Eyja Guldsmeden Hotel review, Reykjavik, Iceland: Eco-aware hotel in cold climate will warm your heart

Is this the right place? That's my first thought on walking up the hill from Reykjavik's main street to find an office-like façade. It's not a first impression you'd expect from a relatively new eco-hotel (it opened in 2016), particularly one in downtown Reykjavik where most good hotels occupy historic buildings. 

But the businesslike exterior is part of Eyja Guldsmeden Hotel's environmental ethos. Created from a repurposed three-storey office block, it's the newest property in the family-owned Guldsmeden group, based in Copenhagen, which has 10 "organic boutique" hotels, all Green Globe-certified: six in Denmark and one each in Norway, France, Bali and now Iceland. 

Besides, the office vibe disappears as soon as you step inside, out of the cold and into a world of Asian-inspired warmth. 

Second impressions are of a high-ceilinged bar-restaurant-café on the ground floor, a welcoming space with cowhide chairs, wicker lampshades, wildflowers in glass jars on wooden tables and natural light pouring in through large windows facing the street. Organic buffet breakfasts are served there, and there's a nightly Happy "Hour" from 4pm to 7pm. 

Checking in, I receive not just my keycard but a copy of Guldsmeden's own Golden Tips newspaper containing tips for a sustainable stay, news about other Guldsmeden hotels, inspirational quotes from Gandhi and other "simple living" luminaries, as well as practical details such as the Wi-Fi password and social media handles.

But it's not until I'm in my top-floor room that I start to really feel Eyja's eco-awareness. It's small, light and Nordic-chic with sheer dreamy curtains (as well as blackout ones). There's the Guldsmeden signature four-poster bed, made from Indonesian teak with a white canopy embroidered with bamboo and butterflies and adorned with seashells at each corner. The linen is white too, 100 per cent cotton, and there are two down duvets – one for each side of the bed, Euro-style (which can take some getting used to when you're travelling as a couple). 

And because "guldsmeden" can mean both "goldsmith" and "dragonfly" in Danish, the group's gold dragonfly logo graces everything from bedside lamps to do-not-disturb tags. 

It's a bit of an eco-product showroom with Naturfrisk​ and Whole Earth organic soft drinks in the minibar (there's no fridge, to minimise energy use), Organic Company cushions on the bed and the hotel's own sustainable towels (I'm glad to see non-white towels to reduce the use of bleach, but these brown ones are disappointingly thin and scratchy).

The all-white bathroom is accented with earthy touches such as a bamboo towel rack and a solid stone washbasin. If you need further proof that Guldsmeden takes its eco-responsibilities seriously, look no further than its iLoveEcoEssentials toiletries in refillable, recycled plastic pump packs instead of single-use mini bottles. 

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I've never been so tempted to pocket a free toothbrush as the one by iLoveEcoEssentials. It's bamboo, called a Chopper Scrubber and comes with chewable toothpaste tablets handy for travel, but I resist the urge to grab it; Eyja encourages guests to think before consuming, to reduce our impact on the planet.

Of course there's no bottled water. Not just for environmental reasons but because Iceland's water is famously clean and glacier-cold straight from the tap. And I'm glad to be able to open the long window, which has views of snow-capped peaks across the bay, for fresh air. 

When I'm ready to rug up and head outside, Eyja's central location steps into the spotlight. A short walk down the road is Reykjavik's main street, Laugavegur, with shops, restaurants, cafes and pubs and the new Hlemmur Mathöll Food Hall with more restaurants and cafes as well as bakeries and organic produce. There are buses to museums and the city's geothermally heated swimming pools (all free with a Reykjavik City Card). Eyja also has aqua-blue bikes to rent, with proceeds going to charity – its tour-booking site is eyja.tourdesk.is.

An eco-hotel might not be an anomaly in Iceland, a country that prides itself on its natural beauty and on being powered by renewable energy; Reykjavik even has plans to be carbon neutral by 2040. But Eyja Guldsmeden Hotel is more than the sum of its sustainable practices; it cares about its guests as much as its environmental impact, making this a friendly, stylish base from which to explore the world's most northerly capital.

TRIP NOTES

MORE 

traveller.com.au/iceland 

visitreykjavik.is 

FLY

Finnair flies from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Reykjavik via Asian cities such as Singapore and Tokyo, and Helsinki. Go to finnair.com/au/gb/   

STAY

Eyja Guldsmeden Hotel has 65 rooms all with four-poster beds and free Wi-Fi. Rates from 197 euros a night plus 24 euros for an organic breakfast. See hoteleyja.is or Guldsmeden Hotels' new booking site, iloveecohotels.com 

Louise Southerden stayed at her own expense with flights by Lindblad Expeditions.

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