The World’s Coolest Youth Hostels!
Forget moth eaten mattresses, prison-style dining rooms and showers that should be renamed to ‘trickles’, hostels these days offer a host of fancy facilities for a fraction of a 5-star hotel tab. From unique locations and one-of-a-kind lodgings to organic meals and culturally life-changing experiences, they definitely take the bored out of boarder.
NETHERLANDS, SWEDEN & SWITZERLAND
Ahoy fair traveller! The Beagle Houseboat in Amsterdam will sleep only four aboard its rustic decks and offers harbourside views from its top storey saloon, or turn the clock back to the days when you used to holiday with your nan at the Lucky Lake Hostel, where you’ll bed down in a hipster graffitied caravan.
Book your ticket for a Jumbo Stay in Sweden, where you can spend the night in a renovated Boeing 747 jumbo jet, complete with passenger window (with a land based view, of course). Or head for Zurich’s ZicZac Rock-Hotel, if not just for up-close-and-personal views of eclectic artwork. The day’s journal entry? You slept with Elvis!
Want to feel like you’re royalty on a pauper’s budget? Nuremberg’s DJH Youth Hostel has a towering castle-like exterior (dating back over 500 years) and 93 ‘ultra modern’ rooms or if you’re in Berlin, watch the world float by from your cabin aboard an Eastern Comfort ‘hostelboat’. With your own amenities and a TV room in the bow of the ship (how quaint), you’re also guaranteed some terra firma time with the Berlin Wall literally steps away.
AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND
“Stay on a train that’s not going anywhere” at the Railway Square YHA in Sydney, where rooms are cozy, vintage rail carriages on the city’s original Platform Zero, or experience life beneath a desert in a cave at Radeka Downunder in Coober Pedy. Tunnelled out of the sandstone surrounds, these digs offer a real outback experience and the hostel offers half-day tours of the nearby opal fields.
And if you’re headed to New Zealand’s South Island, embrace your inner circus freak with a stay at the Juggler’s Rest Hostel. Guests have open slather on a menagerie of toys from unicycles to musical instruments and they offer workshops in juggling, hula hooping and poi. Spend a cosy evening beside a log fire before waking up to a brekky fashioned from the onsite garden’s fresh produce.
Did you love climbing trees when you were a kid? Then don’t miss Kadir’s Tree House on southern Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. Roughly hewn cabins exude the atmosphere of a summer camp and your path to slumberland is a ladder up to your treetop haven, where you’ll enjoy a peaceful night under the blanket of a thousand glittering stars.
The Cappadocia region is known for its ‘fairy chimneys’ (soaring, sedimentary rock formations) and the Traveller’s Cave Pension won’t disappoint, with many rooms featuring traditional décor and beautiful arched stone outlooks. Splash out on a traditional breakfast at the terrace restaurant and gain a bonus outlook of the city’s magical hot air balloon displays.
ITALY & PORTUGAL
If you’re a bit of a hipster at heart (of course you are, you’re backpacking), then you’ll love the Beehive Hostel in Rome. From vibrant artwork splashed about the walls, to its vegetarian meals and storytelling evenings, this place offers a truly organic stay.
Treat yourself to a bit of an upmarket sleepover with a night at the Generator Venice, a stylish hostel renovated from a converted grain house on the island of Giudecca. With its mosaic flooring, glass chandeliers, an imposing stone fireplace and views of the Grand Canal, who needs a penthouse suite?
Formerly an 18th-century winery, the Caveland Hostel in Santorini is a collection of charming grottos and terraces exuding whimsical local charm. Combining breathtaking coastline views with a range of accommodation options (an antique-laden private room, anyone?), there’s also a heap of facilities including tennis courts, yoga classes and a sparkling pool to laze about.
Feeling a little homesick? The Home Lisbon Hostel in Portugal offers toasty, virtual hugs in abundance with its home cooked meals, hot showers and bonding movie nights. As one of the oldest hostels in Lisbon, its mantra is simple and oh-so-comforting -“Home is wherever I am with you”. Awww.
The world’s largest ‘capsule hotel’, Asahi Plaza in Japan is a definitively unique overnight experience. Stays involve bedding down in a two metre by one metre modular ‘block’ stacked side by side with your fellow travellers. Yep, it’s kind of sterile and totally overly communal, but if you’re a sci fi nut you’ll drift off dreaming you’re on board the next mission to Mars.
Described as a “six-tiered cake of fun and living,” the Overstay in Thailand is a trippy, arty type’s paradise. Previously a haunted house (what … more fun?), it has a bar, cinema and open rooftop hammocks where, according to their website, you can exchange “ideas, languages, music, art and love”. Peace, man.
With sprinkle loads of magical charm, St Briavels Castle in Gloucestershire dates back to the early 1200’s, when King John used it as a man cave base for his ceremonial hunting trips. Set amid the Wye Valley and the Forest of Dean (how very Robin Hood-like), its location is perfect for rollicking woodland treks among the vales.
Though hostel-like in offering, Ireland’s Gyreum Ecolodge offers “no bog-standard accommodation”, with a visage that’s been described by a few of the locals as “a wooden UFO that’s landed on a rural hillside”. Overlooking five different countries (now that’s a view), it supports a greeny outlook from its organic garden produce and sunlight heating systems to its recycled rainwater showers.
Set right beside Edinburgh Castle, Castle Rock Hostel has an arty-type feel with its combination of historic grandeur (it was built in 1846) and chill out style. Smack bang in the middle of the city’s best attractions, its fun-time facilities include a pool table, piano and a ‘groove lounge’ where you can belt out a few tunes on your own travel weary guitar.
How’s this for enticingly creepy? The Drop Bear Hostel was once owned by a Colombian cartel who have, allegedly, left behind a rabbit’s warren of escape tunnels, cash stash hidey-holes and secret rooms where contraband whiskey was snavelled. Owned by an Aussie/Kiwi duo (hence the name), it offers a games room, a ‘hammock alley’ and a poolside cinema.
Set within a 200-year-old Israeli mansion, the Fauzi Azar Inn is in a prime location in the heart of Nazareth. Listed as the seventh best hostel in the world by Lonely Planet in 2014, it’s also the starting point for the Jesus trail – a 65 kilometre pilgrimage that connects Galilee’s key historical and religious sites.
100 head of cattle, 30 horses, goats, sheep and the occasional wolf … want to get really down and dirty? Anak Ranch offers traditional ger accommodation in the rugged Orkhon Valley near the Siberian border. Learn to drink vodka the Mongolian way, milk a foreign cow or two and ride the open steppe of one of the last great wildernesses of the world.
Whoever said backpacking was boring?