Iceland’s tourism industry has surged in the last two decades, but this doesn’t mean it wasn’t active before. In fact, foreigners have been fascinated by the country for centuries; it actually inspired the authors of many famous books. For example, Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth is set in Iceland, while Tolkien’s works were inspired by the Icelandic Sagas.
Although tourism today differs from that of previous years, one fact remains: visitors have always needed a place to stay. Today, tourists can rely on a huge number of hotels, BnBs and hostels everywhere in Iceland, but it hasn't always been like that.
The first Icelanders who began providing accommodation to foreign visitors started in 1884, when Hótel Tindastóll Iceland first opened. Incredibly, this historic hotel is still in operation today, a whopping 138 years later.
So where exactly is Iceland’s oldest hotel located? What does an overnight stay here look like? Let’s find out.
Hótel Tindastóll - Where is it located?
Hótel Tindastóll is located in the town of Sauðárkrókur, on the north coast of Iceland. The hotel is named after the nearby mountain, Tindastóll. Sauðárkrókur itself is at the base of the fjord Skagafjörður, a fairly famous area with a reputation for rich fisheries, prosperous agriculture and abundant breeding of Icelandic horses.
Sauðárkrókur is where the largest population of the Skagafjörður fjord is located: just over 2,600 people. It became a trading post in the mid-1800s, and grew into a hub for trade and farming for the north. Merchants regularly passed through Sauðárkrókur from Denmark and other parts of Iceland. Therefore, it’s no surprise, that this is where the first hotel opened.
Although Sauðárkrókur is buzzing with industry, its small size and short distance from the Ring Road (Route 1). However, the town is off the beaten path, which means it still maintains a peaceful atmosphere without too many tourists. If you are looking or hidden gems in Iceland to add to your itinerary, this town is a great option. Here, you can experience rural Iceland, with incredible nature at your very footsteps.
What is it like staying at Iceland's oldest hotel?
The hotel Tindastóll’s building has a traditional 20th-century Icelandic appearance. However, its interior boasts in modern comforts. The corrugated metal exterior and wooden ceiling beams give you that authentic feel, while LCD TVs and free Wi-Fi offer up-to-date additions that make your stay more pleasant.
The hotel consists of two buildings: the main (original) building, dating back to 1884, and the annex. The main building comprises ten rooms (eight standard and two deluxe) which reflect the building’s time period, while the annex contains ten modern-styled rooms. Therefore, whether you prefer a more contemporary or historical accommodation, you’ll be all set.
The hotel’s garden area contains a hot tub for guest use, built with stones from nearby beaches. Icelanders love to soak in hot tubs, and they’re undoubtedly ideal for unwinding in after a long day of adventure. Since the hotel is located in the center of town, you’re not far from several restaurants and other historical buildings.
The best part of staying at Hótel Tindastóll is that you’ll be very close to some incredible natural features, so you won’t need to drive or walk far to be out of the town and into wild Iceland.
What to do near Hótel Tindastóll?
1. Visit Drangey Island
This rock is found in the ocean in the middle of the fjord. It is the remnants of a volcano that ceased erupting before humans were even around. Today, the island is home to one of the country’s largest puffin colonies.
You can visit the island yourself, via a Drangey boat tour leaving from Reykir port, north of Sauðárkrókur town. Note that the tours only run in the summer, the main period where puffins can be seen out and about.
Near Sauðárkrókur is the Tindastóll Ski Area. The facilities include a magic carpet and lower lift for beginners, and a top lift for the more experienced. Ski hire is available and there’s a restaurant on-site to keep fuelled. You can check our skiing in Iceland guide for further information. If you visit in summer, the area is great for hiking.
Hlíðarendi Golf Course is only a short walking distance from Hótel Tindastóll. The longest 9-hole golf course in Iceland, you’re sure to have incredible views along the way. Whether you’re an experienced golfer or a beginner, this is a great way to spend a few hours. Club hire is available at the clubhouse.
Like most towns in Iceland, Sauðárkrókur has a heated swimming pool. Icelanders sure do know how to utilize their volcanic landscape masterfully. The pool’s water is heated using geothermal power. This town’s facilities include a 25-meter pool, two hot tubs, a sauna and sunbeds. Hot pools are the perfect way to relax after a day of exploring.
5. Visit the Glaumbaer Turf Houses.
Not far from Sauðárkrókur and hotel Tindastóll, you can visit a museum that features a renovated turf farm. These buildings date back to the 18th and 19th centuries and resemble most Icelanders’ houses until the 20th century. Here you can learn about what life was like for Icelandic farmers in earlier centuries and explore their dwellings.
6. Experience 1238: The Battle of Iceland
Close to Iceland’s oldest hotel is the site of a famous conflict which took place in the 13th century. Various clans of north Iceland clashed as they vied for dominance. One particularly significant battle, mentioned in the Icelandic Sagas, is the battle of Örlygsstaðir, which took place in 1238. Fast forward to today and you can experience this battle for yourself, in virtual reality.
1238 The Battle of Iceland is an interactive exhibition that teaches you all about the famous battle. The experience is designed to be immersive, so in addition to seeing replica weapons, you’ll don a VR headset. In this way, you can actually take part in a digital version of the battle itself. Whether you’re interested in history or not, this is fun for the whole family.
Inside the exhibit, there’s also a gift shop and bistro, to get yourself souvenirs and buy food before moving on. For those staying at Hótel Tindastóll, you have less than a 100-meter walk to reach the facility.
Tindastóll: comfort, history and nature
If you want to take a unique trip that few tourists embark on, head north and stay at Hótel Tindastóll. While Reykjavík and Akureyri offer wonderful experiences, it is smaller towns like Sauðárkrókur which showcase classic Iceland, as they are less affected by the influences coming from the US and the rest of Europe.
If you do feel like experiencing a bigger urban area, Iceland’s second-largest town, Akureyri is a short drive away. Even though it takes second place outside of the Capital Region, Akureyri still only contains around 18,000 people. You’ll have room to breathe, as well as plenty of activities to choose from. Book your rental car in Iceland today and hit the open road!