Once a School, Now a Hotel: Hotel Nupur, Iceland

hotel nupur west fjords icelandTucked into the fingers of the west side of the West Fjords in Iceland is a surprising sight: When you’re driving in this part of Iceland, there are miles and miles of steep cliff faces with thin waterfalls falling from the sides, fields of lupine and wandering sheep. There are few towns, and then all of the sudden, there is Hotel Nupur.

As far as Iceland hotels go, this one is unique. Hotel Nupur is located on the north side of Dýrafjörður across the fjord from the quaint town of Þingeyri. It consists of several large white buildings that are far from anywhere and perfect for those needing accommodations in this quiet corner of Iceland. It served as a boarding school for children ages 13-16 living in the western half of the West Fjords from 1902 until it closed in 1992. Today, this former school has been converted into a hotel that serves as a great stopping point for those driving around the road that traces the West Fjords peninsula.

The hotel has been run by brothers Guðmundur Helgi Helgason (Gummi) and Sigurður Arnfjörð Helgason (Siggi) for the last five years. I had the good fortune to meet Gummi, who welcomed me and my co-travelers himself at the front desk (his brother was busy working at their newly opened restaurant off property). Gummi is a trained chef, and he is passionate about the farm-to-table, slow food movement. Hotel Nupur has an on-site restaurant where breakfast is served as part of an overnight stay, and everything it on the menu closely conforms to Gummi’s belief that people should eat locally and healthily.

hotel nupur west fjords icelandHotel Nupur itself is still very much reminiscent of the days when it served as a boarding house. Rooms line the hallways and are set up dorm-style with twin beds, a table and chair, a small closet and a sink. We stayed on a floor with communal bathrooms (one men’s and one women’s), which had a toilet and spacious shower with hot water (rooms with private bathrooms are available). The curtains are thick (important for blocking out the summer sunlight) and the comforters are warm, plus each room allows for self-control of the radiator. They are clean and stocked with a towel, sheet and pillow for each guest.

When visiting Hotel Nupur, guests are also likely to meet Reynir Katrínarson, a spiritual healer and craftsman. He offers massages to guests, and anyone is welcome to visit his studio, where the many handcrafted items he makes are available for sale. Reynir is a multi-skilled man: He knits hats and other woolen goods, makes rune reading kits out of unique stones found only one place in Iceland and creates paintings made out of crushed stones. A limited selection of goods are available in the lobby, but guests who visit should make the trip downstairs to meet Reynir and learn about his arts.

The western side of the West Fjords is tranquil and rugged, and happening upon Hotel Nupur is a treat for those who need to rest their heads, but it’s one of the few places available to stay along this route, so make reservations in advance. The hotel is open May 15 through September 15 with group bookings available the rest of the year. Hotel Nupur may be a bit larger and with a bit of a hostel feeling given the layout of the rooms, but there is a great story behind these comfortable lodgings, and Gummi and Siggi are excited to introduce new guests to their corner of the country.

Gummi generously hosted me at Hotel Nupur, but all opinions are my own.

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