“Chic adventure hotel in a spectacularly surreal landscape of moss-covered lava fields, geysers and steaming rivers, by Thingvellir National Park”
Perched on stilts at the foot of Mount Hengill in the pristine wilderness of southwest Iceland, this sleek hotel is only an hour's drive from Reykjavik, yet it feels worlds away. Panoramic windows, stark concrete, wooden walls and minimalist furniture are complemented by soft sheepskin-covered chairs, fluffy cushions, large candles and fireplaces, creating a contemporary-cool yet distinctly cosy Nordic vibe. And after a day of breathtaking outdoor adventures in the Golden Circle - snorkelling in the icy waters of the Silfra rift, hiking up glaciers and watching enormous geysers erupt - nothing beats winding down with a specialist massage in the spa and a soak in the steaming outdoor thermal pool.
- Watching the Aurora Borealis from the comfort of the bar was an unforgettable experience
- Delicious, sophisticated and fresh Icelandic food. The cured Arctic char and lamb carpaccio were incredible
- Awesome, rugged scenery; the view from our room towards Lake Thingvellir was spectacular
- Sitting in the outdoor hot pool sipping cocktails under the falling snow
- A sociable place with a nice mix of fellow guests - we met hip honeymooners from London, Swiss hikers, Icelandic housewives on a girls' weekend, and foodies from Barcelona
- Some reports of slow service, but staff were excellent throughout our 2016 revisit
- It's next to a geothermal power station (you'll sometimes smell the sulphur), but we found its columns of steam strangely beautiful
- It's approached via a twisting country road - hire a 4x4 in winter
- Rooms are compact and have showers only, though they're well designed
- Extras such as meals and treatments are pricey, and the remote location means you'll probably be eating in
Best time to go
Our top tips
- This is not a place to pack lightly for. The weather can be harsh and often changes in a matter of minutes; dressing in lots of layers is the only way to go. So that big jacket needs to come, as do the hiking boots. Even long johns!
- Ask the receptionists to wake you if the Northern Lights appear in the middle of the night. They are very happy to do so - and get equally excited by their appearance
- Boutique Hotel
- Restaurant and bar (open daily)
- All ages welcome
- Open all year
- Heated Pool
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Concierge Service
All 45 rooms are compact yet bright, with light wooden floors and chairs draped in soft sheepskins. We stayed in a Deluxe Room and loved the mix of smooth concrete walls, black and white murals of Icelandic ponies, and floor-to-ceiling windows looking across the rugged landscape. We're yet to see the Thermal Junior Suite for ourselves, but it has views across a lava field. Standard Rooms are simpler and less dramatic, with pine furniture and twin, double or single beds. Both categories feature either lake or mountain views (the latter encompassing the power station); we'd recommend requesting a Deluxe Room with a lake view if possible.
All rooms have hypo-allergenic beds with fluffy duvets and fair-trade linen, plus TVs, WiFi and a kettle for making hot drinks. Bathrooms are tiny with a capital T, but come with rain showers and local toiletries by Sóley Organics. Deluxe Rooms have the added benefit of bathrobes, minibars and an espresso machine.
- Central heating
- Coffee / tea making
- Cots Available
- Safe box
- Satellite TV
The Silfra restaurant - a modern space with blue leather banquettes and a dramatic picture of an Arctic char on one wall - is open daily. Dinner is a sophisticated Nordic affair, with a choice between à la carte options and a daily changing 4-course set menu. We loved our meal of cured Arctic char with pickled cucumbers, pan-roasted scallops with risotto, lamb with root vegetables, and a skyr crème brûlée. All dishes were beautifully presented, and the carefully curated wine list was impressive. After you've eaten, head to the stunning Northern Lights Bar (dimmed at night) for a nightcap while waiting for the Aurora Borealis to make an appearance.
Breakfast includes all the usual Continental suspects, plus tasty local specialities such as salmon and pickled herring. There's a large selection of charcuterie, too. A lunch and snack menu is then available throughout the day, in both the bar and restaurant - we can recommend the Nordic club sandwich, the burgers and the Icelandic cheese platter.
- Children's meals
- Coffee / tea making
- Room service
- Tour the Golden Circle. You're on the edge of Thingvellir National Park, Iceland’s most historic site, where you can see the chasm between tectonic plates. Other stops include the enormous geyser Strokkur (erupting every 5-7 minutes), and scenic Gullfoss with its dramatic waterfalls
- Don a dry suit and dive, snorkel or swim in the icy-clear waters of the Silfra rift, the crack between the American and Eurasian tectonic plates in Lake Thingvellir
- Go glacier hiking, ice climbing and rafting, then sit in a thermal hot spring
- Hike to the top of a dormant volcano and get lowered into the crater in an open cable lift: not for the faint-hearted
- Staff can also arrange horse riding, white-water rafting and fishing
- Soak tired muscles back in the hotel's Lava Spa. Start with the sauna, have an Icelandic massage, then take a long dip in the outdoor hot pool
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Geysers, hot springs and waterfalls
- Glacier and volcano hiking
- Historical sites
- Plantlife / flora
- Private guided tours
- Scuba diving
- Well being
Children are welcome, and several families were staying at the hotel during our 2016 revisit, but this is not an ideal place for kids. Rooms are compact and would be crammed with a baby cot. It's best suited to older children who can make the most of local activities.
Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)
Family friendly accommodation:
All rooms can fit a baby cot, but there are lots of twin rooms. The Thermal Junior Suite has a sofa bed.
Baby cots and high chairs.
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
There's a kids' menu in the restaurant.
Families Should Know:
There are no play areas and the steep staircases and unsupervised hot pool could be safety risks.
Ion Hotel is set on the edge of Thingvellir National Park, in the region of Nesjavellir in southwest Iceland. It's 42km from downtown Reykjavik.
Fly into Keflavik Airport (85km from the hotel). Click on the links below for a list of airlines serving it.
From the Airport
The hotel offers transfers, but they're expensive, and we'd recommend hiring a car in any case so you have the freedom to explore - see our car-rental recommendations. The route is straightforward, though we'd suggest bringing a 4x4 if you're coming in winter. Parking is free at the hotel.
Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.com.
More on getting to Iceland and getting around
- Keflavik International 85.0 km KEF
- Beach 50.0 km
- Shops 20.0 km
- Restaurant 20.0 km