Looking for a cool and unusual place to stay? Along with treehouses, hobbit homes, yurts, and ice hotels, the roster of unique lodging options now includes life-size sandcastles where you can spend the night.
Sandcastle Hotels in the Netherlands
In summer of 2015, sand sculptors first created two sandcastle hotels in the Netherlands—one in Oss and the other in Sneek—and have repeated the endeavor in subsequent summers. Both towns host annual sand-sculpture festivals each summer but, curiously, neither is located on the ocean.
From the outside, the hotels looks exactly like giant sandcastles, complete with turrets and intricate carvings.
These pop-up Zandhotels are the world's first sandcastle hotels. They offer surprisingly comfortable overnight accommodations during the summer, along with intricate designs that feature drawbridges, turrets, and stunning sand statuary. For safety, the interiors are made from sand treated with hardener to prevent crumbling and reinforced with wood frames, which, in turn, are covered with a layer of sand.
The "all-sand" term applies to the walls, floors, and other design features, such as artwork, but not to the furniture or linens, so you won't have to worry about tracking sand everywhere you go. Many features, including the shower, bathroom fittings, carpet, and box-spring bed are made with traditional materials.
The Zandhotels, which developers rebuild each summer, were inspired by the ice hotels that pop up each winter in Scandinavia and Canada. While staying at an ice hotel means enduring frigid temperatures well below freezing, these sandcastle hotels offer more comfortable conditions, including a turned-down real bed, electricity, and a working bathroom with fresh white towels. A carpet covers the sand floor of the guestroom where the cost of an overnight stay is roughly $170 a night for two people, including free wireless Internet.
For now, this experience is reserved for a family with adult children. Guests must be 18 years or older to check in.
Getting to the Zandhotels
Trying to decide which sandcastle hotel to visit? The more picturesque destination is Sneek, a bustling town of about 33,000 residents in Friesland and is well known for its inland waterways, made up of lakes, canals, and rivers. The drive north from Amsterdam to Sneek takes just under an hour and a half. You can also travel by train from Amsterdam; the trip takes roughly three hours, including connections in Amersfoort and Leeuwarden.
Sneek is a notable sailing center, with a marina and sailing schools. Sneek is also home to the National Model Train Museum, which will delight train buffs and kids. There are incredibly detailed dioramas and interactive features that let kids operate the model trains simply by pushing a button.
Oss is a working-class town of about 58,000 residents in the southern Netherlands, in the province of North Brabant. The drive south from Amsterdam to Oss takes just under an hour and a half. You can also travel by train from Amsterdam Centraal Station; the trip takes roughly 90 minutes without any connections.
Oss is famous for the important archaeological discoveries in the Vorstengraf burial sites, which are some of the largest burial mounds in the Netherlands and Belgium. The Vorstengraf ("graves of the king") hill is about nine feet high with a diameter of 177 feet. These tombs were built in the period of the Early Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age, between 2000 BC to 700 BC.