Maybe it’s because of my infatuation with Tolkien’s tree-dwelling elves or my nostalgic remembrances of the elevated fortress in my grandparents’ backyard. Or maybe just the experience of looking around and seeing twisted branches begging for climbers rather than solid ground.
Whatever the reason may be, I love tree houses. In fact, a high-priority item on my bucket list is to spend the night in a home nestled in branches far from the ground. Luckily for me and other tree house lovers, these residences traditionally reserved for eight-year-olds on summer afternoons, are sprouting up as hotels in canopies around the world. Three resorts in particular have caught my eye for being unlike any constructions I’ve seen before, in or out of trees. Far beyond the few two-by-fours supporting pieces of particle board my Grandpa constructed, these architectural wonders provide lodging that makes the Swiss Family Robinson’s home look boring.
The Free Spirit Spheres in Vancouver, British Columbia look more like giant Christmas Tree ornaments than traditional tree houses. These three rotund dwellings in the coastal rainforest on Vancouver Island seemingly float between 10 and 15 feet off the ground with stairs twisting down to the mossy ground like a tail.
Although the spheres are tethered from three directions, they sway like leaves in the wind and shift with internal movement, contributing what guests describe as feeling afloat or adrift.
The spheres range from 9 to 10.5 feet in diameter and are each made from a unique material. Eve is a cedar sphere, Eryn is made of Sitka spruce and Melody is a fiberglass creation. All are equipped with basic amenities such as a bed, a heater and access to water.
The idea of hanging structures isn’t just for novelty. Sphere creator Tom Chudleigh feels the destruction for foundations of buildings adds up quickly. When you hang something, rather than build it from the ground up, you can inhabit a space without destroying it.
“I wanted something different. To live in and among the trees and to use them as a foundation,” Chudleigh wrote. “It also gives me back a magic environment right outside my front door.”
Those who wish to float in the magical Vancouver environment can reserve spheres for $135 – $225 per night, depending on which unique creation you choose.
The TreeHotel in Sweden consists of six distinct tree houses that appear to be imported from the distant future. Perhaps the hotel’s most famous, the Mirrorcube, is a completely reflective tree residence that camouflages itself by mirroring the stunning Swedish wilderness which surrounds it. The house matches its environment so well that infrared film must be used to deter birds from flying through it.
Equally unique, the Bird’s Nest puts a human spin on a bird’s treetop dwelling. A very literal take on its name, the nest could be mistaken for a yet-to-be-discovered winged giant. The tangle of giant twigs that make up the exterior provides a rustic contrast to the clean sharp interior, which can hold four people.
In contrast to the natural inspiration for the Bird’s Nest, the UFO couldn’t look more alien in the Swedish woods. The metallic saucer-shaped structure fulfills all of the classic UFO prototypes and the interior completes the theme, right down to the constellation patterns on the bedding.
The TreeHotel’s other homes, the Cabin and the Blue Cone, are less innovative, but still stunning pieces of architecture. The final building, the Tree Sauna, provides an elevated steam room for guests to use.
The TreeHotel is any outdoor lover’s dream. Every activity is possible at the resort from classic biking, hiking, horseback riding or kayaking to more unique pastimes like skijoring, igloo building or embarking on a cattle safari.
Unfortunately, the innovation of TreeHotel comes at a high price. A one-night stay converts to around $500 per adult or $600 for two. However, to some, sleeping in a tree house and a UFO simultaneously could be priceless.
Ariau Amazon Towers in Brazil, just 35 miles northwest of Manaus, takes building amongst the trees to the extreme. Inspired by oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, Dr. Francisco Ritta Bernardino built the eco-friendly hotel hoping to raise awareness about the Amazon and the importance of its protection. Bernardino hoped drawing people into such a unique environment would ensure its preservation.
The treetop rooms and amenities of the hotel are connected through five miles of wooden catwalks that wind through the canopies. In addition to 500 rooms, the resort has two open-air restaurants, two amphitheatres, a cybercafé, a swimming pool and even two helipads, all at the canopy level.
Once you arrive at the tree-skimming towers, which are where the Anavilhanas Archipelago begins, you are situated to enjoy scenery and activities unique to this one-of-a-kind environment. Visitors can swim with the rare pink, freshwater dolphins, climb through a tour of Amazonian trees, paddle on sunrise canoe tours and even fish for piranhas.
The once in a lifetime experience comes for what may be a once in a lifetime price for many. Single rooms run for nearly $650 a night. While the steep cost might not fit in the average tourists budget, a day visit to this world-renowned resort could still be in order.
In reality, it may be more realistic for me to construct my own makeshift tree house for my overnight use than to visit any of these. However, the inspiration behind these designs and the time and resources invested in their creation show that, while most people are satisfied with two feet on the solid ground, some will always have higher aspirations.