INSIDE LUXURY TRAVEL - ICELAND, Part 3
January 16, 2019 at 4:55 PM
TRIP REPORT: ICELAND, PART 3: WHERE TO STAY?
Over the past few years, dozens of hotels have opened all over Iceland, especially in and around Reykjavik. Here are Ignacio's picks from visits to five hotels, resorts, and unique places to stay:
Ion City Hotel
A Signature Partner property, ION City opened in 2017 and is located on Laugavegur street, one of Reykavik’s premier shopping areas. The hotel is a member of Design Hotels, and showcases the best of Icelandic arts, crafts, and locally sourced materials. Interiors are warm and natural, and feature clean lines, wood, glass, and concrete. The hotel has a residential, cozy, intimate feel. Book 4-6 months ahead for high season.
Key selling points:
- Location, location, location. ION City is in the heart of Reykjavik and minutes to all attractions, restaurants, shops, and major sites of interest.
- The hotel offers 18 rooms and suites. There are six room categories, starting with Classic and Standard rooms, which offer about 200 sq. ft. of space. The largest rooms are the Junior, City and Panorama suites, which go all the way up to 750 sq. ft. in size.
- Junior suites offer balconies and a private sauna -- a great feature. City Suites offer a French balcony with views of Reykjavik. Panorama suite on the top level offers the most space, with an additional separate guestroom across the hall, perfect for families or friends traveling together as this effectively privatizes the floor.
- The hotel has a great restaurant called Sumac, offering Mediterranean/North African cuisine and open all day. Advance reservations a must. There is a small fitness center on the property.
- Service. The ION team goes above and beyond for its guests, and is happy to help with restaurant reservations, advice, local intelligence.
- Signature clients enjoy breakfast for two daily, a special gift basket, champagne on arrival, and an upgrade/early check-in/late check-out if available.
- Don’t miss: the grilled flatbread and seafood dishes at Sumac Restaurant.
A member of SLH (Small Luxury Hotels), Tower Suites opened three years ago and introduced the concept of 8 large, ultra-luxury guestrooms in Reykjavik, with the services of a professional concierge team. The hotel is unusual, as it is situated on the 20th floor of an office tower, located near the harbor about one mile east of the city center. The hotel’s concierge meets guests as they arrive, and whisks them up to the 20th floor in a dedicated elevator. On arrival, you will be checked in and shown to a private lounge that is open all day for the hotel’s guests. The design is modern and comfortable, and the feeling is of being in a private luxury residence. Note - The property does not have a fitness center, but guests have access to the gym at the nearby Hilton, a 5 minute drive arranged by the hotel.
Key selling points:
- All rooms have panoramic views of the city, harbor, or surrounding landscape. Rooms have high ceilings and floor to ceiling glass.
- Space. The smallest guestroom is about 450 sq. ft. and the corner suites go up to 650 sq. ft. Some of the suites connect to the room next door, perfect for families.
- Breakfast is included and is ordered the night before, as the hotel has no restaurant.
- Service. A dedicated concierge team delivers a high level of service and can arrange transfers, restaurant reservations, and whatever you might need during your stay
- Privacy and intimacy. Because of its setting, the only people you will see on the floor are other guests and the hotel’s staff, as there is no public access to the hotel.
- Don’t miss: a drink in the private lounge at sunset.
ION Adventure (Nesjavellir)
The other Signature Partner hotel in Iceland, ION Adventure recently celebrated its 5th anniversary. The hotel is also a member of Design Hotels, and has won many awards since it opened. The hotel is located about 45 minutes east of Reykjavik (about an hour in winter months), on a lava field near one of Iceland’s geothermal plants.
The property offers 44 rooms (about 200 sq. ft. each), featuring local materials, lava, driftwood and concrete. Design is simple, modern, and understated. ION Adventure is convenient to the ‘Golden Circle’ sites, especially Thingvellir National Park.
Key selling points:
- Proximity to Reykjavik and Golden Circle sites on a paved road, open all year long
- Comfortable, functional, well-designed guestrooms
- Silfra restaurant, featuring farm-fresh ingredients and innovative menus daily. The fish and lamb dishes are outstanding.
- The hotel has a spa, as well as an outdoor pool fed by hot springs, open day and night
- The Northern Lights bar, with floor to ceiling windows at the edge of the property is a gathering place for guests nightly
- Service. The staff is warm and welcoming, and knows the area very well. Take advantage of hiking trails that leave from the door of the hotel.
- Signature clients enjoy a complimentary full breakfast daily, champagne on arrival, as well as canapes and drinks
- Don’t miss: Soaking in the outdoor hot thermal pool after dark, looking out for Northern Lights - BLISS.
Skálakot Manor (Hvolsvollur)
A manor home located in Iceland’s SW region, near Skógafoss, about 2 hours’ drive SE from Reykjavik. The hotel recently celebrated its first anniversary, and is located on an working farm run by a family that has lived on site for seven generations, raising Icelandic horses. The setting is beautiful, as you are in a valley surrounded by mountains, green countryside, and near the unpronounceable Eyjafjallajokull Glacier, which erupted most recently in 2010 and stopped air traffic across the North Atlantic for days. Although newly built, the hotel has a very comfortable, cozy feel, and the staff makes you feel at home the minute you arrive. The property features 14 rooms on three levels, with stairs and a small elevator. Décor is traditional, with wool blankets, wing chairs and wood furniture, all in keeping with what you would expect at a family-run countryside retreat.
Key selling points:
- Location. Skalakot is the perfect home base to explore Iceland’s SW coastal region, Vestmanaeyjar Islands, waterfalls, black sand beaches, and nearby glaciers.
- Activities: the hotel is known for its 20 years of experience with horseback riding tours (all abilities including children are welcome). It can also arrange hikes, private fishing, visits to nearby waterfalls, swimming in nearby pools fed by geothermal springs, and more. Coming next: the hotel is securing helicopter and landing license to offer heli-adventures right from the property (date TBA – expected to be ready Spring 2019)
- Rooms are warm and welcoming, well appointed, comfortable. I recommend booking the Grand Double Rooms on the 2nd or 3rd floor, with a small terrace. The best room on property is the Master Suite on the 3rd floor, complete with bathtub and fireplace.
- Dining: The property’s 23-year old chef Maxim is very talented and a force of nature. Make sure you sample the trout, lamb, and daily special dishes on the menu.
- Don’t miss: horseback ride to the edge of a glacier - WOW!
The Retreat at Blue Lagoon (Grindavik)
Recently opened earlier this year, the Retreat at Blue Lagoon has taken Icelandic hospitality to another level. If Aman had a resort in Iceland, the Retreat would be it. The property is located 45 minutes SW of Reykavik and 15 minutes’ drive from Keflavik airport, the main gateway for Iceland. The Retreat is located on the edge of the Blue Lagoon complex, a world away from the crowds and the bus loads of tourists that visit the Lagoon daily.
Public spaces are enormous, with floor to ceiling glass and dramatic views of the blue thermal pools or moss covered lava fields. The Retreat features 62 elegant suites on two floors. Design is a blend of modern Italian and Icelandic, making great use of lava, smooth and rough stone, leather, and contemporary furniture. The atmosphere is zen and serene. Prices start at $1,300 US, including daily access to the spa, a 230Euro value per person.
Key selling points:
- Location. The Retreat is the perfect first or last stop in Iceland, due to its proximity to KEF airport.
- Facilities: the resort features a gym, dedicated yoga room (classes daily, a large lobby lounge, and shop featuring Blue Lagoon and locally sourced products
- The spa: Over 40,000 square feet of space, including hot indoor and outdoor thermal pools on different levels (including one with an outdoor bar), treatment rooms, spa 'ritual' areas, calm lounges, and more. The spa has access to the main Blue Lagoon, in case you want to see how the other half lives. I got lost more , so it’s best to ask for an orientation on arrival.
- The guestrooms: Some of the most spacious and well-appointed guestrooms in Iceland, starting at 450 sq. ft. for the Moss Junior Suites (on the second floor) and going all the way up to the Lagoon suites with private access to your own lagoon on the ground level.
- Dining: Three restaurants to choose from – spa restaurant, lava, and Moss – the hotel’s fine dining venue, featuring five or seven course tasting menus.
- Service: The hotel’s staff goes above and beyond to make every guest feel special and welcome
- Note – the hotel welcomes children of all ages, but only children 10 and above can use the thermal pools
- Don't miss: Soaking in an outdoor thermal pool after completing a mud & algae 'ritual' at the spa
On the horizon: Edition Reykjavik is under construction, across the street from the Harpa Concert Hall. Expected to open late 2019/early 2020 at this point.
If all of this has whet your appetite for the trip of a lifetime to incredible Iceland, get in touch with the team at Quay Travel and let us make your dreams come true!