Amidst this mystical landscape sits Iceland's first green-certified hotel, Hotel Hellnar, a farm-turned-eco-lodge with one of the country's most enviable locations, just outside the entrance to Snaefellsjokull National Park.
"The hotel is situated at the top of a hill, about 40 meters (130 feet) above sea level, overlooking the bird cliffs along the oceanfront," says Owner Gudrun Bergmann. "During the months of May through August, we frequently spot orca whales just off the coast, so guests can enjoy them from the deck of the hotel or from their room window. To the north, facing the entrance of the hotel towers lies the mystical Snaefellsjokull Glacier. Close by are old lava fields which are the result of eruptions in the glacier itself, as underneath the icecap is an active volcano."
The hotel, which was recently awarded Green Globe gold standard certification, one of the highest levels of international eco-certification, is simple but comfortable, offering guests double or single rooms with private bathrooms, dining with great views, and easy access to the area's attractions.
"Hotel Hellnar far surpassed our expectations," says Clyde Haggard of Ft. Worth, Texas, who stayed at the hotel with his wife Sharon last May. "[My wife] immediately wanted to plan another trip to Iceland, with a much longer stay at Hotel Hellnar. The staff was gracious and helpful in planning our tour of the sights in the area. We love glaciers, waterfalls, and volcanic activity, so we had it all."
"I always recommend a trip to the top of the glacier if the weather permits, as it is such a unique experience," says Bergmann. The staff can arrange a snowmobile tour to the top for you. In the national park you can hike over lava fields, wander through the ruins of ancient fishing settlements, and look for wildlife like Arctic foxes and white-tailed eagles. Nearby, you can go on a whale-watching cruise from the town of Olafsvik, soak in the geothermal pools at Stykkisholmur and Lysuholl, and go horseback riding on the beach.
Trip planning:The hotel is open May 10 to September 15. Rates are based on double occupancy and include accommodations and breakfast. Activities, other meals, and transportation are extra. Round-trip fares in late August from Boston to Reykjavik, Iceland's international gateway, start at $516, including taxes, on Icelandair. From Reykjavik you should rent a car for the two-and-a-half-hour drive to the hotel.
Machu Picchu trek minus camping
Lodge:Mountain Lodges of Peru Price:$2,500 per person for a six-night package
Any true adventure traveler knows, the only respectable way to get to Machu Picchu is with your own two legs. However, Enrique Umbert, a Peruvian businessman and avid outdoorsman, won't think any less of you should you forgo the tent cities and squatter potties of the traditional Inca trail and opt to trek to the Incan city via a lesser-known route where you can stay in his newly opened first-class eco-lodges.
At Umbert's Mountain Lodges of Peru, four upscale buildings set on the Salkantay route to Machu Picchu, you can end each day of tough trekking with a hot shower, an exquisitely presented dinner, and a fluffy bed with 400-thread-count sheets. If it all sounds good, but you're sad you won't be hiking "The Inca Trail," don't despair. There are many Incan trails—ancient foot highways created by the Incas—and the Salkantay route is one of them.