Iceland has no shortage of hotels, but if you're looking for a truly memorable travel experience, why not defy convention? From camping on a glacier to overnighting in a historic herring factory, you're sure to find a unique lodging option for your Iceland trip that's more than just a place to rest your head.

The number of visitors to Iceland has skyrocketed in the past few years, and the number of lodging options has grown along with it. Sure, there are plenty of generic hotels available - but with so many choices at your disposal, consider booking a truly unique overnight locale that will become a memorable part of your trip. Nothing can beat the experience of sleeping under the stars in a transparent bubble room in the Icelandic wilderness, camping on (or in!) a glacier, or staying at a renovated historic property.

If you're traveling with your family, your little ones will surely appreciate spending a night at a Viking-themed hotel or cottage where they can learn about what life was like for warriors hundreds of years ago. And since most people visit Iceland to spend time in the breathtaking natural spaces, consider renting a “summerhouse” in a remote area of the country, secluded from the crowds. Keep reading for more details -  which will you choose for your Icelandic adventure?

#1 Sleep in a Bubble

One of the bubbles, heated and cozy in winter (photo courtesy of 5 Million Stars Hotel)

Increase your chances of seeing the Northern Lights by spending a night or two under the stars in the Iceland wilderness. The 5 Million Star Hotel offers transparent “bubbles” located a little over an hour east of Reykjavik in the Bláskógabyggð municipality. The bubbles are each in secluded natural areas, allowing visitors to have an immersive experience in nature with the comforts of sleeping indoors. Each bubble can sleep two adults and one child, and the structure is kept inflated and ventilated from a noiseless system that renews the air inside multiple times per hour. They're also outfitted with electricity and heat. Bathroom facilities are shared in a service house with two shower rooms, sinks, toilets and a self-service kitchen.

#2 Rent a “Summerhouse” in Any Season

A summerhouse in the Icelandic countryside

Despite what the name suggests, summerhouses (or sumarbústadur in Icelandic) are available year-round and are a wildly popular option among locals. These are usually remote log cabins or cottages built far from the city, surrounded by nothing but idyllic nature -perfect for families traveling with children or outdoor enthusiasts who like fishing, hiking, or swimming. 

Available throughout the country, summerhouses typically come equipped with all the basic amenities you’d expect in a rental home - and it really wouldn’t be a true “summerhouse” if there isn’t a jacuzzi on the property or a natural hot spring nearby. This is a wonderful option for visitors who’d like to avoid crowded hotels and attractions and prefer to experience the country on their own terms.

#3 Historic Church in the Eastfjords

Northern Lights over Kirkjubær Guesthouse in Stöðvarfjörður (photo courtesy of Kirkjubær Guesthouse)

If your journey in Iceland takes you to the scenic Eastfjords (about an 8-hour drive from Reykjavik), then consider spending the night at the wondrous Kirkjubær Guesthouse located in the old fishing village of Stöðvarfjörður. This enchanting church, painted in bright blue and white, was built in 1925 and used as the main Protestant church in the village. It was eventually renovated into a private summerhouse, and now it’s a small hostel sleeping up to 10 people at a time. You can either rent a sleeping bag for the night or reserve one of the 4 double beds that are available.

There is a bathroom with a shower as well as a fully equipped kitchen, and internet access (from spring until fall). If you are traveling in a group, you can also rent the entire church for yourself. Rent a kayak or rowboat to explore the nearby fjord, or explore your scenic surroundings: mountains, walking trails, and even a village swimming pool.

#4 Camp In a Glacier Tunnel

A tunnel inside an ice cave in the Langjökull glacier

Glaciers are an essential part of Iceland’s landscape, and a visit here is never complete without a tour. Camping enthusiasts can go a step further and opt to spend a night on top of one - or better yet, inside a glacial tunnel. For the second option, which usually takes place at Langjökull prepared to sleep in your clothes and a heated sleeping bag. There is a bathroom in the tunnel but no shower, and the experience usually takes place at Iceland’s second largest ice cap, Langjökull, located about an hour and a half drive from Reykjavik. Since this is a private, tailor-made option, it is best to book it well in advance. You will arrive at the glacier late in the evening, have a tour, and then set up the tents inside. If weather permits it, you may go outside to catch the Northern Lights. This is a good option for individuals or smaller families since the space inside the tunnel is limited.

If you prefer to camp outside, you can choose between Langjökull, Sölheimajökull, and even Eyjafajallajökull glaciers for your campsite. You will have a mattress inside your tent as well as a kitchen tent where dinner can be prepared. Tour guides recommend wearing warm, wool clothes and booking your camping spot at least a few weeks in advance.

#5 Glamping at Thorsmork

A tent at Thorsmork Nature Reserve (photo courtesy of Thorsmark Nature Reserve)

Thorsmork Nature Reserve is a true paradise for hikers or all-around nature lovers. Nestled between the Tindfjallajökull and Eyjafjallajökull glaciers in the south, this mountain range attracts visitors for its stunning volcanic landscapes and perfect conditions to see the Northern Lights.

So if you are exploring this picturesque part of the country, consider staying at one of the luxury tents, located on a camping ground in the natural reserve. Getting there is just as exciting as the stay itself. Your bus or modified 4x4 vehicle will take you through rivers and snowfields until you reach your final destination. The camp is about two and a half hours away from Reykjavik.

Once there, expect to find your spacious tent furnished with a double bed, chairs, tables, and a heater. The camp facilities include a sauna, a small pool, bathrooms, and a restaurant, located next to the tents.

#6 Fjörukráin Viking Village in Hafnarfjörður

Cabins at Hotel Viking (photo courtesy of Fjörukráin Viking Village)

The first Viking settlement in Iceland dates back to the late 9th century and to this day, Viking traditions are an integral part of Icelandic culture. So if you’d like to learn more about it, consider staying at the Fjörukráin Viking Village in Hafnarfjoður, 20 minutes south of Reykjavik. The “village” consists of a restaurant, hotel, and small guesthouses furnished in medieval-inspired décor.

The restaurant has several halls where Icelandic food is served in old-fashioned Viking-style trays while singing Valkyries and Vikings perform for the guests. The best time to visit is during the annual Viking Festival, which is the oldest and largest event of this kind in the country and usually takes place in June. It celebrates Viking culture through storytelling, games, food, and music, and continues for an entire weekend.

#7 Djúpavík Herring Factory 

Historic Hótel Djúpavík, a renovated dormitory for herring factory workers (photo courtesy of Hótel Djúpavík)

Fishing and fish processing have always been an integral part of Icelandic economy, culture, and way of life. And for a very long time, small communities all over the country have depended only on the bounties of the sea. So if you want to learn more about that aspect of Icelandic history the former herring factory in the village of Djúpavík, located on the Strandir coast in the Westfjords, is the perfect spot.

While you can still take a tour of the processing plant, built in 1934, sleeping here is an exciting part of the experience: Hótel Djúpavík, adjacent to the factory, also dates back to the 1930s when it served as a dormitory for female workers. The eight renovated double rooms, furnished with beds, chairs, and vintage items ooze rustic charm. You will be sharing a bathroom with the rest of the visitors. There is a small restaurant/dining room in the building where breakfast, dinner, and snacks are available.

#8 Kvíar Lodge in Hornstrandir Nature Reserve

Kvíar Lodge from Jökulfirðir Bay (photo courtesy of Kvíar Lodge)

Situated in the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve at the far north of the Westfjords, this former farm may as well be one the most isolated locations in the country. Renovations of the six-room property took four years, and many of the materials were brought in by boat since there is no road connection. Overlooking Jökulfirðir Bay at the nature reserve, this is the perfect place to stay overnight if you are hiking this stunning area of the country. The land has been protected since the 1950s and wildlife is thriving - you can regularly spot arctic foxes, seals, and birds.

The lodge has 15 beds, a wood-burning sauna, shared bathroom facilities, and a living room. There are also kayaks and stand-up paddleboards available free of charge. There is no wifi and mobile phone signal is only available “if necessary” - so get ready to go off-the-grid. The lodge is owned by a local tour company, you can stay here as part of their multi-day tours, which include hiking an kayaking in the summer, and skiing in the winter.

#9 Midgard Basecamp in South Iceland

Midgard Basecamp in Hvolsvöllur (photo courtesy of Midgard)

Nestled among some of Iceland’s most beautiful sights such as the Mýrdalsjökull and Eyjafjallajökull glaciers and in close proximity to the most popular attractions of the South Coast (the black sand beach of Vik and the Seljalandsfoss and Skógarfoss waterfalls), Midgard is a new and modern “basecamp” that offers travelers a place to relax after a long day exploring the area.

The family-owned property is located in the small village of Hvolsvöllur which also happens to be at the gateway of Katla UNESCO Global Geopark, a stunning natural reserve where active volcanoes, glaciers, and moss-covered lava fields attract visitors from around the world. Since Midgard started out as a travel agency, offers wonderful day and multi-day trips in the area for which you can learn more at the basecamp.

The property has double, family, and bunk bedrooms (with four and six beds) with private bathroom facilities. The rooftop hot tub and sauna overlooks Eyjafjallajökull icecap and volcano and it is also possible to witness the Northern Lights from there. The restaurant offers delicious and freshly prepared salads, sandwiches, soups, and desserts.

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Map of Beyond Hotels: 9 Unique Lodging Options in Iceland
Map of Beyond Hotels: 9 Unique Lodging Options in Iceland