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10 Hotels to Stay In Before You Die

We'll leave the Las Vegas Strip behind in this article.
We'll leave the Las Vegas Strip behind in this article.
Hisham Ibrahim/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Hotels often simply serve as launchpads for vacation adventures, but in some cases, the lodgings themselves are what make a particular vacation unforgettable. From shocking novelty to elegance incarnate, these 10 hotels all offer the sort of remarkable experience every jet-setter should have at least once in a lifetime. If you're planning to tour the world, make sure to set up stays at these lodgings, which range from unconventional to exotic to out-of-this-world luxuriousness.

First stop: Cottonwood, Idaho. Didn't see that one coming, did you?

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Our first stop is Cottonwood, Idaho. A little off the beaten path, Cottonwood is home to a unique bed-and-breakfast called Dog Bark Park. In a world where hotels are typically boring, boxy-looking monoliths checkered with windows, visitors pulling up to this B&B are bound to do a double take since two enormous beagles -- think Clifford the Big Red Dog-sized pups -- dominate the landscape.

Meet Sweet Willy and his slightly smaller sidekick, Toby. These doggies are probably the largest beagles on the planet, and while Toby is just for show, inside the elevated belly of Sweet Willy (that's sort of an odd thought) is where up to four vacationers can cozy up and bunk down for the night. In the a.m., after a stop off at the larger-than-life fire hydrant where the commode resides, they'll be served a signature breakfast before it's time to see the sights. Talk about a memorable time for the kids!

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This vintage photo depicts a Wigwam Motel in Kentucky that predates the one in Holbrook, Ariz.
This vintage photo depicts a Wigwam Motel in Kentucky that predates the one in Holbrook, Ariz.
MPI Stringer/Archive Photos/Getty Images

All in all, about a half dozen "wigwam villages" have existed over the years, but only a few remain today. One such village is the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Ariz. -- located along historic Route 66 -- and it's bound to be an exciting experience for little travelers.

The steel and concrete "wigwams" -- which actually resemble what are more commonly referred to as teepees -- are 14 feet (4 meters) across and 32 feet (10 meters) high, and they come with many modern conveniences, including air conditioning and plumbing. But chances are excellent it'll still feel exciting and adventurous to spend the night in such a unique motel, right in the heart of roadside attraction territory.

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Next up, we leave dry land behind and head to the depths.

In order to even enter this hotel, you'll need to get your feet (and everything else) wet. Jules' Undersea Lodge, located in Key Largo, Fla., is only accessible by diving 21 feet (6.5 meters) to reach the entrance, situated on the underside of the lodge. Formerly a research facility, this subsurface inn features two bedrooms, both with broad windows so vacationers can get nose-to-nose with any marine life that meanders through the nearby mangrove lagoon.

Visitors can choose from all sorts of diving packages, ranging from beginner basics to pro experiences, and enjoy a taste of marine archaeology at the same time. And less educational, but definitely pretty cool, guests at the Jules' Underwater Lodge can even order a late-night pizza delivery if they're feeling a bit peckish after long scuba sessions.

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To visit the Magic Mountain Lodge, you'll need to head down to the remote reaches of southern Chile, but seeing this inn, and the amazing landscape of the Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve that surrounds it, is well worth the trip. Water continuously cascades down the conical sides of the Magic Mountain Lodge, which features a luscious, nature-inspired interior. The nearby Baobab Hotel and Spa and the Canopy Village are equally fascinating lodgings at which to spend the night while exploring the delicate local woodland ecosystem by day.

To stay in the next hotel, we'll have to travel around the globe. Can you guess where we're headed?

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The Absolut Icebar in the ICEHOTEL is a pristine place to enjoy a drink.
The Absolut Icebar in the ICEHOTEL is a pristine place to enjoy a drink.
Peter Grant/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Reconstructed yearly, the ICEHOTEL of Jukkasjärvi, Sweden is an unforgettable venue, crafted entirely out of ice and snow on the banks of the Torne River some 125 miles (200 kilometers) north of the Arctic Circle. Intrigued? Construction kicks off each year in mid-November and wraps up by the end of December. During the 2010/2011 winter season, the ICEHOTEL consisted of 60 rooms, complete with the Absolut Icebar and even a chapel, where more than a hundred couples said their wedding vows.

The ICEHOTEL is also the venue for an annual art exhibition of amazing handcrafted ice sculptures. The next hotel on our itinerary, however, derives the lion's share of its beauty from more routine workings of nature. Ready to see your room?

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Wake up to the cheerful vision of lofty hot air balloons .
Wake up to the cheerful vision of lofty hot air balloons .
Christopher Pillitz/The Image Bank/Getty Images

The Traveler's Cave Hotel, located in the hilltops above Göreme, Turkey, is literally carved out of a lofty rock formation. Visitors can drink in both the historic and the natural beauties of this region of Turkey from the vantage of a hot air balloon -- or, if they're the type of tourists who like to see the sights firsthand, several local hiking and motoring tours are also available. Regardless, guests can return in the evenings to toasty fires, warm baths and breathtaking views of the adjacent valley.

For our next stop, we'll be heading back to the Western Hemisphere where there's another amazing vista to behold.

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Like infinity pools?
Like infinity pools?
Thomas Barwick/Taxi/Getty Images

The Post Ranch Inn, perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, is a mash-up of organic excellence and unforgettable elegance. Visitors to this serene lodging will find gorgeous views, excellent spa services, fine dining and superb relaxation.

If your idea of a perfect stay includes drifting across an infinity pool, stargazing through an onsite telescope, partaking in yoga and meditation classes, going on guided nature hikes, visiting local art galleries, receiving soothing massages, or any combination thereof, the Post Ranch Inn delivers, with gorgeous views and great amenities.

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Next up, we'll take luxurious and all-inclusive to a whole other level.

The Marina Bay Sands' official grand opening event was a 360-degree light and water extravaganza.
The Marina Bay Sands' official grand opening event was a 360-degree light and water extravaganza.
Chris McGrath/Getty Images News/Getty Images

If you're going to Singapore, Marina Bay Sands is a must-stay hotel. What's so great about it? This hotel takes everything to the next level. They'll see your cozy cliff-top infinity pool and raise you a nearly 500-foot-long (150-meter) infinity pool that showcases downtown in panoramic views at a height of 650 feet (200 meters). Relax while you watch the mere mortals pounding the pavement below.

But the best part? All those usual activities you need to leave the hotel for, like visiting local art and science museums, seeing concerts, shows and musicals, getting your gamble on, or doing some serious shopping, can all be done by barely leaving the (enormous!) main premises. Oh, and while shopping, if your legs get a little tired, you can just window-shop by boat from a canal carved through the middle of the mall.

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Need we say more? For the final two hotels, that renowned resort destination in the Middle East is our port of call ...

The Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi is one of the United Arab Emirates' premiere hotels -- and that's saying a lot considering that the UAE's reputation in hospitality is far from shabby. Palatial really is the only way to describe this sprawling edifice, which melds grand Arabian architecture with modern technological embellishments. All the rooms in this hotel are fabulous, but if you really want to stay here in style, spring for one of the Palace Suites. At more than 7,000 square feet (700 square meters), each suite will leave you mumbling words like "marvelous" and "lavish" and "stunning" as you look around in awe. And that's before your gaze swings up to see the crystal chandeliers, or you peek into the cavernous marble bathroom.

To visit our last hotel, it's just a quick jump up the coast. Can you guess what city we're going to be staying in?

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The Burj Al Arab mimics a dhow skimming over the water
The Burj Al Arab mimics a dhow skimming over the water
Murat Taner/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

The Burj Al Arab is one of the great icons of modern Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. The hotel (one of the tallest in the world) rests on land reclaimed from the sea and was designed to resemble the sail of a traditional dhow, an Arabian sailing vessel. The result is a stunning mix of modern motifs and time-honored opulence. After arriving by either Rolls Royce or helicopter, guests will notice the hotel's vibrant design, which is apparent everywhere; from its diverse five-star dining establishments to its spa and health clubs. And whether lounging on pristine beaches or frequenting fantastic water parks is your idea of a perfect way to cool off, the Burj Al Arab has you covered.

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Sources

  • Burj Al Arab Web site. (April 21, 2011) http://www.jumeirah.com/en/Hotels-and-Resorts/Destinations/Dubai/Burj-Al-Arab/The-Resort/
  • Cottonwood Idaho Dog Bark Park Inn Bed and Breakfast Web site. (April 21, 2011) http://dogbarkparkinn.com/index.html
  • Emirates Palace Hotel Web site. (April 21, 2011) http://www.emiratespalace.com/en/home/index.htm
  • ICEHOTEL Web site. (April 21, 2011) http://www.icehotel.com/
  • Jules' Verne Undersea Lodge Web site. (April 21, 2011) http://www.jul.com/index.html
  • Magic Mountain Lodge Web site. (April 21, 2011) http://www.huilohuilo.com/en/accommodation/magic-mountain-lodge
  • Marine Bay Sands Hotel Web site. (April 21, 2011) http://www.marinabaysands.com/
  • Post Ranch Inn Web site. (April 21, 2011) http://www.postranchinn.com/
  • Schreiber, Mark. "Back to the future of a "hotel for 2001." Jan. 16, 2011. (April 21, 2011) http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20110116x2.html
  • Traveler's Cave Hotel Web site. (April 21, 2011) http://www.travellerscave.com/hotel/
  • Unusual Hotels of the World Web site. (April 21, 2011) http://www.unusualhotelsoftheworld.com/
  • Wigwam Motel Web site. (April 21, 2011) http://www.galerie-kokopelli.com/wigwam/

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