WHEN Hermann Hreidarsson thought about a retirement plan, he only wanted to do one thing.
The former Portsmouth FA Cup winner and Iceland legend, now 49, wanted to break into hotels.
In his first foray, he teamed up with former Chelsea star Eidur Gudjohnsen in 2011 to open a hostel in Reykjavik.
Then, in 2014, the same year he gave up his career after a stint with Fylkir in his homeland, a bigger project came along.
He founded the four-star company Stracta Hotelabout 60 miles from the capital, as a retreat for those looking for a place to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature.
Almost ten years later, the site is still in operation and seems to be the perfect place to watch the Northern Lights. Customers rated it four out of five on TripAdvisor.
Hreidarsson was born on the remote Vestmannaey Islands, so his sense of adventure in the great outdoors knows no bounds.
He and his father plan to build more hotels in Iceland’s most scenic regions so that guests can explore the country’s vast natural attractions in the future.
But it’s the Stracta Hotel that’s currently getting all the plaudits.
It has a total of 148 rooms, including standard double/twin rooms and superior double/twin rooms.
They also feature studio rooms with private kitchenettes, two-bedroom apartments with cooking facilities and private hot tubs, and deluxe suites that also have their own private hot tubs.
Rooms start from around £127 per night and can cost up to £500 per night in the more upmarket properties.
There are plenty of relaxing spa offerings on site, as you would expect from a winter destination.
Stroll through the hotel gardens and discover the hotel saunas and communal hot tubs.
On the ground floor you will find the reception marked “Next Door to Nature”.
A bar and the bistro restaurant, which offers lunch and dinner, are also conveniently located nearby.
You can eat burgers for around £20 or a hearty steak of the day which will set you back around £42.
Ice cream, chocolate brownies and traditional Icelandic skyr cake are also available for dessert for around £12.
The Gardur restaurant serves three-course meals at a reasonable £50 per person, which can also include lamb fillet.
But while you may be well fed and rested, there is still much more to do and see.
Looking for adventure
Stracta is perfectly located to see the world’s greatest wonders.
There is the incredible ice cap of Eyjafjallajökull, from which you have a perfect view.
Although it’s the volcano no one can pronounce correctly, it’s known for bringing Europe to a standstill when it erupted in 2010, sending clouds of ash across the continent.
As for activities, the hotels offer plenty to keep the most active happy.
You can visit the man-made caves of Hella, which are said to be over a thousand years old – some believe they predate settlement by the Norse Vikings.
The phenomenon of the Northern Lights, best seen during the winter months of September to April, can also be viewed from the gardens while relaxing in a hot tub.
For those who want to channel their inner Sir Ranulph Fiennes, there are glacier and ice cave tours, as well as buggy/ATV rides across the black sand beaches and sand dunes of southern Iceland.
Kayak tours are operated from nearby Stokkseyri, which is approximately 24 miles away and offers spectacular surroundings.
Horse riding is possible, but helicopter tours are also a must.
Before becoming a hotelier, Hreidarsson played in the Premier League for Crystal Palace, Wimbledon, Ipswich Town, Charlton Athletic and Portsmouth.
The 89-cap defender played 15 seasons in English football and made 332 Premier League appearances.
At Portsmouth he became a cult hero in the 2006 FA Cup.
In recent years, Hreidarsson has turned to coaching. He worked with his former teammate David James as his assistant at Indian Premier League club Kerala Blasters in 2018.
He then joined another ex-teammate, Sol Campbell, at Southend, but was relieved of his duties at the end of the 2019/20 season following the team’s relegation from League One.
Since 2021, Hreidarsson has been the head coach of the first division club IBV Vestmannaeyjar.