Published December 6, 2017
Discussions about building a new luxury hotel in the area of Skálabrekka, adjacent to the Þingvellir National Park, have begun again recently, Rúv reports.
It’s not the first time that construction plans for the area are brought forward by private companies. The hotel chain Fosshótel had already expressed the wish to build accommodations right at the shore of Lake Þingvallavatn in 2009, after legendary Hótel Valhöll burnt to the ground. Amongst the advocates for the project was former Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson. Nonetheless, the area was deemed too perilous at the time and the plans were soon forgotten.
Or so we thought.
Go big or go home
An Icelandic couple who owns a vacant lot in Skálabrekka has now come forward with an extremely detailed construction project split into five different stages. The focus will be initially put on building a luxury four-to-five-stars hotel with 120 to 160 rooms, alongside a spa and a restaurant. The goal, however, is to build an Information Centre and a campsite, followed by a more affordable hotel, country houses, a sports centre and an area for greenhouses. Finally, the cherry on top would be a standard golf course and a golf club.
In short, your 1980s dream holiday in Miami, without the hassle of actually having to gasp for air in the Florida heat. And what does Iceland need if not more luxury hotels to milk all these rich tourists?
It’s worth mentioning that the area of Skálabrekka is not part of the National Park. Nevertheless, it lies right at its Western border and above an area protected by the law 85/2005 which ensures water preservation in Lake Þingavallavatn. Changes in the chemical levels of the water are closely monitored by the Park, as the Lake hosts rich fauna and flora, with 150 different types of plants, 50 kinds of invertebrates and three of the five species of freshwater fish found in Iceland.
Nature vs. Tourists
The project is still pending approval from the municipality of Bláaskógabyggð, which is now reviewing the proposal. According to Helgi Kjartansson, the leader of the local council, special care and attention must be given to the surrounding nature. At the same time, however, the needs of tourists must be addressed. “I think 90% of all tourists in Iceland go through the area, and these people need to be able to get service somehow—find accommodation, buy food, go to the bathroom and so forth” Helgi told Rúv. “ But we still need to see if this a good place for that or not.”
The fact that the Þingvellir National Park offers those same services already seems lost on Helgi.
According to a survey from the Icelandic Tourist Board, around 1.8 million tourists visited Iceland in 2016, with more than 56% of them visiting the Þingvellir National Park that same summer. Numbers were still above the 46% during winter. Unlike what Helgi says, these 900 thousand tourists have surely not been left out in the cold. The National Park itself provides exactly the services that Helgi names—bathrooms, food and campsite included.
The only thing that everybody agrees on right now is how crucial it is to play it cool. As much as everybody seems to have at heart the interests of the area, it will take time to assess whether and how the constructions will interfere with the nature and most importantly with the lake’s waters. So far, according to one of the engineers working on the project, the owners of the land have been working closely with a team of architects to ensure the hotel will fit right in with the nature and the history of the place.
From your mouth to God’s ears guys—after all, nothing ruins a National Park like poor tastes in décor.