Located right next to Thingvellir National Park, one of Iceland’s main UNESCO heritage sites, Hotel Ion is the country’s first luxury "eco-adventure" hotel. Sitting in the middle of a moss-covered lava field, the building’s striking, blocky form is created from wood, glass, and smoothed concrete. And it's suspended on pillars—an homage to Iceland’s first settler-founder, Ingolfur Arnarson, who threw pillars overboard his ship when it got into trouble, before the gods dragged him and his crew to shore. The inside is as stunning as the outside: Light pours in through the huge windows from every angle, highlighting minimal interiors punctuated with elegant, gray-and-black designer furnishings and large-scale photos of animals and nature. The rooms, fully soundproofed against the occasionally dramatic weather, are similarly sleek and considered, featuring beds dressed in organic linens, fur-lined armchairs, and eco-showers. There’s also an outdoor pool and spa, and a glass-walled bar and restaurant serving fantastic Slow Food cuisine. All of the hotel’s energy comes from the adjacent geothermal power station.
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The hotel is next to the site of the oldest parliament in the world—established in 930 C.E.—though nothing remains of the tented Viking communities that once gathered here. Instead there is the national park, which is on Iceland's “Golden Circle” tourist route and features lava fields, waterfalls, glaciers, caves, rivers, and volcanoes. Specific activities include hiking, horseback riding, fishing, scuba diving, and much more.
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Rooms: 45 rooms; from $270. Check-in: 4 p.m.; check-out: 11 a.m. Dining options: Swanky Silfra restaurant, dominated at one end by a giant fish artwork, is helmed by master chef Ágúst Már Garðarsson and features seasonal, contemporary dishes with an emphasis on sustainable ingredients sourced from local farms. After dinner, guests can relax in the Northern Lights Bar with a local microbrew beer or a cocktail while enjoying the views through the glass walls. Spa and gym details: The spa, which has both indoor and outdoor features, is heated by lava from the nearby volcanoes. A Jacuzzi is set outside on stone decking—as is the 10-meter pool, which flows between the building’s supporting pillars.
Who's it for: Architecture fans; nature, adventure, and history lovers; winter travelers seeking the Northern Lights. Our favorite rooms: The deluxe rooms boast the most comprehensive views across the lava fields and Thingvellir National Park. Fish for your supper: Guests can buy fly-fishing licenses for use in Lake Thingvallavatn. If they are lucky enough to catch an arctic char, the chefs will cook it up for them at dinner.