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Hotel Rangá in Iceland, a Small Luxury Hotels Property [In-Depth Review]

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Ryan Smith
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Ryan Smith

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Ryan completed his goal of visiting every country in the world in December of 2023 and now plans to let his wife choose their destinations. Over the years, he’s written about award travel for publicat...
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In the lead-up to a recent European vacation, my wife and I learned there would be increased chances of seeing the northern lights. My wife had been 0 for 3 on trying to see them, so we decided to add Iceland to our trip. And its reputation as one of the world’s best hotels for seeing the aurora drew us to the Hotel Rangá.

Hotel Rangá is part of Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH), which currently partners with World of Hyatt. While “luxury” is in the name of the collection, not every part of our stay felt luxurious. That said, our stay provided numerous highlights, and Hotel Rangá proved its worth as one of the best hotels in the world to see the northern lights.

And in case you’re too anxious to read further: Yes, we saw the aurora during this stay.

Here’s what 3 nights were like at Hotel Rangá in early March 2024.

Booking

Small Luxury Hotels of the World currently has a partnership with World of Hyatt, but the SLH/Hyatt partnership is ending in May. Later this year, SLH properties will be bookable through Hilton Honors, though details on that partnership are scant.

As Hotel Rangá was still partnering with World of Hyatt during our stay, I was able to use World of Hyatt points and a free night certificate for our stay.

Cash rates during our stay in the first week of March were €326 per night (~$354).

Hotel Ranga cash cost
The nightly cash rate. Image Credit: Hyatt

Redemptions for a standard room cost 25,000 points, fetching 1.42 cents per point. That’s a tad below what World of Hyatt points are usually worth, but we were happy to save hundreds of dollars on our stay.

Hotel Ranga points booking cost
This was the points pricing for a standard room when I booked. Image Credit: Hyatt

We paid points for 2 nights and used a Hyatt free night for the third night. I earned a Category 1–7 free night award from staying 60 nights with Hyatt last year — the point at which I also earned Globalist status.

Hot Tip:

I earn World of Hyatt points throughout the year by paying for inexpensive stays (rather than redeeming points) and using The World of Hyatt Credit Card for everyday spending.

It’s worth noting that Hotel Rangá has several unique themed junior and master suites that look incredible in the pictures on the website. However, using points books you into a standard room.

Location

Hotel Rangá sits roughly halfway between Keflavík International Airport (KEF), Iceland’s main airport, and the famous Vatnajökull Glacier — both about 2 hours away by car. Hotel Rangá sits along Route 1 (also known as the Ring Road), just east of the town of Hella.

Hotel Ranga location
The hotel lay halfway between the airport and a famous glacier. Image Credit: Google Maps

It’s possible to hire transfer services to reach the hotel. Given its location, however, you’d either need a rental car of your own or tour guides with their own vehicles for you to be able to come and go. Otherwise, you’d be stuck in the hotel. There’s nothing within walking distance.

Check-In

We arrived at Hotel Rangá after 11 p.m. Our flight had arrived in Iceland at 7 p.m., and the rental car line took nearly 2 hours. Then we had nearly 2 hours of driving. The only delay in getting to the hotel that we enjoyed was stopping by the side of the road to view the aurora borealis.

Aurora near Hotel Ranga in Iceland Northern Lights
Seeing the northern lights as we arrived at the hotel.

When we pulled into the hotel parking lot, guests were outside, staring up at the sky in wonder. We saw the tail end of the overhead show from nature, with the hotel already earning its label as a great place to see the northern lights.

When we walked into the lobby with our belongings, the employee at the desk said, “Ryan Smith? I just tried calling you to see if you were still arriving tonight.”

We were the last guests who hadn’t checked in yet, and it was nice to know they were expecting us.

Hotel Ranga front of hotel
Welcoming us were the front entrance and reclining benches.

Check-in was efficient, as the hotel had emailed us a week before arrival to confirm our stay dates, the name of the second guest in the room, and whether we needed an airport transfer. And given the late hour, the employee offered to just give us the room key and breakfast information, saying we could come back to the desk the next morning to hear the rest of the information. We gladly accepted this after a long day.

Hotel Ranga lobby
We received a helpful welcome at the hotel’s reception desk.

While the desk agent scanned our passports, I found this interesting piece of art that printed a small piece of a plant design each day. We also noted the many accolades hanging on the wall, awarded to the hotel by various travel organizations over the years.

Hotel Ranga lobby printed art
We were entranced by this unique piece of art in the lobby.

Elite Benefits

Elite status benefits from World of Hyatt aren’t honored at Small Luxury Hotels of the World. However, certain benefits are awarded on stays booked through Hyatt (until May 15, 2024), regardless of your status with Hyatt.

Those perks include complimentary daily breakfast, free Wi-Fi, and these benefits, subject to availability: early check-in, late checkout, and room upgrades. However, the breakfast perk didn’t mean much here since all guests already got breakfast included with their room rate at Hotel Rangá.

Though the woman at the desk didn’t mention it, we later realized we had been upgraded to a deluxe room.

Amenities

Spread across the hotel grounds, Hotel Rangá had several noteworthy amenities.

Hot Tubs

Want to watch the stars at night or look for the aurora while relaxing in a hot tub? There were 2 tubs to make it happen.

Hotel Ranga outside hot tub
This was 1 of the hotel’s 2 outdoor hot tubs.

Observatory

Probably the most famous of the hotel’s amenities was the only publicly accessible observatory in Iceland. A short walk from the main building, the observatory had telescopes for searching the sky. On clear nights, a local astronomer gave guided tours, helping guests understand what they were seeing.

Hotel Ranga observatory
You can observe the observatory in the distance.

Internet

Wi-Fi was solid throughout our stay, and we enjoyed average download speeds of 150 Mbps. Upload speeds were even faster — near 200 Mbps.

Hotel Ranga internet speed test
Internet speeds at the hotel. Image Credit: Speedtest

Game Room

The reception, restaurant, and bar formed the middle of the hotel, and our room was in the wing to the left. A game room was in the wing to the right, with a pool table, a chandelier of antlers, and ample seating.

Hotel Ranga game room
The hotel’s game room was packed with activities.

There also was a selection of games on shelves in the corner.

Hotel Ranga game room corner shelf
Guests could help themselves to the games in the bookcase.

Parking and EV Charging

Complimentary parking was available for guests, and several electric-vehicle charging stations were available (for free!).

Hotel Ranga parking lot
EV charging was available in the parking lot.

Seating Areas

Several seating areas were available throughout the hotel, great for relaxing, having coffee, or staying warm inside until it was time to go outside to watch the aurora.

Hotel Ranga sitting room
A sitting area halfway down the hallway had this view outside.

While most seating areas were large, this wicker egg chair was also near the lobby.

Hotel Ranga lobby seat and boot cleaner
An egg-shaped seat and boot scrubber sat off the lobby.

Meeting and Banquet Rooms

Near the reception area, stairs led to a second floor with meeting and banquet space.

Hotel Ranga stairs
Stairs adjacent to the lobby lead to a bar and meeting spaces.

On one side of this upstairs area was conference space.

Hotel Ranga upstairs meeting room
This was the smaller upstairs meeting room.

On the other side was a space that could hold larger meetings, wedding receptions, and similarly sized events.

Hotel Ranga upstairs banquet room
The larger upstairs space served as the banquet room.

Deluxe Room

After checking in, we headed down the log cabin-style hallway with our brass key in hand.

Hotel Ranga hallway
The hallway leading to our room.

We stayed in room 1, at the end of the hallway. The hallways and doors were all wooden and gave off a rustic vibe.

Hotel Ranga room 1 door
Our room’s entrance was number 1.

The doors used actual, old-fashioned keys, and there was no way to turn the latch while closing the doors. Thus, you had to slam them, which was annoying — especially when the slamming came from other rooms early in the morning.

Bedroom

While not large, the bedroom felt very cozy. We liked the log cabin style and the painting of Icelandic horses on the wall.

Hotel Ranga deluxe room
Our deluxe room’s bed and chandelier shed light on our native, furry roommates.

The king-size bed was comfortable, and I gave the pillows a 5 out of 10 for support. The blanket was also warm — a necessity during the end of Iceland’s winter. That said, the room never felt cold, as it had a space heater on the wall.

Hotel Ranga deluxe room king size bed
Our bed and the artwork on the wall were both warm.

Each side of the bed had a nightstand with a lamp and outlets.

Hotel Ranga deluxe room nightstand
The nightstand by the bed had outlets.

A note, which came with a small chocolate, told us nightly turndown service was available upon request.

Hotel Ranga deluxe room note for turndown service
Staff left a note about turndown service on the nightstand.

On a wooden coffee table across from the bed, we found drinking glasses and a carafe with a note that the tap water was safe to drink.

Hotel Ranga deluxe room glasses and carafe
A carafe and drinking glasses on the table encouraged us to drink the tap water.

We had a leather loveseat and a TV on the wall opposite the bed.

Hotel Ranga deluxe room sofa and TV
The sofa and TV in our room faced our bed.

Closer to the door was a mirror, desk, and wooden armoire.

Hotel Ranga deluxe room desk and dresser
The wardrobe and desk in our room sat side by side.

Information about the hotel was on the desk, including a welcome note, an explanation of the Hyatt-SLH partnership, and a postcard we could send anywhere in the world for free from the front desk.

Hotel Ranga deluxe room information on desk
Information on the desk in our room came with a little gift of a postcard.

We found 2 bathrobes, an iron and ironing board, slippers, hangers, and 3 drawers inside the armoire.

Hotel Ranga deluxe room closet drawers and slippers
The drawers, ironing board, and slippers were in our armoire.

One of the drawers had a price sheet and bag for laundry service.

Hotel Ranga deluxe room laundry bag in drawer
The laundry bag and price list in the drawer came with a cheeky joke.

A minifridge held alcohol and sodas for sale.

Hotel Ranga deluxe room minifridge
The minifridge contents were not free.

And the top shelf had a small safe, plus chips and wine for sale, as well as the price list for the minibar.

Hotel Ranga deluxe room safe and snacks in closet
The safe accompanied more items for sale on the minibar.

Super handy coat hooks were found next to the armoire.

Hotel Ranga deluxe room coat hooks
Coat hooks by the door were ready to serve.

There was a small chandelier in the vaulted entryway to our room.

Hotel Ranga deluxe room overhead light
The overhead light in our room was small but bright enough.

And a small shelf behind the door had tea and coffee supplies.

Hotel Ranga deluxe room coffee supplies
A shelf had coffee supplies near the door.

A note even said we could request fresh local milk for coffee.

Hotel Ranga deluxe room milk note with coffee supplies
This note said fresh milk was available.

Outside our room, we had a wooden bench and a small patio.

Hotel Ranga deluxe room outdoor bench
The bench offered a viewing seat right outside our room.

Daytime views weren’t much, but we could see tons of stars at night.

Hotel Ranga view from room
This is what we saw looking out our room’s windows.

Bathroom

A wooden sliding door led to the bathroom.

Hotel Ranga bathroom
This is what we saw looking into the bathroom.

We had a spacious bathtub with jets and fought over who got to use it first.

Hotel Ranga bathroom tub
The bathtub in our room was a little off.

However, the shower setup was a bit odd. There was no door or curtain to close while we stood in the middle of the tub with the shower on, so water tended to spray all over the bathroom.

Hotel Ranga bathroom shower
The peculiar shower-tub combo wasn’t great for keeping the bathroom dry.

The toiletries had a great citrus-pine smell and came from a local brand called Angan.

Hotel Ranga bathroom toiletries for shower
The toiletries for the shower were citrusy and piney.

Near the door to the bathroom was a sink with lots of counter space, sitting atop wooden cabinets.

Hotel Ranga bathroom sink and cabinets
Our bathroom sink and cabinets had lots of space.

The cabinets had extra towels, extra toilet paper, and a hair dryer.

Hotel Ranga bathroom cabinets
Supplies were hidden in the bathroom cabinets.

We found washcloths, hand soap, and lotion on the counter — also from Angan.

Hotel Ranga bathroom toiletries on sink counter
The toiletries on the sink counter were from Angan.

The wall held a light-up makeup mirror.

Hotel Ranga bathroom makeup mirror
The makeup mirror in our bathroom lit up.

On the counter, a note said it could take a few minutes to get hot water.

Hotel Ranga bathroom hot water sign
A note about hot water in our bathroom promised the cold water would only last a few minutes.

The toilet was tucked between the tub and a heated towel rack on the wall.

Hotel Ranga bathroom toilet and towel rack
Our toilet and heating rack for the towels shared a wall.

And the pièce de resistance: The floor in the bathroom was heated. No freezing feet when you get out of the bath!

Hotel Ranga bathroom fixtures
Our deluxe room’s bathroom had deluxe heated floors.

Food and Beverages

Rangá Restaurant

The hotel’s sole restaurant, Rangá Restaurant, served 3 meals a day and offered boxed lunches.

We had complimentary breakfast each morning, which included both a buffet and a small à la carte menu of hot plates. The buffet had cold cuts and fruits on one side.

Hotel Ranga restaurant breakfast buffet cold cuts
Cold cuts and fruits sat on one side of the breakfast buffet.

We found juices, coffee, and tea on another side of the square layout.

Hotel Ranga restaurant breakfast buffet drinks
Coffee and tea waited to pep up guests at breakfast.

The buffet also had breads, jams, cereal, and several types of milk, including almond. On each table was a menu with 4 options for hot plates. These included oatmeal, omelets, and a meat and vegan version of the Rangá Breakfast.

Hotel Ranga restaurant breakfast menu
The breakfast menu at Rangá Restaurant.

We loved the vegan version of the breakfast, which we were surprised to find after reading that vegan food would be tough to find outside Reykjavik. It included hash browns, baked beans, tofu scramble, and soy bacon. The latter were swapped for pork bacon and fried eggs on the standard plate.

Hotel Ranga restaurant vegan breakfast plate
The vegan breakfast plate mirrored the standard hotel breakfast.

Breakfast was available from 7 to 10 a.m., while lunch was available from noon to 3 p.m. Dinner at Rangá was available from 6:30 to 10 p.m. We were surprised to find reindeer and puffin meat on the dinner menu.

It was also possible to order bagged lunches to take on your daily activities, so long as you ordered by 7 p.m. the night before.

Rangá Bar

Between the restaurant and the reception desk, Rangá Bar was open from noon to 11 p.m. daily, with happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. The bar boasted that it had one of Iceland’s most extensive whiskey collections.

Hotel Ranga restaurant bar
The hotel’s bar: The whiskies and the stools both had legs.

The stools at the bar were hilarious.

Hotel Ranga bar stools
The peculiar stools at the bar were funny.

Room Service

Room service was available around the clock, though we were warned service could be slower in the middle of the night because of reduced staff. The menu included soups, salads, burgers, and drinks from the bar.

It also included desserts, and this carrot cake with sorbet plus a gigantic latte hit the spot one night after we’d done a ton of exploring.

Hotel Ranga restaurant carrot cake latte
Carrot cake with sorbet plus a latte equals a happy couple.

Upstairs Bar

The upstairs bar didn’t open during our stay, which was odd since the hotel was nearly full. However, staff could serve an overflow of guests here.

Hotel Ranga upstairs bar
The upstairs bar and seating area didn’t need to be used during our stay.

There was ample seating near this bar, as well.

Hotel Ranga upstairs sitting area
Seating near the upstairs bar continued to the windows.

Service

Service was hit or miss. Check-in was great, not belaboring the process when it was late and we were tired. And when we returned to the desk the next morning, we got all of the information we could’ve wanted about the hotel.

And service each morning at breakfast was efficient and respectful, though I wouldn’t call it friendly.

We also enjoyed the “Aurora Wake-Up” option on the phone in our room. We had to just push the button to get added to the list each night, and they’d wake us up if the northern lights were visible. On our second night, we got a call at 2:45 a.m., threw on some warm clothes, and sat on the bench outside our room to see a faint show in the sky — not as good as what we’d seen on the night we’d arrived, however.

Hotel Ranga deluxe room phone with aurora wakeup option
The phone’s button for Aurora wake-up calls.

Information posted at the front desk was also useful, mentioning happy hour at the bar and whether the observatory tour was happening that night (we missed it on the night we arrived, and it was canceled for the remaining 2 nights).

Hotel Ranga lobby signs
Signs at reception kept us in the loop about happy hour and stargazing in the observatory.

And the hotel had an impressive number of cleaning staff, keeping the place tidy despite the large number of people coming and going — and despite many of those people not knocking the dirt and snow off their boots before walking in.

Hotel Ranga hallway long view
The hallway leading to our room miraculously remained clean.

There were 2 times we stopped by the front desk to ask a question, and both times the employee seemed blunt in an unfriendly way.

We asked if there was a certain spot to park or if we could park anywhere. We got a sassy response that came off like, “Did you see people’s names written on the parking spots?”

Another time, we knew lunch would be closed by the time we arrived at the hotel. My wife thought we had a microwave in the room, so we picked up something at a grocery store to eat in the room. It turned out there wasn’t a microwave in the room, so I asked an employee at the front desk if there was a microwave elsewhere in the hotel I could use.

“No. We have a restaurant,” she said gruffly before turning away, ending the conversation.

I get the point: The hotel wanted us to spend money in the restaurant. But there was a way to say that without being rude about it.

At checkout, the process was rather simple. We had a small bill to settle from the dessert and latte, and I got an email with our final receipt before we’d even left the parking lot. This employee was the friendliest of any reception employees we encountered during our stay.

Final Thoughts

Hotel Rangá provided great memories. We saw the aurora, had a great home base for exploring southern Iceland, and enjoyed the food at the restaurant.

But the room wasn’t anything I’d call special, and service had a few unfortunate moments.

Overall, though, we had a good stay, and the hotel felt upscale without being over the top or making you feel bad for wearing sweatpants to breakfast.

And even without higher marks, you might wind up here anyway. It’s one of few properties you can book with hotel points and free nights outside Reykjavik and the only one along Iceland’s southern coast. Because of that, you might tolerate imperfections because of the lack of other options in the region. I know I’d still stay here again, despite the imperfections, if I returned to this part of Iceland.

The information regarding The World of Hyatt Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

Frequently Asked Questions

What year did Hotel Rangá open in Iceland?

The hotel originally opened in 1999 with 21 rooms as a retreat. Now, it has 52 rooms and suites.

Is breakfast included at Hotel Rangá?

Breakfast is included for all paying guests, available in the Rangá Restaurant each morning.

Is Hotel Rangá in Iceland part of a rewards program?

Hotel Rangá is part of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, which has a rewards program called INVITED. It’s also possible to book Hotel Rangá with points and free nights from World of Hyatt (through May 15, 2024) and then through its new partnership with Hilton Honors.

Does Hotel Rangá have free parking?

Yes, parking is available for free at the hotel, including complimentary EV charging.

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About Ryan Smith

Ryan completed his goal of visiting every country in the world in December of 2023 and now plans to let his wife choose their destinations. Over the years, he’s written about award travel for publications including AwardWallet, The Points Guy, USA Today Blueprint, CNBC Select, Tripadvisor, and Forbes Advisor.

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