Beyond the occasional volcanic eruption, the ragged splendor of Iceland’s dramatic cliffs, valleys, and mountain peaks are deceivingly picturesque, only hinting of the ongoing violence perpetually unfolding beneath its soil. The series of geological activities responsible for churning, carving, and reshaping the varied Icelandic landscape over millennia have made it an adventurer’s paradise. And for years, the Blue Lagoon Iceland located just outside of Reykjavík has taken advantage of the country’s volcanic temperament, luring visitors from around the globe to relax their muscles bathed in the resort’s otherworldly turquoise-tinted geothermal heated water.
The same group behind the Blue Lagoon are also responsible for the newly opened Highland Base Kerlingarfjöll, a property situated at the foot of the Kerlingarfjöll mountain range designed to serve up stimulating adventure with a side of luxurious serene solitude.
The remoteness of Highland Base Kerlingarfjöll’s location (the hotel doesn’t list a standard address, but instead lists “getting here” options that differ in summer versus winter. Such is the cantankerous nature of the central highlands where a minimum 3-hour car ride from Reykjavík is realizable only in the most ideal of conditions. In wintertime the route becomes so challenging, the resort requires guests to schedule transport by a 4×4 super Jeep driven by a professional to maneuver the snowy and ice-covered terrain.
But this arduous journey from city to hotel likely will only add to the perception that the Highland Base Kerlingarfjöll promises a stay unlike any other place on earth, appealing to guests who only seek rest and relaxation as bookends to a more strenuous stay while exploring the remote network of trails surrounding the property accessible by foot, mountain bike, skis, snowshoes, or snowmobile.
The hotel itself was designed to leave as little of a footprint on the landscape, with the small village-like layout of accommodations divided into the Highlands Base hotel with its 26 rooms and 2 suites operated year round, 6 stand-alone lodges, and for those really looking to rough it – but only in summertime – one of the property’s A-frame Hostel Huts or riverside campsites for tent camping. A shared kitchen, restroom, and shower facilities are situated nearby to serve these more rugged-minded guests.
Sustainability ranked high in developing Highland Base Kerlingarfjöll, with Blue Lagoon Iceland’s in-house design team reuniting with Basalt Architects and Design Group Italia, the same cohorts responsible for designing the Retreat at Blue Lagoon. Stone and wood play prominent at every touchpoint, on walls and underfoot, with soft touches of upholstery and blankets silently inviting, “rest here.”
With “coziness” emphasized as intrinsic to their guests’ stay, the rooms at the Highland Base Kerlingarfjöll range from 237 square feet to 474 square feet, each furnished with a contemporary palette of natural materials and colors referencing the surrounding Iceland landscape, a mood easily noted while staring out of any of the room’s picturesque views.
The hotel’s 80-seat Highland Base Restaurant and Lounge is laid out in Alpine-style seating, serving everything from vegan options, local seafood, and traditional Icelandic dishes such as Kjötsúpa (a simple winter soup made with lamb, rutabaga, and potatoes).
And those with a penchant for all things sweet take note: every afternoon the restaurant sets up a waffle buffet, serving up the soft, thin, and heart-shaped Icelandic waffles known as vöfflur along with strawberry jam, whipped cream, syrup, coffee, and hot cocoa.
Like The Bolder Lodges in Lysefjord, Norway, a similarly remote destination marrying architectural accommodation with adventure-focused itineraries, the Highland Base is carefully curated to align the body, mind, and mindset into a state of off-grid bliss. And unlike the popularly accessible Blue Lagoon, the sojourn required to reach the Highland Base will inevitably help keep the Highland Base within the category of a best known secret.
What: Highland Base Kerlingarfjöll
Where: Kerlingarfjöll, Iceland
How much: Starting from $430/night within one of the hotel’s Deluxe rooms.
Highlights: Taking in the view of Hofsjökull, Iceland’s third-largest glacier, from your own balcony hot tub is hard to beat. Exploring the smoldering, steam laced pastiche of Hveradalir mountain range by foot equally so.
Design draw: With the aid of Basalt Architects and Design Group Italia, Blue Lagoon Iceland’s in-house design team have fashioned a cozy, minimalist architectural and interior design language harmonious with its striking natural setting.
Book it: Highland Base Kerlingarfjöll
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