“Iceland’s most iconic country hotel offers romance, history, fairytales and gourmet dining in an impossibly wild setting beside a mystical glacier”
Budir is a small country hotel with lashings of tradition, set next to a wide and windswept sandy beach and a romantic church. Seals bob around the inlet, while in the downstairs bar a display of the hotel’s history gives you an idea of what you’ve got into. One wall is covered with an artist’s impressions of Icelandic fairytales; another has pictures of the hotel dating back to its inception, including its legendary 1970s ‘flower children’ phase, when guests partied for days under the midnight sun. In the gourmet restaurant (frequently rated one of the best in the country) are captivating antique lithographs of whale hunting and local wildlife. This is a wilderness retreat par excellence.
- This is Iceland’s most iconic country hotel, with a wealth of hippy history behind it
- The food is lip-smackingly fresh and exciting, and the restaurant service is excellent
- The dramatic landscape of this peninsula (volcanoes, glaciers, lighthouses and shipwrecks) is absolutely mind-blowing
- You can watch seals play in the sea from the bar and maybe even spot the odd whale from the shore; nature-lovers and older kids will love it here
- The bar has all the hallmarks of a fantastic all-night party setting
- The style is antique rather than the height of luxury - don’t expect all mod-cons
- It’s some distance from the nearest large town, so bring everything with you that you think you’ll need (including toiletries)
- Menus change on a daily basis and you don’t have much choice - phone ahead to check if you’re picky
- Rooms either have a shower or a bath; few have both
- It’s so remote that you’ll need to hire a car
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Boutique Hotel
- Restaurant and bar (open daily)
- All ages welcome
- Open all year
- Spa Treatments
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
Unlike many other Scandinavian hotels, Budir has a style all of its own. It’s all about dark, heavy furniture, leather sofas and roaring fires, offset by vast picture windows for viewing the sights. The building was completely rebuilt in 2002 after the original structure burned to the ground, but its history lives on through the sepia photos, framed memorabilia and watercolours that adorn the walls throughout.
The 28 bedrooms meld simple, unfussy décor with traditional comforts. They're mostly white and light, with hints of earthy tones reflecting the surrounding landscape. Antique prints hang on a chocolate- or sage-coloured walls, beds come with cosy duvets and light fittings are contemporary. All very different, so don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.
It’s the views that really steal the show, so we recommend requesting a room looking out to the inlet and mountains, otherwise you’ll be overlooking the car park. Some have cushioned window seats, perfect for watching the purpling midnight sun, but even if you don’t have a room with a view there are balconies and wildlife viewing areas all over the hotel to gaze out of.
The best rooms, in our opinion, are those on the top floor. Here you’ll find the Loft Room (room 25), which has a bath and a romantic view of the black church nearby, and a Deluxe Room (room 23), which has a roll-top bath, a glacier view and a huge TV (handy if the weather closes in). We also liked rooms 10 and 17, both Deluxe Rooms with wraparound vistas of the sea and the rocks where seals come to bask.
The hotel’s only suite (room 11) doubles up as a family room. It has 2 rooms plus a bathroom with a 2-person bath; it’s also got a battered leather Chesterfield, sheepskin rugs and 2 extra beds.
Bathrooms are compact and functional - standard rooms without a view have baths; those with a view have a shower. All rooms come with cable TV, DVD players (DVDs are available to rent but cost extra) and hairdryers.
- Cd player
- Central heating
- Cots Available
- Dvd player
- Extra beds
- Satellite tv
Eating in the restaurant in full view of the glacier is a delight. Small candles adorn the tables even through the endless summer light, and warm homemade bread and freshly roasted nuts welcome you at your table.
Budir's imaginative cuisine is reputed to be among the finest in the country. The ‘chef’s ‘special’ menu has an Icelandic feel, so it’s heavy on local lamb, fresh fish and whatever else is in season. For dinner our creamy fish soup with fluffy pieces of cod was perfect, the lamb was tender and our delicious desserts were finished with a touch of ‘lava’ (grey-coloured meringue).
It goes without saying that it isn’t cheap (a major drawback if you’re staying for more than a couple of nights) and you don’t get much choice (if you’re vegetarian or likely to be choosy then phone ahead to check what’s on offer). But, as romantic restaurants go, it’s hard to beat.
Breakfast is fairly standard - a generous buffet of cheeses, cold meats, toast, homemade jam, cereal and smoked salmon. Lunch is available between 11:30 and 14:30 every day; again, it’s a ‘chef’s special’ menu which changes daily. There’s also an extensive wine list and a cocktail menu in the well-stocked bar. Dinner is available from 18:00 to 22:00.
As for options for eating out, there’s a café called Fjöruhusið (open in the summer only) in the nearby town of Hella which is known for its excellent fish soup, and a few other places in Stykkisholmur.
- Children meals
- Take a drive to Snaefellsjökull, the legendary glacier just a few km away. It’s reputedly a seat of ‘new age’ energy and was the fictional starting point for Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth. If you want to splash out, you can view it from the air on a helicopter tour
- Go snowmobiling - you can rent snowmobiles, snow-suits, gloves and helmets and go on organised trips from the neighbouring hamlet of Arnarstapi (a 15-minute drive away). The journey up and down the glacier only takes a couple of hours, but the view on a clear day is truly breathtaking. Trips usually run every few hours during the day, as well late evening in mid summer
- Follow the numerous hiking routes along the shoreline and around the craters of extinct volcanoes
- Visit Stykkisholmur (about 1.5 hours from the hotel) and take a boat trip out to the islands in the Breidafjordur fjord. They’re particularly good for bird-watching - you might spot puffins, black guillemots, eider ducks, kittiwakes, fulmars, black-backed gulls and white-tailed eagles. Daily cruises depart at 11am from 1 May to 31 August, with an additional trip at 3pm in peak season - see www.saeferdir.is for more details
- Go whale-watching - the waters around the peninsula are considered Europe's best place for spotting blue whale, and you may also see Humpback whales, mink whales, orcas and dolphins. Boat trips usually last 5-8 hours, departing at 10am daily from Olafsvik (a 45-minute drive from Budir) from 1 June to 15 August. See www.saeferdir.is for more information
- Spot seals at Iceland’s largest seal colony at Ytri-Tunga, which lies a short drive down the coast
- Go fishing - many of the region's rivers and lakes have abundant salmon and trout (permits are required). The trout season generally runs from 1 April to 30 June; the salmon season is 1 July to 20 September
- Head off pony trekking over the moon-like landscape - the Budir stables, called Gobbedi gob (meaning ‘clackety-clack’) offer short riding trips on Icelandic ponies along sandy beaches and the ancient riding tracks of the Budir lava flow
- Drive to the Malarif or Ondverdanes lighthouses, which look out over the wild north Atlantic
- Visit the Bjarnarhöfn shark-curing factory and museum to find out about Iceland’s sea-faring history
- Sunbathe on the beach in summer, then party under the midnight sun (June to August)
- Watch the northern lights paint the evening sky with streaks of green and purple (November to April)
- Play golf against the backdrop of the glacier at nearby Gardavollur, where there’s a 9-hole golf course across sand dunes which were swept up from the coast in ages past
- Relax, read and soak up the unusual scenery - you may even be inspired to write or paint
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Boat trips
- Historical sites
- Plantlife / flora
- Private guided tours
- Traditional cultures
Children are welcome and will make friends easily with the staff’s children, who play in the sea and kayak in the summer. There are no specific children’s facilities, but who needs them when nature is all around? Kids will enjoy playing hide and seek in the lava fields, watching seals and going on boat trips. If the weather closes in, you can keep them happy with a DVD borrowed from the hotel’s library.
Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years)
Family friendly accommodation:
The suite has extra beds and is ideal for families, but like all other rooms sound from it carries, so loud children will be very noticeable to other guests.
Bring a baby monitor with you - it will reach through the majority of the hotel from the bar and restaurant to rooms, depending on the make.
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
Iceland is very child-friendly but the food might not be...prepare in advance by stocking up with snacks from the nearest supermarket, in Borganes. The restaurant here is a real highlight for adults but not particularly child friendly.
Kids Activities on site:
- Children's DVDs
- Beach and inlet outside hotel for swimming, paddling and watching seals
- Icelandic ponies in nearby fields
Kids Activities nearby:
- Boat tours from Stykkisholmur
- Bird watching in Arnastapi
- Volcano walks
- Skidoo tours of the glacier
Families Should Know:
It's a wild and windswept place - not somewhere to bring kids who need flashing lights and instant entertainment. There are stairs and the sea is very close by - watch toddlers at all times.
- Airport: 1.5 hours
- Hospital: 1 hour
- Doctor: 30 minutes