An "extreme" vacation often is in the eye of the vacationer. A week in Paris might be an extreme vacation to some people. A grand tour of the paper clip distribution warehouses of central Ohio would be extreme to someone else.
But other "extremes" cannot be debated. Here are a few places that are among those that deserve the designation — resorts or hotels that are set in some of the most extreme locales on Earth.
Any one of them beats the warehouse tour.
With Mount Everest as a backdrop — backdrop? Heck, it's right up the trail — Yeti Mountain Home is a group of five luxury lodges in Nepal.
The highest of the bunch is Kongde, at 13,943 feet. Opened in 2006, Kongde operates in two seasons: spring (mid-February through May) and fall (mid-September through December).
The lodges are staffed year round, so if you're really set on a winter visit, you will be welcomed.
"But for Kongde, since it is quite high, it gets really cold during the (winter)," Executive Director Namgyal Sherpa said in an email.
Kongde has a restaurant and 15 rooms, complete with heaters, hot and cold water, linens and, of course, an electric blanket. The blanket could come in handy.
During the spring season, Sherpa said, temperatures can range from around 20 to nearly 60. In the fall, they range from around 3 to the mid-50s.
Reaching Kongde requires a six- to eight-hour trek. Once at Kongde, you can hunker down and enjoy the spectacular view of the Himalayas or hike to the other lodges. (You must be physically fit for these hikes and should have some trekking experience, Sherpa said, but you needn't be a professional climber.)
If you're a little more adventurous and have the money, you can set foot on Everest (not the peak, obviously). "We have operated a few high-end trips with the helicopter where they go there only for (a) few hours to take pictures, have breakfast (and) fly back. The program is called Everest for Breakfast," Sherpa said. Email for rates.
If you vacation at the Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort in India, it's going to rain. Bet on it.
The region, in western India, just north of Bangladesh, is regarded as the wettest place on the planet, with an annual monsoon-fueled rainfall of 470 inches. That's more than 39 feet.
It didn't keep Denis Rayen from founding the ecotourism resort in 2000.
"Two-thirds of the rainfall in Cherrapunjee comes at night," he said. "The preferred timing for the monsoon onslaught is about 10 at night, and it may continue to rain through the night. Again, just before sunrise, it starts to rain heavy again."
How wet does it get? Humidity is so high during the peak monsoon season that water will condense into drops of water on your hair and eyebrows.
"During the monsoon months, we advise our guests to reach the resort before it is dark. By evening the place gets wrapped up in clouds, and visibility gets reduced to a matter of feet. Unless the driver is well versed with our roads, he could easily drive off the cliffs."
Rayen said the monsoon months of June and July, which account for about half the annual rainfall, are the most beautiful. The rain winds down in September and October, and November-January is the best time for outdoor activity, such as hiking, caving, rock climbing and mountain biking. Not to be missed are the living root bridges. They're a centuries-old tradition that involves weaving together the roots of a type of tree to create bridges across rivers and streams. Also, take time to soak up local culture.
"Our villagers are happy to talk to people coming from outside," said Rayen, a "social entrepreneur" who staffs the resort with local workers. "We have been promoting the Cherrapunjee market (held every eight days), which provides a peek into the lifestyle of the people."
Cost: Accommodations range from about $8.50 a night for a dormitory bed to about $70 for an executive bed.
Jules' Undersea Lodge (jul.com) in Key Largo, Fla., is a getaway for divers and nondivers alike.
Located in a 30-foot-deep lagoon — and 30 feet below sea level — the former research facility has been converted into a resort that can accommodate two couples. There are two 8-by-10 bedrooms and an 8-by-20 common room for shared entertainment and dining. There are hot showers, a kitchen, books, music and videos, all under the sea.
Visitors don't have to be certified divers, though those who aren't must take a three-hour course ($120) for safety and legal reasons. You do have to dive to enter the lodge; there's also instruction on that. If you don't want to swim outside, you can stay in the chamber, listen to "The Little Mermaid" soundtrack and watch various aquatic life, such as Goliath grouper, nurse sharks, snapper and parrot fish, among others, swim by your picture window.
Cost: Rates range from $125 for the three-hour Mini-Adventure to $1,395 for the Ultimate Romantic Getaway Package, a one-night stay for two.
There are plenty of trips to out-of-the-way locales. We like the Russian Far East excursion that Zegrahm Expeditions has put together for 2013. The 21-day journey starts from Anchorage and visits such remote locations as Provideniya, Natalia Bay, the Chazma River, Shumshu Island and Chirpoy Island. The trip is on a deluxe expedition ship that accommodates 100 passengers and has a lounge, bar (with piano), library and dining room. There also is an outdoor restaurant and an observation and sun deck. Passengers can go ashore to explore wildlife and World War II ruins or meet nomadic reindeer herders or other native people.
Cost: Not yet determined
There have been various ice hotels, obviously, but this hotel has comfy conventional rooms, not ice. And we like the location, away from the madding crowds of Norway'sNorth Cape. The Hotel Arctic in Greenland sits some 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Visitors fly into the airport at Kangerlussuaq, connect for a one-hour flight to Ilulissat (population 4,546), then drive to the Hotel Arctic.
Or they can hit Iceland first, a popular stop for Americans, and then fly from Reykjavik Airport direct into Ilulissat, a three-hour flight. The typical stay is three to five days.
Located on Disko Bay, the four-star hotel features gourmet cuisine, well-appointed rooms (wood floors, large windows overlooking the water, TVs, radio and other creature comforts) and a conference center. From May through September, the hotel also has metal igloos. Gawk at icebergs and wildlife (seals, whales, musk ox, reindeer) or go hiking, dog-sledding or sailing. The Ilulissat Icefjord is a popular attraction.
"The icefjord has since 2004 been on (the) UNESCO World Heritage list," said hotel spokesman Erik Bjerregaard. People generally hike a lot along the northern shore of the icefjord, watching the big floating icebergs."
Cost: Single rooms start at around $235.
We had to throw this one in because it's just so, so salty. The Palacio De Sal Hotel and Spa in Uyuni, Bolivia, is built from salt. The walls, floors, ceilings, most of the furniture, all made from salt blocks. Located at the edge of Salar de Uyuni, the world's largest salt flat, the 5-year-old hotel sits at around 12,000 feet. Also on site: a par-36, 9-hole golf course open May through November.