I’m not really paying attention to what is on the agenda or where I’m going as Saevar makes his way from the town of Akureyri, a town of less than 18,000 people in northern Iceland. Known to be a tourist hub, the nearby (an hour’ish drive) Lake Myvatn region is even more of a flock to destination.
The winding pass is so breathtaking I’m half ignoring what he is saying because my multi-tasking skills so want to be on hold to take in these magical moments. He stops for me frequently as I need to snap another shot of yet another scenic “wow” view. “So, tell me about Lake Myvatn,” I say, since the only thing I’ve learned about the area was a few family stories from Johannes, the guy I met through a carpooling service who drove me north the day before. (BTW, his family owns a guesthouse in the area, so also check out our write-up/review on Dimmuborgir Guesthouse).
I learn that I’ll be hit with more volcanoes, more waterfalls, more luscious valleys and more snow-topped mountains that will take your breath away. Saevar does this for a living – court tourists around – so while he should no longer be moved by the first impression smiles, he takes them in with stride, getting giddy himself about my reactions to the views.
We reach Hotel Reynihlid, our first stop, which is located in the heart the Lake Myvatn region. We toss our bags in our rooms and venture out for what becomes a near all night experience with the Midnight Sun and thermal steam.
I don’t need to drill the hotel staff for what to do and where to go since Saevar is at my side, yet I learn in a quick pass that they have 41 rooms on two floors, most of which have fabulous views of scenery.
The rooms are basic but have everything you need, which isn’t much because if you head to Lake Myvatn in the summer, you’ll barely be spending anytime in your room anyway. Icelander’s don’t sleep in the summer and frankly, neither should you. The smallest rooms are 20 m2 and the largest ones 36 m2 and you can book a room with a double bed although bear in mind that like a lot of more traditional/older hotels, many have twin beds. If you want a bathtub, request one since most rooms have showers.
This four-star hotel is a 40-minute drive from Húsavík, Iceland’s best whale watching location and Vatnajökull National Park is 56 miles away. You can organize car and bike rentals, plus guided tours of the region directly from the hotel if of interest.
Like everywhere in Iceland, the staff is incredibly warm and friendly, catering to your strange and not so strange whims. Downstairs on the main floor is a lounge area where you can order beers during happy hour or simply read a book and watch the sun never set out the full length window.
Parking is plentiful and free and there’s an adjoining cafe where you can get a lamb soup with homemade bread that will warm you after a long day’s hike. The place has been around for awhile and you get a sense of its history if you hang around long enough. Everyone seems to have a story.
The history of Reynihlid begins in 1942 when farmer Pétur Jónsson in Reykjahlid and his wife Thuríður Gísladóttir erected the new homestead Reynihlid with 5 bedrooms that were let out to guests in summertime and a spacious living room for reception of guests. When the bridge over Jökulsá-river was opened in 1947, traffic increased so much that more people fled to the Myvatn area, which prompted the family to build a hotel, the primary force being the project being their oldest son, Gísli Pétursson, who died a mere 3 years later.
When the Diatomite Factory was erected year 1966 the demand for hotel rooms increased, so they expanded and a few years later, proudly tout that they were the first country bar in Iceland licensed to serve alcoholic beverages. (1970). Behind the hotel today is Pétur Snæbjörnsson and Erna Þórarinsdóttir and the ‘family’ feel to the place remains in tact.
They do wonderful breakfasts in the morning, which include cold meats, homemade breads, eggs, jams, and a variety of cereals. I was shocked when I saw a separate section for gluten-free cereal varietals, especially since I hadn’t seen gluten-free on offer since my arrival, including in Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital city.
Our experience was very positive and I’d recommend it as a stop over point since it is so central to so many of the activities you’re likely to do in the area. My only regret was that I didn’t have more time to chat to the hotel manager or the friendly staff who seemed to have oodles of local stories to share. There’s also a piano I meant to play in the main lounge area and one other thing – there’s free wifi throughout the hotel and it actually works!
Note: I was hosted by the hotel and restaurant, however all opinions expressed here are entirely my own. Also, go here for more on Iceland hotels / top Iceland hotels, and for food in Iceland / Iceland restaurants / top Iceland restaurants.