Far from civilization -- a car or 4x4 is required (a pro for many)
Power plant may ruin the view in some rooms
Breakfast not included; food and drinks are pricey
ION Luxury Adventure Hotel's concrete and glass facade rises from the Icelandic landscape like a set piece in a science fiction fantasy. Geothermal power and sustainable building materials are as pretty as they are practical at this four-pearl property, where 45 rooms are chic and include organic amenities, modern technology, and frequently gorgeous views. The restaurant serves New Nordic cuisine and the lovely bar offers seasonal glimpses of the Northern Lights -- there's also a spa with a gorgeous outdoor hot tub. The location might not suit all, but design nerds, romantic couples, and thrill seekers looking for excursions can fulfill a dream or two. Northern Light seekers might also want to consider the Frost and Fire Hotel.
Formerly used as worker housing for the nearby Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Plant, the modest building was transformed into the ION Luxury Adventure Hotel in 2013 with adventure tourism in mind. The owners contracted Minarc Design Studio to build an eco-friendly property that juts from the foothills of Mount Hengill on delicately arranged concrete columns. Constructed from sustainable materials and powered by the geothermal station just down the road, the hotel's striking interiors incorporate salvaged wood and volcanic rock into lofty spaces washed in natural light. Chic Scandinavian design is paired with stunning scenery glimpsed from huge windows throughout the property. Guests come here to get away from it all, and almost all aspects of the hotel are geared toward the outdoors, from the stylish outdoor hot tub to the bar that was built with Northern Lights viewing in mind. The hotel draws plenty of couples -- there's a romance in the remote location and scenery, after all -- though families and groups of friends pass through as well, most looking to take advantage of the hotel's excursions and isolation.
The hotel is located down a stretch of gravel road that winds through Thingvellir's mountainous terrain in a region dotted with lakes and natural hot springs. A 4x4 is the best way to reach the hotel, as roads can be rough, snowy, and icy, and the isolated location won't be everyone's cup of tea. Many natural attractions and destinations are within relatively easy driving distances, including the dormant Hengill volcano, Thingvellir National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and Lake Pingvallavatn, where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates collide in the Silfra fissure. The Skalafell Ski Area is about a 35-minute drive from the hotel and Reykjavik -- home to the closest airport -- is about 45 minutes away by car.
Scandinavian, industrial-chic rooms with espresso machines and organic linens
A mix of industrial chic aesthetics and natural materials define the hotel's 45 rooms, which have salvaged hardwood floors and a gray color palette accented by sheepskin furs, glazed concrete, and natural wood. Standard Rooms have colorful chairs and shelf-style desks with small flat-screen TVs. Twin or double beds are topped with fair-trade organic linens, including fluffy duvets, and all rooms have free Wi-Fi, iPod docks, and espresso machines. Deluxe Rooms have concrete walls, huge photographic murals depicting horses, as well as minibars. Many offer wonderful mountain and rugged hillside views, though some onto the nearby geothermal power plant. The compact bathrooms are stocked with boutique organic toiletries alongside contemporary fixtures, pebble stone floors, and have walk-in rainfall showers.
Sleek spa, locally sourced cuisine, and numerous outdoor excursions
One of the most notable aspects of the hotel's design is its outdoor deck, punctuated by slim concrete columns and a long hot tub that's fed by local hot springs. The sleek spa has a sauna built of lava rocks and offers a full range of treatments, which are typical but for their heavy incorporation of Icelandic herbs. For dining, Silfra Restaurant serves beloved regional staples like locally caught Arctic Char and New Nordic cuisine. The restaurant has a huge outdoor deck, while the Northern Lights Bar is smartly designed with a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows to provide optimal viewing of the phenomenon from which the bar takes its name (temperamental weather conditions and season providing). Breakfast isn't included with room rates, and food and beverages can be pricey. A good portion of the ION's reason for being is its proximity to many of Iceland's unique natural formations, and this hotel offers everything from mountain horseback riding to glacial hiking to diving in the Silfra fissure, where two continental plates meet. For those looking to exercise indoors, there's a fitness center as well. Wi-Fi is free throughout the hotel.
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