Icelanders have had an unprecedented task for the past decade; to respond somewhat speedily to an ever-increasing influx of travellers eager to visit this remote land of ice and fire and its inhabitants. The people of Iceland, accustomed to embracing harsh living conditions, facing elements head-on, know that fortune can be fickle. After suffering misfortune in the wake of the financial boom and bust during the first decade of this century things have been looking up of late, mainly fuelled by an exponential increase in visitors to enjoy the well-known hospitality of Icelanders and the unique nature of Iceland.
Hotel Geysir is one of the newest additions to the Icelandic blooming hotel flora and indeed the most recent development in a family-run establishment on the doorstep of the geothermal area of Geysir in the historic Haukadalur Valley. The area has long been one of the most popular tourist destinations in the south of Iceland together with Thingvellir National Park and Gullfoss waterfall often visited in succession in a day-trip from Reykjavik. One of the greatest natural attractions of Iceland is in fact the great Geysir, giving the world a name for this phenomenon, a geyser with groundwater overheating in a geothermal area gushing intermittently from the earth high into the air above. Nearby is another famous geyser, Strokkur, spurting water 30 metres into the air every few minutes. More modest hot springs are also found in abundance including the stunning turquoise-coloured Belsi in the area.
Just a few metres away from this natural wonder the new building connects existing services in the area to blend harmoniously with the surrounding environment with materials that reflect the surroundings. The design of the building by Barcelona trained Icelandic architect Brynhildur Sólveigardóttir is modest and striking at the same time, the spacious and impressive foyer welcoming the visitor being one of the highlights, as if to allow the guest to adjust to the indoors after enjoying the wonders of Icelandic nature. The 77 rooms and 6 suites are bright and light and all have views of the stunning scenery.
A testament to what Icelandic design can be like, from the outside it has a stoic feel with exposed cement walls and a brutalist design, yet you know that what is inside will be most welcoming. The reception walls covered with greenery and the high ceiling give you the feeling that you have entered a magical, wonderful modern palace. Large windows throughout the hotel allow you to admire the landscape, including the magnificent Geysir and hot spring area while passing through. The dining rooms on the first and second floor open up into the garden. For a special occasion, private dining has access to the rooftop terrace with an incredible 360-degree panoramic view of the surroundings.
However, for all the comfort this hotel has to offer, indeed plentiful and in many ways on equal footing as a 5 stars establishment, it is the perfect hub from which to explore the wondrous nature of Iceland, not only the geothermal activity in the proximity of the hotel but also to glaciers and mountains awaiting to be explored in the nearby highlands. You may even be tempted to travel on horseback getting to know the agile and reliable Icelandic pony relied upon for transport in this land of challenging terrain for centuries. Then, returning to a hearty meal at Hotel Geysir after an action-packed day of exploring new territory is certainly an enticing thought.
The restaurant features a diverse menu of locally sourced food, fresh from the farmlands in Haukadalur Valley, the fish caught off the south coast of Iceland. Designed by Leifur Welding, it reflects Icelandic often-barren nature and pays homage to Sigurdur Greipsson, the family ancestor of the proprietary family, who was a famous Icelandic wrestler, a champion of glíma, Iceland´s national sport. The Belt of Grettir (a strongman and hero in the Old Icelandic literature of Sagas), its most coveted prize is on display in the restaurant. There wouldn’t be a better source of energy for any wrestler or tourist for that matter than a bowl of the renowned Icelandic meat soup, found on the menu among a few other local delicatessens; cream of langoustine, arctic char and beef tenderloin to name a few, possibly paired with some unexpectedly exquisite wines.
It all came together for our second night when we enjoyed dining in our suite. Indeed, when cuisine, service, the built environment and nature are all pulling together, it is rather a futile task to resist. It is not a question of if we return but rather when we have the opportunity to enjoy the courteous hospitality of Hotel Geysir. As we say in Icelandic ‘Bless á meðan´ - until we meet again.