Review of the ION Luxury Adventure Hotel

I have unusually mixed feelings about this hotel. The “luxury” in ION Luxury Adventure Hotel, which we stayed at for a couple of nights earlier this month, lays mostly in its stunning location.

It’s the lakeside and surrounding mountains that put this rural hotel on the map and not the nearby and, in at least one direction, visually dominating, geothermal power plant.

Over the years, the ION has been written up in many of the world’s leading travel magazines. The interior design, room decor and architecture have all won prestigeous accolades.

Yet today, unfortunately, I find the hotel’s look and feel to be both a bit tired and not very well kept. The scuffed or completely missing paint on the main entrance door and the sparsely vacuumed corridor carpets, were discernible indicators of how even the most basic maintenance is overlooked and neglected.

My room was small, but nicely fitted with thoughtful albeit somewhat dated furnishings and features (iPhone 3 connector to the bedside speaker). The windows were sparkling clean which provided an unobstructed view of the spectacular landscape.

One thing boggled my mind. Why on earth do the rooms have to be so absurdly small? Especially when at least some guest must plan on heading out into the wilderness for an adventure with appropriate garb and gear. I mean, it’s not like there isn’t any available real estate in the vicinity. And why hasn’t anybody thought of having a few of those beautiful Icelandic horses grazing in a corral nearby? Now that would of been a nice site to look upon.

The hotel’s staff seemed to be mostly freelancers from Reykjavik. While some had clearly been working at the hotel for a while, others gave the impression that they had just arrived and barely knew the routines they’ve been hired to perform.

Service is therefore a bit of a hit and miss experience at ION. In fact, our very first encounter with the front desk was a perfect example of this.

The two women on duty were more interested in finishing their discussion than greeting us with a warm, Icelandic welcome. It was as if we were brashly intruding on their private conversation. Obviously clueless to the fact that our very presence indirectly financed their employement.

On a brighter note…

The food at ION Luxury Adventure Hotel was simply fantastic. For all the reception staffs shortcomings, mixed level of professionalism among those working in the restaurant and in the bar – as well as the hotel’s somewhat failing upkeep – the crew in the kitchen were nothing less than supreme. They knew exactly what they were doing and provided me, during my two dinners and two lunches there, with one scrumptious and aesthetically pleasing dish after another. Particularly the seafood and fish was just superb.

I’ve eaten at several places on Iceland during both my visits. And I’ve got nothing but really good things to say about the country’s culinary offerings. My experiences at ION Luxury Adventure Hotel were no exception. But with so much great food to be enjoyed elsewhere on beautiful Iceland, I don’t feel that the hotel on a whole is worthy its past reputation as a place to visit beyond a dinner reservation.