Review of Iceland adventure holiday & Greenhouse Hotel in Hveragerdi

Nov 19, 2022 BY Louise Rowe

From boiler suit to bikini this activity break in Iceland was full of fun and variety. We explored volcanic vistas, rampaging waterfalls and gigantic glaciers all while enjoying epic adventures, fantastic food and chilled chic interiors. Find out more in this detailed review of Iceland adventure holiday at the Greenhouse Hotel in Hveragerdi.

Being in a new relationship, in a post lockdown world, we were desperate for not just a standard holiday but a real adventure to embark on together. Unanimously Iceland came up as a top place we’d like to visit. So, when the opportunity of a trip to the land of fire and ice arose, our expectations were high.

Seljalandsfoss waterfall in Iceland

Could a short retreat to Iceland provide enough exhilaration for my adrenaline junkie, travel companion? And would it still be a romantic, stylish getaway?

Getting to Iceland

Iceland is just a three-hour flight from the UK. It is easily accessible by many airlines with plenty of budget flight options. It is an hour behind the UK, so flying out of Luton on an early morning departure means you can arrive in time for breakfast and enjoy an entire day of activities.

After landing, we collected our hire car, a 4WD Dacia Duster, perfect for navigating the Icelandic roads whatever the conditions. Collection from the excellent Blue Car Rental was seamless – as was the return. Prior to arrival they provide a code to access the keys via a secure box. We were ready to hit the road in minutes.

Blue Car Rentals Dacia Duster Iceland

Blue Car Renal even supplied a WiFi dongle. This not only gave us access to online navigation, but meant we could stream the perfect soundtrack to accompany the majestic vistas, seen at every turn driving through this beautiful landscape. Plus there was always internet access for the passenger to plan our next adventure or my partner to check the football scores!

During this review of Iceland adventure holiday we spent quite a lot of time driving. Having a comfortable SUV  like the Dacia Duster meant time spent on the road was still enjoyable. The Icelandic roads were relatively quiet too, which came with its own danger, when surrounded by such dramatic, distracting views.

Review of The Greenhouse Hotel in Hveragerdi

Our first stop was at The Greenhouse Hotel (Grodurhsid) in the small town of Hveragerdi in Southern Iceland. Its name is a nod to the large greenhouses which cultivate crops in the area. Located at the foot of the Reykjadalur Valley (Smokey Valley), where steam billows from endless hot springs which punctuate the slopes, this mystical terrain certainly embodies it name.

Review of The Greenhouse Hotel in Hveragerdi, Iceland

Located about an hour from Reykjavik, not only is it convenient for the airport but a perfect base to explore the famous Golden Circle area, Southern Iceland’s popular tourist route. Some of our day trip adventures would have been difficult from the capital, but are easily accessible when your base is at the epicentre of the action.

All the Greenhouse staff are warm, welcoming and endlessly helpful. The hotel itself is chic and stylish, with a light and welcoming central reception and breakfast area. Interwoven into the space is a small boutique selling designer clothes and classy Nordic souvenirs.

Greenhouse Hotel food hall

The other half of the ground floor houses the food hall, which serves an array of popular, reasonably priced world foods. It’s suited to all tastes with an array of vegetarian and vegan options, too. There are noodle, burger, fried chicken and taco stands. And Hipstur gives an opportunity to sample more authentic Icelandic dishes, the fish of the day being our favourite.

Food Review of The Greenhouse Hotel in Hveragerdi

If the notion of a food hall evokes images of dining in a windowless shopping precinct, be assured, the The Greenhouse food hall is a far departure. In keeping with the chic ambience the hotel exemplifies, the space combines an industrial modern interior with a slice of Havana. There are numerous palm trees encircling comfy sofas and colourful soft lighting.

Whilst very much a casual dining experience, the presence of the bar among the food stands makes it the perfect space to unwind and indulge in a cocktail after a day of adventures. When we stayed the space was buzzing! It avoided the sterile atmosphere that hotel bars and restaurants often embody.

The food hall here is a place to congregate for the evening, to dress up or to chill. If you venture back out through the lobby there is also the allure of Bongo’s, a small café. It serves artisan ice creams and scrumptious, boozy hot drinks, providing the perfect final indulgence to a fun filled day.

Relaxing in The Greenhouse Hotel Bar

Breakfast is in the reception area. It is a limited affair of coffee/tea and a choice of pastries, savoury croissants, muesli and yoghurt or sandwiches. Everything is delicious and set us up perfectly for our escapades, but it is not a help yourself buffet style breakfast where you can eat your fill!

Review of The Greenhouse Hotel rooms

The rooms themselves continue to convey the stylish and contemporary feel throughout the hotel. The bed is very comfortable and there’s a lovely walk-in rainforest shower in the bathroom.

My only gripe is that along with its minimalist style came a lack of storage. The exposed clothes rail meant by the time we had unpacked, our room resembled a laundrette, be it a stylish and very comfortable one!

Review of The Greenhouse Hotel in Hveragerdi

We got rather wet a couple of times and it was difficult to to dry our clothes. This was mainly because the radiator is behind a built in chaise lounge. We solved the problem by setting up a makeshift drying station using chairs on the chaise lounge to get the wet clothing over the radiator.

The room includes all the mod-cons you’d expect, such as hair dryer, mini fridge, TV (with UK channels) and basic toiletries. The wall to wall window lets in plenty of natural light making it a lovely place to spend time during this review of The Greenhouse Hotel in Hveragerdi.

Review of Iceland adventure holiday

The Greenhouse arranges a variety of day trips and customised activities for it’s guests. They can be booked through the hotel itself ahead of arrival to ensure you make the most of your stay. Below are the Iceland adventures that we enjoyed:

Review of Iceland adventure holiday buggy driving experience

Day 1: Buggy adventure, thermal pools and delicious soups

No sooner had we arrived at the hotel – and fuelled up on coffee and breakfast – and we were off to tackle our first adventure.

4WD buggy tour

We drove around 20 minutes from the hotel to Hveradalir, a former ski lodge. There we were greeted by the charismatic Martin from buggytours.is, who equipped us with our first of many boiler suits and helmets before we set off on the buggy and thermal springs tour.

Temperatures were around freezing, fortunately we were lent some gloves suitable for an arctic expedition. But that said, decent gloves were lacking at many of the activity centres we visited. So a pair of waterproof ski gloves would be a worthy investment for anyone embarking on an Iceland adventure holiday.

Review of Iceland adventure holiday buggy driving

As a slightly nervous driver not knowing what to expect, I let my companion take control of the 4×4 buggy, and up the track we headed. It was quickly apparent how robust the Polaris AVA buggies are. And despite initial trepidation I was soon as keen as him to see how fast it could go, and it didn’t disappoint.

The journey itself was exhilarating. We flew after our host, scaling snow-scattered mountains and crossing flowing rivers. During the tour we made several stops to swap drivers, take pictures and simply bask in the breath-taking beauty of our surroundings.

Moreover, these stops enabled Martin to impart his passion for his country. So that after only a few hours in Iceland we were more familiar with the beauty and ever-changing nature of this dramatic landscape.

Review of The Greenhouse Hotel in Hveragerdi and Reykdalur thermal springs

Relaxing thermal Baths

Iceland is a place of contrasts. We parked up in the snow-covered mountains near one of the geothermal energy points and set off on foot. Soon we were descending into a valley brimming with colour warmed by thermal heat. It was about a 20 minute downhill walk that took us from snow to steam!

Within a few minutes I had exchanged my boiler suit for a bikini and was quickly basking in the comforting heat of the thermal river. Unlike commercial baths like the Blue Lagoon, the Reykdalur thermal river which runs through the valley is very much part of the natural landscape.

A small section of open fencing was there to protect your modesty when getting changed. Apart from that and the board walk it was all natural. Lying in the river, as the sun beat down on my face, surrounded by snow-topped peaks, it really did feel like we had stumbled upon a little piece of heaven.

Reykdalur thermal springs during review of The Greenhouse Hotel in Hveragerdi

Warmed and rejuvenated by the springs, we hiked back out of the valley. As the temperature dropped we donned boiler suits again for the final climax of the buggying.

Martin took us back along the rivers and we put the buggy through its paces again, the delight on my adventure seeking partner’s face told me the trip had hit the mark. The day’s experience was truly magical, yet it was Martin’s warmth and passion that made this trip so memorable and unique.

A super lunch

After all the excitement of the day we had worked up a serious appetite. So, we drove to the Reykjdalur River Lodge which was about 10 minutes beyond our hotel. Here we indulged in warming soups with big chunks of homemade bread and the most beautiful aioli butter. It is unlimited soup so we could indulge in hearty portions.

Reykdalur thermal springs in Southern Iceland near Hveragerdi

As our hunger quelled, we were able to take in its truly beautiful setting. The 360-degree window alcove gave us panoramic views of the smouldering mountainside. The chic, minimalist interior very much mirrored the landscape in its muted palate and use of natural materials. So the café felt like an extension of the terrain outside.

The Reykdalur River Lodge was the perfect stop to re-fuel and reflect on a perfect first day. For those still seeking adventure, hikes up the valley to bathe in the same river we had relaxed in earlier are accessible from the café. It is all serviced by a large car park.

Day 2: Quad bikes and beautiful beaches

The glorious sunshine of the first of this review of Iceland adventure holiday had made way for torrential rain! It was October in Iceland after all.Quad biking during Review of Iceland adventure holiday

Quad biking in Iceland

But activities in Iceland are geared for poor weather. So, when we arrived to quad bike with the amazing Icelandic Mountain Guides we were furnished with a waterproof boiler suit, boots, helmet and basic gloves. Unfortunately the boiler suit zips let some rain seep through – but it was torrential.

Today we were part of a larger tour group, so the trip lacked the personal touch of the previous day, but none of the exhilaration. Even the rain couldn’t dampen anyone’s spirits as we set off along paths and rivers in the bizarre luna landscape across the black ash sands of Sólheimasandur.

We stopped off at the spectacle of the former American DC-3 plane wreck, which Justin Bieber in his video I’ll show you skateboards on the top of. So, for all those instragammers and beliebers this was the perfect photo opportunity, though sadly, we had left our skateboard at home.

Downed plane in Iceland

The landscape was as eerie as it was striking. We were even shown the bones of a beached whale, lying like the plane, preserved in the black volcanic sand, creating a cinematic, almost apocalyptic scene.

Like the previous day, the quad bikes were easy to navigate and felt completely stable, so when we hit the beach I was keen to try out its speed. My inner adrenaline junkie was coming out, and feeling totally in control of the bike, I was beginning to understand my partner’s love of speed and adventure holidays.

Black beach at Reynisfjara

Upon our return we changed into some dry clothing and drove to the black beach of Reynisfjara. We stopped for lunch at the cafe on the beach in the hope that the rain would let up, it didn’t.

Obsidian basalt pillars at black beach of Reynisfjara, iceland

Here, volcanic activity has created enormous obsidian, basalt columns which reach up to the sky. They brought a geeky geographer of my partner to the fore! The contrast of the black sand and white waves was dramatic, and combined with the backdrop of distant sea stack islands made it well worth a visit despite the weather.

Seljalandsfoss

On our way back to the Greenhouse Hotel in Hveragerdi the skies cleared. So we visited the magnificent Seljalandsfoss which is a series of stunning waterfalls. There is a great walk which takes you behind the main waterfall, which is truly breathtaking, even if you have to negotiate your way around slow tourists with inappropriate footwear.

By venturing along the path away from Seljalandsfoss we were further rewarded. Lured by the sound of flowing water echoing around a chamber, we rock hopped up a small stream, narrowly avoiding faceplanting into the rockface. At this point we encountered the most amazing, hidden falls (last photo in the article).

Seljalandsfoss during Review of Iceland adventure holiday

This very much encapsulates Iceland; there is beauty wherever you go. Waterfalls cascade down mountain slopes, majestic vistas frame every view and the further you penetrate the landscape the more beauty it has to share.

Day 3: Golden Circle and ice cap snowmobiling

The morning of the third day of this review of Iceland adventure holiday was free time. So to make this stunning geothermal wonder we explored some of the infamous Golden Circle.

Kerid Volcanic Crater

A stop at the Kerid Volcanic Crater, with its unique rust colour slopes and azure blue lake at its base is well worth your time. It is about a ten minute walk around the crater with some lovely views and dramatic photo ops. You can also walk down to the lake – although a heavy shower stopped us from taking a look.

Kerid Volcanic Crater in Iceland

Geysir

Out next stop was at Geysir, where the smell of the sulphurous pools greeted us before the spectacle itself. We took a gentle stroll around the area of bubbling pools.

The great Geysir itself is currently dormant. But its neighbouring Strokkur still erupts, plunging large torrents of scolding water skywards every four to ten minutes.

The line-up of cameras indicated where to find it. This is a geothermal phenomenon and worth a visit. But with so much natural wonder in abundance, we were keen to move on and explore more.

Beautiful Iceland, Gulfoss, Geysir and view

Gullfloss Falls during review of Iceland adventure holiday

After grabbing a hot chocolate we took the short walk down to view the spectacular Gullfloss. These are another waterfall, although this time you can only see it from above as the vast volume of water thunders into a canyon below.

Snowmobiling on a Langjökull Ice Cap

From Gullfoss we boarded a bus with the fantastic Mountaineers of Iceland to head to the Langjökull ice cap (a non moving glacier). The bus felt like a proper monster truck with its gigantic, snow-obliterating wheels.

We arrived at the snowy cusp of the ice cap to, for the third day running, adorn another boiler suit. I was becoming accustomed to my new look. We then all jumped back on the bus, glacier bound. Having been grounded in the South of England for several years, I couldn’t hide my childish fervour at being transported into a wintry wonderland.

Review of Iceland adventure holiday snowmobiling on Langjökull icecap

When we arrived at the ice cap base we got onto our awaiting snowmobiles. Feeling a bit of a dab hand on a machine now, with renewed confidence and thirst for speed I was pleased to get my own, though skidoos can be shared.

Off we set up the endless expanse of white. Again, the vehicle was easy to drive, sliding easily and with high speed over the snow. Though due to less friction, it was obviously slightly harder to steer than the other vehicles. Very soon I was channelling my inner Jane Bond (well at least in my mind’s eye), as we criss-crossed the icy landscape.

Snow fun!

When we stopped off for photos, I made the most of the pause to bombard my companion with snowballs and perform snow angels. Yep, my inner child was fully unleashed! We returned the same way, though now with falling snow around us.

Review of Iceland adventure holiday snowmobile on Langjökull icecap

Like all we experienced in Iceland our guides were approachable and informed. We learnt how lucky we had been to experience relatively good weather and how changeable it could be on the glacier.

Back on the coach we warmed up and descended back to base camp. Whilst this was day three of a vehicle-based adventure, they were all very different experiences. Each had allowed us to be immersed in such diverse environments that they felt unique.

Day 4: Glacier Walk, Skogafoss and Northern Lights

The leaden skies of the previous day had cleared. So the final day of this review of Iceland adventure holiday was beautiful and sunny.

Review of Iceland adventure holiday

Solheimajokull glacier walk

We arrived at Solheimajokull glacier early, brimming with anticipation. We had both independently been glacier walking before and were keen to see how this would compare.

The excellent Icelandic Mountain Guides again provided the tour and our guide was the exuberant and knowledgeable Esther. Like our first day, the trip really benefitted from the personal touch a small group activity offers.

We began the walk across the lava sands which surround the stunning glacial lake. The lake itself is interspersed with remains of the glacier which shine bluish white in the sun, with contrasting black lava sediment. It was breathtaking. After doning crampons and perfecting the angry, penguin stomp (apparently a must to gain traction in the ice), we headed to the glacier itself.

Review of The Greenhouse Hotel in Hveragerdi and Solheimajokull glacier

The further we walked the better the view. At the highest point, Esther got us to locate ourselves by phone, to see how little we had infiltrated Solheimajokull. We discovered we were barely on the edge of a very long offshoot, which was still a long way from the vast glacier itself. It was a perspective which demonstrated the enormity of Solheimajokull.

Using the pickaxe to lean on, Esther then challenged us to flex some muscles and press up over a small stream to sample the water. This glacial water has been filtered through lava rock which makes this water some of the purest you will find – it was simply divine. What was less celestial was my attempt at the challenge, unable to press up I merely squatted to take it in!

Our Iceland adventure: Troll beheading challenge

The next part of the walk Ester instructed us to use our axe to “behead a troll”. Trolls are steeped in Icelandic folklore, they are ash covered shifting ice formations, which early settlers believed were trolls so stayed away. Brutally bashing the trolls was more fun that I expected!

Review of The Greenhouse Hotel in Hveragerdi and hiking on Solheimajokull glacier

But it had a purpose. We took our ice chunks, and attached to ropes for safety, went to the edge of a crevasse and threw them in. The time which elapsed demonstrated not only how deep the innocuous shaft was, but also the importance of having an experienced guide who knows the terrain well.

My previous experience of glacier walking in other countries had involved a much more arduous hike to get to the glacier itself and longer on the ice. Whilst this was a relatively short hike is makes it much more accessible. Although longer hikes and overnight camping are available.

Magical views are a draw in themselves, but what elevated this trip further was the enthusiasm and knowledge of our guide. We didn’t just walk the glacier but by the end of the trip I had felt we had fully interacted with it and got to know its secrets.

Skogafoss waterfall

Skogafoss waterfall during adventure holiday in Iceland

The final stop before returning to the Greenhouse Hotel in Hveragerdi, was the magnificent Skogafoss – one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland. From the car park, the falls set against the backdrop of clear blue skies and cragged rocks looks absolutely majestic. However, it wasn’t until we got closer that we saw its full glory.

Over the falls, not only one, but two perfectly formed rainbows revealed themselves. By standing at one side of the falls, getting soaked in the process, I literally became the gold at the end of the rainbow! I mean, who doesn’t want to be that? As we got closer and wetter, we realised we could stand in the middle of a rainbow circle. What a unique experience!

To the side of the falls are steps to a viewing platform which provides the advantage of seeing the Skogafoss Falls from a different angle. A further walk up the Skoga river revealed yet more waterfalls and stunning views.

Skogafoss waterfall Iceland from above

Homebound and northern lights

Back at The Greenhouse Hotel in Hveragerdi we packed our bags and drove back to the airport. If you have a hire car there is an inexpensive petrol station close to the airport. Dropping off the Dacia at Blue Car Rental was as easy as collection and we were soon in the queue to check in.

As if this review of Iceland adventure holiday wasn’t magical enough, its final wonder was left until last. Out of the north side (left from Iceland to Europe) the northern lights (aurora borealis) revealed themselves. This caused a slight commotion as one side of the plane descended to the other, to take in the waves of bluish green light which danced above the clouds.

And perhaps this best describes our Icelandic experience. Just when we had thought we had seen all the beauty and majesty the place has to offer, there was always another wonder or adventure to experience. And looking at a map of the island we barely scratched the surface and there are many other outdoor activities in Iceland to try.

Hidden waterfall at Seljalandsfoss during Review of Iceland adventure holiday & Greenhouse Hotel in Hveragerdi

Review of Iceland adventure holiday: Conclusion

I left Iceland an adventure holiday convert! The activities not only provided a novel and fun way to interact with the landscape but to truly immerse ourselves in it. Moreover, it unleashed something in me, a love for exploration, exhilaration and, of course speed.

Not only did I get to know something new about myself, but by embarking on shared adventures we got to know each other better too. Additionally, staying in the chic, stylish Greenhouse Hotel in Hveragerdi meant we fulfilled our expectations of this being a romantic getaway.

The reality is that Iceland has it all, yet we left feeling there was so much more to discover. We had done so much in a short space of time, but this had merely sparked our enthusiasm to discover more of its hidden beauty. We left Iceland united in our view, we would be back.

I hope you found this review of Iceland adventure holiday informative and inspiring. To book a stay at the lovely Greenhouse Hotel in Hveragerdi and all your activities and adventures go to www.thegreenhouse.is

 
 

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