5 Unique AIRBNBs around the world

* Cabin picture in the postcard taken from AIRBNB website. To learn more about this stay in Iceland, click here.

The tourism industry is slowly picking up after the damage of COVID. As anticipated, many travelers are preferring to stay at AIRBNBs or holiday homes in order to avoid too much exposure. I have to confess that I am usually more excited about staying at hotels for the simple fact that, during vacation, I give myself the right of being lazy…Therefore, not having to cook meals or clean a whole house. Still, seeing more and more Instagram stories of people staying at lovely homes for the holidays has ignited in me a phase that I would call “curious snooping”, with no embedded commitment, but…definitely open to possibilities. After all, some houses are worth the handwork.

Around the same time, a friend of mine showed me a super different vacation home in Brazil, which imitated a hobbit hole. When I first saw the pictures, I could swear it was located in New Zealand, near the actual film set or maybe even sponsored by the same filming company, since the scenario was so authentic. But the small and comfy one-bedroom can be found in a beautiful landscape in the state of Sao Paulo, in the city of Jundiaí.

So, I started to search for unique places to stay like this one – experiences that no hotel could offer. For my surprise, there are quite a few out there! I ended up with a full wishlist of exclusive vacation homes, which makes me happy just to look at it. Every time I come across it, I´m reminded of how much fun it must be to stay at one of these places. Hopefully one day!

For now, I share with you 5 favorites from my list, hoping that I can inspire someone out there too. Who knows, maybe you try it first and come back here to tell me all about it, making me even hungrier for a more out-of-the-ordinary adventure!

1 The Hobbit hole

Jundiaí, Sao Paulo, Brazil / Rating: 5.0

Price: USD 115/night

The hut at night (picture from AIRBNB)

Let´s go back to where it all started: one of the AIRBNBs that aroused my curiosity for the offbeat stays.

The cabin was built by a family that had a large land on the Japí mountain, in the city of Jundiaí, and decided to share that fascinating piece of the countryside with others. Instead of building an ordinary chalet like most would think at first, they went for something completely unconventional and challenging – a hobbit hole. On their Instagram profile, they tell how they managed to make their dream come true with a lot of sweat, no tears, many doses of love and reclaimed materials.

The Hobbit House Brazil, as it is known on the official AIRBNB website and on Instagram, is a 2-guest, 1-bedroom and 1-bathroom little hut. Apart from the cabin itself, as a guest, you will also have access to the outside green area where there´s a bonfire, wooden stools, a tub and the outside kitchen equipped with firewood, a small cooktop and a wooden dining table. Also, let´s not forget the most amazing sight of and from the mountains that comes with it.

Outside area (picture from AIRBNB)

For a small cabin, the hosts have definitely gone big with what they could offer. In case you need wi-fi, there´s also an office space with internet at the guests´ disposal inside the main family house, as well as parking, and one of the most important things to me: BREAKFAST! Every day you will receive a picnic basket containing breakfast items like fresh-baked buns, jam and fruits! Oh, the hobbit life…

In terms of location and entertainment, you might have guessed that this is a place for people that long for quiet and nature. In the surroundings there´s a small waterfall guests can visit, as well as trekking options.

If you got interested, better book it far ahead – hobbits are rushing to vacay in this magical place, and the family only opens the cabin for seasonal bookings. A night in Hobbiton is definitely not easy to grab.

2 The Dome House

Steinweiller, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany / Rating: 5.0

USD 153/night

The dome on a sunny day! (picture from AIRBNB)

I´m a snow globe collector and this AIRBNB place would give me a chance to basically stay inside one. Well, except for the snow. The trade-off would be a cornfield in a maze, so I would still be up for it!

The dome is basically a bed in the middle of the greenery, separated from the outside by a transparent bubble. The advantage is that you will be sleeping under the stars without having to worry about bugs crawling up on you. The disadvantage is that one might feel a bit claustrophobic. Though I wouldn´t have a problem with that, what makes me question if I would actually book a night here is that the bathroom is completely separated from the bubble, needing a bit of walking to reach it (about 2 minutes according to guests). I would have nothing against it if I didn´t wake up every night to pee. Still, no one can argue that it´s an unusual stay – as a matter of fact, one of the most different I have seen.

The dome is available for 2 people. If required in advance, a breakfast meal can be prepared and served in the bubble. Apart from this, parking and a hair dryer is available for use.

While Steinweiler is not the most exciting town in Germany where you will find lots to do, the region can definitely surprise you. A 30-minute drive will take you to Neustadt an der Weinstraße, a cute little city where everything revolves around the star of the region – wine! You can actually take a day to do some city hopping alongside the Weinstraße (the wine route of Germany) – who knows, maybe you will come back to the dome to drink some wine in bed under the moonlight.

The dome at night (picture from AIRBNB)

Another option is to visit one of the country´s most iconic cities: Baden Baden, which is around a 50-minute drive from the stay. Or, you can book your stay when the city where it´s located, Steinweiler, hosts a wine festival, in summertime. Germany is known for the beer festivities, but let me tell you a secret: the wine ones are better if you are looking for a variety of regional alcohol and fun without drunk people falling all around you…or on you.

If you want to take a look at my short YouTube video about a tiny book store in Neustadt, click here.

3 Joshua Tree Cabin

Joshua Tree, California, USA / Rating: 4.91

USD 121/night

Isolation & nature (picture from AIRBNB)

Rarely I feel about a place what I felt about this one. When I first saw it, I thought it wasn´t different enough to consider it “out of the ordinary”. Part of me even felt repelled by it, cause it looked like an abandoned old shack in the middle of nowhere…But, at the same time, I couldn´t stop looking at the pictures. And the more I looked, the more I felt lured by it.

The thing is that there´s something frightfully charming about this place. Or would it be frightening and charming? I can´t decide. As a huge horror fan, this AIRBNB reminded me of one of those rusty and forgotten gas stations in the middle of a vegetationless desert – this is usually where the couple stops to ask for directions or for help with the car. We all know how that usually ends. It also gave me some “No country for old man” vibes, considering the surroundings. I know, not usually what the average traveler is looking for in an AIRBNB. Unless you are David Farrier, I guess.

But the vintage decay flair and all its mysterious primitive elegance called my attention enough to put it on my wishlist list. The cabin is located in Coyote Valley, nearby the Joshua Tree Park, which encompasses parts of the Mohave desert and the Colorado desert. In the middle of the monotone that dominates the area, the bright turquoise hut is an inviting sight. Inside, you will have access to a bed, an open kitchen, a seating area and a separated bathroom with a shower. Something I found most appealing was another shower located outside of the house – with the quantity of stars you can see in this area at night, I bet a stargazing shower after hours would be very rewarding!

Outdoor shower (picture from AIRBNB)

Though Wi-Fi is provided, there´s no TV and I´m glad about it. This is a place to enjoy a good book at the patio, relax, and maybe hear some music at night while admiring the star-filled sky. Guests also rave about the spectacular sunrise and sundown views. During the day, some activities are available in the area in order to make yourself busy like hiking at Joshua Tree Park or horseback riding.

My husband will have to get over his Friday the 13th vibes about this place, because the more I I look at it, the more I want to visit this stay!

4 Machiya Stay inside Chomyo Temple

Kyoto, Japan / Rating: 4.92

Price: USD 106/night

Townhouse first floor (picture from AIRBNB)

I didn´t know what a Machiya was until I bumped into an accommodation of this kind on AIRBNB. I knew I had seen this home style before, but I had no idea it had a particular name to it. To be completely honest, my dyslexia first mistook it for “Matcha”. Then I clicked on it, thinking I had found the golden-eggs chicken: a traditional house in Japan that produced my favorite tea.

When I found out that there was no tea, I was, indeed, a bit disappointed, lol. Still, I loved the idea of having the opportunity of staying in a traditional Japanese townhouse. I dug deeper and found many options like the first one – they all kind of looked similar, diverging basically only on size and house structure. The one I feature here called my attention for being the perfect mix of old and modern – after all, you don´t want to experience something traditional that has completely lost it´s original appeal to new design; nor stay in a place where there´s a thin line between ancient and debilitated. This 100-year-old Machiya finds the right balance, making you feel like in a remastered version of an old Japanese movie. Oh, and have I mentioned it is located inside a temple? Like, a real temple? Yep!

The decoration is very minimalistic like Japanese houses normally are. The seating area is lowered, as the 3 beds are – 2 are actually futons on the floor. Before you start feeling back pain in advance for thinking you will be sleeping on a sofa bed here, I have to say that they all look very comfy and chunky. I have never slept in one, but, from the pictures I have seen, they don´t look uninviting at all.

The bathroom on the first floor looks abnormally spacious, which I love! I never understood why bathrooms have to be the smallest rooms in a standard apartment. In this house, you not only have the toilet in this room, but a large double sink, a concept “garden”, the shower, and the tub. Now I want a small garden in my bathroom too.

Townhouse second floor (picture from AIRBNB)
Chomyo Temple (picture from AIRBNB)

The second floor (it´s a townhouse, remember?) is separated into 2 rooms: one with tatami and the other with a queen bed. The queen bed is sunk on the floor wood in order to be floor-leveled. No side tables, no…well, no nothing. Just the bed. It made me think if that´s not how it was supposed to be everywhere in the world, in a way. Bedrooms are made, ultimately, for sleeping. On the tatami floor the futons can be arranged. Thus, 4 guests can sleep in this traditional Machiya. Also, in the tatami room there´s a charming tea set display. I might steal this idea for my house too.

Though this stay will take you back in time, you will have access to wi-fi. By the way, they also provide Nespresso coffee and Japanese green tea. See, in a way or another, my dyslexia wouldn´t have been completely unsatisfied…Breakfast is not provided though.

In terms of location, the house seems very accessible. There´s a bus stop right in front of the temple, where you can hop on a bus ang go straight to the airport. The Nanzenji Temple is about a 10-minute walk from the stay, and so is the Nishiki market, where you can try the local food at different stands. The Kamo river can be found within a 2-minute walk. The Gion town is also not far away, where you will reach markets and shops. Some recommended tempura, udon, omelet and ramen restaurants are also nearby.

I don´t know about you, but I got a sudden crave to visit Japan.

5 Retro 60s Camping Bus

Arrabal, Leiria, Portugal / Rating: 5.0

Price: USD 151/night

The retro camping bus and its playground area (picture from AIRBNB)

If I told you about this AIRBNB without actually showing it to you, I don´t think you would believe me. I mean, camper vans and buses being turned into out-of-the-ordinary accommodations is nothing that new now, is it? I, at least, have seen a couple. But this one really caught my attention because, first, it´s a retro 2-story bus, which makes the whole experience a lot more charming (and spacious); second, it is parked alongside a wooden elevated deck where you have a bunch of additional amenities.

So, besides having a lovely bus stay for yourself, which looks super comfy with a double bed, a bathroom, wi-fi, heating and AC (yes!!), when you slide the bus doors open you find yourself on a patio containing a barbecue area, a small swimming pool, and different lounge areas. As a plus, all of this is surrounded by fruit and olive trees.

I feel like this would be a super fun getaway for a family with children, who would have a lot to tell their friends at school after vacation. Thinking about this, the host provides toys, children books and also pool toys. How cool is that?! But not only of toys live the children (nor the parents, for that matter): for breakfast, the host is happy to provide homemade food like fresh bread, eggs, cookies and fruits from the garden.

The inside of the bus (picture from AIRBNB)

Let us be honest, you don´t have to ask your brother or sister to lend you their kids for you to book a place like this. It is unique, fun, comfortable and memorable for any kind of guest. Actually, there are many people on the AIRBNB reviews talking about how they booked a trip there to celebrate their wedding anniversary or just wanted to have a weekend getaway with their significant other. No one is too young or too old to enjoy a double-decker accommodation parked in an idyllic Portuguese garden.

In terms of the surroundings, the stay is located inside a farm, not offering much to do around. Guests that choose to stay here definitely come for the accommodation itself, not the town – the bus is, after all, an attraction. Still, Arrabal is very near Fatima (20-minute drive), a famous catholic destination, and the coast (about a 35-minute drive). The bigger city of Coimbra is a 50-minute drive from the stay.

Honorable mention:

6 Camaya Bali Suboya

Selat, Bali, Indonesia / Rating: 4.95

USD 170/night

A dreamy house in the middle of rice fields (picture from AIRBNB)

This bamboo Eco house doesn´t actually qualify for this list since it´s advertised as a hotel on Instagram, but still I felt like mentioning it since it´s on AIRBNB and there are only 4 houses in the complex available for rent. Also, it´s one of the most incredible stays I have seen.

Besides being an architecture marvel in itself, it´s loud and clear what the main goal of this place is: to completely integrate you with its leafy surroundings. In a way, it´s like this house was meant to be there all along, overlooking the green fields, which stretch as far as the eyes can see.

I have seen the rice terraces of Bali myself, and before I “met” this house, I would have said that any construction in that area would derogate the stunning forest-green fields. Well, I was wrong. This building not only compliments the landscape, as it effortlessly becomes part of it itself. If only people invested more in eco-tourism! Another feature that called my attention was the display of the local art. It´s both a way of valuing it and promoting it.

The bamboo house was conceptualized as an “open” project, where all rooms have a view to the outside. The ground floor, the two bedrooms, the shower, the bathroom, the kitchen, the jacuzzi – you can gaze at nature and hear its sounds from anywhere in the building. The way the stay was constructed, completely open facing the rice terraces, actually reminded me of a theater. Here, you are, after all, watching the spectacle of nature.

First floor of the house (picture from AIRBNB)

The house is suitable for 4 guests, having a master and an additional bedroom. Breakfast is included, and lunch and dinner can be prepared upon request. They also provide a free motorcycle to explore the surroundings. But, be aware: if secluded is what you wish for, secluded is what they deliver! There´s no commerce, restaurants, ATMs or markets in walking distance. If the price of complete isolation is the commotion sounds of monkeys and disturbed hair by the wind 24/7, I´m in. Oh, plus 170 a night, of course, lol.

*Prices as for July 2021. Still, rates can change anytime according to host´s will, season and AIRBNB account.

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