Thhe key objective of my recent trip to Iceland was to see the Northern Lights. It was a friend’s “important” birthday and her key goal was to see the lights – and hopefully on her actual birthday! I did a lot of research on the best hotels in Iceland for Northern Lights when planning the trip. The two I came up with were Hotel Ranga Hella and the Northern Lights Inn Iceland. I stayed at both and my reviews are below – and most importantly I saw the lights at both!!!
Best Hotels in Iceland for Northern Lights: Hotel Ranga Iceland
The key appeal of Hotel Ranga Hella for me was the likelihood of seeing the Northern Lights. And I also liked that it is the only 4-star accommodation in South Iceland! Hotel Ranga Iceland is located about 5km outside of Hella heading towards Vik. This more remote location increases the chances of seeing the Hotel Ranga Northern Lights as there is less air pollution.
You absolutely need a car if you are staying here. There are local taxi services but I think this would be quite painful and unnecessarily expensive.
Hotel Ranga Iceland
Layout and facilities
Hotel Ranga Iceland is a good size and has a ranch type layout and feel. There is a large restaurant where both breakfast and dinner are served. The restaurant has is almost entirely windows and provides a 180-degree view.
There is a small bar area just before you reach the restaurant. The highlight here is the fun bar stools. They are basically carved to be like a pair of legs so quite amusing once someone is sitting on them! There are also a few couches.
My favourite area was upstairs above the bar. This is a large area with loads of comfortable couches and tables. I had to do some work while I was there and this was such a lovely area to sit in. We also had dinner up here our first night from the bar menu.
There is another drinks/lounge area on the side of the hotel where there are 2 hot tubs. This area provides direct access to the hot tubs and is perfect for pre-dinner drinks.
Eating and drinking
Breakfast at Hotel Ranga Hella was a highlight!! There is a huge buffet offering of great quality food. Loads of delicious smoked salmon and either soft or hard boiled eggs, a variety of other seafood, salad items, cheeses – basically you name it they had it! There were little “shots” of skyr topped with some granola which I highly recommend!
One of the highlights for me was the do it yourself waffle irons. The batter had been pre-mixed and portioned. All you needed to do was spray the iron, pour on the batter (in the middle), close the top and 2 minutes later a perfect waffle! On hand to serve with your waffle was Nutella, peanut butter, maple syrup and jams. There was then normal cream, caramel cream and strawberry cream.
As part of your breakfast, there is also a hot items menu. The omelettes were my highlight. There is also a full breakfast, poached eggs with salmon and hollandaise and scrambled eggs.
Also included in breakfast is proper espresso coffee. I had 2 cappuccinos each morning and this was the best coffee I had in Iceland outside of Reykjavik Roasters!
There are 2 dinner options at Hotel Ranga Hella. The first is the bar menu. This is quite limited – only a few items. I had the seafood soup which was nice but not particularly filling. The burger and the salmon and bread options looked a lot better. We ate this in the upstairs bar. You can also have any items from the main menu up here as well.
The 2nd option is the main restaurant menu. This is not cheap but wow the food was brilliant!!!! We decided to share three starters so that we could try a few different things. We had puffin which wasn’t great – very chewy and the flavour was not very pleasant. The reindeer carpaccio was a pleasant surprise – full of flavour! Our third safe option was some lovely salmon.
I had the arctic char for my main which was absolutely delicious.
We also had dinner at Restaurant Strond during our stay. This is the closest restaurant to Hotel Ranga Iceland – about a 2-minute drive along the A1. The food was very nice so if you are staying several nights definitely check this out.
There are a bakery and a bottle shop Vinbudin in the town of Hella.
There are SO many activities that are possible from Hotel Ranga Hella! We chose to stay here for 4 nights to increase our chances of seeing the Northern Lights and because it gave us access to so many activities.
It is a big drive 3 hours West to visit the amazing Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach. If you can possibly do this you should absolutely try as it is a don’t miss for me. It is much closer to head West to Vik where you can check out its famous black beach and Dyrholaey for some amazing views.
Hotel Ranga Hella is a great spot from which to do the infamous Golden Circle Tour. This can be done with a tour company or you can drive yourself. The Golden Circle Tour covers Gulfoss (about a good one hour drive), Geysir and Pingvellir National Park. This is a full day with some fantastic scenery.
I also did the Inside the Volcano trip from Hotel Ranga. I drove 1 hour 20 minutes to get to the meeting point and drove myself back. This made it about an 8-hour return trip but this worked really well.
Hotel Ranga Hella can then assist you with snowmobile tours and any other adventure activities you would like to do! The ladies at reception are so helpful. I sat down with one with my big map and basically asked for slightly off the beaten track places to photograph and she was brilliant.
There are a million brochures and so many options here – there is little you can’t do in terms of Icelandic options from Hotel Ranga Hella!
The hot tubs
When you look at the Hotel Ranga Hella website you will not miss the hot tubs! A key part of the hotel’s appeal is the notion of sitting in a hot tub sipping champagne whilst watching the northern lights! Well, this didn’t actually happen to me – would have had to be a lot of luck to make those events all happen together! But we did try out the hot tub and it was lovely!
There are 3 hot tubs at Hotel Ranga Hella. 2 of them are on the east side of the hotel and can be accessed through the sitting area for drinks I mentioned above. It is first in best dressed but they were not super busy when I was there and the hotel was full. You can take a drink in but of course plastic glasses or cups only!
Hotel Ranga Iceland – The rooms
This was my one disappointment with Hotel Ranga Hella. I had expected much nicer and larger rooms. I was quite surprised when I entered the room. It was nicely done out in a rustic way but the design did feel tired – particularly the kind of 1970s floor tiles. We had a twin room and the beds were very comfortable to be fair. However, the room was quite small.
The bathroom had a special spa bath which took up most of the room. This was great but it meant that when you had a shower you did end up spraying water across the whole bathroom as there was no screen. There were quite a few toiletries but not named brand.
There were, however, loads of nice thick towels which I love and nice bathrobes. The room was very cozy with lots of lamps. It was also possible to open the window a touch which was good.
Hotel Ranga Northern Lights
The key reason I stayed at Hotel Ranga was that I read it was one of the best hotels in Iceland for Northern Lights. The whole hotel is set up for it. One of the first things you see at reception when you arrive is the Aurora wake up board where you mark your room if you want to be woken up for the Hotel Ranga Northern Lights. When we jokingly said who were the strange people who did NOT want to be woken up we were told that they were the guests from Iceland!
Near reception are a large number of super warm all in one suits to wear when watching for the Northern Lights. These were toasty warm and very very comfortable! I would have quite liked to sleep in one! I think the suits alone make Hotel Ranga one of the best hotels in Iceland for Northern Lights!
The staff understood our excitement about the Northern Lights and were great keeping us updated. We did get to see the Northern Lights on one of our four nights at Hotel Ranga. We were waiting for our main meals when the call came that the lights were out! At Hotel Ranga Iceland all food and drink are put on hold when the lights show up which is great!
We ran out to the car park and got our cameras ready to go. I did manage to put a warm suit on first which was helpful! We got a nice display for about 10 minutes. We then came back and had our meals which were fantastic. The lights came out a second time and we were treated to a longer display this time which was amazing!
Hotel Ranga Iceland – Service
The staff were brilliant. Super friendly and super helpful. Nothing was too much trouble. The service was fast, prompt and cheerful. Our coffees were quick at breakfast each morning and we had a delightful night the evening we ate in the restaurant. They could not have been more lovely!
Apart from the rooms, I loved everything about Hotel Ranga. The location is brilliant, the staff so lovely, the food is brilliant and I loved the atmosphere in the Hotel – it is warm and friendly – very Danish hygge! And based on my experience this is definitely one of the best hotels in Iceland for Northern Lights. Also, very few hotels offer a wake-up service for the lights.
The rooms were a disappointment but they were still very nice. I plan on doing a 4th trip to Iceland at some point I will definitely come back and stay here again which I guess is the key test!
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