With its active volcanoes, dramatic waterfalls, and secret hot springs, Iceland’s rugged natural beauty is often described as nothing short of other-worldly. Transcendent landscapes aside, the Nordic country is also considered one of the best places in the world to catch a glimpse of the elusive aurora borealis.
And while countless local outfitters across the island can organise private tours and multi-day excursions searching for the ephemeral natural phenomenon, at Hotel Rangá, guests simply have to press a button on their room phone to receive the Northern Lights wake up call.
Due to its secluded countryside location providing less light pollution, the odds of viewing the northern lights are optimal at Hotel Rangá, but owner and general manager Friðrik Palsson says the experience is never guaranteed.
“Oftentimes, the colourful lights appear late at night and sometimes unexpectedly. To ensure our guests didn’t miss an opportunity to see them, we wanted to provide an amenity that allowed us to alert interested visitors of their presence,” he says of the hugely popular concierge-style service.
Located about two hours from Reykjavík, between the towns of Hella and Hvolsvöllur, the four-star hotel boasts plenty of other thoughtful features. Perhaps the most standout is the state-of-the-art observatory staffed by a local astronomer who provides guest tours of the constellations and tells celestial stories about the night sky using high-spec telescopes. Weather permitting, one-on-one sessions can also be booked for a more intimate understanding of the cosmos.
When it comes to day-time activities, Palsson and his team can help to tailor a wide range of guest adventures from jeep tours, glacier walks, and fly-fishing to snorkelling between the tectonic plates. After a day spent exploring the secluded rural paradise of southern Iceland, a soak in one of Rangá’s geothermally heated hot tubs followed by drinks at the second-floor lounge bar – and perhaps a frame of pool in the games room before dinner – await back at the hotel.
Renowned for its seven signature themed continental suites that take guests from Africa to Antarctica, the property recently unveiled its new Icelandic Suite alongside a unique opportunity for guests to indulge in the ultimate Icelandic experience with the aptly titled ‘When in Iceland’ package.
When in Iceland
For travellers looking to immerse themselves in all things Iceland, in part without having to leave their hotel, the well-curated experience is a dream come true. “We wanted to celebrate all that was unique and significant to our culture because it’s what draws visitors from afar,” says Palsson of the specially designed three-night stay.
“The package was designed to provide the ultimate authentic Icelandic experience: to taste our traditional food and drink, to soak in our beautiful natural surroundings, encounter our signature horses, and have a personalized souvenir to take home.”
There are arrival delicacies – like Icelandic rye bread and a bottle of Icelandic liquor, along with two custom made volcanic rock glasses – to look forward to, plus a four-course dinner at Rangá Restaurant, which serves signature Nordic dishes like skyr and reindeer carpaccio.
As no trip here would be complete without meeting some of the island’s shaggy-maned but sure-footed equine locals, a private riding tour on Icelandic horses at the nearby local farm, Skeiðvellir, is also included. While the custom, locally made Icelandic sweaters make for a lovely leaving gift.
The Icelandic Suite
As part of the package, the newly opened Icelandic Suite will be home for three nights, which, alongside Hotel Ranga’s continent-themed offerings, was personally designed by Palsson and features beautifully handcrafted furnishings among other tasteful design details. “This was a special project for us because it was so close to home,” he says of the project.
“Every element has a specific inspiration and personal touch – from the pebbles from the black sand beach and pastel colour palette to the handcrafted wood furniture and wool sweater blanket to our statement Icelandic horse artwork. It’s a reflection of our home and culture, so it had to be just right.”
At its centre is a freestanding custom-made bathtub – modelled after one Palsson built in his own home, specifically shaped for comfortable sitting – covered in smooth stones found on Iceland’s iconic black sand beaches. In another nod to nature, the surrounding floor is paved with volcanic basalt rock. Wood commonly found in homes throughout Iceland was used for panelling the walls, while the ceiling was inspired by that of local churches.
Palsson also enlisted a local elder craftsman to create the furniture, including a cartwheel dining table and the master bed, which is topped off with a gigantic – and incredibly cosy – Icelandic wool sweater-inspired blanket, hand-knitted at a nearby shop.
Whether looking out over the East Ranga River or brooding (and active) Hekla volcano, views from all rooms at the hotel are excellent. Perhaps the most unique element of this suite though, is its rotating dining-living room area. Cleverly designed to change surrounding views from the breakfast table to an entirely new perspective by dark – maybe, if you’re lucky, that means watching the magical northern lights as they dance across the night sky.
In a nutshell
With its scenic riverside location and on-site observatory, Hotel Rangá makes a perfect base for exploring and experiencing Southern Iceland’s epic landscapes and natural wonders. A member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, its themed suites add an eclectic touch while the signature restaurant is noted for its modern Nordic cuisine.
There are direct daily flights to Reykjavík from London Heathrow with British Airway and Icelandair, while Icelandair, Norwegian Air, and easyJet run the London Gatwick route.
Pricing for the Icelandic package starts at 3990€ and is available to book upon request. Available year-round it’s worth noting that the northern lights season in Iceland usually runs from late August until late April.
Address: 851 Hella, Iceland
Phone: +354 487 5700
Photography courtesy of Hotel Rangá