There are plenty of inexpensive places to stay on Lake Tahoe—but in many of them, you’d be too afraid to get beneath the sheets. These four clean, inviting lodges are the exception. They manage to combine value, location, and quality for travelers who want to live large on a budget.
The history of the Rustic Cottages is almost reason enough to stay in one of its 19 classic Tahoe-style houses and cottages spread over two wooded acres. Built near the turn of the 20th century to house workers for the Brockway Lumber Company, it turned into a holiday getaway in the mid-1920s. Rustic Cottages sit across North Lake Boulevard from a postage stamp–sized beach on Lake Tahoe’s North Shore. Rates start at $99 a night.
Built as a summer mansion in 1906, the well-updated Sunnyside Lodge has been an institution on Lake Tahoe’s West Shore since it opened as a resort six decades ago. Though it maintains its rustic look on the outside and in the wood-beamed indoor common areas, its modernly appointed 23 rooms and suites look surprisingly new. The Sunnyside is known as much for the American-style gourmet meals served in its dining room overlooking the lake as for its accommodations. Suites start at $150 a night.
Zephyr Cove Resort, with its lodge and 28 surprisingly up-to-date cabins, has been an affordable and not-so-secret getaway on the South Shore of Lake Tahoe for more than a century. Billed as an almost-all-inclusive destination, you can rent ski boats and WaveRunners from the resort at the mile-long beach, go parasailing, play volleyball, or simply laze in a lounge chair. Zephyr Cove also runs cruises on two old-fashioned paddleboats. If the $181 nightly rate for the cottages is too steep, you can pitch a tent on the property’s campsite for $35.
Shaded by tall pines and only a few minutes from Tahoe City, the Tamarack Lodge is a hidden mountain resort that probably looks much the same as when the Oppio-Fenech family first opened it nearly 90 years ago. Once a getaway for movie stars, it’s now a haunt for cost-conscious skiers, hikers, and mountain bikers. You have your choice of three cabins or a handful of rooms inside the lodge. Lodge rooms with shared bath start at $75 a night.
Iceland is so full of adventure, it can be hard to know where to dive in. Plenty of lodges offer great accommodations, but few can match Hótel Glymur’s access and views. A quick 45-minute drive from Reykjavík, Glymur is set amid the countless hikes, rivers, and volcanic fields around 20-mile-long Whale Fjord. The lodge has 22 rooms and three suites, but we suggest splurging on one of the six villas, which have floor-to-ceiling views of the fjord, state-of-the-art kitchens, and private geothermal hot tubs outside. From there, head 13 miles east to the highest waterfall in the country (and the hotel’s namesake), which cascades 643 feet in a single drop from the Botsna River over the side of Hvalfell volcano. Inaccessible by road, the waterfall is one of Iceland’s least visited attractions—and one of its most stunning. The hotel will point guests in the direction of the trailhead, a 20-minute drive away. After the five-mile hike, return to a dinner of lamb fillet served with blueberry sauce and baked potatoes. Then pour yourself a Reyka vodka with a lemon twist and take it out to the hot tub to toast the waning midnight sun.
Access: Fly Iceland Air to Keflavík International Airport in Reykjavík. Rent a car at Höldur (from $197); no four-wheel-drive needed in summer. Rooms from $300, villas from $480.
Climate: In August, 55° high and 46° low
Detour: The 5,200-foot-long Vidgelmir Lava Tube is only 46 miles northwest of the hotel. Extreme Iceland helps you explore it and other caves in the Hallmundarhraun lava field ($1,060 for two).
Indulge: Made right at the lodge, Glymur’s ice cream ($18) is infused with chocolate cake bits and soft caramel.