Alila Ubud, Indonesia

This hotel's wow factor has to be its infinity pool that seems to merge with green rice terraces and the luxuriant foothills of central Bali. Take a dip in this pool and you'll feel like you're swimming with the native Balinese birds and macaques. (

Whether it's balanced on the rim of a volcano or made of crystallized salt, the right hotel can provide you with a good year's worth of bragging material. These are the kinds of places you have to go at least once, if only to say you have.

The best part is you don't need to raid the kids' college fund to find some exotic, out-there rooms.

The Balancing Barn, England

Find a little balance in this precariously perched hotel. It was built by Living Architecture, the brainchild of Swiss philosophical writer Alain de Botton who wrote "The Architecture of Happiness."

The group created a series of homes in the United Kingdom based on high-quality, modern architecture and de Botton's work on the connection between environment, architecture and happiness.

The Balancing Barn in Suffolk, on the edge of a nature reserve, sleeps eight people. Clad in silver tiles and with large windows giving great views, it has also won a series of travel and design awards.

Living Architecture has also just launched its sixth property: a boat-shaped room where you can spend the night, perched on top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall on London's South Bank.

Cost: From US$38 per person, based on eight-person occupancy.

The Mountain Retreat Inn, China

With views of the peaceful Yulong River near Yangshuo in Guanxi province, the Mountain Retreat Inn has been named a top hotel by TripAdvisor and The Telegraph.

It's all very eco friendly, with sustainable local bamboo used for furnishings where possible, but it's the mountain scenery that makes this one for the scrapbook. The dramatic karst peaks along the nearby Li River are a big tourist draw, while the hotel itself has comfortable, simple rooms.

Cost: A single room from US$62. tel: +86 773 8777 091

Wild Brown Bear Hotel, Finland

It's the surroundings here that are the attraction rather than the hotel -- but you can't trek through the forests of eastern Finland's Karelia region, over spongy carpets of moss and blueberries and under birch and pine canopies, without feeling as if you're walking through a fairy tale.

The Wild Brown Bear Hotel is a great base for getting close to Finland's natural side, and from here you can arrange an overnight stay in a hide looking out for wild brown bears and wolverines (a photographer's hide is also available).

Other activities in the area include kayaking around peaceful lakes, cycling and enjoying the great Finnish outdoors.

Cost: A one-night stay in the bear-watching hide starts from US$213 per person.

+358 (0)40 5469 008

Hotel Saratoga, Cuba