May 23, 2013 at 9:49 AM ET
Cate Hatton, 31, wanted a fairytale wedding. So when she was considering wedding venues, the choice was clear: she needed to book a castle.
She opted for Peckforton Castle in Cheshire, England, the only intact medieval castle in the U.K. She told NBC News, “I wanted to get married there and feel like a proper princess!” But the medieval structure offers something for the non-matrimonial as well: it’s also a fully functioning hotel that operates year-round.
From its sandstone walls to its suits of armor lining the hallways to, yes, its falconry and archery lessons, the Gothic chateau features antique touches that visitors can’t get at any other hotel.
Co-owner of Peckforton Castle Chris Naylor told NBC News, “We have quite a number of rooms with four poster beds. You get the feeling of waking up as a princess.”
Peckforton Castle isn’t alone. A growing handful of unusual accommodations await guests who seek alternatives to plain vanilla hotel chains, from igloos to treehouses, to tepees, and even former jails.
Sleep in an igloo
Located in Alta, Norway, this winter wonderland hotel is crafted out of snow and ice. Due to the weather-sensitive nature of the structure, Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel is closed for the season but reopens on January 6, 2014.
Guests flock to this igloo hotel not only for the once-in-a-lifetime ice hotel experience but also to glimpse arctic Norway and the northern lights.
While temperatures of the rooms themselves dip below freezing, visitors stay toasty with reindeer leather sleeping pads and hefty sleeping bags. The hotel also suggests that guests wear thermal sleeping attire to bed.
But not all of Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel is frosty. Visitors can warm up in the sauna and the outdoor hot bathtubs. And outdoorsmen and women, can venture out on a snowmobile safari, riverboat excursions, and dog sledding.
Nest in the treetops
Treehotel's sleek and luxurious rooms, designed by leading Scandinavian architects, are held aloft in the trees and offer visitors gorgeous views of the Lule River in Harads, Sweden.
The individual rooms are as diverse as the nature that surrounds them. The Mirrorcube is an elegant glass cube hideaway that reflects the forest around it, whereas The Bird’s Nest features a bramble-and-twigs exterior to conceal the modern, circular room within.
Made with the smallest carbon footprint possible, each pod uses green hydroelectric power, LED lights, and water-efficient sinks.
Visitors can not only vacation here to find refuge in nature but do so sustainably, too.
Teepee under the stars
Opening in June, Utah’s "Moab Under Canvas" offers tepee accommodations against the backdrop of Arches National Park’s red rocks.
Their basic tepees come with cots, mattresses, and lanterns—an affordable and basic camping experience.Their most luxurious option is their deluxe suite, which includes a lounge area with a sofa and a bathroom with a rolltop bath.
Overnight in a jail
“In summer, [our bar] is in the courtyard, right beneath where people would have been dropped down to be hung from the gallows,” HI-Ottawa Jail Hostel’s coordinator Nicole Lévesque told NBC News.
This former jail in Ottawa, Canada once housed prisoners under inhumane conditions--buckets rather than toilets and no ventilation or lights.
But in 1972, the jail closed and later reopened as a hostel. It retained its Victorian style architecture and some of the original jail doors, but it now offers modern bathrooms, hardwood floors, a kitchen, and a bar.
For those who want the jail experience, the jail cell rooms do have bars on the doors--but an additional panel of metal provides privacy. For visitors who want something more upscale, the front of the building was formerly the governor’s mansion and now features spacious, private rooms.