A southern Iceland stay on points at the Hotel Ranga
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Like many, I have long been fascinated by Iceland’s breathtaking landscapes and magnificent hikes. When it was one of the first countries that reopened for vaccinated tourists, I (almost immediately) booked a long-overdue mother-daughter trip.
Living on the East Coast, Iceland is a no-brainer international destination since you can fly here in the same amount of time (or less) as taking a transcontinental flight. Even better, my round-trip flight was under $400 on Delta Air Lines.
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My mom and I had a wonderful time exploring the island in five days. While we traveled (and lived) in a camper van for the first three days — a completely different experience of its own — we ended our trip sightseeing at Iceland’s Golden Circle, staying at the stunning Hotel Ranga for two nights.
While I’ve never seen “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” my friend pointed out that the cast stayed at the Hotel Ranga in Season 12. The Hotel Ranga is the only four-star resort in Iceland, so I was looking forward to a much more luxurious experience than eating, cooking and sleeping in a camper van.
Growing up, I was a huge fan of the “Little House on the Prairie” books (and the TV show, of course). The hotel exterior, while rustic, reminded me very much of this series, but the inside offered thoughtful touches and a unique charm you won’t find anywhere else in Iceland. Here’s what it was like to stay at this one-of-a-kind hotel.
World of Hyatt is a TPG-favorite loyalty program thanks to its fantastic redemption rates compared to its peers, such as Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors. While there are plenty of Hyatt properties to choose from within the U.S., the chain has a much smaller global footprint. As such, Hotel Ranga is one of just two Icelandic properties part of the World of Hyatt program.
Hotel Ranga is actually part of Hyatt’s partnership with the Small Luxury Hotels of the World collection, spanning 500-plus hotels in more than 90 countries. These are not the typical hotels you’ll find just about anywhere — think boutique hotels with unique spaces and amenities that go above and beyond.
Award availability tends to be more limited than other Hyatt options, but you can book a standard room for 30,000 Hyatt points with the right dates. While this stay costs $525 per night in cash, with my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, I transferred 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points over to World of Hyatt, getting 1.75 cents in value from this booking.
A nice added perk of booking through the SLH program is the ancillary benefits. For example, I enjoyed a $50 restaurant credit, free breakfast, a room upgrade and more — available even for non-elite World of Hyatt members.
There’s an endless number of things to see in Iceland. Whether you have just a few days or are lucky enough to spend a few weeks in the country, one of the must-visit spots on everyone’s list is the Golden Circle.
A route consisting of three iconic locations in southwest Iceland, the Golden Circle is located at a reasonable distance (just about an hour) from Keflavik International Airport (KEF). If you’re looking to maximize your time in Iceland, it’s a good idea to stay around or near the Golden Circle, as you won’t be too far from the airport and can knock out some sightseeing.
The Hotel Ranga is located in Hella, a small town located just 30 minutes from Selfoss. You’re close to tons of popular attractions, from glaciers to waterfalls to national parks. If you’re spending some time in southern Iceland, you’ll want to stay somewhere that’s centrally located — and the Hotel Ranga is under 90 minutes by car from all these attractions.
Whether you prefer to travel with a tour guide or want to meander on your own, there are so many amazing places just a short driving distance away from the hotel.
The Hotel Ranga is an especially popular spot to stay in the winter, as the hotel is far enough from Reykjavik and other towns to have no light pollution. This means the Hotel Ranga is ideal for seeing the northern lights, and there’s a stargazing observatory (with telescopes!) right at the hotel. While I couldn’t take advantage of this during my summer visit, this is another compelling reason to stay here — and the front desk will even give you a wake-up call when the northern lights are out, so you don’t have to stay up all night waiting for the right moment.
Iceland is also a great place to visit in the summer since the sun is up virtually all day (this means that in the winter, you only get a few hours of sunlight). After a long day of hiking and exploring, my mom and I checked into the hotel after 10 p.m., although given how bright it was outside, it felt like midday.
There was a lively atmosphere when we checked in to the hotel, and we could hear a round of chatter and laughter from the hotel’s bar and restaurant located steps from the front desk.
As my mom and I were probably the only guests checking in this late into the evening, the friendly receptionist greeted me by my first name and showed us around the property. She thanked me for booking my stay through the SLH program and for my loyalty to Hyatt. Later, I was stopped by Frederick, the hotel owner, who invited us to have drinks at the bar that evening.
This was different than any other hotel check-in experience I’ve had in the past. My mom and I felt so welcomed and you could tell that the employees were passionate about their guests and ensuring that they had a terrific experience in Iceland. The customer service was top-notch, and everyone was more than willing to answer any questions and arrange tours for us during our trip.
Thanks to my one-category upgrade, I was given a deluxe room. These rooms come with one king bed and a sofa bed (to fit a maximum of three people) and come with either a river or mountain view. My room was tucked away at the end of the long hallway.
My room, while somewhat small, felt much more spacious thanks to the high ceilings and large windows overlooking the river. There were also blackout curtains that ensured I got a good night’s rest. I would say this room would fit a couple comfortably, but any more guests than that, you’ll start to feel cramped (unless you upgrade to a larger room).
Each room comes with a hand-painted mural, which I found was an intimate touch that makes you feel more at home.
While the bathroom felt slightly outdated, it was quite large and even came with a whirlpool tub.
Overall, the room was cozy and offered spectacular views, as each room had its own porch to the outdoors. My room happened to be in front of one of the four shared hot tubs heated by geothermal water. There was virtually nobody using them, so I got to soak in one of the hot tubs for several hours alone on my very last night in Iceland.
Food and beverage
One of my favorite parts of the stay was the free hotel breakfast buffet. And it wasn’t just any breakfast buffet — the hotel restaurant had plenty of fresh and local offerings. With a variety of meats, cheeses, vegetables and fruits to choose from, all of the breakfast options felt healthy and were filling for the adventures I had in store for the rest of the day. I even took a shot of the local fish oil.
There was also a separate menu that you could order from (included in the complimentary breakfast), so I ordered the Icelandic breakfast that came with eggs, baked beans, bacon and a hash brown.
My mom and I used our $50 hotel credit for dinner at the Ranga Restaurant. I enjoyed a wild mushroom soup and scallops. All of the ingredients were locally sourced and tasted incredibly fresh, so I definitely recommend eating here during your stay. I also thought it was reasonably priced given that Iceland is an expensive destination, and of course, the restaurant credit certainly helped.
There’s also a bar next to the restaurant that I visited in the evening. Here, I met several other American tourists (who also happened to be traveling from New York), and my first drink was a delicious gin cocktail with fresh berries at the bar. The bartender, Lukas, moved to Iceland from the Czech Republic, and we all got to know each other as we shared a few more drinks throughout the evening, exchanging travel stories.
There are only 51 rooms at the Hotel Ranga, and most of them are located on the first floor of the property. The hotel is divided into two wings, with the check-in desk and restaurant in the center.
There are lounges located in the west and east wings that are beautifully decorated, full of board games, books, comfortable couches and skylights. I could see this being an excellent area for families, especially on those rainy Iceland days.
There’s also a larger lounge on the second floor near the main bar. I assume that this is used more as a venue for events, but this is another great spot to read a book or relax after a long hike.
As a fitness enthusiast, I was disappointed to see that the Hotel Ranga does not have a gym. But remember that you’re in Iceland! After a long day of hiking, I wasn’t interested in hitting the gym anyway.
As mentioned earlier, there are shared hot tubs with Iceland’s iconic geothermal water, which was a phenomenal way to wind down and relax.
After spending three nights in a camper van, I was more than happy to end my trip at the Hotel Ranga and cross off some of the last items on my Iceland bucket list. The Hotel Ranga feels upscale without being stuffy, and you can tell there’s so much to do and see. Whether your goal is to book a getaway to escape the summer heat or catch the northern lights in the winter, the Hotel Ranga should be top of mind when booking your Iceland vacation.
If you’re a family, you’ll want to be mindful of the type of room you’re booking, as my deluxe room was just right for my mom and me. However, the hotel offers larger suites that will accommodate your larger group, providing plenty of options whether you’re a solo or family traveler.
Featured photo by Stella Shon for The Points Guy.
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