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Germany's Pleasure Dome

Retired Article • Written by Alan Bellows

In the northeastern portion of Germany, about thirty-six miles southeast of Berlin, a passenger train and shuttle service delivers men, women, and children to the door of one of the most voluminous structures on the planet. They arrive throughout the day and night, every day of the year. The enormous dome stands 350 feet tall, and encloses 194 million cubic feet of space. It was originally commissioned by CargoLifter AG as a hangar for their heavy-lift airship concept, but their dirigible was never developed, and the company went bankrupt in 2002. The following year, Malaysian Tanjong company purchased the gigantic building and filled it with something never before seen in northeast Germany: tropical paradise.

Tropical Islands Resort is an artificial exotic island environment which includes a rain forest, beaches, artificial sunlight, palm trees, orchids, and ambient birdsong. A large portion of the south side is is made up of transparent panels, allowing natural sunlight to help brighten the interior during the day. The internal temperature is always kept at a comfortable 77-82 degrees Fahrenheit with 50-60% air humidity year-round, regardless of the weather outdoors.

The resort's builders have engineered what amounts to a miniature ecosystem. About 80% of the resort's 66,000 square meters of floor space is used for "green space," which includes more than 500 species of plants, including palm trees, orchids, and other tropical vegetation. Water from the pools is reclaimed to water the plant life, which grows in a rich, custom-made soil made up of sand, organic waste, clay, and tree bark. The dome's transparent panels are also UV permeable, exposing the plants to natural sunlight and allowing the building to operate as a giant greenhouse. Some have said that the interior's high humidity causes water condensation on the inside of the dome, which collects for some time before finally falling. This produces light, spontaneous rain showers on occasion, adding to the ambiance of the place.

The interior of the Tropical Islands Dome as seen from above
The interior of the Tropical Islands Dome as seen from above

The resort includes a "Balinese lagoon" with whirlpools and a waterfall, a "south sea" with an 8,000 square meter sand beach, a tropical village, and a rainforest section with winding walkways. It offers all of the benefits of a Caribbean cruise without ever leaving port, including the tourist-tailored, stereotyped culture. You can't beat that with a palm frond.

If you happen to be in Europe already, the price of a train ticket and admission is probably considerably less money than flying to a real tropical island... of course a genuine island offers blue skies and full sunlight in place of gray girders and perpetual overcast, but this place seems to make for a decent substitute. Even if artificial tropical paradise isn't your cup of tea, it may be worth seeing just to marvel at the magnitude of the structure and the engineering.

The dome can host up to 7,000 visitors at once, and it has a staff of about 500. The resort offers restaurants, shopping, tanning, stage entertainment, and overnight camping on Paradise beach. Admission is 18.50 Euro (about $23) on weekdays, and 23.50 Euro (about $29) on weekends, which includes an unlimited stay including all shows. Much like a real tropical island, Tropical Islands Resort is open around the clock, every day of the year. They also offer two other services which make for a brilliant combination: a day care center, and seven fully stocked bars. Sign me up.

More info:
Online tour of the resort
Photo of the dome interior before Tropical Islands construction
Wikipedia article on Tropical Islands Resort

Article written by Alan Bellows, published on 07 April 2006. Alan is the founder/designer/head writer/managing editor of Damn Interesting.

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Posted 07 April 2006 at 11:32 pm

I received a power point presentation (pictures) of this about 6 months ago. I am amazed that you did an article on it but that is what you guys do, bring the weird, the wild and the stuff found off the beaten path to an audience close by. Good job.

Now if they could only move that North Korean hotel inside you could book me a room.

Posted 08 April 2006 at 01:17 am

It's surprising how inexpensive it is. I was waiting to see an astronomical cost. Next time I'm in Europe I will definitely try to check this out. Damn good post.

Posted 08 April 2006 at 02:43 am

Arcangel, any chance you can send me that PPS/PPT file to me? A good friend is heading to Germany
soon for her first visit and I'd love for her to see it. Already sent her the DI link here. Simply add to my ID above. Thanks!

BTW I'd be afraid to step inside anything the NKers built!

Posted 08 April 2006 at 05:38 am

I'm glad you clarified the color of the walls and ceiling because after looking at the picture, I asked myself, "Does that grey go all the way to the top?" You think they'd hang a cheap, baby blue, nylon mesh along the walls to simulate the sky to some degree. It'd be easier, faster, and probably cheaper than painting it.

Posted 08 April 2006 at 07:04 am

I live in Berlin, and although I didn't visit the Tropical Islands Resort my sister reports that, at least a couple of months ago when the place just openend, it was rather chilly, the service unsatisfying, and the plants too scarce to cover the ground. Furthermore the bars are very expensive, probably to cover the costs of heating the huge structure

Sandra Thurston
Posted 08 April 2006 at 09:33 am

Damn cool!!!

Posted 08 April 2006 at 03:53 pm

Great, we can't keep tropical paradises alive in the tropics, so we will just save a couple under glass.

Posted 08 April 2006 at 04:31 pm


Shades of Silent Running! If not familiar you need to find it and watch it. I am by no means a 'tree hugger'
but this is an interesting and quite sad movie. One of the few Bruce Dern movies I can think of where he's not a complete psychopath.


another viewpoint
Posted 09 April 2006 at 07:22 am

Tropical Islands...geez Toto, I guess we're not in Kansas anymore!

Let's see, high temps, higher humidities...just like some places during the Summertime in the good ole US of A...and without the cover. Doesn't that just burst your bubble?

Posted 09 April 2006 at 09:55 am

Alan Bellows says: “It was originally commissioned by CargoLifter AG as a hangar for their heavy-lift airship concept… “

I thought the airship to be more interesting than its parking place: The Zeppelin (CL160) the CargoLifters were planning to build would have been capable of hauling up to 160 tons of cargo over 10000 km. It would have measured 260m in length w/a diameter of 65m and weighed about 260 tons (empty). It’s max. speed should’ve been 125km/h (~78 Mls/h) at an max. altitude of 2000m.

The feedback from the public and industry was all great. They build and tested a smaller version which actually worked and had already finished some parts of the actual airship but people stopped investing. Some corrupt politicians and mismanagement were also involved in the bankruptcy. The hangar is what is left. The U.S. Army now tries to build s. th. very similar (read article ‘Buoyancy bounces back’).

Also: “the price of a train ticket and admission is probably considerably less money than flying to a real tropical island…“ I wish this was actually true. In reality a flight to Germany’s favorite holiday resorts (e.g. Ibiza, Mallorca etc.) is just as much or even less than a train ticket to them Tropical Islands Resort (if you don’t happen to live in that area).

As a German student I enjoy 25% off of all train tickets and yet it is cheaper to crank up my twenty year-old Chevy and drive there than taking the train. And we’re paying almost 5 bucks a gallon these days!!! Going by plain is often the cheapest way of traveling here. I know that sounds nuts but, hey, we’re talking about Germany!

Posted 10 April 2006 at 12:13 am

5 bucks a gallon! geez i thought 3 was bad.

another viewpoint said: "Tropical Islands…geez Toto, I guess we're not in Kansas anymore!

Let's see, high temps, higher humidities…just like some places during the Summertime in the good ole US of A…and without the cover. Doesn't that just burst your bubble?"

since its germany, its cold? so its surprising to have tropical areas in a snowy place.

Posted 10 April 2006 at 06:26 am

Well, it’s not like we were Siberia. In the Winter it goes down to about 10° to 14°, in the Summer it goes up to about a 100° Fahrenheit. So it is an all moderate climate.

As a counterbalance to the Tropical Islands Resort we also have the longest indoor ski slope of the world: The ‘Alpincenter’ near the city of Bottrop. It features a 640m slope (30m wide) with about 40cm of snow under your ski. You can go there all around the year.

Now if you add the amount of energy we need to heat up them tropics and cool down that Alpincenter then you know why we’re paying 5 bucks a gallon!

Also, I think, it becomes obvious that the Malaysian investors of the Tropical Islands Resort were tired of the masses of misbehaving German tourists lumbering through their beautiful country every year. So they just used globalization against us and sourced the tourist business out to somewhere near the customer. I bet the investors of the ski slope are Swiss.

Posted 19 April 2006 at 11:20 am

Sandra Thurston said: "Damn cool!!!"

You mean, "Damn interesting!!!"

Posted 19 April 2006 at 12:06 pm

If I went I would for sure do the Safety Dance. heheheh

Posted 03 June 2007 at 11:14 am

Heh heh heh... Xanadu and Kubla Khan...

Beautiful Confusion
Posted 20 August 2007 at 08:50 am

So did no one else think of the movie Bio-Dome while reading this?

Posted 17 March 2008 at 09:13 am

The_Smurf_Strangler said: "If I went I would for sure do the Safety Dance. heheheh"


Posted 09 August 2008 at 03:46 pm

There... is... no... sanctuary... oh hey, let's go to the pleasure dome instead!

Posted 05 January 2009 at 09:56 pm

Sounds like where I live.. only far less awesome

Posted 28 May 2009 at 05:03 am

ballaerina said: "It's surprising how inexpensive it is. I was waiting to see an astronomical cost. Next time I'm in Europe I will definitely try to check this out. Damn good post."

I went there this past weekend. It's very expensive don't let the admission fool you. They give you a bracelet and in their broken english tell you, "This is how you get onto the rides... yea?" What they don't tell you is they charge you everytime you go through a gate to get to the ride and have you to pay as you leave.

It all adds up very fast. The next thing you know you are paying 60+ euros, which is about 85$, for a waterpark.

As a visitor from Florida I see it as outrageously expensive. Considering I can enjoy a full day of unlimited rides at Wet N' Wild, with a given soda can, for 20$. And for an extra 13 I can purchase a year long pass allowing me to return whenever I want for free.


Posted 28 May 2009 at 06:40 am

Well of course it will be cheaper to operate a tropical resort in Florida than it is in northern Germany.
Also, if they didn't tell you they charge extra for each ride (and there were no signs informing you) then you probably needn't have paid. This would be fraud under german law.
However as the operators know this, I'm quite sure there were signs that you overlooked.

Nicolo Ciccaglione
Posted 17 March 2014 at 12:26 pm

I live in a waterfront resort community in Ontario Canada. I have been in tourism accommodations (design built and operating) a modest waterfront Villa Resort since 2000. we have 2 maybe good months for beach & and little else to do here, and then we starve the rest of the year. Adventure tourism is badly needed, This Dome a Tropical waterpark - open to the Public at S85.00 per person CAN with up to 7000 daily guests would be a smash Hit in "my little town that could" value added much needed attractions to our struggling town. creating spin off commercial, retail, quality accommodations, More Adventure attractions, New year-round businesses providing good paying jobs and promise to young families beyond comprehension... within a few short years. I mean if they are building an OLG Casino, a Festival square, with a "they will come if you build it" come visit us mind set, as we showcase the World's Longest Freshwater Beach here in Wasaga Beach, and the Dome! An 8th wonder of the world, so to speak, the town would be proud to the likes of that kind of attention, a natural fit for the worlds bio-sphere region on the world stage, a new idea with an abundant of family and tourist dollars YEAR-ROUND. I have a vision, I can dream can't I! anyone know their phone number or e-mail address ... I think I am on to something here...see you at the dome!

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