ONE REBEL’S CAUSE
ONE REBEL’S CAUSE
SIGURLAUG SVERRISDÓTTIR SHAKES UP ICELAND’S HOTEL SCENE
WORDS BY KAREN GARDINER
“The most influential places I have visited were the ones that gave me the chance to really experience the local atmosphere. Therefore I wanted to ensure our guests would experience all of the gems Iceland has to offer”
When LE Miami declared ION Luxury Adventure Hotel the ‘Sexiest Design’ at the 2014 awards, it was with a nod to the Icelandic hotel’s having achieved “architectural symbiosis with the landscape.”
The hotel’s respect for its surrounding landscape – it blends in with the moss-covered lava fields, close to Thingvellir National Park, where it sits – is not only an aesthetic one. At this critical time when Iceland is struggling to balance its booming tourism industry with the sustaining of its natural resources, ION Luxury Adventure Hotel displays a deeply eco-conscious sensibility, from its design and its practices to the ethos of its forward-thinking owner, Sigurlaug Sverrisdóttir.
Bedrooms at the 45-room hotel, a member of the Design Hotels collection, feature fair trade linens, recycled materials and locally sourced wood furnishings, and energy and hot water comes from a nearby geothermal plant. Sverrisdóttir says that the hotel also takes care to educate guests in good practices and “about the tremendous importance of respecting nature, and to be careful not to drive off-road or remove or damage the moss as it takes up to 100 years to grow back!”
In a country where the boutique hotel trend has never quite taken off, Sverrisdóttir is a pioneer for opening not only a rare luxury design hotel, but also one that is outside of the capital, Reykjavík. “The demand for high-end services and different styles of hotels is a very recent request”, she says of the Icelandic hotel scene.
Sverrisdóttir has drawn upon her many years of travelling around the world to create a hotel that not only places guests in one of Iceland’s most beautiful locations, but also, unlike the generic hotels that dominate the country, offers them a profound connection to the country and its people. “The most influential places I have visited were the ones that gave me the chance to really experience the local atmosphere: the cuisine, music, customs, art, design, traditions and habits. Therefore I wanted to ensure our guests would experience all of the gems Iceland has to offer as well as the non-touristic side of us. That is the local music we listen to, the art we love, the natural hot spring water we bathe in, the landscape we enjoy, the designer clothes we like, the beers we drink and the soft moss we love to rest on during our midsummer picnic nights.”
Karen Gardiner is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared on HotelChatter, Matador Network, Condé Nast Traveler and Shermans Travel, amongst others.