Destinations

Edinburgh’s Camera Obscura and the World of Illusions

The Edinburgh Castle is the largest and most famous tourist attraction in Scotland’s capital. But in its shadow, almost literally, there’s another must-visit destination: The Camera Obscura and the World of Illusions. Operating since 1835, it’s part unusual art gallery, part interactive science museum, part surreal funhouse — and entirely entertaining.

As an attraction, Camera Obscura and the World of Illusions consists of two parts. It will surely come as stunning news that these are: 1) the Camera Obscura and 2) the World of Illusions.

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The World’s Best Bakeries

Spot Cool Stuff loves finding good bakeries on our travels. Spontaneously coming across one while exploring a village or city neighborhood can make an ordinary walk special. But some bakeries are special in their own right and worth purposefully seeking out — either for the quality of their baked goods or for their interior design or for the atmosphere of being there or for some combination of all those.

Below is our review of eight such bakeries. We hesitate calling them the “best,” since the world has many bakeries and we’ve only been to a relatively small handful. But each of our selections has something superlative feature that’s well worth a detour if you are traveling nearby.

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Glamping in Switzerland’s PodHotel

High snows. Cold temperatures. Brutal winds. Camping at altitude in the Alps during the winter is for the hard core. But going glamping — glamorous camping — needn’t be.

Travel in the Alps offers many opportunities to experience the rugged charm and back-to-nature feeling of staying in a tent without, you know, having to stay in a tent. Spot Cool Stuff readers might remember our review of the disappearing-and-then-reappearing Whitepods ski resort or our post about the boutique hiking hut at the base of the Matterhorn. To those we now add the PodHotel Flims — though the “hotel” in the name is a serious misnomer.

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The (Love) Hotel Where Every Day is Christmas

Stockings may wind up on the floor instead of over the fireplace

Yes, Virginia (and Mara and Wei and Dev and Ashley), there IS a Santa Claus. And contrary to popular belief, Santa only winters at the North Pole with the Missus! But he’d love to have you visit his permanent residence—in Osaka, Japan—if you have a little time, and mischief, on your hands.

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How To Go Boating in a Hot Tub

Hot Tub Time Machine is terrible. But a hot tub boat? Now that’s cool!

Spot Cool Stuff loves unlikely hybrids of two travel products. Previously we’ve reviewed a scooter that doubles as a wheeled bag, a wheeled bag that’s also a backpack and a backpack that’s also a downhill bike, among other hybrid travel products.

In that spirit of Dr. Moreau-inspired travel ideas comes hot tub boating.

There are, surprisingly, at least two places on the planet where you can take a small boat out in the water whilst simultaneously lounging in a hot tub. One is in Seattle. The another in IJlst, Holland.

It might be the coolest travel hybrid experience we’ve found since the tent-hammock-treehouse. Our look at each:

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The Crazy-Cool Treehouse-Like Hotels of Huilo-Huilo

Like staying in a CGI scene from Avatar come to life

The Huilo-Huilo Biological Reserve in the Andes Mountains of Chile is one of Spot Cool Stuff’s favorite travel destinations in all of South America.

Next month we’ll be publishing a review of the reserve itself — follow us on Twitter, join us on Facebook and return to our travel review blog for that.

In the meantime, here’s our look at two of the unusual, and amazing, places to stay within the reserve: The Hotel La Montaña Mágica and the Nothofagus Hotel & Spa.

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Cool Britannia Cottages

“Cool” and “cottage” are not normally words you’ll see together but a cottage holiday in the UK can be anything but chintzy and traditional. Renting a holiday cottage is also a great way to explore the local area and really get a feel for the UK. After the Diamond Jubilee and London Olympics, you couldn’t pick a better time to visit the UK than now.

Choose a luxury cottage and you’ll find it rivals a boutique hotel in terms of decoration and fittings; think seriously comfy beds, high-end kitchens and luxurious bathrooms. An unusual or quirky cottage is a great location for a hen party, special weekend away or even your honeymoon! Enjoy all the style and amenities of a cool hotel in spacious surroundings without worrying about what time reception closes. Sykes Cottages have a wonderful selection of cool cottages throughout the UK and Ireland perfect for a short break or longer family holiday.

Here are our top five cottages of cool:

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The Roller Coaster Stairway To Nowhere

Try not to think about the fact that you are above an enormous mound of industrial waste.

There are more than a handful of tourist attractions that feature great staircases. Among those that immediately to mind: the stairs that spiral up the Loretto Chapel in the Vatican, the stairs leading down to the ritual bathing areas along the Ganges River in Varanasi, India and the stairs that ascend Mexico’s Chichen Itza temple. But the world’s coolest set of stairs don’t go anywhere at all. For those you’ll have to visit Angerpark in the town of Duisburg, in the Ruhr area of Germany.

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