Named after the fast-flowing river that runs alongside it, this country lodge—located just an hour from Reykjavik in the middle of an isolated, windswept plain—is an extraordinary retreat. Built from thick pine logs and terra-cotta tiles, Hotel Rangá is an immediately homey place—a feeling enhanced by the neutral color schemes, comfy leather sofas, and natural textiles, as well as by quirky extras such as the 10-foot stuffed polar bear that greets guests in the reception area, and the stools with "human legs" in the bar. Standard and Deluxe rooms face either the East Rangá River or the famous Mount Hekla volcano, and most have Jacuzzis. Suites are located in the World Pavilion, which is themed around the seven continents of the world.
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Although ostensibly isolated, Hotel Rangá is perfectly set for discovering southern Iceland. Guests can explore glaciers, volcanoes, black-sand beaches, fishing villages, magnificent waterfalls, hot springs, nature reserves, and more, all within an hour or so of the hotel. Jeep excursions and helicopter flights over the Mount Hekla volcano can also be arranged. Guests not wishing to go so far can stroll the short distance to the Astronomical Observatory; equipped with two high-quality 11-inch computerized telescopes, it’s the most advanced observatory in Iceland.
Need to Know
Rooms: 51 rooms; from $300. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: The restaurant at Hotel Rangá is a large, glass-walled space with views of the river—which supplies it with salmon—and serves Nordic-Mediterranean cuisine informed by a "farmers’ market" philosophy; menu favorites include venison carpaccio with truffle oil, and arctic char with fennel salsa. The atmospheric, candlelit bar serves fine wines, locally brewed beers, and great cocktails; the Eskimojito, made with Icelandic schnapps, is particularly good. Spa and gym details: There is no spa, but you can book in-room massage treatments in advance of arrival.
Who's it for: Explorers and adventurers; those keen to see the aurora borealis; anyone seeking a true getaway vacation. Our favorite rooms: The African suite has a large dried-grass lampshade, faux zebra pelt, and African masks on the walls; the Asian room comes with a chabudai (Japanese dining table) and sliding panel doors. Light up the night: Free of light pollution, the hotel is a great place to catch the aurora borealis during winter. Yuletide foodie treats: The restaurant’s famed Christmas Buffet, brimming with gourmet European and Scandinavian dishes, is available November to December every year.