Hotel Ranga sits on the plains of Southern Iceland and has the look and feel of a property that has popped straight out of the earth itself. The natural wood construction, the open balconies on every room that overlook a stretch of flat land leading to snowcapped mountains and glaciers, even the polar bear in the reception area, all lend themselves to the reality that you are no longer city living. The long driveway gives you time enough to think of what may lay just beyond. And trust me when I say, nothing will prepare you for what you will find here at Hotel Ranga.
Sure, many come here for the Northern Lights, and yes, that’s an experience that is like no other. But, it’s only the first of many charming elements of your stay here. Although, you do get the feeling that the main pull is that spectacular show in the sky. Our first dinner in the hotel was interrupted midway by the owner, Frederic, who announced to the entire dining room that the Northern Lights were putting on quite the viewing party outside. Forks dropped, wine glasses abandoned, and people swept out of the room in a stampede. They grabbed big moon suits by the door (the full body suits that allow you to stay warm against the winter elements as you view the lights above) and headed out front, armed with cameras of every make and model to setup for the photo opportunity of a lifetime.
After everyone has their fill of the Northern Lights, and enough proof to bring back to their selective country that they’ve seen them, one by one people return to the dining room to finish their meals. Trust me, no one leaves their plate for good at Hotel Ranga. The menu is absolutely superb and the lamb is otherworldly. I even caught a glimpse of the burger (sadly didn’t get a chance to order it) and it looked like perfection on a plate. Just be warned that Frederic will insist you try the local delicacy, which is rotten shark. This is no joke. It’s so bad you have to chase it with a shot of “black death” to cleanse your mouth of the taste. In full disclosure here I have to tell you I had three shots of the black death and was still suffering. But, I can say I tried it and that was something that seemed an important part of the trip. Incidentally, I was also the only person at our table that swallowed it. I’m brave, I tell you.
After dinner we returned to our suites, which are “unique.” The decor here is something I could never prepare you for in writing. The main hallways of the hotel are what you would expect to find in an elaborate log cabin mansion in Colorado. You could easily think you’d stepped into a set for a Ralph Lauren photo shoot. However, walking into the individual suites is an entirely different ball game. Each suite is themed after a different continent and they are an accurate reflection of said continent. You aren’t in Iceland anymore. You’re in Asia, Australia or even Africa. It’s surreal and the decoration is literal. In Antarctica you’ll find penguins in your room and in Asia you’re presented with an authentic wooden box bath and wooden slippers. So I suppose you get two holidays for the price of one, in a way.
It doesn’t matter what continent you’re from or what continental suite your sleeping in when it comes to the activities at Hotel Ranga and around the hotel itself. All are open to the adventurers that find themselves in residence. From braving it in the sub-zero temperatures in the communal hot tubs outside to visiting the Observatory for stargazing, there is plenty to do at the hotel. However, the hotel employees are also people that are in the know and well connected on the adrenaline junky side of things. For our day out from Hotel Ranga, we started by climbing a glacier. With crampons, harnesses and ice picks, we made our way up the side of a glacier that revealed the most stunning views and made us feel like real risk takers. Although, that was only the start. We then proceeded to climb to a higher glacier where we boarded snowmobiles and drove away in the quickly departing sun (remember in dead of winter Iceland gets about four hours of sunlight). After that we sought out Icelandic ponies, visited waterfalls and even took a walk on the black sands beach. We saw so much and it seemed only a stone’s throw from the hotel’s front door. That alone makes this a hotel that should be on your wish list for the future.
When it was time to say goodbye to Hotel Ranga, I felt as if I was leaving with a new appreciation for travel. This wasn’t your typical luxury hotel where you are left to simply relax and layback with a good book and a cup of tea. Certainly, that is one way to enjoy your stay. But, every day you see people coming and going, discussing their day and what they’ve seen and done, and it’s down right infectious. Every person that comes to Hotel Ranga may arrive for different reasons, but I guarantee you’ll leave feeling like an adventurer. There is something in the air here that makes it so. It is a magical place and I know I will return, if only to walk up and sit out with that view for a few more days in my life. This is heaven on earth.