Given that it’s Europe’s most sparsely populated country, Iceland commands a disproportionate amount of natural beauty.
It’s a fact that was evident from the air as I flew in courtesy of Icelandair. Outside the cabin window, the Atlantic could be seen knocking against the blackened coast, whilst the vast snowy climbs appeared featureless aside from the occasional settlement or brightly glowing greenhouse.
The irony of sitting in the sky and acknowledging the attractiveness of the land is not lost on me. Just a few hours later, I was gazing up at the former in astonishment as the Northern Lights danced above our small party of stargazers. But therein lies the beauty of Iceland – you are surrounded by raw natural wonders.
Hotel Ranga is taking advantage of this without impinging upon it. As with much of Iceland, the hotel has been cleverly designed to capitalise on all that this country can offer whilst retaining the progressive feel it exudes. By progressive, I am referring to the environmental awareness.
Geothermal power plants are used to produce over a quarter of Iceland’s heating and electricity. It’s a fact that my guide, the co-founder of South Iceland Adventure, Addi, proudly pointed out.
The awareness of this natural beauty and the determination to preserve it is something that permeates through Hotel Ranga’s core. From the locally sourced menu of their exquisite restaurant to the way the hotel has cultivated a reputation as one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights, Ranga is beautifully evocative of Iceland itself. Located just over an hour’s drive from Reykjavik, little about Hotel Ranga suggests opulence. With a cabin-like appearance, it is more of an understated gem, a fact mirrored by an interior, that, whilst cosy, it affords a minimalist design.
This doesn’t diminish from the incredibly comfortable and spacious rooms. Ranga is cleverly designed, but its luxury lies not in its furnishings; unless you decide to book a suite. Instead, the hotel has invested shrewdly in other areas and it’s obvious why it is considered one of the finest places to view the Northern Lights.
Hotel Ranga actually owns much of the land surrounding it. This ensures they are able to keep light pollution to a minimum, something which would impede your view of a star-filled night sky and the Aurora Borealis. The conditions need to be good to enjoy such natural wonders. A fact that was explained to me by Ranga’s resident astronomer, Sævar, who also teaches the subject at Reykjavik’s University.
On a clear night, Sævar comes to Ranga to take guests through a stargazing tutorial which includes viewing the night sky through three state-of-the-art telescopes. All this takes place within the hotel’s dedicated rolloff roof observatory, the most advanced of its kind in Iceland.
The genius of this service cannot be understated. No expense has been spared to create as good conditions as humanly possible to witness the Northern Lights. The rest is up to nature. As guests brave freezing temperatures made bearable by hotel-provided thermal suits, Sævar brilliantly narrates the sky and the science therein; he’ll even program your camera to help capture the Northern Lights too.