Review by Ron Bernthal
Opened in 2015, the new Husafell Hotel, located in West Iceland’s sparsely settled interior, about 90 minutes from Reykjavik, is located just 20 minutes from Langjokull glacier on the edge of Iceland’s glaciel wildlands.
The weather when I left Reykjavik that spring morning was cold and wet with howling winds, but after exiting the Hvalfjörður Tunnel, one of the world’s deepest (541 feet below sea level) and longest (3.5 miles) underwater road tunnels, the rain stopped, heavy grey clouds hovered over the snow-speckled landscape of rocky hillocks and wind-blown grassy pastures. Groups of wet sheep and horses stood in clumps, as still as statues, facing into the still fierce wind. When I stopped the car to take photos, the wind almost blew the car door off its hinges, and holding a cell phone or small camera without it shaking was impossible.
Husafell has long been a “nature” getaway for the residents of Reykjavik who love to explore the nearby glaciers, lava caves, hiking trails and fishing streams of the Borgafjordur fjord, but it wasn’t until the modern, four-star, 36-room Husafell Hotel was opened that this area could be visited comfortably (12 additional rooms are scheduled to open mid-to-late 2016).
Upon arriving at the hotel I could understand why the local architect, Helgi Hjalmarsson, designed a low-profile, two-story building using local wood and gray slate as part of the building’s façade, and allowed the stunning landscape to enter the hotel through the many skylights and floor-to-ceiling windows throughout the property. Much of the construction process used local stone masons who worked on integrating the local Husafell stone, similar to the infamous “Husafell stone” used in traditional “strongman” competitions, into the buildings décor. Much of the stone artwork within and outside the building, as well as the prints in each guest room, were created by local stone sculptor and artist Páll Gudmundsson, a 6th generation Husafell resident.
My guest room, as well as all the other interior spaces, had lots of Nordic design features, including white walls, wide plank floors and comfortable sheepskin Icelandic-designed chairs, a heated bathroom floor, beautifully designed ceramic double-sinks, a walk-in shower and separate bathtub, and Soley toiletries from an Icelandic company that uses wild Icelandic herbs in all its products. There is a 42” TV, pull-out couch for a child or third adult, artwork and complimentary WiFi.
Husafell’s restaurant dining room faces the rocky hillsides and the glacier-filled, often snow covered mountains nearby. A cold, rushing stream parallels the main road next to the property, and the huge windows in the dining room showcase the Midnight Sun during summer, or the ethereal Northern Lights during the cold winter season. Also visible outside the windows are the geothermal indoor/outdoor swimming pools and hot tubs, available to guests year-round.
The restaurant offers sophisticated cuisine, including a beef carpaccio appetizer with pear and ginger jelly, dried pears, Parmesan and chili mayonnaise; main courses including locally caught cod, halibut and langoustine, and Icelandic grilled lamb fillet. The whipped Skyr meringue dessert includes birch syrup, red and green strawberries, white chocolate mousse and toasted white chocolate. Much of the vegetables and herbs comes from the nearby geothermal greenhouses. The property is totally self-sustainable, getting its energy from a small hydro-power plant on-site and geothermally heated water from the underground streams.
In addition to the natural surroundings for glacier visits, hiking and biking trails and geothermal swimming pools, there is also a 9-hole golf course on the property. The hotel can arrange Into the Glacier tours to the Langjokull glacier by an 8WD Glacier Truck, and assist with a wedding at the nearby Ice Chapel. A small, modern meeting room, with all the high-tech bells and whistles, is available for corporate gatherings.