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“It’s happening!” I heard someone announce. Everyone in Hotel Husafell’s restaurant immediately launched out of their seats with the collective understanding that dinner could wait. Running outside, jacketless and beaming with anticipation, we were thrilled to see what most people could only imagine.
I squeezed my boyfriend’s hand as I gazed at a streak of vivid emerald green, seemingly painted across the sky, with tears of profound gratitude freezing on my cheeks. A lifelong dream unfolded as I stood in the Land of Fire and Ice, finally witnessing the Northern Lights in person.
Hotel Húsafell in Iceland
Immersed in Iceland’s remote moonscapes, Hotel Húsafell is about two hours outside of Reykjavík, flaunting dark night skies and proximity to glaciers, hot springs, and caves. The hotel is known to be one of the best places to see the Northern Lights, which take place an average of three times per week during peak months (October through March).
The remoteness of the hotel not only ensures a serene immersion in Iceland’s natural landscapes, but it also results in minimal light pollution. That paired with its proximity to Langjökull Glacier, known for having cold cloudless skies, gives Hotel Húsafell the ideal conditions for viewing the Northern Lights.
Read More: When Is the Best Time to Visit Iceland?
Accommodations at Hotel Húsafell
Hotel Húsafell has 48 rooms with four different options to choose from: standard, deluxe, superior deluxe, and suite. Each room has heated floors and modern furniture, featuring beautiful art from local artist, Páll Guðmundsson.
Hotel Húsafell prioritizes sustainability in all that they do and provides each room with sustainable toiletry products from the Icelandic brand, Sóley Organics.
Planning a last-minute trip to Iceland?
Top Experiences and Tours in Iceland:
- See the sights with a tour of Golden Circle, Blue Lagoon Including Admission & Kerid Volcanic Crater
- See glaciers on the Golden Circle & Glacier Snowmobiling Day Trip from Reykjavik
- Explore more with this tour of Northern Lights Yacht Cruise
Where to stay in Iceland:
Although I spent most of my time outside of the room experiencing all of the wonderful activities, I loved how bright and homey my room felt. It had a big window overlooking the wilderness (and sometimes even the Northern Lights). The enormous comfortable bed felt extra cozy after a long day of exploring glaciers.
One of my favorite services that Hotel Húsafell offers is Northern Lights wake-up calls. When you check-in, you can opt to get a phone call past 10 pm if the Northern Lights happen in your sleep.
Both nights we were there, the Northern Lights conveniently happened at 8 pm, so we never got a wake-up call, but we’re happy we signed up for it regardless.
Hotel Húsafell’s Restaurant
Hotel Húsafell boasts a gorgeous restaurant with a welcoming fireplace and expansive windows offering breathtaking views in every direction. The menu changes seasonally, carefully crafted by head chef Ingolfur Piffl. All ingredients are local, featuring many creative iterations of lamb and fish, two Icelandic staples.
Chef Piffl integrates an Asian flair into each course which provides a unique fusion of flavors unlike anything I’ve ever tasted.
While I was there, I had brown butter scallops, mushroom dumplings, and my favorite, crispy Icelandic salmon with a miso puree. Everything tasted fresh and masterfully created, with complex, creative flavor blends.
Activities at Hotel Húsafell
Iceland is known as the land of fire and ice, with mesmerizing landscapes showcasing the dynamic collaboration between volcanoes and glaciers. Húsafell is a marvelous base to see this unique dichotomy for yourself and experience the incredible adventures that Iceland has to offer.
Hotel Húsafell offers a variety of activities to choose from including relaxing in canyon baths, exploring the inside of a glacier, touring a lava cave, along with Blue Lagoon and Golden Circle tours. There are also Lindin-Geothermal baths on the property as well as amazing hiking and biking if you’d prefer something self-guided.
Húsafell Canyon Baths
A group of five of us met at Húsafell’s activity center to embark on our journey to the Canyon Baths. It took about 15 minutes by van to reach the starting point, the terrain getting more surreal by the minute. We began at the top of the canyon, overlooking Langifoss, a two-tiered waterfall pouring down below.
We all descended down 64 steps to reach the canyon floor where we continued to follow a path to the baths. The entire time our brilliant tour guide gave us tidbits of information about the surrounding area, the impact of climate change, and how the baths were constructed.
While the water from the baths is natural and geothermally heated, the structure to define the pools and the path to get there was carefully implemented by Húsafell locals.
Everything was naturally sourced and meant to be as environmentally unobtrusive as possible, keeping with Húsafell’s sustainable values. The baths are constructed from flagstone, the same that is naturally part of the canyon, and the changing room was built from salvaged wood in the area.
Our group was lucky enough to relax in the bright turquoise pools for 45 minutes, right before the sun went down. The canyon views were spectacular with frozen water lining the walls and pink clouds in the sky. This was a place I had no interest in leaving, but I knew more splendid activities were on the roster.
Into the Glacier Tour
One of the most amazing tours offered by Húsafell is the Into the Glacier Tour. Starting at Húsafell’s activity center, a truck with gigantic glacier-proof wheels takes a moderately sized group (about 18 people) 45 minutes away to the Langjökull Glacier, Iceland’s second largest glacier. The entire time, guides give their insight and explanation of the surrounding region, the science behind a glacier, and fun anecdotes along the way.
A glacier, a huge mass of ice, forms when the accumulation of snow exceeds the rate of melting (typically over long periods). Intriguingly, a defining characteristic of a glacier is that is it constantly moving.
However, the tragic reality is that many glaciers both in Iceland and around the world have reached a critical point where they have stopped moving. This stagnation signals the demise of the glacier, a consequence directly linked to climate change and the planet’s warming temperatures.
As we approached the glacier, the terrain got more surreal-looking. The landscapes felt alien – as if there shouldn’t be as much gravity. A guide pointed out the markings of where the glacier once was and how much it had receded. I was shocked to see that in only three years, the glacier receded by 150 meters, which is nearly 500 feet. At that rate, all of the glaciers in Iceland are expected to vanish by 2075.
Read More: Chasing Iceland’s Vanishing Ice
Inside of Langjökull Glacier
After taking in this brutal reality, we all have the opportunity to appreciate a moment in time, the chance to experience a glacier before there aren’t any left. We all climbed out of the truck and were faced with violent icy winds. We were blinded by the reflection of the sun off the glacier as we watched snow particles soar in the wind. All I could think about was how utterly vast it was. One vast field of sparkling white that seemed to never end.
After we took our photos in the practically intolerable conditions, we were all escorted into a hole in the ice, where we then gathered in the first “room.” Our guide passes out crampons, an attachment that gets placed on the bottom of shoes with spiky metal prongs to keep from slipping. While I felt invincible after putting them on, they warned us that they were not foolproof and that we still should be cautious while walking through the glacier.
We all trekked through the blue tunnels as a guide told us about each section. There were various rooms and even a chapel where they host weddings. We learned about the different kinds of cracks in the ice and saw the constant flow of meltwater throughout. As the glacier moves, the pressure causes some of the ice to melt. It flows through and beneath the glacier and ultimately aids in the glacier’s movement.
Lava Cave Tour
Víðgelmir Cave is the largest lava cave in Iceland and one of the largest in the world, only a 15-minute drive from Húsafell. There are ways to arrange a transfer directly through the company or you can take your own car if you have one available. Once there, you’ll get all geared up with helmets and headlights. The cave stays a consistent 32 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius), so dress properly.
Once we reached the starting point, we took a short hike through otherworldly terrain, almost like a moonscape. Spanning endlessly across the landscape, the desolate terrain had a cracked surface with dents and bumps, with distant mountains and glaciers in the background.
Then we stumbled upon a large hole in the earth. Our small group cautiously descended a steep staircase, led by an enthusiastic tour guide who was thrilled to show us the cave. After a volcanic eruption, the lava flowed across the Earth’s surface, cooling and solidifying along the way. The outside formed a crust while the inside stayed molten, still flowing. The cave is a result of the molten lava draining away while the crust remains.
We explored the cave for about an hour and a half. Víðgelmir Cave is unlike any cave I’ve seen before – the walls look like melting chocolate, there are stalagmites and stalactites made of ice, and there are so many colors from various mineral deposits. We learned that there is indeed one lifeform that inhabits the cave: cave bacteria. This specific type of bacteria is so rare and unique that it is of interest to NASA scientists. So far, it has only been found in Icelandic caves at the specific temperature of 1 degree Celsius.
The Lindin-Geothermal Pools at Hotel Húsafell
Adjacent to the hotel is the property’s famous Lindin-Geothermal pools, eternally warm and open year round. Lindin is equipped with changing rooms, a lounge room and a full bar. You can even order drinks directly to where you are in the pool.
There are several pools with varying temperatures to choose from, each perfectly comfortable no matter the outdoor temperature. Once you’re in, you’ll never want to leave. Whether you soak during the day under the sun or by night in hopes of catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights, there is no wrong time to visit Lindin.
I visited Lindin at night when it was unfathomably cold outside. Right when I slipped into the pool, every muscle in my body relaxed after a long day of exploring ice and lava caves. It was the perfect place to get pre-dinner drinks and breathe in the crisp Icelandic air. I gazed up at the bright stars and saw more than I’d ever seen before.
How to Get There
There are a variety of airlines that fly to Reykjavík, one of the most affordable being Play Airlines. They fly in and out of five North American cities and 35 European cities. I flew Play Airlines from Copenhagen to Reykjavík (Keflavik International Airport) and had a seamless experience.
From the airport, the best way to get there is to either rent a car or arrange a ride. It takes about two to three hours to get to and from Keflavik International Airport and Hotel Húsafell depending on traffic.
I had a wonderful experience with Oak Travel, a travel service that offers transfers to hotels and tours throughout Iceland. On the way to Hotel Húsafell, our driver was kind enough to stop and show us breathtaking waterfalls along the way. He was knowledgeable, friendly and professional throughout the whole drive. We just expected a simple transfer but it turned out to be so much more.
If You Go:
- The Northern Lights Season in Iceland is from mid-August to mid-April, but the peak is between October and March.
- Bring a swimsuit, a pair of hiking boots, and warm, waterproof clothing so you’re comfortable during all activities. There are swimsuit and boot rentals just in case, but it’s recommended to bring your own.