If you’re planning a trip to Iceland, Reykjavik is probably the first place you’d look to stay – it’s the capital and it’s close to the airport after all. But many of the best things to see and do in the country are outside of the city, so it’s worth choosing a hotel a little further afield.
The four-star Hotel Ranga is just under two hours from Keflavik airport – you will definitely need a car if you’re staying outside of Reykjavik – is located right by a river near the small (and we mean small) town of Hella, but there’s really nothing in the surrounding area apart from lots of unspoiled nature.
It’s part of the Small Luxury Hotels group and it’s very Nordic in it’s decor, think lots of wood panelling throughout and a giant polar bear in the lobby. There are 52 rooms in total plus a couple of communal areas, with the suites themed according to different parts of the world. We can imagine it might be a little trippy to be staying in the African suite in the middle of an Icelandic winter. We stayed in a (much more simply decorated) spacious twin room, complete with a rain head shower, huge television and direct access to one of the hotel’s outdoor hot tubs.
The telephones in the room also give you the option to set a Northern Lights wake up call so you can be notified during the night if they’re on, which is such a nice touch and indicative of the great service the hotel provides. As the property is in one of the best locations to see the lights, it’s definitely something to take advantage of, and it means you only have to go as far as the car park rather than out on a tour. Hotel Ranga even has a small observatory on sight for more stargazing, though unfortunately we struck out with weather so no stars and no lights for us.
Given that the hotel is rather secluded, you’ll want to be eating dinner in the hotel restaurant and happily, the food is so good that you’ll be doing so out of choice rather than just convenience. With a ‘farmers market’ approach to seasonality and produce, the modern Nordic menu features local ingredients like puffin, reindeer, arctic char and Icelandic lamb.
Particular standouts for us were a delicate salmon tartare and salmon pastrami dish, a perfectly cooked fillet of lamb with Pommes Anna, parsnip puree, and arctic char with salt baked celeriac and kohlrabi. Not only were the dishes well executed, they were beautifully presented too and wouldn’t look out of place in a London restaurant. The staff are only too happy to offer wine recommendations as well, though we were very content with the house pinot noir.
Breakfast is included with all rooms and it’s a continental style buffet – meats, cheeses, breads, cereals, pastries, fruit and so on – with some extra Icelandic touches like a make-your-own waffle station, skyr as well as other yoghurts, thick slices of cured salmon and arctic char, and even a bottle of cod liver oil for you to take a shot from.
Hotel Ranga makes a great base if you’re planning to explore southern Iceland and they can help arrange a load of activities from ATVs to horse riding to dog sledding if you want to up the adventure factor even more. And if seeing those lights is at the top of your list, you won’t find a better place to stay.
Rates start at €320