

After a crazy off-road drive from Chile to Bolivia, including driving around the unbelievable Salar de Uyuni, we crashed for the night at a very cool salt hostel. Basically, everything inside it is made of salt. One thing is for sure – you don’t need spices for the food you carry and cook over there!

The salt hostel, Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
The salty common room. At least 4000 meters above sea level.

The grounded ship in Sibiu, Romania

What happens when a captain who’s been all over the world decides to start a hotel? He grounds the ship, of course. So that’s how it happened with Villa Santa Maria in Sibiu, where you’ll feel like on a cruise ship (without the choppy seas). The captain is always ready to inspire you to visit some hidden around the world treasures!

The ship hotel in Sibiu, Romania
Inside the ship, a.k.a. Villa Santa Maria

The clay house in Leshten, Bulgaria

One of the most picturesque villages in Bulgaria is also home to a house, made of clay. It’s like being inside a fairytale – that’s the only way to describe being inside that little house, detached from the modern world, and attached to nature and everything that matters.

The clay house in Leshten, Bulgaria
Good night, all light comes from starry skies and candles inside the clay house!


The banda house near the Indian Ocean coast, Kenya

Living like locals in Kenya brought us to sleep in a banda. The material for this house is mainly adobe, and its circular shape is the perfect place for a young bat to fly around. True story. We slept very peacefully in the forest, hearing only true sounds of nature and sometimes and the only neighbors – the monkeys, and bats!

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Banda in Kenya, experiential stay

If you want to stay with this amazing family, get in touch with us here.


The gasho house in Ainokura, Japan

We’ve loved the gasho house architecture ever since we saw it on a picture. We were lucky to find a Japanese family that hosted us for one night, and we enjoyed some home-made dinner and comfy futons. We can’t say enough about the hospitality of the Japanese! The roofs are really helpful for the mountain conditions in Japan.

Ainokura village in Japan, the traditional gasho houses

Why don’t you stay with our friends at Choyomon? They make the perfect dinner and have musical instruments for a quick jam session!


The open-air living room in Canggu, Bali

We stayed for about two weeks in a nice village villa in Bali. Canggu was not touristy at all, so we could admire tranquility and observe the rice fields every day from our open-air living room. The best part is that that kind of luxury is quite affordable and has nothing to do with fancy hotels and tons of concrete.

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The Tyrolean hotel in Sighisoara, Romania

We’ve never felt so Tyrolean during our travels! The hotel is kind of luxury and at the same time combines Tyrolean style with a decent winery! Who’s up for a glass of red?

The Tyrolean hotel in Sighisoara, Romania

The chic lobby of Binderbubi hotel in Sighisoara, Romania


The garden yurt in Dobrogled, Bulgaria

We still haven’t made it to the Mongolian yurts, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy sleeping in one in Bulgaria. There’s this amazing family that decided to entertain their friends, and later, guests, with some yurts in their backyard. For those in love with wine – you can sleep in a barrel, too!

Staying in yurt in Dobrogled, Bulgaria
The bigger yurt, great for families and even groups!


The desert tent in Lompoul, Senegal

Staying at desert camp is totally experiential and a bit romantic experience. If you’re not into sand going anywhere, that might not be for you. But desert life in Senegal could be quite enjoyable, especially for a night or two. Get ready for a lot of sand and a lot of wind!

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Senegal, Lompoul, desert, sand, dunes, tents, camels
Tents nested under the dune


The jungle hut in the jungles of Bolivia

There’s no better way to explore the jungle than to stay in it. The off-beat accommodation here is an ecolodge, where you can sleep like a baby during the night and then hike the jungle trails by day. The most important part would be the mosquito net, and the long sleeves and trousers. Leave no spot of skin available to those nasty creatures!

Madidi jungle ecolodge, Bolivia
It’s easier to walk around without the rubber boots, but they are a must for hikes and rain! Madidi Ecolodge


The cozy lodge in Colca Valley, Peru

We’re so glad we chose to stay in an off-the-beaten-path lodge in Colca Valley, Peru. Peacefulness, unbelievable views, tasty (potato) dishes and fresh hikes in the area – you’re going to love this! And we know that you’re in good hands when you’re in Peru!

Kulawasi lodge, Colca valley, Peru
Just chilling at Kulawasi Lodge

The igloo in Pamporovo, Bulgaria

There’s something so polar about sleeping in an igloo. We love how hot it was, and how we could admire the snow outside while staying warm. We even worked in an igloo and slept in the other. Sometimes it’s just hard to believe what amazing experiential stays we have in our home country!

Igloo stay in Pamporovo. Bulgaria
Tiny little white igloo! With a huge heart!


The botel in Amsterdam, Holland

The boat hotel was something wow back in the years. For our first stay in Amsterdam, we chose to stay in a botel. It was not so clean and not so shaky as it was docked, but we had a lot of fun with the staff. They were high most of the time and were hilarious. It was Queen’s Day, so let’s forgive them!

botel in Amsterdam, Holland
Nights on the upper deck could be chilly on Amsterdam’s botels.


The wooden kingdom in Yoshino, Japan

Sometimes you just have to stop and admire the hard work and will of people! We couldn’t get enough of this ryokan in Yoshino. Everything was made of wood and designed perfectly. We had to take a Kimono photoshoot and just hang in the common areas to admire the piece of art!

Welcome to my new living room at Ryokan Kato!


The backwater houseboat in Kerala, India

If you’re a honeymooner, or just want to spend time sailing backwaters and watching sunsets behind palms, then Kerala backwaters and staying at a houseboat is just for you! There’s literally nothing to spoil the romance and the pampering staff, catering to all your needs. Well, except for some noisy nasty insects, but that’s nature after all!



Inside the rainforest, Drake Bay, Costa Rica

Have you ever stayed in a room without walls? We have! The room of our hut in the rainforest near Drake Bay was just having one wall and an improvised roof to protect mainly from rain and other people’ eyes. Our neighbors, the monkeys, had no problems sticking to their bananas and not disturbing us, so we remained friends until we left!

A hut in the rain forest in Drake Bay, Costa Rica
Don’t let the name mislead you –Mohagine hotel is nothing like a hotel – it’s an experience in the rain forest!


The Buddhist temple in Koyasan, Japan

There are things in your life you must do at least once! For example, to stay in a Buddhist temple. If you can follow the simple rules of the monks and respect their lifestyle, you’ll have an amazing time. A highlight of our off-beat stay in Koyasan was the morning prayer, where we sang and felt the vibrations of the whole place, not understanding a single word of them.

The Buddhist temple in Koyasan, Japan
Entering the temple, Yochi-in

On our (almost) own island, San Blas, Panama

You can stay on a private tropical island and not go bankrupt, thankfully. The San Blas islands in Panama are locally owned by the Guna Yala people. So you can rent a tiny wooden beach house and be almost on your own on the island. Everyone deserves a bit of paradise, don’t you think?

Staying in one of the San Blas islands, Panama with Guna yala people - private island
Mi casa es tu casa!



So those were some of the most experiential stays we’ve had, on some of the most off-beat places around the world. We highly recommend you to opt for that kind of accommodation, wherever possible, as it brings along amazing experiences!

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Have you had an experiential stay? What off-beat accommodation would you recommend? Let us know what we’ve missed so we can correct that mistake!



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10 Responses

  1. Patricia Pagenel
    | Reply

    We love these types of unusual stays! We experienced a few ourselves, and are a great way to learn about the local culture.

    • Bistra Yakimova
      | Reply

      So great to know more travelers prefer that kind of unusual accommodation! It really helps you dive into the local culture better!

  2. Kevin Wagar
    | Reply

    What an awesome list of places! When I read about the salt hotel in Bolivia it reminded me of visiting the floating islands on Lake Titicaca in Peru. Some of the locals there had converted reed houses on the islands to hotel rooms that I wish I had known about earlier.

    • Bistra Yakimova
      | Reply

      The floating islands on Lake Titicaca are so magical! We visited them on a day trip, but if we have another chance, we’ll definitely try to stay with the locals there!

  3. hotmamatravel
    | Reply

    Wow! Now these are some incredible places to stay! I love unique accommodations that offer an experience. I don’t which one I’d want to choose first.

    • Bistra Yakimova
      | Reply

      It’s hard to choose, right? There are so different so you won’t regret staying at any of them!

  4. Carol
    | Reply

    Nothing better than accommodations that offer more than just accommodations. These experiences are awesome!

  5. Patti Reddi
    | Reply

    Wow you have stayed at so many unique places! I’ve stayed at a ryokan but other than that have only stayed at traditional hotels. I would not mind staying at most of these but the houseboat in Kerala and the salt hotel in Bolivia would be at the top of my list.

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