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.
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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!
Read next: How to Choose the Perfect Hostel
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.
Read next: 10 Places You Must Visit When Studying Abroad in Australia
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!
More hostel tips;
8 Great European Hostels that Cost Less than $25/night
The Best Hostels in Florence to Book a Bed In
6 Easy, Cheap, and Healthy Hostel Meals
KEX Hostel in Reykjavic, Iceland. THE best hostel I have ever stayed at.
Thanks for the recommendation Jessica!
Green milk hostel in Essaouira, Morocco <3
Thanks for adding the list Simone 🙂 What did you like about that hostel?
I stayed in Hostel Celica and loved it! I featured it on my blog as well. Would love to check out the tree house one in Olympos!
Awesome, thanks for the recommendation Allison!
AWESOME PLACES! I’m planning to visit New Zealand, so I’ll keep the Picton one in mind. These places are incredible and I would love to stay at all of them! Another great reason to travel. 🙂
That’s right! Hostels are just awesome, aren’t they? Thanks for reading Brooke.
Greengo’s in Guatemala (Semuc Champey) – amazing! http://www.shannonreedphotography.com/shedreamsawake/2015/11/10/greengos-hostel-hotel
Got to love hostels that have life! My fav is in London. It’s a RV park. Pretty cool! In Sir Lanka we stayed in a Adventure Bus for a night, that was different also!
Wow, great list! Also awesome to see Hostel Celica made it, they will be a 5 Star Hostel as well! keep it girls, and talk to you soon! 🙂
Thanks Matt 🙂
What a cool list! I wish there were some cool ones in the US too. I think the Israel one is my favorite.
There are so many amazing hostels in Central America as well! Please see Zephyr Lodge, Mr. Mullets Hostel, Los Amigos, Driftwood Surfer, and Tropicana Hostel in Guatemala and The Treehouse Hostel, Paradiso, Casa de Olas, Naked Tiger Hostel in Nicaragua! I’m sure there are more gems in Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Panama but I’ve spent the most time in Guatemala and Nicaragua and these are some of the coolest hostels I’ve ever been!
Great suggestions, thanks Amanda!
I was very surprised about a hostal in Mérida, Yucatán, México (close to Cancun): Hostal Nómadas.
It’s a nice hostal with hammocks hanging over a side of a nice pool.
Local cuisine (mayan) lessons for only $40 MXN (around 2 dlls, food included), salsa dancing lessons for free, yoga lessons for free, lots of amazing tour options (cheaper than elsewhere) a terrasse where you can meet other travellers, from all over the world… we didn’t want to leave!!!
Sounds AMAZING! Thanks for sharing Elizabeth!
Oh god. I love those top three. They just might tempt me away from pampered hotels and villas!
Ooo look at that! 🙂
Wow, gorgeous photos..I love this list. Hope to stay in one of these hostels someday!
Okay… adding ALL of these to my list! A couple of them were already on there, like the Coober Pedy one looks so cool! I just ran out of time to go while I was in Oz (it’s not the easiest place to get to I suppose lol).