So at Ion, she adds, “I wanted the guests to experience the Icelandic nature, the culture, the trends, music, design, and everything we like and appreciate. I wanted them to experience exactly where he was in the world."
Indeed, from the volcanic marvels of Mount Hengill to the urban sophistication of Reykjavik nearby, Iceland's unique landscape plays a pivotal role in the rich design of the 45-room hotel, which leans heavily on sustainable practices and the natural features of the island. Icelandic rock and locally sourced, repurposed wood fill the hotel’s interiors, which were designed by Santa Monica-based, Icelandic studio Minarc.
Sverrisdottir’s enduring passion for local authenticity, not to mention her razor-sharp sense of aesthetics, extend to the ever-rotating local artworks and music that fill the hotel, as well as to the farm-to-table cuisine at Silfra Restaurant & Bar and the partially exposed Lava Spa, where guests can luxuriate with herbal products made from organic, mineral-rich volcanic ash and clay sourced from the immediate vicinity.
Inspired touches range from a sink made of recycled tire rubber to an ambitious green energy project, carried out in collaboration with the local government, that allows electricity to be generated through the cooling of volcanic waters sourced beneath the geothermal parkland on which Ion is located. The water throughout the hotel is then filtered and cleaned before it’s released back into the ground for future use.
“As we were talking about the concept, from the beginning, we were very determined to make it as sustainable as possible,” says Sverrisdóttir. A profound sense of connection to and responsibility toward the natural environment, says Sverrisdóttir, is a big part of what it means to be Icelandic.
“We know that we cannot control the weather, cannot control volcanoes, earthquakes,” she says. “We’ve learned how to live with and respect nature."
One aspect of this, she adds, is a heightened awareness of the unfortunate reality of climate change. As a child growing up on a small peninsula near Reykjavik, Sverrisdóttir recalls whale carcasses often drifting onto the shore, forming great fleshy trampolines on which she and her friends would play. Her schoolteachers would later bring them down to study the whales’ anatomy.
“Now there are hardly any whales, she says wistfully. “Climate change is right there in front of you. You don’t have to go back in time to realize how intense it is.”
That’s why Ion, with its many sustainable innovations and practices, sets such an important precedent in the area, one that other hotels and tour groups have begun to emulate.
“It’s been inspiring to see other hotels go into something similar,” says Sverrisdóttir. “Because this is what Iceland is all about.”