The thrill of travel is often to be found in the swirl of city life: the strange sights, sounds and smells of far-flung places populated by a teeming multitude of strangers. But equally thrilling are the natural wonders that encapsulate a destination, from the rolling green hills and snowy mountain peaks of New Zealand to the ethereal Northern Lights that streak across the Arctic sky.
It is in places such as these that the pod hotel comes into its own: a small and self-contained unit, often isolated, usually designed to tap into the landscape it sits in. Here, we round up some of the world’s best…
These six isolated cabins (pictured above and on the previous slide) are spread across a large swathe of South Island, each one offering something slightly different, whether it’s whale-watching in the Kaikura region or wine-tasting in Waipara. Common to all, however, are the sweeping landscapes – of mountains, pastures, sea and sky – brought to the fore by floor-to-ceiling windows (and a total lack of distracting modern features such as electricity or Wi-Fi). Many guests choose to ‘pod-hop’ between the various locations.
The glass ‘igloos’ of Levin Iglut sit in near-isolation in the northern Finnish wilderness , beneath an unpolluted Arctic sky that, for six months of every year, shimmers with the aurora borealis. Each of the 24 pods contains a bed beneath a clear dome, so guests can lie down in warmth and comfort and gaze up as the lights play out above. Or, if the spirit of adventure takes hold, they can head out into the frozen wastes on snowmobiles, husky safaris, reindeer sleigh rides or snowshoeing expeditions in the company of a hotel guide.
Set amidst the stark, red-hued desert sands of Wadi Rum, Sun City Camp’s spread of orb-like tents evoke sci-fi images of space pioneers settling the inhospitable Martian wastes (indeed, the Unesco-listed valley has stood in for Mars in more than one Hollywood blockbuster). That said, Sun City Camp offers a few more creature comforts than might be expected on the galactic frontier, from minibars and fruit baskets to plush beds that, through floor-to-ceiling windows, afford sweeping views of jagged mountain peaks by day and star-clustered skies by night.
Since opening in 2001, this collection of sustainable eco-domes in the Torres del Paine National Park has garnered numerous awards for its environmentally friendly ethos, not to mention the abundance of accolades for its homely and rustic design, inspired by the indigenous Kaweskar tribe and consisting of natural wood floors, low-emission wood-burning stoves, and locally sourced furnishings and ornaments. It’s a comfortable base with plenty of opportunities for discovery, including wildlife safaris, excursions on foot, bike, kayak or horse, and guided treks in search of elusive puma.
Not one for the faint-hearted, these Peruvian pods are bolted into the side of a cliff in the Sacred Valley, a 90-minute drive from Cusco and within easy reach of Machu Picchu. You have to be fairly fit too, as it can only be accessed by scaling the cliff face via a combination of metal pegs and wires, and check-out involves a zip-wire. The three aluminium and perspex ‘suites’ are each able to accommodate up to four people; meals (brought up in backpacks) are taken in a separate dining area. They have simple yet functional lavatories too.
A UFO, a bird’s nest, a ‘mirrorcube’ – the range of accommodation at Treehotel is as eclectic as it sounds. The seven treehouses are situated in Sweedish Lapland , in the heavily forested area surrounding Harads, and adopt the now well-known Scandi approach to comfort: minimalist in décor, but warm and snug where it counts. Naturally, the Northern Lights are a major draw, but don’t miss the dog-sledding, ice-fishing and moose safaris.
These transparent eco-domes reside on a tea plantation in the southern part of Mauritius, spread around the edge of a crater lake. Each ‘bubble’ sits in seclusion, away from prying eyes and surrounded by foliage and wildlife. Indeed, the country setting is at the core of the experience, from the views of the starry canopy at night to the dawn chorus of birdsong each morning. Interiors have been designed to reflect the outside, with browns and beige dominating the colour scheme, wood furnishings and natural fabrics.
Somewhere on the borderline between pod and caravan, the Rolling Huts of the Methow Valley, found in the rural north of Washington State, nonetheless possess many of the same characteristics of a pod stay: self-containment, quirky design (rearrangeable modular interiors, in this instance) and an emphasis on the Pacific Northwest scenery.
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