Short stay: Antarctic Suite, Hotel Rangá, Hella, Iceland

You could be forgiven for wondering how a largely wooden hotel in relatively treeless country came to be. It is thanks to the incredible vision of owner Friðrik Pálsson and wood sourced from the pine forests of Canada that the four-star Ranga Hotel boasts its welcoming log cabin facade and expansive wooden interiors. Read on to find out why this Nordic boutique hotel and member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World is also one of the best luxury hotels in South Iceland…


Our initial greeting comes from the resident polar bear, Hrammur (meaning “paw” in Icelandic); he was salvaged from a bankrupt mall and is in a new part of the Hotel Rangá lobby that had to be specially designed to accommodate his 13-foot height. As we turn towards the reception, it is a gentleman named Egill who greets us warmly and informs us that a welcome drink awaits us at the bar once installed.


We stayed in room 60, a master suite. There are seven suites in the property which represent each of the seven continents. With penguin artwork above the super king bed, it’s priceless to guess we were in the Antarctica suite.

The cool and quirky Antarctica Suite has it all – from a white tiled floor that looks like an ice floe to a ceiling with the mural of a wandering albatross with a 12-foot wingspan.

In the case of the other suites, the furniture and decoration come from the respective continents. It’s a little more difficult in the case of Antarctica, of course, so the pieces come from all over the world, whether it’s sofas from Italy or penguin carvings from Canada.

Futuristic black and white decor, alternating black and white lamps and light fixtures, and floor-to-ceiling windows with blackout blinds complete the look.

And as if all that wasn’t enough, two life-size Adélie penguins guard either side of a large two-person hot tub.

There are plenty of in-room amenities too, like a Nespresso machine and free Kristall water.

There’s even a glass chess board – made by glass maker Samvek in Hella just 10 minutes away – with polar-themed pieces.

The suite has two balconies and, being an end suite, offers guests views in three directions. Two sides overlook the Rangá River – one of Iceland’s best-known salmon rivers – where you can sometimes see fishermen casting their flies.

The bathroom

The theme continues in the bathroom, designed to look like a little cabin in Antarctica, where the walls are adorned with black and white tiles; there is a spacious walk-in shower, a large basin with a large oval mirror surrounded by frosted glass above and LED spotlights that look like stars.

Eco-friendly toiletries — something we encountered at other hotels as well — also speak to Icelanders’ ardent concern for the environment.

The installations

A world-class dining experience at Hotel Rangá is one of the highlights of any hotel stay. With an atmosphere that is both intimate and friendly, The Glass Hall restaurant offers views of the beautiful Rangá River and the majestic Eyjafjallajökull glacial volcano (famous for its 2010 eruption which caused huge disruptions to air travel across the ‘Western Europe). With floor-to-ceiling windows, your dining experience is enhanced by the wild Icelandic scenery outside while savoring modern farm-to-table fare.

Led by Executive Chef Péter Jóni, the restaurant offers a menu with Nordic traditions at its heart, with an emphasis on the freshest, high-quality local ingredients. Wild mushroom soup (villisveppasupa) with assorted mushrooms and pickled local mushrooms is one of Rangá’s many signature dishes, the recipe for which you can find on their website – so tasty my wife ate it two nights in a row!

I was surprised to read that reindeer are not actually native to Iceland but were imported as part of an experiment in the late 18th century. Nevertheless, you will find a delicious reindeer (hreindýr) parmesan carpaccio, truffle oil and arugula on the menu.

Pescatarians will appreciate the smoked salmon (Graflax) with toast, salad and dill sauce.

One of my favorites was the seared scallops (hörpuskel) with apples, baked garlic, langoustine crumble and arugula powder. So luscious and delicious!

And when in Iceland, why not try the puffin? In Rangá, they serve smoked puffin (Monday) in a small glass jar, with apple mousse, crowberry powder and garlic mayonnaise

As a main course, you’ll never go wrong with pan-fried cod (þorskur) with mashed potatoes, three-way Jerusalem artichoke and white wine sauce. Widely regarded as the country’s main marine resource, with the most important fishing grounds off the southern coast, Icelandic cod tend to be slightly sweeter than Pacific varieties.

Another classic dish is chicken breast (kjuklingabringa) with arctic thyme polenta, red pesto, fried mushrooms and a deliciously creamy Albufera sauce.

For something a little heartier, try the savory fillet of lamb (lambahryggvöðvi) with carrots, ‘Anna’ potatoes and port glaze.

As the restaurant overlooks one of Iceland’s most beautiful salmon rivers, it’s a shame not to try the salmon (released) with mashed sweet potato, apples, mustard seeds, fried broccoli, granola and white wine sauce.

Whichever main course you choose, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. Beef tenderloin (nautalund) with mashed potatoes, fried root vegetables and green peppercorn sauce is another great option.

For dessert, try the chocolate globe (súkkulaðikúla) with mascarpone and passion fruit sorbet. Your server will pour a hot passion fruit sauce over the top in a circular motion, which will melt the chocolate sphere for a stunning finish.

After dinner, you can enjoy the rest of your evening in the adjacent bar or in the upstairs cognac lounge.


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Hotel Rangá is located at Suðurlandsvegur, 851 Hella in South Iceland, just off the country’s ring road that circles much of Iceland. It is about 100 km from Reykjavik and just under an hour and a half drive. The nearest town is Hella which is 10 minutes away and has a population of just under 1000.

South Iceland is not only a stunning part of the country with stunning landscapes, but it also offers a fabulous variety of natural beauty – from black sand beaches and green pastures to glaciers and waterfalls.

Other little touches

Guest experience is at the heart of a stay at Hotel Rangá with all sorts of little extras to make your stay memorable. A welcome drink on arrival, a copy of the Rangá Review in each room, the next day’s weather forecast and hotel-branded chocolates left at night time, plus an eye mask and earplugs earplugs to ensure a good night’s sleep, are just a few of the many examples.

Another interesting and touching decision by Hotel Rangá is its tipping policy. In short, they don’t accept tips (in a country where tipping is not a tradition) but, if customers are satisfied with the service they receive and still want to make a gesture, the money raised is donated to local search and rescue services. teams. This innovative approach has raised tens of thousands of euros for this great cause.


Hotel Rangá standard rooms start from €320 per night

Master Suites – like the Antarctica Suite we stayed in – start from €1,016 a night.

The best piece

This was one of those hotel experiences where it’s really hard to highlight just one aspect of our stay. We were very spoiled with our suite, but had to choose the gourmet restaurant as the absolute highlight.

The final verdict

Our stay at Hotel Rang was truly memorable for all the right reasons – perfect surroundings, great staff, fabulous room and superb dining experience. The only thing missing was the Northern Lights (but only because we were visiting during the summer when there is no night sky). The Sunday Times Travel Magazine named the hotel as the best place on Earth to witness the northern Lights.

Hotel staff provide warm snowsuits to keep you cozy while enjoying the Northern Lights, or you can sip a glass of champagne in one of the outdoor hot tubs while taking in the show. There’s even an Aurora wake-up service if you want to be alerted when the sky “dances” above, and the hotel has its own state-of-the-art observatory with two telescopes, with a local astronomer on hand to treat your guests a tour of the dazzling night sky. Hopefully one day we can come back for the full winter experience.

Are you planning a trip to Iceland yourself? You can watch a video of our trip to Iceland here. Images of Hotel Rangá appear from 1m 53s to 2m 12s in the video:

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Ranga Hotel. Our trip to Iceland was also sponsored by Helly Hansen.

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