For many who have never been there, Iceland has a reputation for exotic adventures in unfamiliar nature, clean air and water in abundance and a vibrant cultural and night life in it‘s capital, Reykjavík. It invariably comes as a surprise to those unfamiliar with this pearl of the north that to sustain an operational infrastructure to be expected in a modern western society Iceland has to make do with a population on a par with that of a borough of, say, London, of about 340.000 people. You would find yourself in a country where each person has a space of the size of 40 football pitches compared to half a pitch in the UK.
Until recently tourists visited Iceland mainly during the summer months and their attraction was predominantly the raw and relatively unspoilt nature of this volatile and volcanic island. But this has changed in recent years and many come now to enjoy cultural events such as the vibrant Airwaves music festival in November or indeed what seems to be attracting many visitors most recently, the often evasive Aurora Borealis - the Northern lights. And to see them you would head out of the city lights in Reykjavík for some rural stillness. You will certainly find that at Hotel Ranga. But make no mistake, this is also the centre for the most exciting activity packed tours in the south of Iceland including super jeep tours to the highlands, bird watching, cave exploration, dog sledding, fresh water fishing, golf, helicopter sightseeing, horseback riding, sea angling, scuba diving, river rafting... the list seems to be endless and the staff at Hotel Ranga will taylor this to your wishes. It's the perfect base to explore the Icelandic highlands, glaciers, volcanoes, black sand beaches, fishing villages, magnificent waterfalls, hot springs, cultural centers, historic places, nature preserves and much more.
The hotel takes it name from the clear spring river East-Rangá that runs through it´s land with water so clear and clean you can simply kneel down and drink it from the palm of your hand if you would like an option to the best whiskey bar north of the Alps. Not that you are likely to find another one better south of them either taking one of the hotel´s visitors word for it. From the people we met while being entertained at the bar we get the impression that the clientele is mainly people well travelled that want to be sure of high quality accomodation and food where they choose to rest on their jourrneys. We would tend to agree that this place provided both with it‘s warm and sturdy wooden frame and decor and 51 luxurious and cozy rooms in various price ranges, including the renowned continental suites, decorated and themed after the continents. One of them is our haven tonight with original furniture and artwork from Peru and a slightly 60's feel to overlooking East-Rangá River and green pastures towards the infamous volcano Eyjafjallajokull rising majestically in the east.
We leave the impressive choice of strong liquour to other guests as we sip a superb fruty Chilean Sauvignon Blanc before ordering our starter still at the bar. We are spoilt for choice but go for two of the kitchen´s renowned fish dishes, Brennivíns Cured Rangá Salmon with horseradish cream and mustard-vinaigrette caught in the aforementioned river and Seafood soup a la Rangá with the house´s best seafood available. The restaurant at Hotel Rangá is an acclaimed gourmet restaurant and we were told by the owner, the very welcoming Friðrik Pálsson,who attends personally but unintrusively to his guests, that the restaurant's motto is the concept of a "Farmers Market" - in effect using predominantly local ingredients of the highest quality and freshness - following seasonal availability. The menu is inspired by modern Nordic cuisine with a Mediterranean twist and it comes as no surprise to find salmon in every variation on the menu sourced from the local river.
The owner greets us as we are still deciding on the main course and, seeing we are having a hard time choosing, very generously offers us a miniature selection of various dishes including a vegetarian steak served with local mushrooms and herbs and what might be coined the hotel‘s signature dish, Rangá salmon with sweet potato and white chocolate purée, champagne foam and strawberries. Our host is full of stories not only about how hotel Ranga is perfectly located to discover what Iceland has to offer but also about his many travels around the world and he certainly draws from that experience to add warmth to this unique hotel.
Our latest trip to Iceland took us to a place that we always wanted to explore, the island‘s south. Here we feel peaceful and at one with nature there and this feeling got only stronger when on our way to Hotel Rangá we stopped at the charming seaside village of Eyrarbakki, itself a source of good gastronomy, where we learned you can have an uninterrupted vista stretching in a straightline to the south pole. Again here at Hotel Ranga, with several dormant but active volcanoes in plain sight, you are able to grasp the dimensions of our planet in such a way that the experience leaves you with something unforgettable.