The word “hostel” doesn’t usually inspire positive thoughts, but not all boarding houses are boxy, dreary, or terrifying to shower in. Traveling cheap doesn’t have to be a regretful experience, which is why we’ve traveled far and wide for you, searching for incredibly designed and unique accommodations around the world. These hostels offer amazing surroundings and experiences, while still catering to the budget conscious and those looking for sociable vacation adventures. From mountains and treetops, to haunted castles and art-friendly communes, check out our list of unconventional hostels past the break, and mention your personal favorites in the comments below.
Described as “Bangkok’s number one chillout spot” and “a six-tiered cake of fun and living,” The Overstay in Thailand sounds more like an artist collective than a place to rest your head at night. “This old haunted house has been morphed into a creative space and guest house. Bringing with it a following of people who are into exchanging ideas, languages, music, art and love (even lust on the right night),” the website encourages. A bar, graffiti art, cinema, and open rooftop with hammocks, tents, and “stoners” make up a few of The Overstay’s unique amenities.
The luxury suite at the Jumbo Stay in Stockholm, Sweden will get you a panoramic view of the airport and a bed nestled in the converted cockpit of a real jumbo jet — on the ground. The hostel promises you’ll have plenty of legroom and no annoying passengers to distract you from gazing out the window during your flight to dreamland.
If you’re worried about the size of your carbon footprint while journeying across continents, you’ll be able to sleep better at night if you stay in Ireland’s Gyreum Ecolodge. The conical structure invites anyone seeking to “incubate innovative new ideas” to stay in their hostel that boasts an “ecodifference.” A wind turbine powers the geothermal heating, while solar panels, compost toilets, repurposed rain water, and an organic vegetable garden additionally work their enviro-friendly magic.
Radeka Downunder Dugout Motel & Backpacker Inn in Coober Pedy, Outback South Australia takes their “downunder” seriously. Accommodations are located in a former opal mine, now transformed with dorm-style beds. Their motto is “warm in winter, cool in summer.” If you want to live like the locals (60% of Coober Pedy’s residents apparently live underground), head to Radeka — 34 steps below ground.
Kadir’s Treehouse recalls the playful and dreamy treetop moments of your youth. The hostel is located on the Mediterranean coast in southern Turkey, and offers a host of activities like rock climbing and kayaking nearby. The on-site nightclub sounds like fun, but the ancient ruins in the surrounding area are probably a lot more interesting.
Just outside of Central Station in Sydney is Railway Square, where guests can sleep inside one of the converted railway carriages on the former Platform Zero, or inside the historic, renovated 1904 building.
Built in the Scots Baronial style, Carbisdale Castle in the Scottish Highlands was constructed in 1907 for the Duchess of Sutherland. It was nicknamed the “castle of spite,” after an argument the Duchess had with her husband’s family. The lavishly decorated castle has 365 windows, a clock tower, secret passageways, 19 marble statues, and an incredible art collection dating back to 1680. Apparently, it’s also haunted. Madonna was married at Dornoch Cathedral nearby.
Those seeking wide-open spaces, authentic cultural immersion, and an opportunity to commune with nature will love the Anak Ranch in Mongolia. Afer conquering the landscape on horseback and indulging in homegrown cuisine, curl up in a traditional Mongolian nomadic home known as a “ger,” or “yurt.”
“We’re one of the first eco hostels in Barcelona, born from the dream of bringing to the city the concept of an eco-friendly accommodation which could also be cozy, social, cheap and safe at the same time,” Barcelona’s Mellow Eco-Hostel states. We love their bright and relaxing sleep and common areas, but the solar-heated water, natural ventilation, and recycling facilities are an added bonus.
In the scenic, mountainous region of China is a bizarrely constructed, but incredible hostel that holds World Heritage Status for its representation of Hakka culture. The original buildings were apparently destroyed by a warlord in 1802, but they underwent a second reconstruction in 2005 to accommodate 20 guest rooms with amazing views.
Stasi-suits, GDR furniture and design, plastic egg cups, chocolate GDR-Mark coins, Pittiplatsch figurines, and other unusual additions make the East German-style Ostel seem like a ghost from the DDR days.
This Slovenian boarding house wasn’t a very friendly place to be until 1991 when it was converted from a military prison into a cheery youth hostel. Twenty prison cells now serve as sleepy hangouts, often charmingly decorated by local artists.
Image credit: Cheri M. Larsh.
An ocean view and historic background make the Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel a relaxing, atmospheric retreat. Perched on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, guests can opt to stay in the shared or private rooms in the former Coast Guard quarters and the fog signal building. The lighthouse was originally established in 1875 after several ships ran ashore in the late 1860s, and is still operational to this day through a partnership with the California State Parks department.
Two treetop huts in Norway make up Hostel Brumund. The original has been dubbed the “Pine Hut” and can accommodate five people, 25 feet in the air, perched on a 250-year-old pine tree. The toilets are outside, which might not be pleasant during Norwegian winters, but inside is a full kitchen, fireplace — which sounds slightly troubling, considering the surroundings — and cozy beds.
Why yes, you can sleep in the courthouse where The Clash stood trial in 1978. The restored 200-year-old building still contains two original courtrooms and seven prison cells. Clink78’s bold, contemporary design is striking against the courthouse’s Victorian architecture, and an on-site basement bar can accommodate 500 guests — all of them legal, of course.