CLOSE
Courtesy of Robert Sveinn Robertsson
Courtesy of Robert Sveinn Robertsson

Go Inside Iceland's New Inflatable “Bubble Hotel”

Courtesy of Robert Sveinn Robertsson
Courtesy of Robert Sveinn Robertsson

There’s camping, glamping, and now, in a forest just outside Iceland’s popular Golden Circle, there’s an unusual, inflatable mix of the two: bubble-ing.

The new Aurora Bubble Hotel, a clear, inflatable plastic “bedroom,” is the brainchild of Iceland native and Northern Lights expert Robert Sveinn Robertsson. The concept started when Robertsson was advising a customer on his Northern Lights expedition. In passing, the customer suggested he create a clear-ceiling hotel for sleeping under the aurora borealis, and Robertsson quickly turned this recommendation into action. In January of this year, the initial “Bubble” was born.

Courtesy of Robert Sveinn Robertsson

At first glance, the Aurora Bubble Hotel is a cross between a heated igloo and a bouncy house. The Bubble stays inflated with a noiseless ventilation system that continuously refreshes the air to prevent humidity and adjust the temperature based on thermostat settings. If punctured, the Bubble will slowly deflate, but it has a thin metal frame to support the walls until it’s repaired.

Inside, there’s room for one full bed, one night lamp, two small suitcases, and … that’s about it. To provide guests with a sense of privacy—which is important, given its clear plastic walls—the Bubble is located on a remote farm near a town called Reykholt. Its exact location is only shared with Bubble Hotel guests; it’s not listed on the hotel's website.

Because of the relatively tight quarters, there’s no bathroom inside the actual Bubble. Instead, when nature calls, guests use an outhouse with an upscale portable toilet several feet away. Bathing-wise, guests shower at the nearby Secret Lagoon, a remote geyser-powered hot spring that gives the country's more famous Blue Lagoon a run for its money.

Stephanie Vermillion

Off-site showers. Outhouse in the woods. Secret locations. That’s a lot of work just to sleep in a plastic bubble, isn’t it?

Actually, no. These few small inconveniences aren’t deterring travelers who are willing to put in a little extra effort to sleep with a stunning view. The Aurora Bubble Hotel is booked almost entirely through May (at roughly $225 a night), and Robertsson has seen such great demand, he’s opening two more Bubbles this July. The new units will be larger, with room for a table and two chairs. Robertsson is also building an on-site shower.

This month, my boyfriend and I were among the Bubble Hotel’s first guests during a stop on our road trip through Iceland. Even with a little skepticism, the inside was much cozier than we anticipated, which made for a perfect night of stargazing and, for a brief two minutes, watching the Northern Lights.

Stephanie Vermillion

As you’d imagine, sleeping in a clear, inflatable Bubble is a little unsettling. At any moment you could wake up to a person or animal (or heck, even an elf—this is Iceland after all!) staring at you through the thin plastic walls. But fortunately, Robertsson's secrecy and covert directions made sure that wasn't the case. The only visitors we had were up-and-at-’em birds that awakened us from a surprisingly restful sleep.

Whether it’s Aurora chasing in the winter or stargazing in the summer, the Bubble Hotel is an unusual, year-round option for those looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure. And even if the stars don't cooperate, you’ll have quite the Icelandic tale to tell.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
travel
A New Law Could Make It Harder to Access Your Favorite Florida Beaches
iStock
iStock

Florida boasts roughly 8500 miles of coastline—the most of any state in the lower 48 [PDF]—but some of those sunny beaches could soon get a lot harder to access. As Coastal Living reports, a state law passed in 2018 gives private landowners the right to close almost the entirety of their beaches off to the public.

Florida law once required the state to "ensure the public's right to reasonable access to beaches." That policy left the state free to sell miles of coastal land to big tax generators like condos and hotels, while still keeping the waterfront accessible to local beach lovers and the millions of tourists who visit the state each year.

Sixty percent of Florida beaches are now privately owned. Under the new law, tides will turn in favor of those private landowners, allowing them to restrict access to any part of the beach above the high tide line. Starting July 1, they will be able to decide who does and doesn't get to set foot on their oceanfront property.

An online petition campaigning to keep those beaches open to all has already garnered more than 52,000 signatures. If that effort doesn't succeed, local governments will still have the power to remove restrictions from privately owned beaches, but they will need to petition a judge to do so. Any city ordinances about beach access passed prior to 2016 will also stay in effect.

Florida isn't the only coastal state where the question of who owns the beaches is up for debate. Wealthy homeowners in California have been known to hire security guards to remove people from the beaches in front of their houses, despite the fact that beaches in the state are public property. The courts have largely sided with the masses, though: In 2017, a billionaire landowner in northern California was ordered by a state court to restore public access to the beach in front of his property, which he had previously closed off with a locked gate.

Even with the new law, the portion of Florida shoreline that falls within the tide will always belong to the state. But that may not help anyone who has to traverse private property to get there.

[h/t Coastal Living]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
James Duong, AFP/Getty Images
arrow
alcohol
The Latest Way to Enjoy Pho in Vietnam: As a Cocktail
James Duong, AFP/Getty Images
James Duong, AFP/Getty Images

Pho is something of a national dish in Vietnam. The noodle soup, typically topped with beef or chicken, can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. There’s even a version of it for happy hour, as Lonely Planet reports.

The pho cocktail, served at Nê Cocktail Bar in Hanoi, contains many of the herbs and spices found in pho, like cinnamon, star anise, cilantro, and cardamom. Without the broth or meat, its taste is refreshingly sweet.

The drink's uniqueness makes it a popular choice among patrons, as does the dramatic way it's prepared. The bartender pours gin and triple sec through the top of a tall metal apparatus that contains three saucers holding the spices. He then lights the saucers on fire with a hand torch as the liquid flows through, allowing the flavors to infuse with the alcohol as the drink is filtered into a pitcher below.

The pho cocktail
James Duong, AFP/Getty Images

Pham Tien Tiep, who was named Vietnam’s best bartender at the Diageo Reserve World Class cocktail competition in 2012, created the cocktail six years ago while working at the famous French Colonial-era hotel the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, according to AFP. He has since brought his signature drink to several of the stylish bars he owns in Vietnam’s capital, including Nê Cocktail Bar.

Initially, he set out to create a drink that would represent Vietnam’s culture and history. “I created the pho cocktail at the Metropole Hotel, just above the war bunkers where the American musician Joan Baez sang to the staff and guests in December 1972 as bombs fell on the city,” Tiep told Word Vietnam magazine. “The alcohol in the cocktail is lit on fire to represent the bombs, while spices, such as chili and cinnamon, reflect the warmness of her voice.”

Tiep has a reputation for infusing his drinks with unusual local ingredients. He has also created a cocktail that features fish sauce, a popular condiment in Vietnam, and another that contains capsicum, chili, and lemongrass in an ode to the bo luc lac (shaking beef) dish, according to CNN.

[h/t Lonely Planet]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios