Words by Christopher Rosa
Hotel Húsafell in West Iceland is just a 90-minute drive from the capital Reykjavik and sits on the edge of the dramatic Central Highlands and in the shadow of Europe’s third largest glacier, Langjokull.
As can be expected, given its stunning geographical location, guests can indulge in an extraordinary range of outdoors activities from snowmobiling on the nearby glacier to taking a therapeutic dip in a nearby hot spring dramatically located within a secret hidden canyon.
Aside from the Langjokull glacier, the immediate area is home to Iceland’s largest lava cave, Vidgelmir, the spectacular Hraunfossar waterfall and the Krauma baths, a 25-minute drive from Hotel Húsafell. The area is criss-crossed with 10 extensive hiking trails which has made it a very popular destination in the summer months.
However, due to the sheer expanse of the land here, it never feels crowded compared to some of the other sought after destinations in this part of Iceland on tourist itineraries. Come autumn and winter, the crystal clear night skies and zero light pollution offer incredible views of the heavens and the Northern Lights. Hotel Húsafell even has a concierge service that will call your room to alert you when the elusive, spectral Aurora makes its appearance.
Opened in 2015, the 48 room hotel is spread out over a large area and includes two naturally heated swimming pools, two hot tubs and a nine-hole golf course. The design of the resort is pared down Scandinavian chic.
The stone and glass lodge blends seamlessly into the surrounding evocative landscape of dense woodland, lava formations, translucent water springs and incredible canyons. The striking artwork and stone sculptures that can be seen throughout the hotel are by Páll Gudmundsson, one of Iceland’s most revered living artists, who has his studio and home literally across the road from the hotel.
The bright, modern, tastefully decorated standard rooms are spacious with comfortable beds and come with a flat screen television and coffee and tea maker. Bathrooms are spacious and come with locally crafted Sóley soaps and shampoos.
All superior deluxe and suites have their own private terraces. The large suite has its own private patio, a separate bedroom, living room and dressing room.
Food and drink
Hotel Húsafell has two bistro style restaurants. The main dining room has a large, cosy fireplace, perfect for the cold dark winters. Panoramic windows offer undisturbed 180 degree views of the landscape and glacier. The menu serves traditional Icelandic fayre with a twist sourcing local salmon, artic char, organic lamb and vegetables. There is a very popular five-course tasting menu, with drinks pairing. The restaurant offers a healthy children’s menu.
After a day of hiking, we chose from the menu a shared starter of mouth-watering king crab with green apples, parsley, celery, spring onions and freshly baked brioche. Our hearty mains included lamb sirloin with garlic spices and green tomatoes and a very tasty vegetarian dish of asparagus with morels, potato puree, avocados and wild garlic.
Dessert was rhubarb with vanilla parfait, strawberry, and puff pastry with liquorice. Liquorice is a favourite in Iceland and locals add it to everything from chocolate to even salt! Breakfast is served continental-style with vegetarian options as well as a full English breakfast variety.
A highlight of our stay was a guided hike by a local farmer to the breath-taking and isolated Húsafell canyon baths where you can soak in the hot cleansing waters and enjoy the magnificence of the canyons. We were transported from the hotel to the foot of the canyon by a people carrier on a road that went along the sprightly fast running Hvíta River. We passed still revered mythical elf stones that the road deliberately curves around in order to not disturb their supernatural inhabitants.
We turned off up onto a mountain track dotted with surreally coloured rocks. On arrival it was a short gentle hike past glacial streams and the spectacular two-tiered waterfall Langifoss, that is lit up on winter nights. Above us was Okjökull, the first glacier in Iceland to lose its status due to climate change. We soon found ourselves descending the canyon down 64 steps where we found the privately owned baths.
Constructed from locally sourced flagstone from the canyon floor, the baths are hot-spring fed pools that blend seamlessly into the canyon and evoke Snorralaug, a heritage site pool dating back to the 10th century. After changing in the gorgeous wood huts, made from locally salvaged timber, we had the choice of two geothermal pools of varying temperatures, 30 to 41°C, and a cold-water spring at 10°C. As we enjoyed the waters our friendly local farmer guide regaled sagas of this magical area as the dusk slowly descended on us.
In a nutshell
A unique luxury lodge that is fully self-sustainable and powered solely by geothermal energy, Hotel Húsafell is a nature lover’s dream.
Rooms start from £300 pppn and are bookable via the hotel’s website.