My Favourite Hotels and Hostels

If you read my earlier post on why I don’t like Airbnb, you  already know that I prefer hotels over the home/apartment style accommodation. I find hotels and increasingly the hostels (few notes about how hostels are evolving) to be great sources of inspiration for some of my design choices at my own apartment. As a result, I wanted to keep a list of some of my favorite hotels and also introduce those to you. The list is being regularly updated to include new hotels that I periodically add to the Sleep section.

Isfjord Radio Hotel

The loneliest yet – probably! – the most amazing hotel in the World. It is just sitting on the far end of the World  in – literally – the middle of nowhere in Svalbard. Isfjord Radio Hotel is run by the Base Camp Explorer Group that has properties in two countries, Kenya and Svalbard. You can get to this wonderful hotel either on a speed boat cruising the Arctic sea if it is summer or on a snow mobile if you are in Svalbard in winter.  Always departing from Longyearbyen. The hotel also offers gourmet style dining and you can easily spot reindeers from inside the hotel. This can also be the case with polar bears – so you are not allowed to get out of the hotel on your own without a guide carrying a riffle. For further reading – you can check out my Svalbard post.

Kilima Camp – Masai Mara

Tent v. lodge.  Not maybe for your entire trip as it is considerably more expensive than lodge style accommodation but you have to try, at least for part of your trip, a tent style accommodation during your safari trip to Kenya. Kilima Camp in Masai Mara with its location overlooking the entire valley is a great option. You will feel like living in the movie Out of Africa and trust me, no exaggeration here. Do not be afraid though if giraffes meet you at the door when you walk back into your tent in the afternoon. As for the night, you are not allowed to walk back to your room on your own. 

Nobis Hotel – Stockholm, Sweden

Hotel with a design but more importantly a striking history. Nobis Hotel, which now occupies the building where the bank robbery giving rise to the concept of Stockholm Syndrome took is a combination of everything Stockholm (mu favorite Scandinavian capital) has to offer. It is stylish with full of character. Hard to beat the location as well – overlooking one of the best squares in Stockholm.

Aoni Onsen in Aomori, Japan

I think onsen hotels, which are located outside of the main onsen towns offer a more intense and unique experience compared to staying in an onsen town (such as Yunomino along Kumano Kodo route). Aoni Onsen is a wonderful destination in any season but especially in autumn where the fall colors flushing out of the surrounding forest enhances your time in the hot waters. The onsen is also friendly to solo travelers. They offer single room rates and it makes a big difference since most onsen hotels in Japan ask you to pay the price of a double room even if you travel solo.

Ace Hotels 

Welcome to Portlandia. Base yourself at Ace Hotel located in the Pearl district of Portland and you will get a great sense of Portland even if you do not walk out of the hotel (as it is sometimes hard to walk out of the hotel during those super cold winter days of Portland). I can say that staying at Ace Hotel in Portland was an experience on its own. There are Ace Hotels also in Seattle, NYC, Los Angeles, New Orleans, London, Palm Springs and – do not be surprised – in Panama and now also in Kyoto, Japan. I stayed at many Ace Hotels so far and their Portland and New Orleans properties are my favorites.

Joki-in Temple in Koyasan

Not a hotel per se but Joki-in Temple located in temple town of Koyasan offers paid accommodation like many of the other Koyasan temples. Is is a unique experience since you are allowed to attend the early morning prayers. I spent two nights at Joki-in during a winter visit to Koyasan following a walk on the Nakahechi Route of Kumano Kodo. You can also add dinner and breakfast to your booking. This is highly recommend. Shojin ryori (Buddhist cuisine) is entirely vegetarian and is based on five flavors and five colors. The preparation of the meal is approached as a religious practice. The crucial point is to ensure a certain level of harmony between the seasons and the food consumed.  In addition to fish and meat, ingredients such as garlic and onions are also excluded due to their heavy smell and the discomfort that they trigger in human body.

Kiri no Sato – Takahara, Japan

Another wonderful place from my first Kumano Kodo walk. Located in Takahara – Kiri no Sato is a wonderful facility where each of the rooms overlook the wonderful valley. Please make sure to get up early for the morning fog. You will reach Kiri no Sato following a short but very steep hike from Takijiri if you are doing walking Nakahechi Route of Kumano Kodo and you will really appreciate their onsen with a view after the hike. Even if you are not walking Kumano Kodo, I still highly recommend Kiri no Sato for a nature retreat with good views, amazing food, atmospheric small onsen and the surrounding forests.

Hotel Anteroom – Kyoto, Japan

Hotel Anteroom is surprisingly affordable for Japan, yet still amazing. I last stayed at Anteroom in January 2015 and paid around USD 60 for a single room per night. You know it is a great deal for a hotel of this quality if you have ever been to Japan. Anteroom is about ten minutes away from Kyoto train station on foot and is not in the middle of the touristic areas but with the price and its stylish design, it will always be my top choice in Kyoto. I about a year ago wrote a separate post just devoted to Hotel Anteroom in Kyoto.

Eliassen Rorbuer – Lofoten Islands, Norway

I daydream about many places but I think Lofoten comes up on the top of my daydream locations and specifically this spot that I have been lucky enough to visit twice in my life. This rorbuer complex offers great accomodation right in Hamnoy (for me the most picturesque area in Lofoten Islands) in cabins where you get your own kitchen, bedroom and small living room. There is a also a restaurant nearby which is an important bonus as the number of restaurants is quite limited in Lofoten Islands especially if you are in Moskenes area. Norway is my all time favourite travel destination on Earth and I separately wrote about the great Eliassen Rorbuer

The Burrard – Vancouver, Canada

The layout of the Burrard reminds me of the motel where the movie the Identity took place. It looks more like a motel rather than a motel. Quirky decoration and colors but more importantly, a 24 hours open coffee house is attached to the hotel. It comes very handy if you did not yet beat your jet-lag. Very reasonably prices – yet sufficiently well designed and walking distance to major Vancouver attractions.

Kochi no Ya Hostel – Aki, Japan

One of my all time favorite hostels. Very friendly owner, reasonable pricing policy including a single room and a great town. Kochi no Ya Hostel offers you a great one day or multi-day base during your Shikoku walk if you need to take a break from walking and recharged in a town full with amenities including various eateries and site visits such as Ioki Cave. 

Sofitel Legend Hotel – Hanoi, Vietnam

Another hotel with a lot of character and history. I think Sofitel – being a hotel chain – is doing a fairly good job in bringing out the characteristics of the place where their hotels are located at. Sofitel Legend in Hanoi is a great example of that. A hotel with a bomb shelter from the American War, which inspired the famous Joan Baez song – Where Are You Now, My Son?

The Pelham Hotel – London, UK

It probably rarely gets any more Londoner than the Pelham. I am not a fan of London but sure a fan of this hotel located in South Kensington. It has a nice little sitting area downstairs where you can also enjoy some drinks in an absolute British environment.

Belludi 37 – Padova, Italy

If you are going to Venice, you should consider staying in Padova which is 25 minutes train ride away from Venice. Much cheaper accommodation, nice little town but more importantly – amazing quality/price parity for Italy. When I travel to Venice, I always stay at Belludi 37 and go on day trips to Venice on a train and if I stay long enough, I usually spend a lazy day in Padova, both enjoying its small town charm and the amazing Belludi 37. Even the tiniest rooms in Belludi 37 has a proper desk that you can use to work, photo editing or whichever way you want, which makes it a really ideal base for me and the hotel also has a great breakfast.

Buri Rasa – Koh Phangan, Thailand

At the quite end of Koh Phangan, Buri Rasa is the perfect place for a great beach retreat. Spacious rooms and very tranquil environment. As we are walking about Thailand, I don’t need to say how nice the entire hotel staff is. You can also rent a long tail boat right from the hotel and go to the Bottle Beach, which is a quite and more hipster type beach for those who want to get a feeling of the movie the Beach.

Claska Hotel – Tokyo, Japan

Update – closed as of December 2020 and continues as a lifestyle brand. I still wanted to live in the list hoping someday they will make a come back! In Meguro neighbourhood of Tokyo, Hotel Claska is a great find from Tablet Hotels. Very stylishly design and has good food facilities and an amazing online store where you can buy good priced handmade goods (bags etc.). This hotel reminded a lot of Anteroom in Kyoto as it is again not in the most central part of the city but still easily accessible and with a great price for a quality of its level.  I think I will at some point complement this list of my favorite hotels with a list of my favorite hostels.