Exploring Iceland’s Golden Circle with Hotel Ranga

Iceland is on many peoples’ bucket list, and it has always been on mine. I love the way this blog has a habit of making dreams come true, as I received an invitation to visit Iceland’s Golden Circle with Hotel Ranga. The theme of the weekend was gastronomy, for which Hotel Ranga is justifiably renowned.

As the only four star hotel in South Iceland and the highest starred hotel near the Golden Circle, it’s a very convenient base from which to explore Iceland’s highlights. Glaciers, the Westman Islands and Mount Hekla volcano are all within easy reach, and fishing, dog-sledding and river-rafting are just some of the activities on offer nearby. Popular with celebrities, it’s the first Icelandic hotel to become a member of Great Hotels of the World. Overlooking a river, it’s constructed in a log-cabin style and has 51 rooms and suites .

Hotel_Ranga_review_IcelandHotel Ranga is a scenic 1 hour drive from Keflavik, the main airport.

Iceland_sceneryBefore heading there, we stopped off in Reykjavik, where there’s a lot to see and do. On the way, we visited Urta, a local producer of Icelandic salts, jams and syrups. We also explored the Ghost and Elf Museum. Storytelling is a huge thing in Iceland and the museum tells some of those tales in a very entertaining fashion.

We were greeted at the door by Fridrik, the hotel’s affable owner who speaks perfect English. Check in was a really quick and efficient process and we were on our room in under five minutes.

Bedroom_RangaOur spacious bedroom had direct access to the porch outside, which would come in especially handy when the Northern Lights are out.

Hotel_Ranga_visitIn fact the hotel has a special Northern Lights wake up call which alerts guests who’ve signed up for it if the lights are out at some point during the night.

The bathroom had a large jacuzzi bath and amenities included a quirky tea sachet. Quirkiness is in abundance throughout the hotel – a case in point are these leggy cocktail chairs…

And this whacky harp massage chair. If someone plays the harp, the person sitting in the chair feels soothing vibrations in their back.

We had time for a quick tour before dinner, and admired the billiard room…

We sampled the local beers before dinner, from Olvisholt Brewery – they’re all very drinkable but my favourite was the red ale.

Icelandic_beersWe then moved on to the light-filled upstairs private dining room…

DiningRoomRangafor a lavish four-course dinner rustled up by head chef Karl Johann Unnarsson, who kindly explained the dishes to us. The concept of the restaurant is based on a farmer’s market, using local, seasonal ingredients. I particularly enjoyed the warming wild mushroom soup with Madeira wine…

Menu_RangaWhilst Mr Luxe’s highlight was the chocolate mousse with fresh cream, crumble and strawberries. This is highly accomplished cuisine in terms of presentation and flavours.

Ranga dessertAfter a great night’s sleep in the comfy bed, we were ready for breakfast the next morning, overlooking the river and hot tubs.

Hotel_Ranga_tubI’d definitely recommend the four types of herring but I’m told that the waffles are pretty good too.

The Golden Circle is a not to be missed circuit of some of Iceland’s top attractions, spread over 300 kilometres. Along the way we spotted a magnificent double rainbow…

rainbow_icelandAnd many Icelandic horses…one of the oldest breeds of horses in the world.

The area of Þingvellir is a very popular tourist destination due to its beauty, cultural and geological significance.

Lake-IcelandThe site of Iceland’s first parliament, established in 930, it’s possibly the oldest Parliament in the world. It remained here until 1798 and Þingvellir National Park was founded in 1930, to commemorate its 1,000th anniversary. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004.

It’s also the centre of an unusual phenomenon – you can clearly observe continental drift between Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. Earthquakes have caused the plates to split further and further apart, increasing Iceland’s land mass considerably and moving it closer to Europe. See the rocks on the left and right of the photo below – they were originally joined together.

It was interesting to see and thankfully the earth didn’t move on this occasion! The last earthquake was in 2000.

We then visited a very cool ice cream parlour, Efsti Dalur Farm, where you can see the cows grazing through a glass wall as you sample their delicious organic yoghurt and ice cream.

Ice-cream-IcelandOur next stop was the incredible Gullfoss or Golden Falls, my favourite stop on our tour. Flowing from the Hvítá river, it’s sometimes known as the double waterfall, since it plunges at two stages into a 32 metre crevice.

There were some attempts to use the current to generate electricity and at one point it was rented out to foreign investors but thankfully it was sold back to the State of Iceland and is now a protected landmark.

Let’s go in closer shall we? The sheer power of the current is mesmerizing.

Waterfall-IcelandBy now we’d worked up an appetite so headed to Fridheimar Tomato Greenhouse for a lunch with a difference…it’s inside a tomato conservatory and all the dishes are tomato based!

Fridheimar_Iceland_menuTheir tomato soup is exceptional and I don’t even normally like it! The olive bread was a real treat too and we washed down our meal with four types of Bloody Mary. The Guardian considers these the best in the world. We tasted tomato flavoured ice cream for dessert which was surprisingly tasty, and a moreish tomato cheesecake.

Fridheimar_Iceland_reviewAfter lunch we visited Haukadalur valley and Geysir, world famous as the site of many active geysirs, including tiddly Litli Geysir

and big brother Strokkur ;-). A group of people were patiently waiting for one of the geysir’s to erupt, which it does every eight to ten minutes. When it did blow, the effect was spectacular. It was over as quickly as it started. The word geysir comes from the Icealandic word geysa meaning to gush. These eruptions have been active for around 10,000 years and can project boiling water up to 70 metres high or up to 40 metres in the case of Strokkur. Earthquakes tend to increase the activity of the geysirs.

Geysir-IcelandThe Icelandic Saga Centre is also close to the hotel and we made a short visit there to participate in the embroidery of a tapestry, the Njáls Saga, that should be finished in 3 years. We were shown how to recreate the Bayeux stitch that was used in the Viking age. Once finished it will be approximately 90 metres long.

Iceland_tapestryBack at the hotel, we were treated to a gastronomic 8 course feast. A special mention for the beautifully presented slow cooked cauliflower with buttermilk sauce and pickled red onion

Ranga cauliflower  As well as the lightly cured and blowtorched salmon with trout roe and spinach vinaigrette…or Northern Lights on a plate as I christened it.

Ranga fishand the pan-fried fillet of lamb with spring onion, roasted cabbage purée and demi-glaze sauce. We loved the subtle flavour combinations and contrasting textures.

Ranga-meatcourseAfter this epic meal, we kitted ourselves out in the fleecy overalls provided by the hotel, encountering a 10 foot polar bear named Hrammur along the way…

We then walked the short distance to Hotel Ranga’s very own Astronomical Observatory. This is totally unique – the most high-tech obeservatory in Iceland, with two 11-inch computerized telescopes, space for 30 people and a retractable roof!

Telescope_RangaSadly it was a cloudy night when we visited so we couldn’t see any stars but the night before we arrived the sky was star-studded and the Northern Lights made a spirited showing. The next morning I couldn’t resist jumping in one of the outdoor hot tubs heated with geothermal water, whilst the snow fell around me…Getting a bit of a surprise as a wild goose landed on the pond right beside me 😉

Bird_RangaIt was another unexpected pleasure and a fitting end to our stay at Hotel Ranga. Now if you’ll forgive me, I should hop off! Have you ever been to Iceland or seen the Northern Lights?

Hotel Ranga, 851 – South Iceland


  • Beauty Follower

    Wonderful photos, must be a great trip!
    Have fun 😉


  • ♫ Alison M ♪

    Looks glorious. Would love to go to Iceland one day

  • Love the last photo of you jumping over the mushroom! Yes, Iceland has been on my bucket list for a few years now. I once had the chance to have a layover at the Reykjavik airport but it was not long enough to wander out and see sights. Your photos show what spectacular sights there are to discover!

    • The mushroom was a bit surreal, it fitted in well with the hotel’s quirky decor! I’d love to return and hopefully see the Northern Lights

  • I would love to visit Iceland – it’s on my bucket list. I know my husband has been meaning to go there for years as well. Now that I know you can totally hang with 10 foot polar bears I’m twice as eager, love that pic! 😉

  • Wow, I’d love to go here. Iceland is on my list for this year so I’ll definitely check this place out. So cool they have their own observatory!!

    • The observatory was pretty special, there was cloud when we visited but I can imagine it on a starry night!

  • Your pictures of Iceland are so gorgeous!! And I love how your hotel room opened up right into the countryside!


    • It was really handy for getting into the hot tub and I can imagine how convenient it would be when the Northern Lights appear too

  • Ohhhmmy the views and that raindbow photo looks like an incredible encounter.
    I heard a lot from Iceland and it was amazing.

    Have a great day!


  • Hotel Ranga looks like a great place to enjoy your Iceland stay! How lucky you were to see a double rainbow there!

    • It was pretty special to see a double rainbow, at first I only noticed one – apparently they’re quite frequent there

  • This looks like such a fun trip Suze! Love that last photo of you!

    Ash | Liakada

    • It looks like I’m jumping quite high but that’s just because the mushrooms were so low 😉

  • Elena Dal Maso

    Wonderful place, I love Iceland…


  • Hotel Ranga is on my wish list, I’d really love to visit Iceland.

  • Stunning photos! I love Iceland and it has a special place in my heart since it was the first trip with my husband when we were dating. This hotel sounds amazing and the food looks so delicious and flavorful. I would love both the waffles and herring!


  • It looks so amazing and peaceful there!

  • What an amazing trip! Iceland has been on my hotlist for a long time. Did you bring Hrammur home with you? 😉

  • Ah I remember stopping off at this hotel when we visited Iceland, such an unique place!

  • Such an amazing place! I love that pic with the bear! Thanks for sharing!

  • Gorgeous shots, lady- this corner of the world is gorgeous!

    Le Stylo Rouge

  • I’m so glad you dream of visiting Iceland has come true Suze – this looks like an amazing adventure 🙂 The water feature shown in the fourth photo looks very special, but the rainbow and Icelandic horses combined really do steal the show – wow!

    Gabrielle | A Glass Of Ice

    • I wish we’d have had more time with the Icelandic horses, we drove past a visitor horse centre on the way to the airport

  • Now, this is how to see Iceland!

  • Wow, what an incredible place! This is how I want to experience Iceland. One of my friends is currently in Iceland and it looks absolutely beautiful there. It’s definitely on my never ending list of places to visit…

    Eden | Mint Notion

  • SUCH a fun post, Suze!!! My bestie is going to Iceland in May, so will be sure to forward this along. I love that they mark which hotel rooms to wake up for the Northern Lights, brilliant! And those chairs are too cool!

    • She’s going to have a brilliant time! It’s reassuring to know that they wake you up for the Northern Lights, no doubt I’d sleep through them otherwise

  • Ellie Adams

    Ooh Iceland has been on my bucket list for a long time now, especially since an influx of bloggers took over my instagram feed with dreamy photos of it 🙂 The views – and food – looks stunning, I’d love to see Iceland!


  • Everything about this post is amazing!! Seems like you had so much fun!! The food looks so delicious!!

  • Such a cool hotel..Iceland definitely seems like a unique place to visit. I’d love to go there someday.


  • Lucy

    Iceland is beautiful, it is somewhere that I would happily go back to explore more of the island. We went at Christmas and I can really recommend this, you can read about our adventures here: http://bit.ly/1Ip4xQD. You look like you had a wonderful time. We stayed in the centre at the Hilton which was lovely but I like the idea of getting further out in a cabin. Brave woman to get in the hot tub. Lucy X (FoodieForce)