Backpackers are known for making do with some pretty 'interesting' forms of accommodation. They'll pretty much sleep anywhere, the list of basic requirements is thin: a safe place to stash luggage, a place to swim (see 'shower') and somewhere to get cold beer or cheap wine.
This month we've decided to pay homage to some of our favourite backpacker destinations by looking at the most offbeat hostels around the world. Have you got any other awesome hostels to recommend? Let us know on our Facebook page or in the comment box below.
And if you're even considering going backpacking, make sure to check out our Great Backpacker Giveaway.
Yasin's Place – The Cave Hotel, Turkey
Cappadocia's barren, fingerlike hills (known as Fairy Chimneys) are one of the biggest pull factors in Central Anatolia. It's a unique region that is embedded with history. From the volcanic eruptions that gave birth to the Dr. Seuss inspired landforms, to the underground cities, churches and homes that are carved into the rock beds, there are countless reasons why it's a big destination for serious backpackers. Yasin's Cave Hotel takes full advantage of these natural surroundings. We caught up with Yasin to ask him about the cave hotel and what the 'Cave Rooms' are about, and here's what he had to say:
”The Cappadocian landscape was formed millions of years ago by volcanic eruptions. Wind and water erosion led to the formation of the 'fairy chimneys'. Then thousands of years ago humans began carving homes into the rocks and fairy chimneys, and some are still in use today. Most, however, have been turned into tourist retreats, where guests can experience life as a cave-dweller. We are a family-run hostel with a variety of cave rooms that still show signs of their former uses; guests can stay in the kitchen, the winery, or even the pigeon coop. (Don’t worry; the pigeons are long gone!)”
For booking information and more about the hostel, check out Yasin's website.
Island Vibe Backpackers, Jeffreys Bay
Jeffreys Bay is home to one of the world's most famous waves, Supertubes, which is the main reason why thousands of surfing backpackers make the pilgrimage to South Africa every year. It's a challenging wave that breaks viciously over a shallow reef, making paddling out almost as tricky as catching one.
For these reasons, Island Vibe Backpackers is probably not the most ideal place to stay if you're serious about a hard-core surfing holiday. You'll be having way too much fun socialising with the other backpackers, partying at the beach bar and enjoying the view – guests can literally stumble out of bed, onto the sand. Jokes aside, Island Vibe is renowned for having a great atmosphere, friendly staff, cheap booze and cracking parties. It's a combination of traditional, cheap backpacking accommodation, mixed with Africa's beauty and a healthy dose of beach culture.
There are dorms, as well as single rooms, double rooms and camping facilities available, plus surfing equipment for hire to those keen on learning through the surf school. It's located on the sand dunes overlooking Kitchen Windows, a playful, easy-going beach for beginner surfers. Supertubes is just a short ride down the Main Road, so those who do plan on putting their skills to the test can still get there easily. If you can find it in yourself to leave during the day, there are a number of touring options that range from game safaris to horse riding.
For more information, check out Island Vibe's website.
The Bunker, Verbier, Switzerland
Verbier is one of the premiere ski towns on the Swiss Alps, offering an exciting mix of world-class slopes, facilities and apres activities. The only downside to visiting this skiing-mecca is the price tag on a weeks accommodation at one of the fancy resorts, as well as lift passes, food and nightly entertainment – certainly not what traditional backpackers would deem 'budget-friendly'.
Clue: The Bunker, an original, purpose-built atomic bomb shelter that has been recommissioned to house thrifty ski-holiday-makers who just want the basics: a bed, a shower and somewhere to put their belongings. It's cheap and cheerful, so don't expect much. It's also dark, isolated and underground – as you'd expect from a facility built to outlast a nuclear attack. But the vibe is great, and people staying there are all in it for the same reason: to save money and have fun. The Bunker is located inside a sports center, below a swimming pool, which gives it a unique, chemical smell that complements the weirdness of staying in a bomb shelter. It's not the classiest way to experience Verbier, but if you want to ski, party and experience one of the finest ski towns on the planet, it's an affordable way to do so.
For more information, check out the Verbier Sports Center website.
At a glance, Hedonisia looks like the incarnation of Tarzan's cartoon word. There's an element of playfulness to the quirky rooms that you'll find around the property – a guava hut, a remodelled school bus, a pair of tents in an old barn, a jungle cottage, camp sites and some stylish cabins. But it's so much more than just a really awesome looking backpackers hostel in the jungle. Hedonisia is located on 3.72 acres of rainforest on Hawaii's Big Island, and everything you see is made from recycled or locally-sourced materials. Chatting with Mojo, the project owner and founder, he explained that it's a “sustainable community”, which is there to be enjoyed, as well as to serve social and environmental goals.
“On the environmental front Hedonisia has been an experiment in affordable community based 'eco-tourism' in Hawaii, whereby backpackers and travelers can enjoy a sustainable, low-impact vacation rather than the typical 'concrete tourism' of overdeveloped resort areas,” says Mojo, Hedonisia's owner and founder. “In other words, at the Hedonisia Hawaii community we have fun in paradise, but we are not blind to the world's problems! In fact we are actively engaged in creating products and services that offer social enterprise 'solutions'.”
For more information about Hedonisia, check out the website.
Ritz Hostel-Inn, Beunos Aires, Argentina
'Posh' and 'Backpacking' aren't terms you usually associate with one another, but in the case of the The Hostel-Inn chain, we can make an exception. This famous chain offers hotel-quality rooms and facilities at affordable rates, while maintaining the fun, friendly and relaxed atmosphere that people associate with hostels. The Hostel Ritz doesn't look like a traditional hostel either. It's a stylishly renovated building from the turn of the last century, located on Avenida de Mayo, right in the historic epicentre of the capital city. All the basic amenities – free wifi access, restaurant, pub, comfy and insect-free beds, are part of the package.
For more of their venues around Argentina and information about booking, check out the Hostel inn website.
The Rising Cock, Lagos, Portugal
Backpacking and partying often go hand in hand, although this largely depends on who you're with, where you are and when you're there. However, the Rising Cock in Lagos, Portugal, has built its legacy on the strength of organised chaos; it's a party hostel through all four seasons. Located in one of the most spectacular coastal towns in the Algarve, the beaches are amazing and the weather is always stunning, even in Winter. It's a good thing, because you'll need the sea air, sunshine and a dip in the ocean to wash away the hangovers when you're staying at the Rising Cock. The eight person dorms are crowded and loud, and festivities are known to go all night. This is definitely not one for people looking to get some rest after a long day of sightseeing.
For more information, check out the Rising Cock website.
Jail House, Christchurch, New Zealand
Built in 1874, the Jail House is a relic from the Gothic Revival period in architecture that has survived both time and natural disasters, and still looks better than ever. Over the last 138 years it has been used as a jail and a military camp, right up until 1999, when all prisons were moved to the outskirts of Christchurch. It didn't take another century for someone to make use of it again, as the owners, Kirsty and Grant, snapped it up in 2006 and used it for accommodation of a new kind. Today the Jail House is a multiple award-winning backpacking facility that has maintained the building's original structure, giving guests a unique place to spend their time in the South Island's premiere city.
For more information, check out the Jail House website.
Karosta Prison, Latvia
Staying at Karosta Prison is as much as test of your mental bravery as it is a novelty. Karosta was a notoriously violent military prison that saw more than one hundred war time inmates to their graves. As an overnight guest, you'll be booked and processed by uniformed officers and given a walking tour of the premises. If you're not already freaked out, just wait until the small hours of the night, when the stories you heard during the day start to re-emerge. Karosta carries a reputation for being haunted by the tormented spirits of the departed. Perhaps best to take a walking tour before you commit to staying the night...
St. Briavels, Gloucestershire
Sticking with haunted hostels, St. Briavels in Gloucestershire offers something unique – it's your chance to stay at a Norman-era castle, originally built in the 1100's as an administrative centre. Oddly enough it was handed over to King John in 1205, and became a hunting lodge. After more than eight hundred years, there's been plenty of time for ghostly rumours to gather momentum. There are several stories, but the most prominent is that of a baby that cries out in the night and has guests wondering around the spooky passages looking for a ghost child. Creepy tales aside, it's a magnificent piece of architecture that is located in one of the English countryside's fairest regions.
For booking information, follow the link to YHA's website.
The Tree House Poste Rojo, Granada, Nicaragua
What can we say? It's a giant tree house in Nicaragua, where you can rent a covered hammock and sleep outside for less than a fiver. To top it off, the hostel hosts some of the most renowned Full Moon parties in the whole jungle. This is pure class and we love it! The calendar isn't all wild, though. The Mumbacho Volcano National Park is only 2 kilometres away, and tours are easily organised through the hostel. Yoga sessions, movie nights and Play and Stay offers (musicians who entertain stay for free) also keep things well rounded around the camp. The Tree House Poste Rojo is the brain child of Chad Cunningham, who used his childhood love of building tree houses as the premise for this amazing hostel. What stands today is a remarkable venue and a true testament to making a dream come true.
For booking information, check out the Tree House website.
Last Updated: September 2012