Having recently returned from a site visit to Iceland to make sure our Weekend a la Carte breaks to Iceland are as good as they can be, I wanted to share what an amazing country it is. So much to offer in terms of dramatic landscapes, beautiful scenery and natural phenomena and many SuperJeep and Snowmobile adventures. I can’t tell you everything – The Blog will go on forever but here are the highlights – and as it is I have split it into 2 blogs on 2 different days!
The Northern Lights Hotel Ranga
What a lovely hotel with a superb team who are determined to ensure you have a great time and give you every chance to see the Northern Lights.
I drove up in a gale with the freezing wind whipping around and as I hurried inside I was taken aback with the welcome by a 9ft. Polar bear! My standard room was decked out in warm wood with a very cosy feel. It had a door that opened directly onto the grounds where the hot tubs are, with the river lazily running by.
Hotel Ranga is the only hotel in Iceland which has a Northern Lights Wake up call. If you sign yourself up each morning the team will come and wake you up (be it 1am or 5 am!) if the Northern Lights are on show. What a great idea knowing you can go to sleep and not worry about missing anything! Apparently they have had up to 40 people in the PJ’s at 3 in the morning standing in front of the hotel!
I had a delicious meal in the hotel which was interrupted several times by the staff quietly advising us that the Northern Lights were out and on show if we wished to see them. Needless to say interruptions like that are never minded and the restaurant emptied each time! (Tip: Take your warm outside coat to dinner!!)
After dinner I wandered outside and considered the hot tubs. With the wind whistling by I couldn’t think of anything I would least like to do! I decided I couldn’t tell my clients to do it if I didn’t do it myself. So I gamely changed into my swimming costume, found the bath robe, and stepped out into the freezing (it was minus 4 degrees Celsius and where the towel got wet it did actually freeze solid!). 3 minutes later, safely ensconced in the amazingly hot tub, I lay back and watched the Northern Lights. This was magical and well worth it. What a fabulous and warm 45 mins – I just wish I had had the foresight to have taken a glass of wine with me!
In the morning over breakfast as dawn arrived I realised I had not appreciated how close we were to the river and how peaceful and quiet the view was across the river. What a lovely spot to sit and relax. But no time as I hurried off for a SuperJeep Tour.
Activities in the South
I met the owner of a local company based in the South focusing on SuperJeep Tours. I spent the day with him looking at the options for SuperJeep Tours and came away very excited at the options for “Soft Adventure”. (I.e. you get right up into the mountains for some adventure but don’t have to spend 5 hard hours hiking to get there!)
Saeli is a local who has lived in these parts for years and he told me about his personal experiences during the eruption – How his family was evacuated, how they had to move all the farm-stock and the difficulty with the horses due to the number involved. I commented on how the media coverage presented the Icelanders as being very stoic and calm about the whole episode and how it appeared they took it in their stride. He explained how the locals were determined to cope with it and turn it into a positive. He personally took the BBC Reporters out during the eruption and spent 4 hours teaching them how to say Eyjafjallajokull correctly!!
Hotel Ranga is ideally situated for you to experience the real and raw Iceland being very close to the stunning area of Thorsmork, the recently erupted Eyjafjallajökull Volcano, as well as the Black Volcanic Beaches, The Glacier of Mýrdalsjökull and the Glacial tongue of Sólheimajökull. Indeed many of the day trips from Reykjavik come down to the South Coast for these experiences which are right on your doorstep whilst staying at Hotel Ranga.
Obviously the Hire Cars (including 4WD hire cars) are not suitable for going into these areas and the specially adapted SuperJeeps with their extra-large tyres and raised suspension allow them to cross the roughest terrain. Here you can go across glacial rivers, up mountain tracks onto Glaciers and along floodplains to reach Volcanoes. Þórsmörk is a breathtaking area between the three glaciers and you can see the effect of last year’s eruption on the landscape including the filling of a whole Glacial Lake. On certain tours you can see new fissures and lava formations as well as still hot glowing Lava and feel the heat under the surface.
There is Snowmobiling on the top of the Glacier on the Mýrdalsjökull glacier with superb views back down to the Atlantic Coast. This Glacier is on the top of Katla Volcano with dramatic views across to Eyjafjallajokull. Whilst Katla is the next Volcano due to erupt it is extremely closely monitored and you will not be taken there at any hint of danger – but what a great story to tell when it does erupt that you actually snowmobiled on it! The Icelanders talk about WHEN it erupts – not IF! There was an extremely strong wind blowing when I went up and the snow was flowing down the mountain like a river towards the Ocean. The Babble and laughter of everyone talking about their experience after the drive was deafening!
I didn’t have chance to do this but you can actually walk on ice on a Glacier exploring the crevasse riddled outlet glacier with its amazing ice formations, sinkholes and jagged ridges. It was stressed to me that it was easy (2 on a 1 – 5 scale) and suitable for everyone – they had a group of blind people on the previous week.
And I haven’t even talked about the stunning waterfalls and black beach. Saeli drove the SuperJeep across the dunes to a super vantage point looking along the beach and over the Atlantic Ocean. Just as I was relaxing looking at the view he accelerated and charged down the slope and across the beach. We had the whole beach to ourselves and the black volcanic sands really are Black – quite bizarre for one used to the golden Cornwall beaches! The pounding white surf just served to accentuate the blackness.
Seljalandsfoss is one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland as you can walk behind it and stare through the falling water across the flat landscape towards the South Beaches. The nearby thundering Skogar Waterfall is one of the highest in Iceland at 60M and certainly worth a few photos!
To see the break we offer based at Hotel Ranga with SuperJeep Adventure tours included.