This festive season, we go in search of wintry magic – in the mystical landscapes of Iceland. Huddle up by roaring fires, lose yourself in the majesty of the glaciers, and gaze up at the Northern lights while you soak in geothermal waters. Winter is coming – and we have just the picks for you.
By Sam Anna Lee
A slice of understated luxury in the heart of the Golden Circle, where some of Iceland’s highlights (including Gullfoss waterfall, Geysir hot springs, and Thingvellir National Park) lie within easy reach. This space keeps a tranquil atmosphere in harmony with its peaceful surroundings, but without compromising any of your creature comforts. Expect crisp white bedding on comfortable plush beds, large bathrooms equipped with modern tubs and showers, high quality toiletries, and fluffy bathrobes. Service is unpretentious and professional, and always warm and smiling.
Eat and drink well. A generous spread of freshly baked breads, pastries, cheese and energy shots await you every morning; come evening, the exposed brick walls and fireplaces of the main restaurant provide a cozy setting for the likes of Arctic char, Icelandic lobster and mountain lamb. Savour a glass of wine from the wine cellar’s extensive collection.
All rooms (standard, suites, or apartments) come with a balcony or terrace, and access to some of the 29 geothermal hot tubs on site, where you can laze and gaze at the haunting scatter of the Northern Lights. Wake up calls are provided by the hotel when the elusive lights make their appearance, to allow guests to wait in the comfort of their rooms.
Iceland is one of the happiest countries in the world, with some of the purest air and freshest water on the planet – there are few better places in the world for a wellness retreat.
Part of the Eleven Life group, Deplar Farm allows you to experience the philosophy of limitless adventure, by harnessing Iceland’s landscapes and unique culture to create an environment that encourages risk-taking, with mental and physical challenges to improve the health and well-being of its guests. Participate and grow in the transformative experiences offered in an incredible natural setting, including the practice of ‘habit- stacking’ – focusing on small manageable tweaks to daily routines to ensure they become long term practices.
Deplar Farm is tucked away in the remote and ultra-pristine far north, on the otherworldly Troll Peninsula. During the day, delight in the serenity of cross-country skiing and snow shoeing, or try snowmobiling to get your adrenaline levels pumping. Outdoor itineraries can even be specially designed to feature designated periods of silence, to encourage guests to connect deeply with nature and reap the full benefits of the experience. Take sensory-deprivation night walks without artificial torch light in this incredible environment with a lack of light pollution. Cap off your days by losing yourself in the Northern Lights while soaking in the healing spring waters harvested from the valley, then allow the long dark nights to nurse you into a deep sleep.
This establishment occupies a coveted spot in National Geographic’s “Unique Lodges of the World” – and it is easy to see why.
While Iceland’s Ring Road has often dominated headlines for offering the country’s best sights, many Icelanders will tell you that the best secrets lie inland, where tiny local communities have bloomed. Hotel Húsafell is a product of homegrown love, the creation of a family whose roots in the valley go back seven generations. Built conscientiously with sustainable design and excellent craftsmanship, the lodge is decked out with the work of Páll Guðmundsson, an artist and family friend, whose work draws on ancient sagas and uses distinctly Icelandic materials. His art, like Húsafell itself, celebrates the essence of Iceland: its wild geology, its rich folklore, and its vivid creative spirit.
The space is an oasis of Nordic elegance, with glass walls and textured furnishings that showcase and complement the rippling hills, glacial rivers, and ice-capped peaks that surround it. Be dazzled by the Northern Lights while soaking in the thermal pools.
Ice Cave Exploration
Explore one of the most unique attractions in Iceland – the ice cave, a rare mysterious wonder found in the dynamic Icelandic nature. Iceland’s ice caves are completely dependent on their parent glacier when it comes to formation, without any guarantee of the stability of the caves, as the glaciers are on the move constantly. At times, they can be found and formed in volatile areas. While most ice caves require you to explore in a group tour with a professional guide, private tours are available on request.
Most of the ice caves in Iceland are the result of the carving of melted water streams in the derivative place of the glacier, or by streams and wind vacating out the tunnels in snowfields. These types of ice caves usually feature scalloped and translucent walls that send out an illuminating and awe-inspiring blue light.
Journey up the white slopes of Langjokull (Iceland’s second largest glacier) and go deep inside the man-made ice tunnels leading to the blue heart of the glacier, or take the breath-taking experience of visiting the sapphire blue ice cave in Vatnajökull glacier.
Ah, reindeer. Is there any other animal that can epitomise the magic of Christmas? Reindeer were imported to Iceland in the 18th century and today can only be found in East Iceland. Sightings are best in winter when the herds migrate into the valleys.
Escape to the hauntingly beautiful landscapes of Iceland’s East Fjords to see wild reindeer in their natural habitat. The perfect escape for both nature lovers and photography enthusiasts, follow local guides as they take you on a journey to locate and track wild reindeer. Along the way, enjoy the sweeping views of the snow-streaked mountains, deep gullies, cascading rivers, and picturesque waterfalls.