Visit this hotel in January and you’ll discover where the “adventure” part of the Ion Luxury Adventure Hotel comes from. The most direct road from the airport (number 435) is closed for the whole of winter — a fact we were woefully unaware of when setting off in our 4×4 from the airport at just after four in the afternoon, the landscape already cloaked in inky darkness. We drove headlong into a blizzard and were forced to turn back, following a rescue vehicle and its heroic driver as we crawled along road 36 towards Reykjavik, passing abandoned cars that had run off the icy road in near impossible driving conditions. Hint: check this page before you travel.
After that false start — and an excellent, if impromptu overnight at the Hotel Alda — we made it to the Ion with high hopes of experiencing the other part of its moniker: luxury. The rooms are quite small (even the deluxe category) but well equipped and thoughtfully designed. The hotel is located in the Thingvellir National Park, so the focus — and rightly so — is on getting guests out of their room, whether it be to take a midnight hike to nearby geothermal springs, or just as far as the stunning Northern Lights bar for a game of cards and a cocktail or craft beer.
Architecturally, the Ion is indulgent. According to the Saga, Reykjavik was founded by Ingólfur Arnarson in 847 CE. It is said that he threw wooden poles from him ship towards the land, and founded Iceland’s capital in the exact place they landed. The Ion, with its stilted structure, takes inspiration from this founding legend; the imposing concrete building reflecting the relentlessness of nature in this strange corner of the world.
Beneath the hotel, within the criss-cross of its concrete stilts, is a sauna and spa area with outdoor plunge pool. Though the pool is warm, most guests opted out of bathing during the severe weather, but I’d actually recommend it. There’s nothing quite like bursting out of a sauna into biting sidewinds, surrounded at once by nature as it hits your (mostly) naked skin and swallows your screams as you battle your way towards the pool, a few short steps away.
Another luxurious aspect of the hotel is its restaurant. There’s a focus on fish and seafood, with innovative options for both meat eaters and herbivores alike. Food and drink in Iceland is pricey at the best of times, so don’t expect a bargain: the Ion is in the middle of nowhere; it’s not like you can pop out for a pizza.
But you don’t mind spending the money, because being at the Ion is possibly as close as you’ll ever come to visiting another planet. Belittled by nature, I was just happy to be holed up in the hotel’s muscular envelope, protected from the fury of winter at the edge of the Arctic Circle. One of those new perspectives you get from travel, on life’s luxurious adventure.