An incredible Iceland stopover!

The Dyrhólaey lighthouse.

The Dyrhólaey lighthouse. Photo: Icelandair

Icelandair, in cooperation with Icelandair Hotels and Nine Worlds travel agency, is launching a new and exclusive way of enjoying a short stopover in Iceland on your journey between North America and Europe – the Incredible Stopover.

The centrepiece of the Incredible Stopover is the Dyrhólaey lighthouse in southern Iceland, for a limited time only converted into a chic private hotel for Icelandair stopover passengers.

Iceland Monitor was invited to sample the delights of this new stopover package.

Day 1

Guests are picked up early on Day 1 from Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina on the morning after their arrival in the country by their private tour guide.

The journey from Reykjavik to the lighthouse takes just two hours in a straight line, but the early start gives guests the opportunity to be shown around some of the wonderful sights and attractions of south-west and south Iceland on the way.

A possible stop on your Day 1 tour is the ...

A possible stop on your Day 1 tour is the Þingvellir National Park. Photo: mbl.is

This section of the stopover is to a large extent customisable and guests are able to indicate to the tour guide what sites they would most like to see (time and weather conditions permitting).

Our tour guide, David, took us first to the Þingvellir National Park, the site of Iceland’s original parliament, set up in 930 AD. This was followed by a leisurely drive through some of the charming fishing villages on Iceland’s southern coast.

You might want your guide to take you to the ...

You might want your guide to take you to the mesmerising Urriðafoss waterfall. Photo: Charles Gittins

David ably mixed factual information about the sites taken in with first-hand personal knowledge and amusing anecdote to really bring the tour to life.

This is no sterile “and if you look to your right, you will see…”-type tour. It is a personal and exclusive journey through southern Iceland, incorporating and blending together the jaw-dropping wonders of Icelandic nature and fascinating authentic glimpses into real Icelandic life.

Will you be tempted by South Iceland's Seljalandsfoss waterfall?

Will you be tempted by South Iceland's Seljalandsfoss waterfall? Photo: Brynjar Gauti

Heading east, we stopped at the unmissable Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls to take photographs, stretch the legs and take in some lungfuls of pure Icelandic air.

Again, David’s local knowledge took the day’s activities to level above that experienced by most tourists, as the stops were spiced up with local knowledge, factual background and access to some off-the-tourist-track hidden jewels.

The now-famous Eyjafjallajökull looms large throughout the trip.

The now-famous Eyjafjallajökull looms large throughout the trip. Photo: Rax

Our onward journey to the Dyrhólaey lighthouse took us through some truly majestic glacial and volcanic landscape, and the awesome potential of the very earth we were standing on was brought home to us by a compelling film of the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption shown at Þorvaldseyri farm.

The lighthouse sits atop the Dyrhólaey peninsula.

The lighthouse sits atop the Dyrhólaey peninsula. Photo: Icelandair

Suitably nourished and exhilarated by our private tour, we pulled up at our accommodation atop a peninsula apparently located at the very edge of the world!

Despite our slightly-later-than-planned arrival (tearing oneself away from the sights of southern Iceland is no mean feat!), we were greeted warmly and enthusiastically by our host at the lighthouse, Eiríkur.

One of the spectacular views from the lighthouse.

One of the spectacular views from the lighthouse. Photo: Icelandair

We were shown to our rooms and given a tour of the lighthouse, including the balcony area on the top floor.

Those still unconvinced by the adage that location is everything have clearly never been to Dyrhólaey lighthouse. The 360° panorama takes in black-sand beaches, brooding lava formations, majestic glaciers, lush countryside, and no fewer than four volcanoes.

Glaciers and black sand.

Glaciers and black sand. Photo: Icelandair

Our minds well and truly blown by the vistas afforded by our exclusive lighthouse hotel, Eiríkur took us back downstairs to a much-appreciated spread of coffee and cakes. Attention to detail seems to be the overarching theme of this stopover tour – from the welcome slippers to the well-stocked fridge, all needs appear to be catered for.

The lighthouse itself dates back to 1910 as has never been used a hotel before. It has been impressively converted, preserving as much of the original features as possible.

The mysterious and captivating Reynisfjara beach.

The mysterious and captivating Reynisfjara beach. Photo: Brynjar Gauti

The décor is simple but effective. The accommodation – kitchen, dining room, small lounge, bathroom and three bedrooms – is tasteful, comfortable, modern, understatedly elegant, and full of character.

After coffee, cakes and a bit of unpacking, we hit the road again towards the nearby Reynisfjara black-sand beach to enjoy the spectacular views of plunging basalt columns, fascinating rock formations, and bustling birdlife. The cherry on the cake was sipping a complimentary glass of bubbly as we absorbed the wonders of this magical part of Iceland.

Welcome slippers await guests weary from a day's touring.

Welcome slippers await guests weary from a day's touring. Photo: Icelandair

From there we were taken to dinner at Berg Restaurant at Icelandair Hotel Vík, where the chef had prepared an impressive à la carte tasting menu for us showcasing the freshest and finest Icelandic ingredients. Worthy of special mention is the excellent waiter service we enjoyed during our evening meal there.

With full bellies and a day’s worth of wonderful sights and experiences also to digest, we made our way back to our private lighthouse (repeating that phrase never got boring!) for a good night’s sleep.

One of the sumptuous dishes at Berg Restaurant.

One of the sumptuous dishes at Berg Restaurant. Photo: Charles Gittins

Day 2

The comfortable beds, fluffy dressing gowns and well-appointed rooms afford guests a good night’s sleep to prepare them fully for the second day of their Incredible Stopover. Couples should bear in mind that all the beds are single beds, although in one of the rooms two beds could probably be pushed together and made up into a double bed.

There are few more pleasant ways to wake up than to a bird’s-eye bedroom-window view of Reynisfjara beach, followed by a mouth-watering buffet breakfast, prepared by the ever-smiling Eiríkur. The simplest, freshest local Icelandic ingredients were the best possible start to the new day. The Icelanders don’t rest on the laurels of their nature to impress – they also go in for hospitality in a big way.

The tasteful décor of the Dyrhólaey lighthouse.

The tasteful décor of the Dyrhólaey lighthouse. Photo: Icelandair

David then drove us back west towards Reykjavik, stopping at the Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal Baths on the way. Fontana is a modern complex of warm geothermal pools and natural steam rooms overlooking the beautiful Laugarvatn lake. Any residual stress melts away in the hot waters – just in time for a delicious buffet lunch of fish, meat and salad.

After lunch on Day 2, Incredible Stopover guests are whisked off to Keflavík International Airport for their onward flight – with spectacular memories, a feeling of pampered well-being, and a firm resolution to return to Iceland as soon as possible.

Relax and unwind at the Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal Baths.

Relax and unwind at the Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal Baths. Photo: Icelandair

Practical information

The Incredible Stopover will be available for Icelandair transatlantic passengers to enjoy from 1 September-1 November 2015. Packages include one night at the lighthouse, one night at Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina and a selection of incredible activities. Prices start from €1,894 per person for a group of four people.

Booking, bespoke packages and further details on the Incredible Stopover are available from Icelandair.com/Stopover.

The lighthouse is only bookable for one group at a time and accommodates up to 4-5 people (two double bedrooms and one small bedroom with a single bed).

More information on the Incredible Stopover can be found here:

http://www.icelandair.us/flights/stopover/incredible/

http://www.icelandairhotels.com/en/offers/luxury-lighthouse-stay

http://nineworlds.is/

Hekla Aurora.

Hekla Aurora. Photo: mbl.is

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