It’s crystal clear: these glass-walled abodes leave little to the imagination about your natural surroundings.
In an era of near-constant connectivity, sometimes the best way to reset yourself is to escape into nature, trading in blue light screens for blue streams and skies. And the best way to experience total immersion with the great outdoors isn’t by staying inside a dark hotel or stuffy cabin–it’s by letting the sunshine (and views) in by staying in a glasshouse. A growing trend among scenic hotels and short-term rentals, glasshouses bring the outdoors indoors, creating seamless harmony with nature through glass walls and ceilings so that you never have to miss the view for even a minute. Ranging in style from sleek A-frame to futuristic pod, their clean, sharp look and austere decor is also a real hit on social media. Whether your wilderness of choice is at the ends of the Earth in the Arctic Circle or in the midst of manicured wine country, these are the most spectacular glasshouses around the world for nature lovers.
The brainchild of Polar explorer Børge Ousland, the 55-acre Manshausen Island Resort, part of northern Norway’s Steigen Archipelago, has traded in its past as a fishing trade post for being a remote haven of minimalist sea cabins. Arrayed along the 15th-century jetty or on natural outcroppings, this collection of seven contemporary, lopsided bungalows start with entryways of tawny larch before tapering upwards to a three-sided, floor-to-ceiling glass chamber cantilevered over the landscape, with unobstructed views of the Grotoya Strait and Island. From the glass sitting area or bedroom nook, visitors can contemplate the Arctic Circle’s rugged landscapes or watch the Northern Lights. Diversions come in the form of kayaking, diving, hiking, fishing, and relaxing at the waterside sauna and hot tub, and local meals are enjoyed in the 19th-century Main House. Earlier this year, the resort also launched three new cabins but with aluminum exteriors in place of timber.
Panorama Glass Lodge
Iceland can feel pretty crowded these days, but the tourist hordes are blissfully out of sight at the Panorama Glass Lodge, where seclusion and nature reign. Roughly a half-hour drive from Reykjavik, the simplistic, 248-square-foot cabin is divided into two parts: the first featuring a rustic, wood-paneled exterior shielding the cozy living area, kitchen, and bathroom inside, and the other half made of crisply-clear glass walls and ceiling over the sleeping area. Guests have panoramic views across the Hvalfjörður fjord to snow-covered mountains and undulating countryside, and the area is perfect for stargazing or watching the Aurora Borealis from bed or the outdoor, wooden hot tub. With Reykjavik so close but seemingly a world away, guests are never far from all the cosmopolitan amenities of the capital, as well as ample hiking, boating, and sightseeing opportunities.
The Starlight Room
In a land of traditional chalets and luxury rental condos, the charming Starlight Room is a breath of fresh air, literally: It’s located at an altitude of nearly 7,000 feet. Perched on a barren hillside near the resort town of Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Italian Dolomite Alps, this blocky, wooden room sits on enlarged skis so it can be rotated for the best mountain views (but don’t worry, they get secured so you can’t ski away at night!). Those willing to make the trek or snowmobile journey to its hilltop location enter through the rear door to breathtaking vistas of the dramatic Dolomite mountains out of the fully-glass-walled sleeping area; at night, the glass ceiling also makes for unparalleled stargazing. Open from June to September, insulated glass keeps the heat in at night, with the bathroom and included perks like gourmet meals located in the nearby Rifugio Col Gallina.
Aurora Glass Cabin at Star Arctic Hotel
Sitting on top of northern Finland’s Kaunispää Mountain, the stylishly Scandinavian Star Arctic Hotel overlooks Lapland’s frozen expanses of snow-covered boreal coniferous forest and icy tundra. A short drive from the ski resort town of Saariselkä, many guests come during the winter for the legendary downhill and cross country skiing, as well as other traditional pastimes like dog-sledding, ice-fishing, and learning more about the native Sami culture on reindeer sleigh rides, but one of the best reasons to pay a visit is that the elevated location makes for sublime stargazing and Northern Lights watching. Capitalizing on this, the hotel has built eight glass-roofed cabins, with one part of the cabin made of warm wood housing the bathroom and storage area, and the other half a gabled glass roof over the bed. When those famous ribbons of light start crossing the sky, they feel close enough to touch.
Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort
A stone’s throw from the northern end of continental Europe, surrounded by pine forests and sprawling tundras, the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort is a childhood dream come true, hosting a delightful Santa’s Village and Yuletide festivities leading up to Christmas Day. But they’re also world-famous for their glass igloos: updated renditions of the traditional Inuit dwelling but with a glass dome that allows residents to gaze at the Northern Lights overhead while snuggling in a cozy bed. Christmas aside, winter is the best time to visit to see the colorful lights and try activities like snow-shoeing, dog sledding, and reindeer safaris, but spring, summer, and fall also offer excellent hiking and canoeing opportunities in nearby Urho Kekkonen National Park.
The sister resort of the exclusive Vik Chile in central Chile’s Millahue wine valley, Puro Vik’s hillside glass bungalows offer the best vantage point of the valley’s vineyards, glassy lake, and forested hills. Each black-framed modernist suite, which includes a private terrace with a free-standing bathtub, is furnished around a distinct artistic theme, like the Dale Chihuly Room which features exclusive pieces from the famous glass-blowing artist. While the resort’s 11,000-acre winery has been around since 2006 and the main hotel opened in 2014, Puro Vik debuted its first seven bungalows earlier this year, with plans to add more in the future for a grand total of 19. Guests partake of all the resort’s amenities, like dining at Milla Milla or using the outdoor infinity pool, as well as inclusive activities like hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.
The 72 Hour Cabins
At the 72 Hour Cabins, something that started as an experiment into the healing properties of the outdoors has turned into an off-the-grid embodiment of Sweden’s “close to nature” national pastime and philosophy. Located in secluded spots all over the country, from lakesides and private islands to the heart of forests, these twee, scaled-back cabins—made entirely out of white timber and glass and elevated off the ground—are just big enough for a bed, some shelves, and little else (amenities like bathrooms and dining areas are found nearby) so there’s nothing to distract from the views outside. Guests spend three days completely surrounded by nature with not even solid walls to separate them from the charming scenery outside, taking advantage of Sweden’s “everyman’s law” to explore the wilderness on hikes, horse rides, and more, or to just peacefully contemplate and meditate around the cabin.
The WonderINN Mirrored Glass House
Taking the concept of glasshouses to the next level, the WonderINN Mirrored Glass House allows its guests to bask in sweeping views of the Glooma and Nitelva Rivers confluence on the Nordre Øyeren nature reserve while keeping prying eyes out courtesy of the mirrored glass. A certified Airbnb Plus property, the shimmery cube houses the main bedroom, bathroom, small kitchenette, and dining room, with a spartan interior of tan walls and chic decor touches. A separate wooden hut houses the second bedroom, and a grassy outdoor seating area with a hot tub overlooks the river. Home to a wide variety of bird and wildlife species, the nature reserve is perfect for hiking, canoeing, fishing, and boating, and Oslo is just a half-hour drive away for easy access to all the conveniences of the urban capital.
A love for thrill-seeking is required to reach the glass rooms of this hotel: they’re suspended from the side of a cliff. Located in Peru’s Sacred Valley between Cusco and Machu Picchu, Sky Lodge’s futuristic glass pods dangle over a thousand feet up the side of a mountain, safely secured in place and made with reinforced, weather-resistant materials. Guests access the pods by ascending the cliff on a “via ferrata” climbing route or hiking a precarious (but safe) trail. Those brave enough to make the climb, upon reaching the hotel, are treated to a splendid 300-degree vista of the Sacred Valley’s craggy peaks and luscious fields cut through by the Urubamba River. Three of the glass pods function as bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, and a stay includes gourmet meals. As for getting down in the morning, strap into the zipline harness and zoom down to the valley below!
WHERE: New Zealand
The six state-of-the-art, eco-friendly tiny houses of PurePods are found in different spots around the natural knockout that is New Zealand, with privileged views of forested valleys, meandering rivers, rolling hills, and endless skies from its all-encompassing glass walls and roof. All the pods are housed on private land, so there’s no one else around to disrupt the view or serene environment. Depending on the location you’re staying in, from wine country to coastline, outdoor activities range from hiking and cycling to wine tastings. Sitting on the front deck soaking up the view, it’s so tranquil you half expect Gandalf to come walking up the short path from the carpark to give you a quest.
Off-Grid iT House
A blast of space-age coolness in the hazy high desert of southern California, the Off-Grid iT House is an eye-catching statement of burnished chrome and dazzling, wrap-around windows. Located in a remote valley three hours from Los Angeles, the industrial-style complex is renowned for its off-the-grid functionality, relying solely on solar energy and built to have minimal impact on the surrounding desert-scapes through cutting-edge, prefab design and green technology. This even includes no air conditioning, so the windows are designed to be opened and rotated throughout the day to allow the house’s light-filled interior of sculptural, New Age furniture and decor to naturally air out. With no TV and only emergency satellite wifi, the designers hope to promote one-ness with the pristine deserts outside; for something more adventurous, Joshua Tree’s sunbaked trails and unique fauna are right next door.
Kingston Treehouse at Lion Sands Game Reserve
WHERE: South Africa
Hovering above the treetops of the private Lion Sands Game Reserve in Kruger National Park, the Kingston Treehouse is a safari-style wonder of wood and glass, offering panoramic views of the reserve. The treehouse’s platform is reached by an elevated walkway, and wall-to-wall glass encloses the bathroom area at the back of the platform. The sumptuous canopy bed and outdoor lounge area are completely open to the elements, with blinds for privacy. The treehouse is just a short drive from the main lodge, but meals can be delivered, and at night, lit lanterns complete the ambiance; it’s not every day you can fall asleep listening to the sounds of elephants rustling in the underbrush. During the day, guests embark on wildlife safaris to catch glimpses of the Big 5 animals, but the reserve also offers tailor-made options like driving to a hidden location to watch the sunset with cocktails and canapes.
Stedsans in the Woods
An idyllic forest retreat in southern Swedish, the much-lauded Stedsans in the Woods is most famous for its locavore culinary program celebrating Swedish terroir. But it’s also the fairy-tale-esque abodes where guests stay that contribute to Stedsan’s hygge-infused atmosphere. When the retreat first launched, the sole accommodations were high-end Bedouin tents, but this year a series of right-triangle cabins with an entire wall of floor-to-ceiling windows were opened. Made with warm-hued wood and little decor, the simple but striking nature of the cabins encourages guests to disconnect from the stresses and responsibilities of modern life. As Stedsans was founded by two leading chefs and restaurateurs, foodie activities like foraging or assisting on the permaculture farm are the focus, with refreshing meals taken in a rustic, glass-walled dining room at communal-style tables in the middle of the woods.
Glass House Monferrato
Designed in collaboration with one of Italy’s leading contemporary architects and designers, the Glass House Monferrato combines modern architectural trends with classic Italian style. Sheltered from view in a hilltop glade a short drive from Milan in the heart of Monferrato’s wine country, this elegant and refined space blurs the line between outdoors and indoors with its wall-to-wall glass windows. Golden Italian sunshine warms the grey-scale and Scandinavian-influenced interior, which includes a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and living room; outdoors, there’s a patio, garden, and small, meadow-view terrace with Jacuzzi at the back of the house. Known for its wide variety of native grape varietals and excellent truffles, the region is popular among gourmands, making for excellent wining and dining.