Fantasyland: the world's craziest new hotels

If you think all hotels are the same, try staying in one of these wacky digs.

In a hole, under the sea, on the edge of a cliff . . . not places that generally come to mind as somewhere to bed down for the night.

But everything goes with a spate of novelty hotels coming online around the world, as architects and developers try to outdo each other with crazy designs and concepts.

One of the most ambitious projects under way is a resort being built at the bottom of a water-filled, abandoned quarry just outside Shanghai in China.

I did check if it was the first of April when I heard about it, but the hotel monitoring agency Top Hotel Projects says the InterContinental Shimao Shanghai Wonderland Resort is on track to open in 2015, at a cost of about €75 million ($113 million).

The quarry is at the base of Tianmenshan Mountain and is about 100 metres deep, with the resort's guestrooms built into the rock face and the water used for water sports and adventure activities.

Competing for the award for craziest place to stay is a hotel shaped like a crooked picture frame, balanced on the edge of a cliff in Lima.

It's yet to be approved, but the Unbalanced Hotel would be a landmark for the Peruvian capital.

According to its creators, the Spanish firm OOIIO Architecture, the idea is that the scenery can be viewed through it, rather than being blocked out.


The picture frame plan follows the opening of a distinctive arch-shaped hotel on China's Lake Taihu.

The Sheraton Huzhou Hot Spring Resort has features including a "wedding island" for outdoor weddings and a "spa village" with five different spa experiences.

The architects may not appreciate the description, but the 321-room hotel looks a bit like a squished donut.

The official explanation is that a circular shape in Chinese culture references unity, wholeness and infinity.

Along with strangely shaped buildings, we are being promised a number of underwater hotels, although many are progressing slowly.

Top Hotel Projects says a Hydropolis hotel should open near the island of Hanai in China by 2016, with 175 rooms and suites above and below the water.

Water taxis will transport guests to the hotel, where they will have a spectacular view of the coral reef below.

“Water Discus Hotels” are planned for Dubai and the Maldives, with a design comprising two futuristic discs: one below the water and one above it.

The hotels look like something out of a James Bond movie . . . but will bring a less menacing meaning to sleeping with the fishes.

Another dramatic underwater property is planned for Florida.

Top Hotel Projects says the Undersea Resort is a $US600 million ($660 million) project with 600 suites, a spa, casino, helicopter landing fields and an underwater observation station.

The resort will be a “swimming hotel” with three decks of rooms beneath the water.

Investors for the project are still needed but the agency believes “the chances are quite good”.

If you prefer to keep your head above water, there are floating hotels coming online.

Sunborn Yacht Hotels is preparing to launch a five-star "super yacht" hotel in Gibraltar, with further projects planned for Barcelona, London and further afield.

The 142-metre long yacht in Gibraltar will be permanently anchored in the Ocean Village Marina, with the Rock of Gibraltar as a backdrop.

Sunborn says while its yacht hotels have full propulsion, they are designed to be permanently moored.

The company says they are particularly relevant in locations where further land-based development is impractical or environmentally sensitive, as there is no permanent footprint.

Floating hotels are also being touted as a way for Qatar to cope with an influx of visitors for the 2022 soccer World Cup.

Then there is the "landscape hotel", with the Waterworld Bei Bei resort being built near Chongqing in China.

Top Hotel Projects says the 300-room resort and spa, due to open this year, will be “absolutely integrated into the landscape”, reflecting the theme of the rice fields.

For pure ambition, there's the $4.2 billion Aquis Great Barrier Reef Resort planned for our own shores, with 3750 hotel rooms and more than 1000 apartments, plus a casino, aquarium, shopping centre, sports stadium, golf course and convention centre.

The project is yet to be approved but Top Hotel Projects says work could start by the middle of next year, with the first of nine luxury hotels to open in 2018.

For soccer fans, next year will bring the opening of Hotel Football in Manchester, England, featuring a roof-top football pitch and football-themed interiors, so you can “eat, drink and sleep football”.

Another football-themed hotel is planned for northern Thailand, of all places.

The ONYX Hospitality Group says guests walking into the Amari Buriram United will feel like they are arriving at a football ground, with most rooms looking into a central area with a mini football field and swimming pool.

Inside the hotel, which is open for bookings from December, will be “players changing room”-style bathrooms and a themed restaurant with bench seating for “team style dining”.

Those who prefer fashion to footy can celebrate a batch of fashion-aligned hotels opening around the world.

Versace is opening a Greco-Roman style Palazzo Versace in Dubai next year, more than a decade after launching Palazzo Versace on the Gold Coast.

Armani Hotels is expected to open a hotel at Admiralty Arch in London in 2015, while Bulgari Hotels will open a property in Shanghai and the LVMH group is working on classy hideaways in the Maldives, Egypt, Oman and Paris.

Photos: the craziest new hotel designs