In this weekly series, we scour the world in search of the most weird and wonderful hotels. From cave hotels to converted prisons, capsule pods to underwater guestrooms, you can expect only the unexpected. This week, enjoy a night less ordinary at the Dog Bark Inn.
What’s the gimmick? Bringing a whole new meaning to the term doggy style, Dog Bark Park Inn in Cottonwood, Idaho, is a bed and breakfast guesthouse inside the world’s biggest beagle. Dog-lovers can take their obsession to new heights (literally), entering the body of the giant toy dog (who’s affectionately named, Sweet Willy) from a private second story deck. Once inside, you can head up another level to the head of the dog, where you’ll find a cosy loft room decorated with dog decorations, offering additional sleeping space (Willy sleeps four in total). The bathroom, which is disguised as a giant fire hydrant, is located beneath the tail.
Why stay? Even if you hate dogs, or this idea freaks you out a bit, at Dog Bark Park, you are the only tenant, the beds are unbelievably comfortable and the loft is tailor-made for a restful night’s sleep. As the wind blows across the prairie at night, making the dog ears flap, you’ll wonder why you’ve not been sleeping in a beagle your whole life. And that’s not all – the well-stocked fridge, doggy biscuits and breakfast are all home-cooked and excellent. This is seriously one of the best experiences America has to offer.
Dog Bark Park Inn gift shop
The wow factor: Some of the dog’s decorative furnishings are carvings by Dog Bark Park Inn resident chainsaw artists Dennis & Frances.Dennis J. Sullivan, a self-taught chainsaw artist, has been carving for over twenty years. Frances joined him fifteen years ago and in 1995, their carvings were sold on QVC television (aka the home of useless crap). They did nothing but carve wooden dogs for 18 months then invested all their earnings in developing and building Dog Bark Park, where visitors most likely will find them happily creating art.
The cost per double stay is $92 and then $8 for each additional guest. Book here
Are you looking for a holiday that’s a bit different? why not find out more about the myths of the ancient worlds in some of these mystical places…This week we decided to spookify and mystify! There’s a reason for it. In our regular Purple Pick feature, we’re focusing on the beautiful African country of Gambia. We learned they have a Holy Forest so we decided to do a bit of a roundup of mystical or unusual places to visit, so you can go home scared out of your wits or quietly intrigued. Enjoy some of the most magical and mythical places in the world.
Gambia Makasutu Holy Forest
Makasutu is a stunning breath of fresh air, just a few miles from Brikama, it is filled with lush green vegetation, towering palm trees and long stretches of savannah and grasslands. But what really makes it special is its unforgettable history. Established by a pair of English expats, Makasutu is walking with the ghosts of the past. At first the local villagers did not want to sell the land, as it’s haunted by ‘Djinns’ and a kind of pre-historic dinosaur called the ‘Ninkinanka’. It was a very important space to the local tribes, where their wars took place as well as their ancient rituals and sacrifices. Legend has it one poor king who died there was separated from his head, which was buried with his crown and throne within the forest confines. The ‘sacred forest’ is still home to the indigenous people, who may share their palm wine with you if you’re lucky. Image via @ Flickr
The Great Pyramids, Egypt
Perhaps the most photographed and famous ancient site in the world, the Pyramids have been perplexing people for years. The Great Pyramids as they are known are found near the Egyptian capital Cairo, on the Giza Plateau.
But, why were they built? Most people believe they were huge mausoleums for the ancient pharaohs. People believe some of his soul, or ‘ka’ stayed with the dead body. To ensure they carried on to the next life, their body had to be taken care of and so were entombed inside the huge structures for protection and safety.
The crazy thing is, even after thousands of years, no one is even sure how they were made! Most of the theories surround the idea that the rock was dragged there to build the huge sites, much of it carried across the Nile. And think about it, ensuring the Pyramid appears correctly and symmetrical, all the blocks had to be the exact same size. Imagine the precision involved. Not only that, but the sides of the Great Pyramid are aimed nearly exactly true north and probably took at least 100,000 men to construct.
On top of that, the Great Pyramid is the only one of the ancient wonders of the world still standing, so what are you waiting for? Image via @ Flickr
Easter Island Statues
This is probably an easy one. Tucked away in the middle of the South Pacific, you’ll find a tiny island filled with huge heads. Yes, you did read that right. Easter Island’s statues are legendary. Over 800 of the stone carvings dot the Polynesian Island, one of the most remote places on the planet.
The original islanders are thought to have landed on the island 1500 years ago in tiny canoes. They then started furiously carving away by hand, creating hundreds of giant heads that they placed in lines across the island. Go figure.
No one is really sure what it’s all about; some of the statues weigh up to 82 tonnes, why were they transported around the island and how? There are, of course, plenty of theories: one legend tells the tale of an ancient ruler who was able to make statues move using his kingly powers.
New excavations over the last few months have revealed the statues are much bigger than originally thought, with head, shoulders, knees and toes included! Image via @ Flickr
Mexico/Caribbean Cenote in Mayan Civilization
A cenote is a naturally occurring formation that is found across the Mexican Caribbean. It’s actually a sinkhole, or pit of spring water. Ok, a pit of spring water, what’s so special about it? Well cenotes were often used as a place for sacrificial offerings from the ancient Mayan people. It might sound a little Indiana Jones, but many people in the Mayan civilization believed these cenotes to be doors to the underworld and channels to communicate with the gods. Plenty of gold, precious stones and pottery remains have been found there. At the Cenote Sagrado, (sacred cenote) they’ve even found evidence of human sacrifices! It was believed young males were the most common sacrifice because they represented strength and power.
Only some of these places are open to the public, a few are close to Cancun and Playa del Carmen and swimming in them is considered a true holiday must do in the Mexican Caribbean. Image via @ Flickr
It’s probably fair to say Athens is sort of one of the overlooked places in Greece. The islands are where everyone goes and it’s true they are stunningly beautiful. However the historic city has plenty to offer. With the ancient acropolis standing head and shoulders above the city, you can practically feel the history in the air. Everywhere you walk; there are historic sites, teeming with mystical stories from the ancient markets, the original marble stadium, home to the first Olympic Games and temples dedicated to the Gods.
Our favourite story is of how Athina, the Goddess of the city came to be born. The story goes that Zeus ate Metis – Athina’s mother while she was pregnant. A while later, Zeus was troubled by a huge headache, and asked Hermes to fix it. So, he did what any good friend would and swung an axe furiously at his head splitting it open. From Zeus’s forehead leaped Athena, fully formed. That’s pretty cool however you look at it. Image via @ Flickr
That’s our wrap of mythical and mystical hot spots, as always we’d like to hear from you. Do you have any other suggestions? Have you found some place a bit closer to home? Let us know in the comments below.
Benidorm holidays are a firm favourite with British holiday makers and have been for years. It’s easy to see why, with fantastic beaches, plenty of nightlife and activities for anyone from two to 92, it’s one of our absolute favourites.
Smack, bang, right on the Med, holidays in Benidorm holidays have grown a lot since humble beginnings in the 60s. Its miles of coastline are packed full of beaches, cafes, a promenade and restaurants and it’s one of the top tourist destinations on the whole of the Costa Blanca. Although it’s developed a bit of a reputation, in the last few years the focus has shifted to a more family friendly approach. There are still plenty of clubs and bars, but you’ll also find lots of cultural walks, theme parks, water sports and great food and nightlife. Whether it’s a day at theme parks like Terra Miticia, a night on the tiles or long, lazy days of relaxing on the beach, Benidorm holidays have it all.
Originally built between two beaches, Benidorm was once a little fishing village, standing in the shade of a church called San Jaime. Now everything you’ll find is geared towards giving you a great holiday. Its growing skyline means it’s often referred to as the “Manhattan of Spain”, or, our personal favourite “Beniyork.” (The Gran Hotel Bali found downtown, stands at a whopping 186 metres high and is the tallest hotel in Europe.) It’s made up of tree lined avenues and is one of the best served cities from the UK, with over 30 low cost and scheduled airlines flying there direct every day. Because there are so many seats, there are plenty of competitive prices to suit every budget.
Places to go: Benidorm’s beaches are one of the top draws, with long, fine soft sandy stretches and crystal clear waters. Of course, it is home to outstanding weather year round. A perfect urban beach to kick off your holiday is Levante Beach. It is right in the town, so it’s packed full of facilities and is so handy if you fancy going straight out in the evening. In the south Poniente beach is another great choice, while the relaxing Mal Pas cove is a quieter option.
Benidorm’s skyline represents the paradigm of mass seasonal tourism in Spain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Take the boat trip to the Island of Benidorm, where you’ll find spectacular diving opportunities. The seabed is packed full of colourful fish. The island is also home to the Benidorm Wildlife Sanctuary. After a dip, you can take the time to hear about the legend of the island’s origins. It’s told that the brave warrior Roland cut off a piece of the nearby Puig Campana Rock with his sword, during a raid by Charlemagne and from there the island grew.
There are plenty of natural attractions to see on the mainland too, like cliffs, mountains and paths towards the sea. The nature reserve of Serra Gelada is picture perfect and ideal for hiking. The small town of Calpe up the road is lovely for a day’s stroll and maybe a lunch out, for a change from the beach. While the beautiful old town of Altea with its historic domed churches is just a few miles away by bus.
Things to do: As holidays in Benidorm are fully geared up for escape there are tonnes of activities for all ages. For the kids, the 4kwatro, Aqualandia and Terra Mitica will keep them busy for hours on end, with rollercoasters, water slides, picnic areas, playgrounds and live shows. There are regular buses from the town and it makes a nice change from the beach too.
For a proper holiday bit of fun, the Benidorm Palace is a 2,000 seater theatre, with live shows everyday which range from movie glamour to disco glam to flamenco fusion. It’s the best place to go for a laugh, before moving on for an evening out. Its latest addition is the Benidorm circus, with clowns and acrobats that will impress all the family.
English: Benidorm by night from Gran Hotel Bali (floor 33) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Of course, in Benidorm, it’s hard not to get caught up in the party spirit. With a heap of bars and clubs, you could almost go to a different spot every night of your holiday. Club Manssion opens its doors to 5000 clubbers from all over Europe every Saturday night. It hosts the best in Hardcore if that’s what you’re into. If you’re looking to party, you could always start there! KU Benidorm is a little more laidback, but you’ll have an equally awesome night out there. The whole city centre comes alive at night and the cabaret acts start around 9. You can almost guarantee a night out in Benidorm won’t end until the early hours.
There are plenty of alternatives to nightclubbing too. Try the Benidorm International Song Fest every summer which draws plenty of celebrities like Julio Iglesias (Enrique’s dad!) There’s also the Benidorm Low Cost Festival, which makes our pockets very happy. 2012’s line up includes Kasabian, Suede and Placebo.
Español: Tapas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Food: You won’t go hungry in Benidorm, there are over 1,000 places to eat! Our top choices are always delicious Spanish cuisine and tapas dishes are a top tip. Tapas are little dishes of finger food that can be almost anything. You’ll usually see olives, little meatballs, omelettes or patatas bravas, potatoes with spicy tomato sauce.
Of course, being a holidaymakers hot spot, Benidorm is home to restaurants from every corner of the world, from French and Dutch to Chinese and of course if you’re missing a fry or a cuppa, there are plenty of English breakfasts to be had throughout the resort.
Drink: Happy hour doesn’t get any better than in Benidorm. With tonnes of bars, we counted around 800, you’ll surely find some tip top tipples. There are themed bars, late bars, clubs, and promotions like two for one, cocktails and other deals to get you in the door. Because of the competition, there tends to be plenty of good offers to find and take advantage of. Choose from small, local Spanish bars that sell bottles at €1 each, or head for the reliable British pubs. There are also Dutch and Irish bars and most show football on large screens. Plenty offer karaoke and nightly entertainment too.
Purple Hearts… Croatia Travel Guide the Croat d’Azur, if you will
The Dalmatian Riviera stretches along the Croatian coastline between Split and Dubrovnik, intersected by a small outcrop of Bosnia with some notable bad architecture and not much else. Boasting more islands than any other Mediterranean country except Greece, Croatia is not only naturally beautiful, but also extremely private, having all in all, around 125,000 inhabitants scattered across 48 islands – some 670 remain deserted. This, combined with some of the best sailing in the world, endless beaches, hidden coves, dramatic withstanding Roman ruins and a cuisine that packs a punch to their Italian neighbours, Croatia is a brightening star in the Mediterranean. Yet, ironically, most of Dalmatia is comprised of a throwback to simpler, non-commercialized roots and its chic beaches are just the tip of the iceberg for what the Riviera has to offer. With this Dalmatian Riviera travel guide, you can find out that little bit more about why so many people are in love with this beautiful holiday destination. Discover more in our Croatia Travel Guide.
Croatian cuisine is certainly one its big attractions. Renowned for a superb selection of fish and seafood, as well as a distinctive Italian influence – rizot is risotto, prsut is prosciutto, for example – it’s not just the scenery that beckons tourists back each year. The secret is in its simple preparation and easy digestibility, with essential ingredients including sheep´s cheese, salty sardines, roasted lamb, beef cooked in tomato sauce (salsa), and sautéed greens with potatoes.
Drink: Do not forget the wine, Croatia’s most famous export. Known for its special taste of the south, a taste that has been perfected over centuries, the secret recipes for winemaking are passed down from generation to generation in middle Dalmatia, produced in the families´ wine cellars. A wine connoisseur’s dream destination.
Places to go: Brač
Brač’s grey, mountainous centre provides a rugged, unfinished contrast to the alluring abundance of greenery, red-tiled roofs and clear blue water of the Adriatic Sea. Although first known for its quarries, which provided the stone for the White House, the island of Brač is now most celebrated for its beaches. Zlatni Rat (the Golden Cape) is hyped as the best beach in Dalmatia, perhaps because, aside from a few bearded gelato sellers, it remains almost completely uncommercialised. The nearby wind-surfing haven, harbour town of Bol, however, is a tourist hub.Skrip, home to the Brač Museum, is well worth a visit, as is the community winery, Poljoprivredna Zadruga, which produces some of the best wines on the island.
Over on the mainland lies Split, home to the 416,000 square-foot Roman Emperor Diocletian’s villa, circa 305 AD. About 3,000 people live in the 220 buildings within the old palace walls, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Summer is the best time to visit, when a month-long festival of performing arts fills theatres, squares, and galleries all over the town. Marrying the past with the present, the local children play alongside monuments like the Cathedral of Sveti Duje (Saint Domnius) and the Baptistery of St. John (Jupiter’s Temple).
Hvar The epicentre of Dalmatia’s ‘fabulous’ scene. Here you will find huge yachts cruising by, complete with bikini-clad women sunbathing topside, shortly followed by pods of playful dolphins. You’ll sip on a Chai latte or some other new-fangled mocha-choca-ino, stirring the blueberries into your morning soya granola with the rest of the seaside glitterati.
Vis Just a short ferry ride away from Brač, Vis is the antithesis to Hvar’s hipster scene. But with a rich history, stretching back to Greek and Roman times, Vis is brimming with natural beauty, including over 500 varieties of flourishing herbs thrive, which make exploring the island very much a sensual experience.
The eponymous town within the island of Korčula is its biggest selling point. Expect a hopelessly quaint town that reflects a distinctly Venetian charm.
Activities: Diving is available all over the Riviera, allowing visitors to explore 1,000 years of maritime history, reflected in the sunken ships found in waters off Vis. There’s even a B-17 bomber that went down in 1944.Windsurfing and sailingare also a must. Or why notexplore the hilltop ‘ghost town’ of Humac on Hvar with its spectacular views of the Adriatic, then hike down to the Grapceva Spilja Ice Cave.TheFestival of Sword Dance, which runs throughout July and August, is Korčula’s recreation of a battle between two 16th-century armies, featuring soldiers dressed in flowing red and black uniforms, who each duel with genuine metal sabres in a tightly-choreographed frenzy, all to the accompaniment of a big brass band.Vanka Regule is a game in which participants free-dive, windsurf, long-distance kayak and jump bikes into the sea. It takes place in July in Sutivan on Brač.