I thought it might be handy to list the various places I stayed (in case anyone is interested, and also as a reminder to myself in case I go back to any of them!)
I stayed in two different places in Stockholm. The first part of the trip, I stayed at the Browallshof – recently refurbished and renamed. This hotel is a little way out from the centre, but easily reached on the subway – take the red line towards Morby and get off at Tekniska Hogskolan, it’s less than 10 minutes walk. I had a basement room, but it was beautifully decorated in quite a dark colour scheme. The internet was fast, bathroom and shower decent. Breakfast was a small buffet each morning and perfectly adequate.
On my return to Stockholm I stayed in the Nordic C Hotel. This is located close to the station (right outside the door of the Arlanda Express train), but was a much larger hotel and therefore less personal. The room was still well designed but in a much more clinical, minimalist way. Breakfast was again a decent buffet, but with a lot more people, and less relaxing.
I stayed in three places while in Norway. The first was for just one night, to break up the journey from Kiruna, the Brygga Hotel in Lodingen. This hotel was pretty basic, but broke the journey up at the right place. Breakfast was still a decent buffet, and the wifi worked ok, but there’s little else to say. It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t wonderful. When I arrived everything was locked up and I had to ring a number and wait 15 minutes for the owner to arrive- the joys of off season! There was an Italian restaurant across the road, so food was still accessible.
Next up, I stayed several nights at a cabin in Ramberg. Ramberg Gjesetgard has several cabins, a restaurant, and a campsite, all located by the large white sand beach. The cabin was pretty well appointed, with two bedrooms (comfy single beds), a nice living area, decent wifi, and cooking facilities (two hot-plates, a fridge, kettle etc.) – things missing from the kitchen for me were a toaster (I like toast…) and a measuring jug, but otherwise I got by ok. The shower was in the same small “wet room” as the toilet but worked well. I didn’t use the restaurant – I’d planned to use it on my last night but it closed on Mondays. There was a reasonable supermarket within walking distance.
For the final two nights of Norway, I stayed in Det Gamle Hotellet (“The Old Hotel”). Located in the centre of the village of Reine, this guesthouse has several rooms on the 1st and 2nd floors. I was in a small single room on the top floor. It was basic (no TV in the room for example) but the basic decor fitted the style of the hundred or so year old wooden building. The owner lives here, and you have the feeling of being in someone’s home (in a good way)- the host is friendly and helpful. The main downside here from my point of view was the shared bathroom facilities (although when I stayed it was quiet enough I didn’t have to wait at all). The wifi works fine. There’s also no breakfast available (although tea/coffee/biscuits are available 24 hours a day in the communal area on the first floor). Being out of season, the local restaurant was not open, but I managed to find hot food on offer in the petrol station opposite. Next door is also a brilliant little cafe/gift shop/florist which is well worth a visit.
Returning to Stockholm involved me driving back to Kiruna. Unlike on the outbound journey I didn’t need to stop half-way, as my flight was very early in the morning and I had all day to drive back, so I stayed in Kiruna itself at the Hotel Arctic Eden. A fairly anonymous hotel, the room was actually large, comfortable, and a nice design with sloping wooden walls and well designed lighting. The restaurant was closed due to refurbishment but a little Thai place next door served good food and was well attended by miners coming off shift from the nearby iron ore mine. I didn’t have breakfast as I had to leave too early, so I can’t comment on that.
My trip to Singapore started out rather eventfully, but I got there in the end. I had no choice of the accommodation here, as I was tagging along on my wife’s business trip and therefore stayed where she stayed! We were in the Fairmont Singapore – a large hotel in the Raffles complex. It was very well appointed (being 5-star rated) with an enormously comfortable bed (we overslept massively one day thanks to jetlag!) and a wide variety of restaurants available. Breakfast had pretty much everything on offer. The hotel was well located- open top tour buses stopped outside, and underneath was a large shopping centre with dozens of places to eat.
I stayed in a different place every day (apart from the last two nights) in Iceland, as I was travelling round.
Grundarfjörður – here, I stayed at the Hotel Framnes, close to the docks. The room was fairly basic but comfortable, with tea/coffee making facilities, (local) TV and a good size bathroom. The restaurant served delicious food from a limited menu, and breakfast was a good buffet.
Gullfoss – I stayed at Hotel Gullfoss, a couple of km from the waterfall. A nice room, furnished with aged furniture (like you might find in your Grandmothers house!). They were building a new wing which I guess will double the size. A nice restaurant with panoramic windows, and apparently hot-tubs out back where you can watch the northern lights, but I didn’t try this!
Vik – I didn’t actually stay in the village of Vik, but at the Grand Guesthouse Garðakot a few km to the west. The Guesthouse is located off the ring road on the small road to the Dyrholaey peninsula, and is in a converted old building a short distance from the owners’ home. The conversion is beautiful, this was probably the most luxurious place I stayed. I had a ground floor room with large private bathroom (upstairs rooms share one) and huge tv with satellite. There’s a large sitting area and table where breakfast is served to all the guests. The hosts were great, and gave me a little packet of black sand with their card in from the beach as a parting gift (I don’t know what to do with the sand, but it was a nice touch :)) No evening food here, but a petrol station and restaurant are nearby in Vik, and also a supermarket if you want to use the guesthouse cooking facilities.
Jokulsarlon – I stayed a 10 minute drive east from the glacier lagoon, at Skyrhúsid Guest House. Located in a tiny hamlet, where the main other buildings are the Hali Country Hotel, this guestouse had comfortable rooms with shared bathrooms. Again, I didn’t struggle to find a free time to use the shower or toilet, but I do still prefer private facilities! No TV or tea/coffee in the room, but downstairs there’s plenty of drink options you can help yourself to. I only met the owner as I left in the morning, but she seemed really friendly and helpful if you’d need anything. The restaurant at Hali was fine for dinner and breakfast and less than a minute walk away.
Fljótshlið – on my return west, I stayed at Hotel Fljótshlið – this was quite an amusing stop over as I was their only guest, so they’d basically stayed open just for me. I felt a bit guilty. They even cooked a three course dinner (albeit I had what I was given!) and put out the usual breakfast buffet. Really friendly staff, you get a great view south from here to Eyjafjallajökull and even Seljalandsfoss if you look closely. The room was large and comfortable and in summer months they have a kind of petting farm going on (the hotel is located on a farm). A little off the beaten track, which explains why it was quiet, but a nice place.
Sandgerdi – I stayed close to the airport as I had to drop the car back the next day. I didn’t stay in Sandgerdi itself, but at the cottages a little way north. Reminiscent of the cabin I had in Ramberg, but larger, this required a phone call on arrival for the owner to drive over. A friendly old chap, he shows you around and leaves you to it. There’s a supermarket in town. The cabin has wifi, TV with some channels in English, and is a good size. There’s a hot tub too, which again I didn’t use. Easy to find just off the main road, this is convenient for the airport.
Reykjavik – for the two nights in the city, we stayed at the City Center Hotel. Comfortable beds, satellite tv, this hotel was more traditionally a “city hotel”. It was also the only place I stayed where the water stank strongly of sulphur. We didn’t have breakfast in the hotel, finding places nearby instead. Located on the main street, you’re very close to the bars and nightlife. It wasn’t too noisy on the Thursday or Friday nights but might be a different story during summer months, so if you are worried about being kept awake then a hotel a bit further out might be advisable…
A note on the car – google car hire in Iceland and you’ll meet horror stories of huge bills and disasters. After some research I used Blue Car Rental. I had a Kia Sportage which was great- very well specced with heated everything, bluetooth, USB etc, and good performance. I didn’t use any F-roads (although this car is approved for them) but did use a fair few tracks and also used it to get to the plane on the black beach. The car was faultless. I took the “airport pick up” option, and was indeed met by a guy with a card with my name on. In future I’d probably just walk it (it’s only a few minutes away) but after an early flight with a heavy case it was appreciated. The agent walked me around the car to confirm all the existing damage (a few dinks here and there), and there were no problems at all on return.
Helsinki – in Helsinki, I stayed at the Scandic Paasi. Located in the north-east of the city centre, the single room I had was huge and very comfortable. No tea/coffee in the room would be my main complaint (although there’s a mini bar if you want). Friendly staff, great breakfast, and a nice quirky design were all plus points, and the lobby bar was nice to sit in when quiet (there seemed to be a large group of people there for a conference but they tended to vanish quite early, presumably for dinner somewhere). I walked to/from the hotel, but tram-stops are close by on the nearby main road (the hotel is in a quiet square).