Stay here: The Bubble Hotel, Iceland

The Buubble, Iceland
http://www.buubble.com/

My husband was flicking through a travel magazine on a flight we took in early 2016. He came across a picture of what appeared to be a giant bubble, and a few lines describing it as newly built ‘bubble accommodation’ somewhere in the middle of Iceland…

I started Googling when the plane landed, and found it to be Buubble, the self-proclaimed 5 million star hotel. Basically, a “hotel room” that’s one giant, clear, bubble, where you can rest your head and enjoy a non-stop 360 degree view of the Icelandic night sky, and hopefully catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. “I’m concentrating on offering the accommodation during the wintertime, so that people can see the Northern Lights and the starry sky,” Róbertsson explained on the website not long after it launched. That sounded pretty good to me.

My birthday happened to fall in the middle of our Icelandic stay, and I decided that if I had to be another year older, I wanted to stay in one of these bubbles for my birthday. I braced myself for what I was sure would be a ridiculous price, and was more than pleasantly surprised to find out it was going to set us back AUD$300 for the one night.

 

WHAT’S IT LIKE IN THE BUBBLE?
Despite the fact that they are a self-proclaimed 5 million star hotel, given that the ‘hotel’ is actually a giant bubble in the middle of a forest (the exact address and location is not revealed until you’ve booked, for safety and privacy reasons), don’t expect 5 star facilities. The bubbles themselves (there were only 2 when we booked ours, but it’s now grown to 8) just contain a big, comfy bed, a little coffee table, a lamp, and a power point (yes, devices can be charged, no there isn’t WiFi in the bubbles, but there is WiFi available in the communal service house). There was no TV or sound system, and no lights – just a small lamp for dim light; you won’t need it, because once it gets dark (sunset is around 4 – 4:30pm in November) and the stars come out, you won’t be able to look away.

HOW DO I STAY WARM?
How on earth are you going to keep warm in the middle of winter inside one of these guys? As the website will tell you, “The bubble structure is kept inflated by a slight over-pressure from a noiseless ventilation system. It permanently renews the air inside 2-7 times the volume per hour and this way it prevents humidity. The system has heating elements with thermostat so the bubble stays warm all winter.” That system, combined with an extra little plug in heater, kept us pretty cosy despire the snow and frost outside. Oh, and electric blankets. That said, a middle of the night toilet run isn’t real fun…

 

WHERE’S THE BATHROOM?!
In terms of facilities, there is a shared service house tucked away on the property, containing showers and toilets (toilet paper and shower towels are provided) – they’re centrally located, so only a 2 – 3 minute walk from any of the bubbles. But when it’s below freezing and you need to pee in the middle of the night, it’s hard work getting your layers and snow boots on!

ARE THERE ANY OTHER AMENITIES? WHERE CAN I EAT?
There is free car parking available, and the service house has a small kitchen space with a dining table, coffee machine and elecrtric kettle, sink, microwave, dishwasher, and even a small stovetop – as well as pots, pans, cutlery and crockery! Once you get there, you’re probably not going to want to venture back out to look for a restaurant because a) driving at night in Iceland is scary when the weather can change at the drop of a hat, and b) Iceland is expensive beyond what you’d expect (as in a margherita pizza and a vegetable salad cost us AUD $55.00. Yup, seriously). Your best option is to stop at a supermarket like Bónus or Krónan, and BYO dinner – we took a cup of instant noodles each and bought 2 capsicums – we chopped them up and cooked them in a fry pan in the share kitchen, then stirred our noodles through. And a bag of M&Ms for dessert

UMMM… PRIVACY?!?
This was one of my concerns, given that there are actually several bubbles on site. Above is a photo of the path we walked from our bubble to the share service house, and if you scroll back up, you’ll see the thicket of trees behind the bed. Yes, there are other bubbles around, but at best you’ll only see a peep of them through the trees if their lamps are on. When we visited, there were only 2 bubbles occupied by independent travellers (us and another couple), and a few more occupied by tour participants, and we didn’t see or hear any of them except for a brief crossing of paths making dinner. And, there are no animals other than the odd bird.

 

WORTH IT?
Absolutely!!! While we didn’t see the Northern Lights, we saw the stars like we’ve never seen them before. We lay on the bed and watched a snow flurry slowly dust the dome. We woke up to a winter wonderland you couldn’t even conjure up in your dreams (see below – the snow genuinely sparkled in the morning sun). It was one of those experiences that, although it cost money, I couldn’t put a price on, and I’ll remember forever.

 

And head on over to their website for answers to more of your questions and to book your bubble. You know you want to.

Stay here: The DoubleTree Hilton, Melbourne

DoubleTree by Hilton, Melbourne
270 Flinders St, Melbourne CBD
http://doubletree3.hilton.com/en/hotels

Playing tourist in your own city is seriously underrated. A lot of Melbourians, especially those who work in the CBD, avoid the city at all costs on weekends. I was the opposite. The longer I worked in the city, the more I discovered and the more I fell in love with it. While it’s definitely not a hidden treasue, the DoubleTree Hilton is a perfect tourist-at-home night away spot.

 

Service and amenities include:
– 24 hour business and fitness centres
– a generous 12pm check out
– WiFi (not free, unfortunately)
– luggage storage
– laundry service
– safety deposit boxes
– hotel restaurant
– parking (AUD$30 per night)
– accessible rooms
– tea & coffee making facilities
– complimentary (and a little bit fancy) toiletries from Crabtree & Evelyn
– HDTVs
– walk-in showers

Being literally a stone’s throw from Flinders Street Station, it couldn’t be more accessible, and rates start from around $180 per night for two people (for a lead in, interior rooms); a little extra will upgrade you to a city view room or a Flinders Street Station view.

And the best part? If you’re staying there, you can feel free to ask for a complimentary DoubleTree Hilton chocolate chip cookie. At any time.