I’m a former Premier League star – now I own a luxury hotel where guests experience one of nature’s most amazing sights | The Sun

WHEN Hermann Hreidarsson thought about a retirement plan, there was only one thing he wanted to do.

The former Portsmouth FA Cup winner and Iceland legend, now 49, wanted to break into hotels.


For his first foray, he teamed up with ex-Chelsea star Eidur Gudjohnsen to launch a hostel in Reykjavik in 2011.

Then in 2014, the same year he hung up his boots after a stint at Fylkir in his homeland, came a bigger project.

He launched the four-star Stracta Hotel, some 60 miles from the capital as a retreat for those looking for a place to relax and enjoy nature's beauty.

Nearly 10 years later, it is still going strong and is seemingly the perfect spot to witness the Northern Lights, with punters rating it four of five on TripAdvisor.

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Accommodation

Hreidarsson was born in the remote Vestmannaey Islands, so his sense of adventure for the great outdoors knows no bounds.

He and his father plan on building even more hotels in Iceland's most scenic regions for guests to explore the country's vast natural sights in the future.

But it's the Stracta Hotel that is currently drawing all the plaudits.

It boasts a total of 148 rooms, including standard double/twin rooms and superior double/twin rooms.

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They also have studio rooms with their own kitchenette, two bedroom apartments with cooking facilities and a private hot tub, as well as deluxe suites that also come with their own private jacuzzis.

Rooms start at around £127-per-night and can be as much as £500-per-night for the superior accommodations.

On site, there are plenty of relaxing spa options as you would expect from a winter destination.

Wander into the hotel gardens and you will discover the hotel saunas and communal hot tubs.

On the ground floor, you'll discover the reception desk imprinted with a reminder you are "Next Door to Nature".

A bar, as well as the Bistro restaurant which offers lunch and dinner is also conveniently close by.

You can chow down on burgers costing around £20 or a hearty steak of the day that will set you back about £42.

Ice cream, chocolate brownies, and traditional Icelandic skyr cake are also available for roughly £12 for dessert.

Three-course meals are prepared at the Gardur restaurant, which are a reasonable £50-per-head and can feature lamb fillet.






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But, although you can be well fed and rested, there's just so much more to do and see.

Looking for adventure

The Stracta is perfectly placed to see the world's greatest wonders.

There's the incredible Eyjafjallajökull ice cap, which you'll get perfect views of..

While it may be the volcano that no one can pronounce properly, it's famous for bringing Europe to a standstill when it erupted in 2010 – sending ash cloud hurtling across the continent.

In terms of activities, the hotels provides plenty to keep the most active happy.

You can visit the man-made Caves of Hella, which are said to date back over a thousand years – with some believing they came before the settlement of the Nordic Vikings.

The phenomenon that is the Northern Lights, which are best seen between the winter months of September- April, can also be seen from the gardens while relaxing in a hot tub.

For those wanting to channel their inner Sir Ranulph Fiennes, there are glacier and ice cave tours to venture on, as well as buggy/ATV trips across the black sand beaches and over the sand dunes of south Iceland.





Kayak tours are operated from nearby Stokkseyri, some 24 miles away which offer spectacular surroundings.

Horseback riding is available, while helicopter tours are also a must.

Football legend

Before he became a hotelier, Hreidarsson starred in the Premier League for Crystal Palace, Wimbledon, Ipswich Town, Charlton Athletic and Portsmouth.

The defender, who earned 89 international caps, played for 15 seasons in English football and managed 332 Premier League appearances.

It was at Portsmouth where he became a cult hero in their 2006 FA Cup run.

In recent years, Hreidarsson has turned to coaching. He teamed up with former team-mate David James as his assistant at Indian Premier League side Kerala Blasters in 2018.


Then he joined up with another ex-team-mate Sol Campbell at Southend, but was relieved from his duties at the end of the 2019/20 season after the side’s relegation from League One.

Since 2021, Hreidarsson has been head coach of top-tier side IBV Vestmannaeyjar.

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