One of the things that bucket list-level destinations often have in common is a connection to luxury.
Certainly, that is true of warm-weather hotspots like Bora Bora, the Maldives, and Dubai. But what about a cold-weather hotspot like Iceland?
Unlike the world’s major resort islands, Iceland is a working country with a highly egalitarian culture, high labor costs, and a tourist infrastructure that is struggling to keep pace with the boom in demand. More than two million visitors are expected to descend on a country with just short of 400,000 souls this year.
Like other Nordic countries, Iceland’s hospitality standards emphasize simplicity and cleanliness, and often seek to make the most of the natural surroundings of each lodging.
That means some “luxuries” are quite common – particularly the country’s most prevalent amenity, open-air geothermal hot tubs, which can be found at many hotels, not only those at the top end.
Indeed, one of the things that Iceland most clearly lacks is an abundance of five-star lodging.
The capital, Reykjavik, while it has a vibrant and diverse high-end restaurant scene, only has one five-star hotel, and the demand for luxury lodgings has pushed rates for that hotel and other deluxe properties in the country to the $1000 and up per-night level.
This is not to say that there aren’t alternatives.
Those who insist on luxury may also choose from a small number of well-appointed summer houses that are scattered around Iceland. offering private geothermal hot tubs in often spectacular surroundings.
Such properties can be bases for visiting less-discovered areas of Iceland beyond the more touristed areas, and some can be available stocked with provisions – including wine or champagne to be sipped in the hot tub under the Northern Lights…or the Midnight Sun.
But in a way, luxury is something of a foreign concept in Iceland.
Prosperity and comfort are only recent phenomena here, trends that only started after the end of World War II.
Iceland’s heritage is rooted heavily in fishing and subsistence farming. Its design aesthetic combines Scandinavia’s minimalism with America’s embrace of the freedom of open spaces.
Moreover, the majesty of Iceland’s nature – its clean air, volcanic landscapes, and bubbling warm waters – are the main attraction here. Combined with open-air geothermal bathing, many properties at the four-star and even three-star levels around the country deliver comfortable and memorable lodging experiences.
Of course, insights into such experiences are hard to glean from websites, TripAdvisor ratings or guidebooks – they take an understanding of what each visitor values and which properties can provide memorable experiences.
“Iceland is hardly a one-size-fits-all destination, and that’s particularly true for luxury-minded travelers,” says Helga Kristin Fridjonsdottir (Helga Stina). “For some, luxury means splendid isolation, and others, the company of similarly well-heeled travelers. Sometimes it means spectacular views. Sometimes it means world-class cuisine, or even little touches like smoked salmon on the breakfast table. Combining my knowledge of the available lodging with conversations about traveller preferences can create experiences that transcend star ratings and famous international brand names.”
If you are looking for a memorably comfortable and inspiring Iceland vacation, visit Helga Stina at www.icelandunwrapped.com