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REVIEWED: Hotel Rangá, Iceland

It may be the only four-star hotel in Southern Iceland, but there are 5,000 other stars to look up at – and the Northern Lights – from this dark sky destination extraordinaire

Hotel Rangá has its own observatory, Iceland’s biggest, not 300 yards from one of Iceland’s finest restaurants, and only 500 yards from the country’s most luxurious – and eccentric – hotel rooms. It’s expensive, yes, but if you want something really special, it’s unique. Oh, and it’s got buckets of Northern Lights/aurora borealis.

The only 4-star resprt in Southern Iceland, Hotel Rangá is about an hour’s drive from Reykjavík (or 90 minutes if it’s snowing!), between the towns of Hella and Hvolsvöllur.

The staff at Hotel Rangá understand the main reason why you’re probably here, so if you place a tick beside your room number they’ll call you if/when the Northern Lights come out to play. It’s more a question of waiting for clear skies; there’s a lot of auroral activity here. And, best of al, they will wake you whatever the time – I got a call at 5AM! Not many hotels do this (they may say they do, but they don’t). I was impressed.

Before check-in, there’s a welcome drink from certainly the best-stocked bar in all Iceland outside the capital.

The Africa Suite:, yes, it’s pretty weird – and welcome after the often austere hotels in Iceland, which tend to lack charm. Vegetarians & fans of zebras might disagree.

The King Size bed was very comfortable … and you can leave the curtains open all night while you look for Northern Lights.

The two-sinked, long bathroom features a whirlpool bath, though when taking a shower it is a bit slippy.

The room is so big that, if you’re staying for just one night, it’s best not to spread your stuff around … it took me an hour to find everything and get packed-up!

The desk area is always welcome; this one includes a coffee machine, and a complimentary postcard of the hotel swarmed in Northern Lights! Nice touch.

Big TV. Won’t be needing that.

The room’s balcony looks out to the hot tub outside, though it’s not quite the spa I had expected. Guests basically have to walk through the pool room in their underwear and walk across snow – in full view of the restaurant – to get in it … which is what I did! But I’m guessing that most guests don’t bother. This is something the hotel should make a feature of; three hot tubs in more remote places, with easier access & somewhere to hang a towel, would be great. I had to fling my towel on someone else’s balcony (and probably woke them up too), which they weren’t too happy about …

5AM and faint aurora appeared after a seven-hour snowstorm. You just never know …

They pulsed and swayed as they darted around the sky directly above the hotel.

The Hotel Rangá Astronomical Observatory about 300 yards away, which is kitted-out with several high-power telescopes, a red light system, and a sliding-off roof.

This excellent and unique facility is overseen by local astronomer Sævar Helgi Bragason (@saevarhb), who has a love-hate relationship with the Northern Lights. “I hate them!” he says, “they get in the way of looking at the stars!” What a lovely problem to have.

Prices: from UK£200 per night

Stay at Hotel Ranga