Check In: In Iceland’s Wild West, High Style and High Comfort
From 33,800 Icelandic krona (about $295).
Just an hour and 40 minutes’ drive from Reykjavik, the recreational area known as Husafell has long been beloved by Icelanders as a base camp for outdoorsy exploits: You’ll find lava caves and waterfalls nearby, as well as Langjokull glacier, one of Iceland’s largest. The same local family has run Husafell’s campgrounds and cottages for seven generations. In 2015, they opened a hydro-powered luxury lodge, and last August added a new wing with guest rooms that have connecting doors, ideal for family travel. The property now offers 48 sleek, minimalist rooms that overlook the surrounding mountains. Its locavore restaurant alone is worth the drive. The lobby and guest rooms are dotted with artworks inspired by Icelandic sagas; they are by Pall Gudmundsson, a local artist known for carving faces (of everyone from famous Vikings to Björk) into the valley’s boulders. There is free, fast Wi-Fi, and a traditional Icelandic breakfast spread is included in the rate.
The hotel is a starting point for the Into the Glacier tour, a guided hike into man-made ice tunnels within Langjokull glacier (tickets to the touristy — but reportedly must-do — excursion sell out quickly, so book early). You’re also a six-minute drive from Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls, where a turquoise river tumbles over volcanic cliffs.
Because we stayed during a late December lull, the hotel upgraded us to a 301-square-foot deluxe room, which had floor-to-ceiling windows, a chair wrapped in Icelandic sheepskin and two drawings, made with crushed stone on paper, by Mr. Gudmundsson. The Siberian larch wood floors set a warm tone, and the wall cabinets by the door kept us organized.
It seemed larger (almost) than our New York apartment, with a separate rain shower and bathtub, a pair of sinks and ceramic-tile heated floors that have spoiled me for life. I loved the locally made Soley toiletries — scented with wild Icelandic birch — and the glass candleholders shaped like a splash of water.
Four geothermal pools sit just outside the main lobby, and were sorely in need of an upgrade; the pools and bath house were built in 1965, and the transition from new luxury hotel to yesteryear felt a little jarring. Hotel officials said renovations will come later this year. Still, even as is, they’re blissfully hot — and a prime viewing spot for aurora borealis on a clear night (the front desk clerks will call to rouse you if they’re active). In the near-constant daylight of summer, the on-site nine-hole golf course has midnight tee times.
The restaurant, with its open gas fireplace and fur-topped stools, felt like a five-star Nordic bistro on vacation in a Swiss ski chalet. The ptarmigan, an Arctic grouse, and wild goose soup is served with Jerusalem artichokes, mascarpone and locally picked crowberries; the whipped butter is topped with flecks of beetroot-seasoned local sea salt; the grilled langoustine is dotted with creamy, dreamy hollandaise. (None of this is cheap; main courses averaged 6,000 krona. Next time, we’ll stop at the closest grocery store, 50 minutes away in Borgarnes, to load up on snacks so we don’t order as much.) The free breakfast buffet included house-made breads; tomatoes and cucumbers grown in a geothermally heated greenhouse; smoked Icelandic salmon; and shots of cod liver oil — the local version of an apple a day. It all felt so comfortable and homey that we often noticed Icelandic guests tiptoeing around in their socks.
Lodging here felt like staying with a wealthy aunt who loves nature and good food. I could have moved in.
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