Chasing The Northern Lights: How To Have A Haute Holiday In Europe’s Most Expensive Country

IcelandPhoto Credit: Promote Iceland/Nordurljos-Jokulsarloni-Vetur

Some travelers arrive in Iceland without a clear idea of what to do beyond “Blue Lagoon” and “Northern Lights,” but chasing those very lights without a plan can be detrimental, even for the uber-rich. Why? According to a report from Eurostat, Iceland is Europe’s most expensive country, with a price level that’s 56 percent above the average of 37 European countries (followed by Switzerland with 52 percent, for perspective). Though clearly money is no object for the spectacularly wealthy, a strategic stay is to anyone’s benefit. So, as usual, were here to help. 

THE NORTHERN LIGHTS

Northern LightsPhoto Credit: saltat007/Shutterstock.com

First off, let’s start with our focus. The Northern Lights are mercurial, beautiful beasts. There is no telling when they’ll pop out, and no guarantee that you’ll see them. Your best bet would be to book a tour, where a dedicated guide who religiously follows weather patterns can take you to one of many remote, very cold spots in the hopes that you’ll see them. You’ll be freezing; bring your Canada Goose. SHOULD you see them, you’ll see one of the most amazing phenomena—the result of disturbances in the magnetosphere caused by solar wind. For those who want to wing it, your best bets will during colder weather, at night, away from light pollution.

WHERE TO STAY

Hotel Grimsborgir

Hotel GrimsborgirPhoto Credit: Hotel Grimsborgir 

Some might be surprised to know that Iceland, despite it’s statistics, has only two five-star hotels. As of 2019, Hotel Grimsborgir, located in Iceland’s Golden Circle, has become one of those two. The hotel, which is located over an hour east of Reykjavik, nestled on the bank of river Sogid, is a prime place for Aurora Borealis sightings as it’s far away from light pollution, quiet, serene and supremely luxe. 

Hotel Grimsborgir is just “extra.” All rooms come with balcony or terrace and access to one of 29 geothermal hot tubs on site, private or shared. Which means, you can literally grab a glass of Dom Perignon and sit (warmly) underneath the Lights.It’s the front-row seat you never imagined possible. If you’re too tired to wait them out, the hotel offers an optional wake-up call if the Lights are spotted in the sky.  

Make sure to try the hotel’s dedicated restaurant, which offers Icelandic and international dishes made with fresh local ingredients and nightly live music. The chef is a big fan of locally-sourced cuisine; he even hunts for some of your fine dining options himself.

Reyyjavik Konsulat Hotel

Curio Reykjavik

Photo Credit: Curio Reykjavik

Surprisingly, Iceland’s capital city doesn’t a five-star hotel (until Ian Schrager‘s much-lauded EDITION hits sometime in the next year). The preferred luxury property of choice is the Reyyjavik Konsulat Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton. This darling property is located right in the midst of the city’s center—apt, as it was once the original trading center for Reyyjavik. This is a very masculine property; dark colors, lots of brown leather, but it works, lending the hotel a cozy, arty feel, fully modern with nods to the past (the lobby, for example, is called ‘coal alley’ because it’s where coal was once brought in to trade; elevators are set to look like mercantile). The former 1900’s department store  has its own bathhouse and fitness center, as well as balconies so that you might see the bustling city beneath. Though to be fair, you’ll have to wait until nearly 11 am to see those sights in the winter—there’s almost 24 hours of darkness during the Icelandic winter.

Diamond Suites

Diamond Suites
The Ruby

Photo Credit: Diamond Suites

Diamond Suites, located in Keflavik, is the country’s first luxury hotel. Though you might initially be doubtful of the property upon first impression—t’s a hotel within a hotel, located on the top floor of Hotel Keflavik, your stay will be worth it, we promise. Each of the seven suites have their own look and personality, as well as access to a private lounge and dining area with a fire place, a well appointed kitchenette and terrace with jacuzzi, exclusive to Diamond Suites guests, as well as access to a fitness center that is actually the main fitness club for active Keflavik gym-goers.
Plus, it’s super fun deciding which gemstone you’d like to stay in as they’re all so unique. The centerpiece of the Ruby, for example, is a headboard, which took 12 weeks to hand carve from a single piece of wood. The bathroom floors are made of Versace marble tiles, and faucets are designed by Philippe Starck. The Sapphire has its own private outdoor jacuzzi (prime for Northern Lights viewings), the Topaz has a bathtub with mood lighting, so that you might feel you bath is a party; the Pearl, an opulent king size bed made from white leather and decorated by Swarovski crystals, framed by Versace marble columns and alligator leather covered night stands; and the Diamond, the best of all—a spacious living room, dining area, kitchenette, private balcony with two jacuzzis and up to five en-suite bedrooms that can also be used for other functions as needed e.g. a private gym, private office, or a cinema if reserved in time. Guests staying at the highly exclusive Diamond Suite have a private Range Rover and a driver at their disposal, possibility of a private chef, and a personal trainer.

DINING

Dill Restaurant Photo Credit: Dill Restaurant/Instagram

Many of the restaurants in Iceland have locally sourced items with a focus on meat. We love the nightlife in particular, as Icelandic natives love a good bar! In terms of restaurants, head to Reyyjavik for the best offerings. We recommend Dill, the country’s first Michelin-star eatery, which is inspired by the Icelandic landscape and dedicated to fresh ingredients, foraging and sustainability, and Geiri Smart, which has a fabulous menu focused on native items like trout, beetroot, and bilberries, with an inventive cocktail menu to boot.

ACTIVITIES

The Blue Lagoon Spa

Blue Lagoon SpaPhoto Credit: Blue Lagoon Spa

The most luxurious way of doing the Blue Lagoon is to book a day pass at the Retreat Spa at the Blue Lagoon. Truthfully, it’s the only way to immerse yourself in those cerulean waters privately, and in style. Flowing from the same wellspring of geothermal seawater as the Blue Lagoon, this mineral-rich waterscape opens new vistas of wellbeing. A welcome drink (we recommend Champagne) can be enjoyed from the swim-up bar (though you will need to suffer the freezing cold to get to the bar area) first and foremost, which makes exploring the hidden coves of the Lagoon even more exhilarating. There’s also a Ritual offered to all guests—in a hidden cave cove, no less (indoors, thankfully)—utilizing the Lagoon’s natural wonders: silica, algae, and minerals. You’ll have your own private changing room, and access to the Retreat’s customized beauty products. Massages and facials are also on offer for a fee.

Harpa Photo Credit: Promote Iceland

What makes Iceland so unique is its natural beauty. You’ll literally feel like you were in Middle Earth (or Westeros, for that matter, as “Game of Thrones” was filmed here). Some options for consideration: Reykjavík’s Harpa concert hall, a cultural landmark designed by Danish firm Henning Larsen Architects in co-operation with Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson; Perlan, a museum dedicated to the wonders of Iceland with 360-degree views of the capital city; Laugarvatn Fontana, a spa and wellness area built on natural hot springs;the black sand beaches of Vik; the twin-peaked Snæfellsjökull glacier, which sits over a volcano; taking the Golden Circle route and hitting Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss waterfall; photographing the awe-inspiring Asbyrgi Canyon; and one of the most breathtaking sites of all, Akureyri, a geothermal wonderland of immense beauty.

Vik
Vik

Photo Credit: Promote Iceland

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