Iceland’s hotels, welcome add to its grand splendor
Iceland’s hotels, welcome add to its grand splendor
01 MAY 2017 7:47 AM

Blue skies, hot springs, spiked tires and birdwatching are highlights of a memorable visit. 

I have just returned from 10 glorious days in beautiful Iceland.

I told myself that I wished to go back and see the countryside—not just fun, hip Reykjavík—after I attended the first Iceland Tourism Investment Conference & Exhibition in February.

As this website, and thus my blog, is about hotels, I shall keep these diary notes to the subject in hand.

There has been a mini-explosion in hotels in Reykjavik in the last 12 months, with Hilton itself opening the Canopy by Hilton Reykjavík City Center and planning two Curio properties, the Consulate Hotel Reykjavík and Iceland Parliament Hotel. The first of those two is a collaboration with Icelandair Hotels, the hotel wing of the national airline.

The Canopy property is right by the capital’s stunning Harpa Convention Center.

The Consulate hotel is due to open at the end of 2017; the Parliament one in 2018.

Another stunning hotel already open is the Fosshotel Reykjavík, with its attractive shell-like exterior and upper floors twisted into another plane from the bulk of the property. The domestic Fosshotel brand has 13 assets in Iceland.

Prices are high for most visitors, though.

First Icelandic tip: If you decide to visit, enjoy the experience and do not start calculating exchange rates.

The glorious hinterlands
My choice was to head north to the Westfjörðs, but that plan lasted all of two hours.

Second Icelandic tip: In April, a car with four-wheel drive or at least spiked winter tires is necessary. Car rental companies at the international airport in Keflavík might be deemed more responsible if they stressed the need for upgrades depending on where the guest is headed.

So I headed east to beautiful Lake Mývatn and its geothermic hot springs and boiling mud and steam landscapes. As some of you might have discerned, birding is a passion of mine, and I can happily report that I saw what might have been the first Harlequin duck and Slavonian, or horned, grebe to arrive back in Iceland.

Another domestic chain, Keahotels, was evident in Mývatn and also in Iceland’s second city, Akureyri.

Third Icelandic tip: Every country has a saying that if you do not like its weather, wait five minutes, but in Iceland that is truer than most. The severity of its weather two minutes after all appears bucolic makes that adage more pressing. To get from Varmahlið to Akureyri, for example, it is necessary to cross the Öxnadalsheiði plateau-mountain, and snow was blowing horizontally over the road when I crossed it. A good phone number to remember is 1777, which links drivers with the very nice English-speaking people at the Iceland Road & Coastal Administration. It has a website that every 10 minutes updates the weather as it relates to the country’s roads.

Hoteliers at such places as the Brimnes Hotels & Cabins and Gauksmýri Lodge could not have been more kind and explained what I might be expecting to relieve anxiety and allow a vacation to be enjoyed. They were so nice I am highlighting their websites.

Iceland is superbly geared for hotel stays, and while some building might appear a little uninspired, the welcome inside is genuinely and wonderfully hospitable.

Gauksmýri even has its own birding hide complete with telescope. I rest my case. At Brimnes, happy skiers with their skis wrapped in “skeletons” traipsed up mountains for three hours and whizzed down in five minutes—all were very happy travelers.

The Brimnes Hotel & Cabins (pictured are its cabins) has an enviable spot between a lake and a fjord, and the hoteliers are happy to help with driving and sightseeing advice. (Photo: Terence Baker)

As a treat on the last day of my jaunt—did I say that the combination of blue sky, sunshine and snowy mountainsides in April is a joy beyond words?—I treated myself to a stay at the Hótel Buðír on the Snaefellsnes peninsula, which is just north of Reykjavík so spring was very much in evidence.

This hotel has a good restaurant and a superb spot by a lava field where a small river enters a fjord. I capped my wonderful journey of hotel stays with views of grey seal, white-tailed eagle and white-beaked dolphins.

My best Icelandic tip: And this is one the locals will probably detest me for divulging, but the infinity edge-style hot pool of Hofsós that overlooks the Skagafjörður fjord, more snowy mountains and the island of Drangey is a modern wonder of the world for weary hotel-goers or those just enjoying the spectacular wonders of this unique island.

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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