Short stay: Antarctica Suite, Hotel Rangá, Hella, Iceland


You could be forgiven for wondering how a hotel that is largely made from wood, in a country that is relatively devoid of trees, has come about. It’s thanks to the incredible vision of owner Friðrik Pálsson and wood sourced from Canada’s pine forests that the four star Hotel Rangá enjoys its homely log cabin façade and extensive wooden interiors. Read on to learn why this Nordic boutique hotel and member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World is also one of South Iceland‘s finest luxury hotels…

The welcome

Our initial greeting is from resident polar bear, Hrammur (which means ‘paw’ in Icelandic); he was salvaged from a bankrupt shopping mall and stands in a new part of the Hotel Rangá lobby that had to be specially-designed to accommodate his 13-foot stature.  As we turn to the reception desk, it’s a gentleman named Egill who warmly greets us and advises us that there’s a welcome drink waiting for us at the bar once we had settled in.

The room

We stayed in Room 60, a Master Suite. There are seven suites at the property that depict each of the seven continents. With penguin artwork above the super king bed, there are no prizes for guessing that we were in the Antarctica Suite.

The cool and quirky Antarctica Suite has it all – from a white-tiled floor that resembles an ice floe to a ceiling with the mural of a wandering albatross with a 12-foot wingspan.

In the case of the other suites, furniture and decorations have been sourced from the respective continents. That’s a little more challenging in the case of Antarctica, of course, so pieces have been sourced from the world over, be it sofas from Italy or carved penguins from Canada.

Futuristic black and white décor, alternating black and white lamps and light fixtures, and floor-to-ceiling windows with black-out blinds complete the look.

And if all that wasn’t enough, two life-sized Adélie penguins guard either side of a large two-person Jacuzzi bath.

There are plenty of in-room amenities, too, such as a Nespresso coffee machine and complimentary Kristall water.

There’s even a glass chess board – made by the Samvek glass manufacturer in Hella just 10 minutes away – with polar-themed pieces.

The suite has two balconies and, being an end suite, treats guests to views in three directions. Two sides look out over the Rangá River – one of the best-known salmon rivers in Iceland – where fishermen can sometimes be seen casting their flies.

The bathroom

The theme continues in the bathroom, designed to look like a little hut in the Antarctic, where the walls are adorned with black and white tiles; there’s a spacious walk-in shower, a wide basin with a large oval mirror surrounded by frosted glass above it, and LED downlights that resemble stars.

Eco-friendly toiletries – something we also encountered in other hotels – are further testament to Icelanders’ ardent care for the environment.

The facilities

A world-class dining experience at Hotel Rangá is one of the highlights of any stay at the hotel. With an atmosphere that is both intimate and convivial, The Glass Hall restaurant enjoys views of the beautiful Rangá River and the majestic Eyjafjallajökull glacier volcano (famous for its 2010 eruption that caused enormous disruption to air travel across Western Europe). With its full length windows, your dining experience is heightened by the wild Icelandic landscape outside as you savour modern farm-to-table fare.

Led by Head Chef Péter Jóni, the restaurant offers a menu with Nordic traditions at its heart, with an emphasis on the freshest, high quality local ingredients.  Wild mushroom soup (villisveppasúpa) with assorted mushrooms and pickled local mushrooms is one of a number of signature dishes at Rangá, the receipe for which you can find on their website – so tasty that my wife had it two nights running!

I was surprised to read that reindeer are not actually native to Iceland but were imported as part of an experiment in the late 18th Century. Nevertheless, you will find a delicious reindeer (hreindýr) carpaccio with Parmesan, truffle oil and rucola on the menu.

Pescatarians will enjoy the cured salmon (graflax) with toasted bread, salad and dill sauce.

A favourite of mine was the pan-fried scallops (hörpuskel) with apples, baked garlic, langoustine crumble and rucola powder. So succulent and delicious!

And when in Iceland, why not try puffin? At Rangá, they serve smoked puffin (lundi) in a small glass pot, with apple mousse, crowberry powder and garlic mayonnaise

For your main, you’ll never go wrong with the pan-fried cod (þorskur) with mashed potato, sunchoke three way and white wine sauce. Widely regarded as the country’s key marine resource, with the most important fishing grounds off the south coast, Icelandic cod tends to be slightly sweeter than Pacific varieties.

Another classic dish is the chicken breast (kjúklingabringa) with Arctic thyme polenta, red pesto, fried mushrooms and a deliciously creamy Albufera sauce.

For something a little heartier, try the flavoursome fillet of lamb (lambahryggvöðvi) with carrots, pommes ‘Anna’ potato and port wine glaze.

Since the restaurant overlooks one of Iceland’s finest salmon rivers, it is a shame not to try the salmon (lax) with sweet potato purée, apples, mustard seeds, fried broccoli, granola and white wine sauce.

Whatever main you choose, I am sure you will not be disappointed. The beef tenderloin (nautalund) with potato purée, fried root vegetables and green peppercorn sauce is another great option.

For dessert, try the chocolate globe (súkkulaðikúla) with mascarpone and passion fruit sorbet. Your waiter will pour a hot passion fruit sauce on top in a circular motion, which melts the chocolate sphere for a show-stopping finale.

After dinner you can enjoy the rest of your evening in either the adjacent bar or the upstairs cognac lounge.


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Location

Hotel Rangá can be found at Suðurlandsvegur, 851 Hella in Southern Iceland, just off the country’s ring road that encircles much of Iceland. It’s approximately 100km from Reykjavik and just under a 1.5-hour drive. The nearest town is Hella which is 10 minutes away and has a population that is just shy of 1,000.

Southern Iceland is not only a gorgeous part of the country with stunning landscapes but it also offers a fabulous variety of natural beauty – from black sand beaches and green pasture land to glaciers and waterfalls.

Other nice touches

The guest experience is at the heart of a stay at Hotel Rangá with all manner of little extras to ensure your stay is a memorable one. A welcome drink on arrival, a copy of the Rangá Review in every room, the next day’s weather forecast and hotel-branded chocolates left at turndown, and an eye mask and ear plugs to ensure a good night’s sleep, are just some of the many examples.

Another interesting and touching move on the part of the part of Hotel Rangá is their policy on tipping. In short, they do not accept tips (in a country where tipping is not a tradition) but, if guests are happy with the service they receive and would still like to make a gesture, any money raised is passed on to local search and rescue teams. This innovative approach has resulted in tens of thousands of euros being raised for this great cause.

Cost

Standard rooms at Hotel Rangá start from € 320 per night

Master Suites – such as the Antarctica Suite that we stayed in – start from € 1,016 per night.

The best bit

This was one of those hotel experiences where it’s really difficult to highlight just one aspect of our stay. We were very spoilt with our suite, but would have to pick out the gourmet dining as the absolute highlight.

The final verdict

Our stay at Hotel Rangá was utterly memorable for all the right reasons – a perfect setting, wonderful staff, a fabulous room and a superb dining experience. The only thing missing was the Northern Lights (but only because we were visiting during the Summer when there is no night sky). The Sunday Times Travel Magazine named the hotel as the best place on Earth to witness the Aurora borealis.

The hotel staff provide warm snowsuits to allow you to be cosy whilst enjoying the Northern Lights, or you could sip a glass of Champagne in one of the outdoor hot tubs whilst marvelling at the spectacle. There’s even an Aurora wake-up service should you wish to be alerted when the skies are ‘dancing’ above, plus the hotel has its own state-of-the-art observatory with two telescopes, with a local astronomer who is on hand to give guests a tour of the dazzling night sky.  Hopefully one day we can return for the full winter experience.

Planning a trip to Iceland yourself? You can watch a video from our trip to Iceland here. Footage from Hotel Rangá appears from 1m 53s to 2m 12s within the video:

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Hotel Rangá. Our trip to Iceland was also sponsored by Helly Hansen.


Comments (17)

  1. Kari says:

    It’s a beautiful room and place. Those Northern Lights would be stunning.

    I like that they have vegan options on pretty much each menu, but as a vegan, the place isn’t very appealing for reasons a non-vegan likely doesn’t care to hear about. ;)

    Still, that black and white room was amazing! I love white bedding because I can really see the cleanliness as opposed to other colors.

    • Paul Johnson says:

      Hi Kari – thanks for stopping by. They certainly had vegan options when we dined, that included svartbaunir – a black bean patty with black bean purée, a herb dressing and vegetable couscous.

      What are the issues that you would want to see addressed to make it more vegan-friendly? This is your opportunity to say as I’m sure they will follow the comments on this post… I don’t think it’s fair to assume that they simply wouldn’t care. Many luxury hotels are now very good at catering for vegans, and are always looking at ways to improve their offering, so do please share your thoughts in more detail.

    • Kari says:

      What I meant was that non-vegans don’t share the same thoughts that some of us vegans do when it comes to animals’ lives – such as eating them for food or putting their skins on the wall or creating antler chandeliers. I’m not sure if the polar bear was a stuffed polar bear, but things like that aren’t appealing to me and actually deter me. I see a dead animal on my plate, on the wall, as a statue, etc. and it’s not appealing or ethical by my standards.

      I know that most people don’t view it that way and see it as delicious, charming, and part of the atmosphere or culture, so that’s why I say that most people wouldn’t care to hear my reasoning. They simply don’t share my beliefs, which I totally understand.

      While they may be willing to cater to vegans in some ways, they won’t in others. More vegan options on the menu is always great, but I wouldn’t stay in a place where there’s an animal’s skin is hanging on the wall, and I wouldn’t expect a cultural place to remove it just because I don’t like it.

      I hope that made sense.

    • Paul Johnson says:

      Thanks, Kari… I understand much more now. What I would say, though, is that I don’t think it’s necessarily the case that non-vegans don’t care about some of the issues you raise, but rather that they simply don’t give them a second thought.

  2. Andy Ashby says:

    That incredible chess set is a really nice touch, so appropriate for that suite, and even better that’s it’s made only 10 miles away.

    • Paul Johnson says:

      Yes, it’s a rather fun addition. My only criticism would be that the pieces include things like polar bears and musk oxen, which you don’t get in the Antarctic… but that’s just me being super-pedantic!! 🤣🤣

  3. Chris H says:

    From the outside it looks like a fairly run of the mill log cabin. You must have been surprised by the extravagant decor within. Did you get to see the northern lights?

    • Paul Johnson says:

      It is really quite a treat inside. Sadly, we were staying at the wrong time of year for seeing the Northern Lights. But this does at least give us a good excuse to one day return…!

  4. Kristof Eyckmans says:

    I really enjoy themed rooms and suites. They are a welcome distraction from the all too often dull and uninspired hotel rooms we mostly come across.
    The food does look really nice indeed, and that pool table is calling my name….I can hear it!

  5. Thomas says:

    The rooms & food served look so exquisite. Northern lights add more excitement.

  6. Jack says:

    For me the jury’s out on the 13 feet polar bear. It could be quite intimidating if you are arriving with children.

  7. Ellen says:

    This hotel is so quirky and it seems to have plenty of space as well. It would be a great place for a couple of nights on a tour of Iceland. When I stay somewhere like this I always come back with some wacky design ideas for home.

    PS A 13 foot polar bear will not be one of the ideas that I bring back for home.

    • Paul Johnson says:

      Hi Ellen – two or three nights at Ranga is perfect if you are on a tour of the country. It’s in the south of the country and is arguably a better base than Reykjavik for exploring the Golden Circle, but also well positioned for other sights along the south coast (waterfalls, beaches, glaciers and more).

  8. Jenny says:

    I stayed at Hotel Ranga a couple of years ago and thought it was brilliant. Definitely the best of all my stays in Iceland!

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