Bucket List-Worthy Hotels
Everyone has a different idea of what quantifies a hotel as being bucket list-worthy, but what the hotels on this list share are unexpected, over-the-top or one-of-a-kind experiences that won’t be forgotten any time soon. From underwater bedrooms to snow igloos, these hotels offer something for everyone’s bucket list.
Photo By: The Manta Resort
Photo By: Kelvin Gillmor
Photo By: Oberoi Hotels & Resorts
Photo By: Aman Venice
Photo By: Shangri-La International Hotel Management Limited
Photo By: Dhara Devi Chiang Mai
Photo By: Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort
Photo By: The Plaza Hotel
Photo By: Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces
Photo By: Ladera Resort
Photo By: Four Seasons Hotels Limited
Photo By: 2015 Conrad Hotels & Resorts
The Manta Resort, Pemba Island, Tanzania
Manta Resort is a remote retreat off the east coast of Africa on the remote Pemba Island. What it lacks in 5-star luxury it compensates for in terms of providing a true Robinson Crusoe-type getaway. To be fair, personal butler service is included, so guests aren’t exactly roughing it. However, the true star is a 3-level structure that functions as its own private island. It may look unassuming from above ground, but its secret is an underwater bedroom where you can spot trumpet fish by day, and elusive squid at night.
Giraffe Manor, Nairobi, Kenya
This luxurious boutique hotel in East Africa is worth a visit in its own right, but the true lure is the herd of Rothschild Giraffes that roam freely on its 12 acres. Although don’t despair about seeing one: giraffes often stick their heads through the manor’s tall windows in search of treats. (Yes, you can feed them, too.)
Ashford Castle, Cong, Ireland
Set on 350 acres, this sprawling 13th-century castle is the place to channel Downton Abbey fantasies. On-site activities include a falconry school (the ancient art of handling and flying hawks) and an afternoon tea that would make the royal family proud. Ashford recently completed a $75 million renovation, which restored the interior, including 82 rooms and suites, to its original splendor. It also added a plush 32-seat movie theater and full-service spa.
Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, Dubai, UAE
The distinctive sail-shaped structure of Burj Al Arab has become synonymous with Dubai’s reputation for over-the-top luxury. It bills itself as the most luxurious hotel in the world, and lives up to the title with four swimming pools, nine restaurants and bars, a private beach, personal butler service, and use of a gold iPad for the duration of the stay. There’s also a 2-level spa, helipad and rental cars -- of the Aston Martin variety. Or simply opt to see the sights via a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce.
Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur, India
From the traditional boat that transports guests across Lake Pichola, to the domed architecture that conjures Arabian Nights, Oberoi Udaivilas is as close as it gets to a real life fairy tale. The 50-acre grounds include a wildlife sanctuary, manicured gardens and an 18th-century palace. Many rooms are outfitted with private or semi-private pools, while activities include everything from yoga and cooking classes to a 4-hour elephant safari.
Icehotel, Jukkasjärvi, Sweden
Known as the world’s first ice hotel, the Icehotel in the Arctic Circle is made entirely from snow and ice and rebuilt anew every December. All of the rooms include fur blankets and polar sleeping bags, while deluxe suites have the added benefit of a heated bathroom and sauna, along with a (non-ice) mattress on top of the ice bed. All suites are also individually decorated with ice carvings and sculptures by a small number of carefully selected artists. Depending on one’s needs, there’s also an ice chapel and ice bar on the property.
Aman Venice, Venice, Italy
The Aman Venice claims prime real estate on the Grand Canal, just minutes from the famous Rialto Bridge. This 16th-century palazzo is also where George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin got married, and you can even stay in the same suite they did. The romantic Alcova Tiepolo suite embodies old-world Venice, and is a wonderland of frescoes by 18th-century artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, marble fireplaces and silk wallpaper. The ornate hotel also features two private gardens and a spa, but the real highlight is the unbeatable view.
The Shangri-La Hotel, Paris
Paris has no shortage of opulent hotels, but the 5-star Shangri-La distinguishes itself by offering Instagram-ready views of the Eiffel Tower -- which there are no shortage of on Instagram -- particularly from the top-floor suite. This Shangri-La property (the first in Europe) also boasts two Michelin-starred restaurants.
Treehotel, Harads, Sweden
Childhood fantasies of living in a tree fort are realized at this creative take on the tree house. There are only 6 tree houses to choose from, and each has a distinctive look, from a bird’s nest to a UFO. As one would hope, the only way to enter each one is by ladder or rope bridge. Creature comforts, including a bathroom, are part of each eco-friendly lodging. The Mirrorcube is especially fascinating since its mirrored surface functions as the perfect camouflage for a true tree house getaway.
Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai, Thailand
From a distance, Dhara Dhevi in Northern Thailand appears to be a temple village, sporting gleaming white buildings tipped with golden spires. Closer inspection reveals a 60-acre resort village, whose architecture is a careful blend of ancient palaces, traditional Lanna culture and the more recent colonial era. Its landscaped grounds offer a myriad of reasons to stay forever: a sprawling 33,000-square-foot spa; eight restaurants and bars; an extensive library; and even shopping and arts and crafts villages.
Fogo Island Inn, Newfoundland, Canada
Getting to this remote hotel off the coast of Newfoundland is part of the adventure. Its stark minimalist design is in keeping with the stark landscape, and the minimalism continues inside, with handcrafted pieces and floor-to-ceiling windows designed to showcase the landscape. There’s an award-wining restaurant on site, along with a gym, library and art gallery, but otherwise the hotel is meant for relaxing and enjoying nature. Depending on the season, guests can go berry picking or gaze at the crystal clear stars during a bonfire.
Hotel Kakslauttanen, Saariselkä, Finland
Located in the Arctic Circle, Hotel Kakslauttanen offers a variety of accommodations, from cozy log cabins with fireplaces and saunas, to snow igloos, to traditional Lapland-style houses. However, for a truly bucket list experience, and to guarantee a front-row seat for the Northern Lights show (which happens from August to April), opt for a glass-enclosed igloo. The temperature-controlled igloos sleep two to four, and best of all, come equipped with basic bathroom facilities and a sauna.
The Plaza Hotel, NYC
The century-old Plaza Hotel has been featured in countless movies and hosted an endless parade of legendary guests and legendary parties. It also lays stake to one of the most exclusive addresses in the city at Fifth Avenue and Central Park South. Nowadays it has plenty of competition, and even though it’s a National Historic Landmark, The Plaza isn’t resting on its laurels. In recent years it’s poured $12 million into restoring the Grand Ballroom (where Truman Capote hosted his renowned “Black & White Ball”), and added a number of suites, including one devoted to all things Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald was a former resident).
Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, India
Completed in 1903, the lavish Taj Mahal Palace is one of India’s most iconic hotels. Guests have included a who’s who of celebrities, royalty and political leaders. The hotel’s unofficial motto is “the guest is god,” and as such staff go out of their way to accommodate requests. In fact, rooms in the historic palace wing include access to round-the-clock butler service.
Ladera Resort, Soufriere, St. Lucia
At this eco-friendly resort, all of the open-air rooms have just three walls, so as not to miss a minute of the spectacular Piton mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Besides the views, each luxurious room also has its own private plunge pool, while some suites even have a bench swing and two levels.
Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, Thailand
While it has the words “tented camp” in the name, this is not roughing it. Perched in the trees, these tented rooms in the middle of a bamboo jungle offer luxe bedding, hardwood floors, Wi-Fi, a copper bathtub, outdoor rain shower, and even air conditioning. Even better, Four Seasons Tented Camp works with an elephant sanctuary, so daily elephant interactions, such as bathing and feeding, are part of the experience.
Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, Maldives
The Conrad Maldives is what many have in mind when they imagine overwater bungalows in a tropical setting. While the Conrad is indeed known for its upscale bungalows (including two overwater spas), visitors come in droves for Ithaa Undersea. The glass-enclosed restaurant, located 16 feet below the surface, is accessed via a spiral staircase. Make reservations well in advance.