During the holidays and when booking your weekend or fortnight-long getaway, we are often drawn to hotels as a quick and easy means of booking and securing accommodation while we are away. However, there are a plethora of other platforms just waiting to be snapped up in the peak holiday season. Taking a relaxing break isn’t just about getting away, it is also about where you stay, what you experience and what sights you get to see. And simply put, a hotel isn’t going to be able to give you an authentic cultural experience, particularly if you’re staying in a country that is normally so different from our western ‘culture’ and everything to do with it.

We take a look at 4 stunning locations to stay around the world, giving you ample opportunity to experience sights never seen before and stay in locations otherwise hidden to the modern world. To truly experience the rich culture of any one country, you need to eat, sleep and breathe in it. Here are our favourites.

  1. Japanese Ryokan

Japan is well known for its high-tech achievements, its ageless population and its obsession with pop-culture, but the Ryokan houses are as far from technology as you can probably get. With walls made out of paper and as minimalistic as they come, a traditional Japanese Ryokan is consists of a few sparse rooms with a tea table, and a futon for sleeping, and communal bath in the countryside.

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Many ryokans are located near local shrines, giving you time to see how the Japanese would traditionally pray or celebrate their gods. You can also find classic ryokans out in the countryside, where winding streets and long rows of rice paddies still accurately reflect traditional Japanese living. If getting back to basics is your style, a ryokan is certainly the place to be.

  1. Swedish Ice Hotel

One of the most unique experiences known to man, these hotels are constructed and created entirely out of ice and snow, giving tourists the chance for a once in a lifetime trip like nothing they have ever seen before. Guests sleep in beds made of ice, sit on chairs made of ice and drink at bars made of ice. You sleep under reindeer skins and have to wear special thermal clothing and thick coats for the entirety of the stay.

This is also your opportunity to see the Aurora Borealis in all its glory, although the supernatural lights cannot be seen all the time, so it is a great way of trying a new experience, with the added bonus of potentially seeing the lights as nature intended. The Ice Hotel itself provides holiday packages for those looking for some rest and relaxation, such as ice sculpting classes and dinners on the ice, although you are more than welcome to organise your own entertainment if you simply want to stay and enjoy the sights.

  1. Moroccan Riad

Today’s modern Riad hotels are beautiful recreations of traditional Moroccan living quarters of the 18th century, located mainly in the heart of the beautiful city of Marrakech. With stunning traditional architecture, open plan bedrooms in a range of cultural designs, and daring plunge pools reflecting the style of the period feel as if you’ve stepped back in time with a classic Moroccan Riad that has all the modern day advantages of today’s connected world.

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A Moroccan Riad is also the perfect place to find first class recommendations for wandering around the city, visiting the cheapest and most traditional restaurants and finding out about peak times to visit the city’s mosques and other tourist attractions. If you’re looking for a historic trip to Marrakech and need an insider’s view of the city stay at a Riad in the city centre, as the knowledgeable staff will always be able to help.

  1. African Lodge

There is always something quite educational about staying in traditional and cultural accommodation. The African Mud Huts of old provide an economically viable and minimalistic holiday experience while still enjoying all the benefits of a modern bed and breakfast. Take in the great African sunrises and holiday sun while getting back to basics with these tiny, yet comfortable huts.

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Depending on your specific needs you can also choose a hut with all the trimmings, including in-house dining, Wi-Fi internet access and the Addo Elephant National Park right on your doorstep. Take a step out of your comfort zone while trying a traditional African Mud Hut instead of a classy hotel this holiday season.

Of course, some people are still more likely to choose the traditional ‘hotel’ when travelling abroad, but it can be quite refreshing to try something new and ultimately unfamiliar, particularly when you are in a foreign land. It also provides a welcome break for those stuck in the monotony of modern life, as well as offering up inspiration for those creative types. Whether you love pushing yourself, or you’d just like to see the world a little differently for a time, why not try something new today by staying at one of the places listed above?

Article provided by Mike James, an independent content writer in the travel industry – working alongside a selection of companies including an 18th century courtyard El Zohar Riad in the desirable Mouassine district of the ancient Medina, who were consulted over the information contained in this piece.