Less than an hour’s drive from the cultural landmarks of Reykjavik Iceland and set against a backdrop of majestic mountainous lava fields, there’s a new modern resort called ION Hotel, which is targeting the high end adventure traveler. Its tagline is Luxury Adventure Hotel. The property, which is less than six months old, is built on recycled and renewable materials and draws both its power and its heat from surrounding hot springs.
If you come during Northern Lights, it’s an ideal location to lay your head since the property is in the country and there’s very little to see in all directions except for a thermal power plant and rolling green hills and meadows.
I was there in early June of this year, so no Northern Lights but daylight well into the night. The sun doesn’t seem like it ever sets entirely although I notice between 1 and 2 am, it gets darker for a couple of hours before you’re hit with bright sky once again. Given its secluded location, it makes for a great romantic getaway or just as a place to escape to solo for a few days of rest and relaxation.
You feel as if you’re out in the wild and you are. You are nothing short of isolated among the mountains and it’s the number one reason to visit. I slept like a baby for the first time since I arrived in Iceland and whether the geothermal power station or the desolate skies had anything to do with it, I’ll never know.
Many may not realize that Iceland leads the world in geothermal technology. From the Northern Lights Bar, you face mountains and nothingness to your left and on your right lies the geothermal plant, steam and vapors rising into the air above.
The lounge is a lovely place to relax, read a book and have a coffee while taking in the skies and valleys around the property. Below on the lower level, there’s a fairly large (10 meters) rectangular hot tub, which is completely natural and doesn’t use any chlorine. It may be a little disconcerting at first to feel the slimy green algae below you but if you can reset your thinking and think about it as natural sediments from the earth rather than the chemicals you’d otherwise get from over chlorinated pools, you’re likely to embrace their natural approach pretty quickly.
There’s also a spa. Lava Spa is on the ground floor which faces the outside hot tub and mountains and here, you can get a variety of treatments including massages and facials. A few of the treatments include:
- Ion Heal: Treatment begins with a cup of tea from Icelandic herbs and relaxation. After tea and relaxation, the body is scrubbed followed by a hot shower. A hot mask is covered on the body and wrapped in a thermal blanket followed by a light facial and foot massage. After another shower, the massage follows. It’s roughly 90 minutes long.
- Ion Glow Facial: The treatment begins with a surface cleansing. The face is lightly heated and deeply cleansed followed by a face and head massage. Next, they apply a face mask and a day lotion.
- Ion Pure Facial: The treatment beings with a surface cleaning. The face is lightly heated and deeply cleansed and then a cleansing mask is applied on face. Like the Ion Glow Facial, a day lotion is applied after the mask at the end of the treatment.
- Ion Earth: The treatment starts with a warm foot bath with Icelandic sea salt followed by a pedicure and a scrub, which is applied to the feet. A hot mask is applied to the legs and wrapped in a thermal blanket. At the end of the treatment the feet are massaged with a nourishing cream or oil.While things tend to be more expensive in Iceland, especially for food, the prices of the spa treatments are roughly in the same range as they charge in most American cities.
From my bedroom window, 3 Icelanders soak before dinner, not noticing me clicking from above.
They have two kinds of rooms: Standard and Deluxe, both of which are about the same size, however the amenities are different. The standard rooms haven’t been upgraded with the more modern design style that is reflected in the Deluxe rooms. (See Below). Use of the spa is also included if you have a Deluxe room as well. Think modern meets country and adventure lodge without the rustic flare. I love the white Icelandic horse on the wall – nice touch!!
A bathroom in the Deluxe Room:
There are 46 rooms in total: 22 Standard rooms and 24 deluxe. Sustainability is key here: all beds have fair-trade organic linens and each bathroom is environmentally responsible with water saving shower systems. The beds are also hypo allergenic, products are Fair Trade labeled and certified and if you’re wondering if the white smoke in the distance is pollution, think again. The white smoke is actually white steam and vapor from the nearby Nesjavellir Power Plant or the Þingvellir Lake lava fields.
They use Sóley Organic products (soaps, etc), which are all apparently made from Icelandic herbs, handpicked in Icelandic nature and not containing any chemical agents. Bravo ION!
The Silfra Restaurant & Bar is located on the main lobby and like most places in Iceland, it’s all about fish, fish and more fish, particularly relevant here since ION is so close to Thingvallavatn Lake. The restaurant focuses on new/modern Nordic cuisine, which encourages sustainable practices and tries to support local food producers, artisans and entrepreneurs as often as possible. Its design is modern Scandinavian which means no bells, whistles and frills – it’s simple, stark and crisp.
As I was struggling with the far too ‘light’ red options on the menu ‘by the glass’, restaurant manager Bjarni Kristjansson came over with a bottle of Bordeaux and told me to forget about the Chilean Cab that would never have me at hello. It was a 2009 St. Emilion Chateau Tour Puyblanquet. Classy move! The restaurant and hotel staff are proactive, courteous, warm, friendly and know their “stuff.”
I had the Lamb dish (chef’s choice), a great pairing with my French Bordeaux. It was served with red and sweet beets (diced into small cubes), and a red wine sauce with onion and garlic. See our write-up of ION’s Silfra Restaurant where you’ll find more photos of the dishes from the menu, including Executive Chef Gudmundur Sverrisson’s fish soup.
From the Hotel to Nearby Activities and Adventures:
The hotel’s location is a great place to stay if you’re off to take on what they refer to as The “Golden Circle” route in Iceland. ION is adjacent to Þingvellir National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Thingvallavatn (the largest lake in Iceland). From here, you can explore Hengill volcanic area, Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Station, the river Öxará, Gullfoss waterfall, the hot springs area of Geysir, the Kerið crater and many other natural wonders. There are also plenty of hikes that you can do from ION’s back door or you can take in an ancient glacier or go on a day of fly-fishing in a nearby river.
OR, if you simply wish to relax, unwind and just soak in their fabulous pool, then there’s absolutely “that” and “that” alone is pure magic, I can assure you.
Nesjavellir 801 Iceland
Thanks to ION’s owner Sigurlaug Sverrisdottir, otherwise known as Laulau, Eva from Pink Iceland, Susanna from Come to Iceland/Iceland is Hot, Executive Chef Gudmundur Sverrisson, restaurant manager Bjarni Kristjansson, lead waitress Marta Palsdottir and receptionist Katrin Osk Sigurgeirsdottir.
Note: I was hosted by ION during my stay but all opinions expressed are entirely my own.
Photo credits: Thermal Plant: sanmarkotravel.com. Photos of rooms, pool and inside of rooms from ION Hotel website. Other photos by Renee Blodgett. For other posts on Iceland, visit our Iceland travel section. For posts on food in Europe, our Food/Wine European Section and also Food/Wine in Iceland / top Iceland Restaurants / Where To Eat in Iceland.