If you’re one of those people who still thinks hostels are death wishes, it’s time to get with the program. These accommodation alternatives have come a long way over the years and are now one of the best options for the budget traveler. Everyone loves a bit of pampering now and then at a beautiful hotel, but often hostels can provide an even more magical experience. Why dish out your life savings for a secluded room and “free wifi in the lobby” when you could pay $10 to stay in an immersed environment with tons of free amenities? Check out these 10 unique hostels that will beat staying in a hotel any day.
1. Drop Bear Hostel (Santa Marta, Colombia)
From the outside, Drop Bear Hostel looks like any other high-quality hostel: inexpensive yet cozy rooms, inviting common areas, a pool, and a spacious kitchen. However, we all know that there is often more than meets the eye, and this hostel is no different. This mansion used to be owned by one of the largest Colombian drug cartels of the 1980s (Pablo Escobar even stayed here!), and it is packed full of secret hiding places, cryptic codes inscribed on the walls, two underground tunnels, and a secret basement used for hiding whiskey. If you ask nicely, the hostel owner will give you a tour and teach you all about the history of Colombia’s drug trade. Learn more about its interesting history here.
2. Caveland Hostel (Santorini, Greece)
Appropriately named for its cave-like rooms that used to be home to an 18th century winery, Caveland Hostel (shown above) is an absolutely beautiful hostel. Located on the picturesque Greek island of Santorini, this hostel captures the essence of the island: breathtaking sea views, a light and airy atmosphere, flower-covered terraces, and even a pool. Why pay triple to stay in a hotel when you can get the real Santorini experience here?
3. Kadir’s Tree House (Olympos, Turkey)
This sounds exactly like what it is: a hostel made of tree houses. Perfect for the adventurous and not afraid of heights, Kadir’s will instantly have you reminiscing about your playful youth. Located on the Mediterranean coast, there are many options for rock climbing, swimming, and scuba diving nearby, and the on-site nightclub makes this hostel a definite winner. Don’t forget to check out the ruins of the nearby Lost City, too!
4. Fauzi Azar Inn (Nazareth, Israel)
An Arab mansion built in stone over 200 years ago, the Fauzi Azar Inn is without doubt one of the most beautiful hostels in the world. This mansion was owned by the Azar family, known as one of the richest families in Galilee, and features impressive hand-painted ceilings, Turkish marble floors, a limestone arch-filled courtyard, and amazing panoramic views. Located in the Old City of Nazareth, visitors can feel totally integrated in the city’s rich history and culture. A place of this caliber should be hard on the wallet, but rejoice in knowing that it is extremely affordable, especially with the endless supply of free Arabic coffee, herbal teas, and homemade baked goods!
5. Jumbo Stay (Stockholm, Sweden)
Do you find yourself unable to get a good night’s sleep on planes? The Jumbo Stay hostel has solved your problem! It is made from a real jumbo jet located right at the Stockholm Arlanda Airport, so visitors can spend the night with a front-row view of planes taking off. This hostel promises you the window seat, plenty of legroom, and no annoying children kicking the back of your chair.
6. Gyreum Ecolodge (Corlisheen, Ireland)
Looking to make a positive impact on the world while traveling? The Gyreum Ecolodge is probably the perfect hostel for you! This hostel seeks to be invisible and completely blend into its natural surroundings while running off of wind turbines, solar panels, compost toilets, repurposed rain water, and organic gardens.
7. The Jugglers Rest (Picton, New Zealand)
Another option that lets you get in touch with your childhood, The Jugglers Rest is a part circus part total relaxation hostel. Complete with juggling and unicycling lessons, circus toys on hand to play with, and LED juggling shows at night, this hostel is every wannabe star’s dream. If you don’t feel like participating in the circus act, kick back in one of their many hammocks, nom on some homemade bread and jam, and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
8. Ostel (Berlin, Germany)
If you’re longing to take a trip back in time and experience what it was like to live in the GDR, the East-German style Ostel Hostel is definitely for you. This hostel features everything you would find in a museum: Stasi-suits, vintage furniture and decor, chocolate GDR-Mark coins, and many other unique additions. Why pay for museum entrance when you can experience it in your sleeping quarters? And while you’re there, get your eat on with our guide to eating in Berlin.
9. Radeka Downunder (Coober Pedy, Australia)
This hostel gives a whole new meaning to “down under”. Located 34 steps below ground, Radeka Downunder gives visitors an accurate picture of what life is like in Coober Pedy, where 60% of the local residents live underground. Its accommodations are located in a former opal mine, and they live up to their motto of “warm in winter, cool in summer”. In addition to their unique setting, they also offer tours of the mines and surrounding area.
10. Hostel Celica (Ljubljana, Slovenia)
Want to feel like a badass without having to deal with the legal ramifications? Hostel Celica is a converted military prison that allows you to sleep behind bars without an arrest record. Besides having a dark history, this hostel also features many types of art, complete with live music, art exhibitions, and parties celebrating local talent. Forget selfies, take a mugshot while you’re here!