Hótel Laugarhóll is a homey family-run country hotel, located in the green and sparsely populated valley Bjarnarfjörður 25 km north of Hólmavík, only about three and a half hours drive (258 km) from Reykjavík. Hótel Laugarhóll is perfectly situated for exploring the remote and beautiful wilderness of Strandir, the easternmost part of the Westfjords.
The house was originally built as a grammar school, but after renovation has been a hotel for a few years. The couple that runs the hotel, Einar Unnsteinsson and Vigdis (Dísa) Esradottir, are former teachers at the school and therefore well acquainted with the area. They are both educated as teachers but besides teaching Einar has been working in the film industry as a set-builder and art-director and Dísa is a former director of Salurinn, the first concert hall in Iceland. They have two grown up children and four young grandchildren. In 2009 they moved back to Bjarnarfjörður where they have built a home close to the hotel, partly out of driftwood (local wood of the area), and intend to spend the latter half of their lives in this peaceful valley - off the beaten track.
The hotel has 16 double rooms (32 beds) with good facilities, 11 with private bathrooms, and 5 with washbasin and 2 separate WC and showers in the hallway. The restaurant is located in a nice and bright dining room, where you can order tasty local food from a seasonal menu, highlighting Einar´s home-cooking expertise: garlic roasted shrimp, Icelandic meatballs, baked cod in yoghurt, and a crusty apple crumble or a mouthwatering French chocolate cake.
At Hótel Laugarhóll you will also find a cozy living room with books, magazines, television and WiFi to satisfy travelers from around the globe, and a big gym/conference hall for different activities: basketball, table-tennis, yoga-seminars etc. Above the living room there is a small art-gallery, Gallerí Klúka, displaying an annual art exhibition.
But what really comes as a nice surprise to many visitors is the 25 meters long, naturally warm geothermal, outdoor swimming pool (32°C) and the adjacent natural hot pool (42°C) that leads into a smaller, shallower and cooler 'kiddie pool'; an exceptionally wonderful hangout on a cold winter’s night watching the stars and the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). The swimming pool was built by the farmers in the valley some 70 years ago and is still in a very good condition, although showing a little wear and tear. The natural geothermal water running through the pool and bubbling up from the hot springs is said to have healing powers. Recently renovated dressing rooms are to be found next to the swimming pool.
Hótel Laugarhóll is a great place to have as a home base for shorter daytrips around this remote area. For instance to go and bathe in the warm swimming pool at the edge of the arctic ocean in Krossnes (maybe even take a dip into the North Atlantic Sea) and explore the ghostly herring factory in Djúpavík on the way back (don´t forget your camera), or take a boat trip from Drangsnes to admire the lovely puffins in Grímsey island and stop by for a tasty lunch at Malarkaffi, hiking through the mountains, exploring beautiful waterfalls or just having a relaxing stroll on the riverbank of Bjarnarfjarðará river, bird-watching or trout fishing. In the fall berry picking is a tradition and in the winter cross-country skiing is a great experience.
The famous Museum of Icelandic Sorcery in Hólmavík and the Sorcerers Cottage at Klúka next door to the hotel, a replica of a 17th century common peoples home in Iceland, are also worth visiting, as well as the ancient hot spring with its healing powers, blessed by the catholic bishop Guðmundur the Good in the 13th century.