Iceland’s popular Ring Road traces the coast, linking epic waterfalls, notorious volcanoes, and glaciers that rank among the largest in the world. Yet many Icelanders will tell you that the island’s best secrets lie inland, where tiny communities have long carved out livelihoods at the edge of landscapes sculpted by lava and ice. At the end of the Borgarfjordur Valley—off the beaten path yet an easy drive from Reykjavík—Hotel Húsafell is just such a place.
This peaceful retreat is an oasis of Nordic elegance whose glass walls and textured furnishings showcase and complement the rippling hills, glacial rivers, and ice-capped peaks that surround it. Guests can play golf under the midnight sun in the summertime; be dazzled by the northern lights in winter, when the skies light up several times a week; and soak in the thermal pools any time of year. And while that might be enough to keep you on the property, just outside Húsafell, Iceland’s lesser known treasures await exploration: Langjökull glacier, enormous lava caves, waterfalls, and vibrant art and storytelling traditions.
At a time when new hotels are popping up in Iceland’s most well-trodden places, Hotel Húsafell is delightfully homegrown, the creation of a family whose roots in the valley go back seven generations. It was built conscientiously, from the sustainable design and excellent craftsmanship of its furnishings to the rare birch forests that surround it, cultivated over many years by the owners.
Their long presence in Húsafell has led to strong relationships with people like Páll Guðmundsson, an artist and family friend whose intriguing paintings fill the lodge. His work draws on ancient sagas—many of which took place in this region—and uses distinctly Icelandic materials, including paint he makes of crushed volcanic rocks and ash. His art, like Húsafell itself, celebrates the essence of Iceland: its wild geology, its rich folklore, and its vivid creative spirit.
Guests who reserve through National Geographic are treated to a behind-the-scenes walkabout in the historic grounds surrounding the lodge. Visit the on-site hydro and geothermal plants and learn firsthand about Iceland’s cutting-edge clean energy practices. Stop by an ancient sheep pen from Viking times to hear the folklore-rich history of Húsafell. Then try your hand at hoisting the Husafell stone, a traditional lifting stone—used to test strength—placed next to the sheep pen centuries ago by the forefather of Húsafell, Snorri Bjornsson.
Thermal spring water bubbling up through lava landscapes creates much of the energy used by Húsafell. They’ve built three hydroelectric power plants to capture the power of heat and water generated by nature here, and the hotel derives 100% of its energy from these natural, on-site sources. Those thermal springs also warm up the hotel’s warm water and pools, while Húsafell’s cold water comes from glacial melt that passes through lava—the ultimate natural filtering system.
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