At its most basic, a rented room only requires four walls and a place to sleep; but for those looking to have a memorable vacation, shouldn’t this also include the accommodation? This round-up highlights a variety of properties providing immersive stays; experiential hotels where you’ll dive right into local life and gain a new perspective on your surroundings. Whether you’ve always wanted to eat in an igloo, stay in a Native American earth lodge, explore the Wild West on horseback or make your own bacon in an English village, these amazing hotels might end up being the highlight of your trip!
Stay with a family at this residence in Northeast Thailand. Photo courtesy of Kid & Coe.
1) Stay with A Thai Family (Udon Thani, Thailand)
Ever wanted to ride a buffalo? Plant rice? Hunt field mice? Your local hosts at a family-run accommodation will happily help you make your wildest Southeast Asian dreams come true. The Prachack Residence in Northeast Thailand can sleep up to six and includes a private saltwater pool and extensive tropical gardens with bananas, papaya and mango where you can pick your own fresh fruit for breakfast while the kids hunt for geckos. The family cooks your meals and arranges Thai tractor rides, boat rides in the lotus lakes, Thai cooking lessons, Thai massages, trips to the Ban Chiang World Heritage Site, crafts village visits and more. This is an amazing opportunity to customize your time in a non-touristy part of Thailand and gain valuable local insight.
Terrace of the Alp Hut. Photo courtesy of Grand Hotel Kronenhof
2) Stay In A Swiss Mountain Hut (Pontresina, Switzerland)
If you’re looking for the perfect place to practice your yodel, look no further than renting an alpine hut in Pontresina, Switzerland. The wide open spaces and spectacular scenery will inspire you to run through fields of wildflowers, roll down hills and breathe invigorating mountain air with no one around to judge your jubilation. The Grand Hotel Kronenhof rents out their Alpine hut for families who want to be surrounded by wild pastures. The hut is 10 kilometers (six miles) from the hotel, high in the mountains and close to the Bernina Pass with a variety of hiking paths, mountain bike trails and lakes to choose from.
To help remove any stress from your mountain retreat, the Alpine Hut Package includes transfers to and from the hut, as well as a rustic three-course menu prepared by a private chef. If you wish, you can join the Chef to visit local markets and learn about regional produce and how to cook it.
Saddleback piglets. Photo courtesy of Buttle Farm.
3) Go Hog Wild At A Working Pig Farm (Compton Bassett, England)
If your picture of paradise is an English village complete with thatched cottages, quaint churches, farms and the local pub, look no further than a Bed & Breakfast at Buttle Farm in Compton Bassett, England. The working pig farm has been converting old barns into B&B rooms and a two-bed holiday cottage that will be ready by Easter 2016.
In addition to luxurious accommodations that honor the historic structures, Bassett Farm is home to a rare breed of British traditional pigs in an extensive, free-range setting. Guests are invited to help feed and work with these adorable creatures, who spend their days rooting, digging holes, taking mud baths and napping. You can also spend a half-day learning how to make bacon, stuff salami or even how to butcher a whole pig. You can either bring custom-made bacon home to share with friends or bring friends to the farm. The site can be rented out to accommodate eight people in four rooms, and you can take full advantage of the spit roast, wood fired oven and barbecue on the terrace.
Drinks at el callejon as part of the Casco Viejo tour. Photo courtesy of Sarah Tyler
4) Wander Casco Viejo With Reformed Gang Members (Panama City, Panama)
If you want to have the best of both worlds during your stay in Panama City, consider the Westin Playa Bonita. It is located on a one-mile stretch of private beach just minutes from Panama City, which makes it one of the only beach resorts with easy access to downtown. The resort’s three gorgeous infinity pools immerse you in your setting with views of the ocean, rain forest and even ships waiting to enter the Panama Canal.
For a truly unforgettable experience of Panama City, the hotel can arrange for guests to see a very different side of Casco Viejo, a World Heritage Site. As a part of a local fundraising organization, you can join ex-gang members for a tour of the once crime-filled neighborhood of Panama’s “old city.” With these tours, Esperanza Social Venture Club allows reformed gang members to share memories about their former stomping ground, earn money to support their families and safeguard this once-dangerous area. The tour ends with food and drinks in the “el callejon,” or the alleyway, that they converted into an open-air food court.
Fondue in an igloo. Photo courtesy of Tschuggen Grand Hotel.
5) Dine in A Mini Igloo Village (Arosa, Switzerland)
Enhance your Swiss Alpine ski adventure by heading to Arosa, a lesser-known ski resort area in the Swiss Alps. The five-star Tschuggen Grand Hotel will make your stay truly unforgettable with its eccentric Swiss style rooms and spa built into the mountain. After hitting the hills, refuel at a miniature igloo dining village at the foot of the mountain on the hotel’s property. You can sit on benches blanketed in warm furs as you munch on traditional Swiss fondue or treat yourself to Champagne- and truffle-infused fondue.
If you’re interested in catching a bite in between runs, you can ski-in and ski-out of a causal gourmet restaurant called The Basement. Hotel guests arrive to the restaurant via the the Tschuggen Express, the hotel’s private enclosed lift. You eat in a bib, though your causal attire does not compromise the quality of your meal.
Contributed by Katie Foote