The world’s most fantastic hostels

Hostels run the gamut. They can be the worst, flea-bitten dorm room from hell, or they can be the opportunity to sleep the night in a fantastic, historic building that would otherwise cost a fortune if it had been converted into a proper hotel instead.

I’m constantly amazed at the incredible real estate that hostel owners have managed to swoop up and convert into lovely places to stay for about $20 a night. Personally, I’ve enjoyed snoozing away in lighthouses, barns, castles, and mansions over the years. Sure, these are the exceptions to the hostel network, but when you do happen upon one, it possesses all the magic to transform your ordinary stay into a fantastic one.

Jason La, writing for the LA Times, also appreciates the finer hostels and has thoughtfully put together a listing of 10 unusual hostels around the world that include a 1000-year-old German castle, a 19th century Swedish prison (above), an 850-year-old Buddhist Temple in Japan, and a 19th century lighthouse in California, among others.

But keep in mind that he’s not the only one who knows about these gems; so does most any traveler carrying a guide book. So, be sure to book ahead!