Unusual Places to SleepTravellers Tales from Around the World
From a room made from Salt blocks in Bolivia to a tree house in the Malaysian jungle, a muddy trail in India or a beach in the Dominican Republic, travellers have put their head down in some really unusual places to sleep.
Some are planned, others very much spur of the moment resting places. If you are prepared to go with the flow and step out of your comfort zone, a good nights sleep can turn into an amazing story to tell.
Sleeping in unusual places is something that can happen to anyone, as demonstrated by this traveller pictured above lying on a pile of gin boxes filling the hold of a banca crossing the sea from Bulan to Ticao, Masbate in the Philippines.
I myself have slept in many strange and unusual place over my 50+ years of travel. These include under hedgerows in the french countryside whilst hitchhiking, in a box on Calcutta train station next to a family who lived there on the station, under bridges in Mexico, standing up in a very crowded train in India, also on train luggage racks in India, and in the Palenque Ruins in Mexico. There are too many to list here but I really have slept in some unbelievable places.
So I asked some other bloggers to share their experiences of unusual places to sleep to show that you really can sleep anywhere whilst travelling.
Have you any stories to tell of Unusual Places to Sleep from your travels?? Let us know in the comments below.
1. A Night on a Hotel Rooftop in Hampi, India – by Erin from Pina Travels
The town of Hampi, India sits on the banks of the Tungabhadra River in the southern state of Karnataka. It’s known for its history, culture, and group of Unesco World Heritage monuments. In April, temperatures in Hampi can reach as high as 39°C (102°F). My partner and I were on a two month backpacking trip across India. We knew southern India would be hot, but we didn’t want to miss out on that region. So, we headed to Hampi figuring we’d adjust to the heat.
When we arrived in Hampi we found a room that was within budget… the only caveat? It didn’t have air conditioning. That first night we laid in our bed awake. The bed sheets were soaked with our sweat, and we couldn’t get comfortable in the humidity.
The next morning we told the small hotel’s keeper about how much trouble we’d had with sleeping in the heat. He told us that many people in Hampi sleep on the rooftops in the hot months as a way to stay cool. “You can do that, too!” He told us, pointing to a staircase outside the hotel that led up to the hotel’s roof.
After a few sleepless hours that night, we looked at each other and agreed. It was time to sleep on the roof. We pulled the thin mattress off our bed, grabbed the sheets, and quietly climbed the staircase. As we lay staring at the stars on our makeshift bed, I thought about all the monkeys I’d seen hopping from roof to roof during the day.
I was scared a monkey might come near us during the night, and so I wrapped myself tightly in the bedsheet. With the cool air, we fell asleep fast, and only woke up hours later with the sun. On the rooftops around us, we saw local families waking up, too. We laughed because our hotel keeper was right. Sleeping on rooftops is the trick to coping with India’s heat!
2. A treehouse in a National Forest in Laos by Sarah of A Social Nomad
We planned our stay in a treehouse in the NamKhan National Park in Laos for months. These treehouses are deep in the forest and reachable only by a combination of an open-backed truck, then at least an hours hike and only then a zipline. They have been built and are maintained by the Gibbon Experience, an NGO based in the north of Laos.
The forest is the only place in the world to see the critically endangered Laotian black-crested. There are 3 treehouses in the forest each sleeping 8 people and they’re all connected by a network of ziplines.
We slept in mosquito-proof tents in the treehouses, which are open to the elements. Our treehouse had 3 levels, a communal area and a freshwater cold shower. At around US$100 a night per person this isn’t a cheap place to sleep, but you do get to zipline for as long as you want during the day and all your meals are included.
The Gibbon Experience funds the local community and supports the black gibbons and as unusual places to go, this is the only place in the world that you can wake to the sound of the black gibbons singing.
Reserve directly through the GibbonExperience.org.
3. A Buddhist temple in Toronto by Emma of Emma’s Roadmap
Whenever I travel alone, I like to stay at an Airbnb with a host to have some company and to meet locals who can often tell interesting stories or have great recommendations about the place I visit. When looking for a place to stay in Toronto, I found this Buddhist Temple being listed on Airbnb.
First I thought that these rooms were only for really religious people who want to take part in the daily activities there, but after a quick inquiry I found out that they were renting out spare rooms to any traveller, regardless of his or her purpose. Intrigued by this special accommodation, I quickly booked.
I remember when I first arrived that the Uber driver asked me whether I was really sure I was at the right location and that he could wait in the car. This was the moment I thought, what if it’s a scam? But it turned out to be a community of very friendly people, who, all because of their own life experiences, decided to devote their time to Buddhism. It seemed like a safe space for all of them to escape the usual hassle and rest.
Nevertheless, arriving at the Buddhist Temple was quite a culture shock. It is not your usual accommodation, very basic and with several meditation rooms, plus the daily routines were completely different from anything I had ever experienced before. Each morning at 5 a.m. someone would wake everyone up with a loud bell, but luckily, they explained that as a guest I shouldn’t take part in these daily routines of waking up early and meditation.
Of course, my curiosity couldn’t be tamed so I did take a look during their meditations but when everything is in Korean, it’s very hard to understand a single thing. Being my first contact with Buddhism, it really was a one-of-a-kind experience I would recommend to anyone.
4. Sleeping on the L.A. Aqueduct by Katy of A Rambling Unicorn
The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a 2650-mile (4265 km) footpath that stretches from Mexico to Canada along the Sierra and Cascade mountain ranges. In 2017, I attempted to through-hike the entire trail in a single summer. This is a difficult undertaking that typically requires hiking 20 miles (32 km) a day for five or six months.
During my journey I slept in all sorts of interesting locations – such as on mountain tops and in wind farms and next to pristine alpine lakes. Out of all the amazing places I slept, however, the most unusual was probably on the L.A. Aqueduct.
The PCT follows the L.A. Aqueduct for approximately 20 miles in Southern California. At first the water flows above ground in a canal. However, it later flows below ground in a large metal pipe and then under a concrete road.
I was hiking with a group of friends at the time and we decided to hike this section at night. The area gets dangerously hot during the day and there isn’t much cover or shade. So, we began our hike in the afternoon equipped with headlamps and headed north on the aqueduct.
Eventually we grew too tired to go on. My friends and I looked around for a place to camp and settled on the side of the road that runs above the aqueduct. We were in the middle of the Mojave desert surrounded by nothing but Joshua Trees in the dead of night. It was a surreal experience and one that I won’t likely forget.
I kept a daily journal of my adventures while hiking the PCT in 2017. If you’re interested in learning more about this or any of my other experiences on the trail, you can follow along in my Pacific Crest Trail blog.
5. A City Park in Pamplona by James Ian from Travel Collecting
I’ve slept in many strange places when backpacking around the world, but one of the worst was a city park in Pamplona. Each year, Pamplona, Spain, is home to the famous Running of the Bulls, which is part of the 8-day Fiesta de San Fermin. Each day, bulls run through the streets, and people run in front of them, trying not to get gored. The rest of the days there are spent drinking, dancing and general partying. It is very popular – and very crowded!
Which is a very good reason why you should NOT arrive without a reservation for some kind of accommodation. Unfortunately, this is exactly what I did. I was not alone, and there was an enormous storage room set up near the train station where you could leave your backpack, so this is what I did. There are several grassy areas in the center of the city that seemed likely places to try and sleep, but I soon noticed that the city discouraged people sleeping there by sending trucks filled with water around several times a day and night to spray any hapless person who was trying to sleep there.
After more than 24 hours of no sleep, I was exhausted and needed to find a solution, so I headed a little out of town and found another park that had no people and no water trucks. I managed to grab a few hours sleeping, sleeping on the grass there, with no pillow, sleeping bag or even a day pack to use as a pillow. It was definitely not comfortable, and I didn’t sleep much, but it recharged my batteries a little.
Unfortunately, on my way back into town around 5:00am, I was set upon by a group of young people who pulled a knife on me and cut my money belt that had my camera and train ticket in it. (Fortunately, I was wearing another money belt under my clothes with my credit card and Passport, so they didn’t get that).
Later that morning, I ran with the bulls, then reported the theft for insurance purposes, drank lots of sangria and, yes, I did head back to the same park to sleep that night, as there was no other option other than leaving, which I wasn’t ready to do just yet. I waited until there were some people around before walking back into town the next morning, though!
6. A Beach in the Dominican Republic by Christian of Punta Cana Travel Blog
The Dominican Republic is well-known for its picture-perfect beaches and luxurious all-inclusive resorts, which are mostly right at the beach. But one of the most unusual places to sleep in the Dominican Republic is literally ON the beach. Just pitch your tent and you feel the sand below your back the entire night. That’s exactly what we have done three times already on some of the most pristine and beautiful beaches in Punta Cana and the Dominican Republic.
When camping at the beach, we always pick remote places so that we can enjoy nature to the fullest and don’t have any unpleasant guests from nearby villages. It is simply stunning to hear the palm trees swaying in the wind and listen to the waves crashing – those sounds will make you fall asleep immediately. Furthermore, it is one of the greatest moments to open the tent door in the morning and the first thing to see is the turquoise ocean. Does this sound perfect and like an unusual place to sleep in the Dominican Republic?
So far, we have camped at 3 beaches in the Dominican Republic. Each of them has their own story:
1) Trudillé, the remotest beach in the Dominican Republic, is only accessible via a 3-hour hike – but it is absolutely worth it. This is probably the most unusual place to sleep in the Dominican Republic.
2) Playa El Limón, a wild beach between Punta Cana and Miches, with miles of pristine beach without any village or buildings. Millions of mosquitos after sunset were preventing this place from being a perfect spot, but besides this, it is paradise.
3) Playa La Vacama, a pristine beach less than an hour away from Punta Cana and worth a day trip as well. The wind was so strong this night that we had to pitch our tent behind our car to protect us from the wind (yes, we had a rental car in Punta Cana, which is worth it in order to discover the off-the-beaten-track spots).
When going camping in the Dominican Republic, we usually take our food for the evening and next morning, one or two drinks and our camping chairs. That’s all that we need for the most perfect moments – and for one of the most unusual places to sleep in the Dominican Republic.
7. Sleeping on a Hiking Trail on a Rainy Night by Joydeep of The Gypsy Chiring
It was around 2:30 am; we were fully drenched in rain. I distinctly remember tying a rope attached to a small plastic sheet to avoid the rain. The previous day, we had started the trek to the peak of Mt. Saramati around the same time.
Mt. Saramati is the highest peak in the north-eastern state of Nagaland in India. After a successful summit, we reached the base camp had rested only for two hours. As we descended from the camp at 4 in the evening, the hills turned darker and the rain aggravated our situation. The trail turned slippery and muddy. At times we had to slide along the mud and make new trails. The chilly wind added fuel to the fire.
The challenges eventually forced us to camp somewhere up the hill in the forest past midnight. The experience of tying that rope on a branch of a tree was such that I literally felt like I was in a dream, and as soon as I wake up, I would be in the village from where the trek had started on the first day.
It was the weirdest sleep of my life. As we took refuge under the plastic sheet, the rain decreased. However, the wind still blew with all its might. While two trekkers slept on a raised ground just above the trail, I and a friend slept laterally in the log sleep position on the tiny trail at the edge of a hill. The fear of falling down did occur to me but the yearning for rest and sleep made it go away.
The next morning was even more interesting and frustrating at the same time. Our guide, made us climb two more hills towards the base camp instead of heading to the village. Nevertheless, the hills, the drizzle and the tranquility of that foggy morning soothed the soul.
8. Salt Hotel – Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia by Carley of Home to Havana
Home to the world’s largest salt flat, Salar de Uyuni in the remote, high-elevation southwest region of Bolivia is home to unique accommodations in the form of hotels and hostels, made entirely from salt. Made from giant blocks of solid salt cut from the meters-deep salt flat, salt hotels and hostels are now one of the most popular forms of accommodation for visitors to the Bolivian Salt Flats, both for their prevalence and the novelty of such a unique accommodation
My visit to a salt guest house was part of a multi-day tour of the Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats and across the Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve, through extreme landscape including desert dunes, snowcapped mountains and volcanoes, and past bubbling mud pits and hotsprings. It was the perfect place to rest after days of trekking and hiking. The guest house was quite basic, and everything was made of salt aside from mattresses and blankets – even bedframes and tables had been neatly carved from blocks of salt, and the ground was covered in large-grain salt the size of the heads of nails. I was surprised by how cozy it was and how well it protected from the extreme wind and elements at such a high altitude – though very basic I would definitely stay again!
While staying in a salt hotel was a final, unusual place to sleep when visiting the Bolivia Salt Flats, the trip was full of strange and isolated accommodations. Multi-day jeep 4×4 tours through the region generally include quite basic accommodations, usually in rooms with little more than beds, and tour companies provide sleeping bags for the extreme cold in the evening.
9. An Abandoned Hotel on Koh Tao, Thailand by Victoria of Guide Your Travel
While backpacking through Thailand looking for the best islands I was stranded on the island of Koh Tao for a couple of nights. I arrived in Koh Tao by ferry from Koh Phangan after I visited the famous full moon party right at the beach. I didn’t book any accommodation in advance so I headed to the beach first.
After enjoying the beach and some amazing street food from nearby I rented a kayak at one of the beach vendors’ shops. The guy told me I should leave the kayak in front of his beach hut when I am done because he has to leave earlier this day. I just paddled along the coast without a plan when I saw this hidden beach and this huge abandoned hotel complex. I pulled my kayak to the beach, tied it to a rock with a rope, and started to explore the building.
Everywhere was graffiti, broken glass, and demolished rooms. I found the hotel kitchen or rather what remained of it as well as the rooftop terrace which looked almost untouched. From the roof terrace, I had the perfect view over the whole hotel area and discovered some hidden bungalows in the jungle.
I tried to reach them but they were completely overgrown with trees so I have decided to skip these. Since the sun was already beginning to set and still had no accommodation I decided to clean one of the hotel rooms a little, laid out a paper carton which I found, used my backpack as my pillow, my towel as a blanket, and stayed there for the night. The next morning I took my kayak and headed back to the beach even before the guy from the kayak rental opened its shop.
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