One of the most exciting parts about exploring a new country is discovering new places to stay – with Iceland’s total population numbering only a mere 330,000 it might surprise you to know that the range of accommodation options through the countryside is vast. From authentic horse ranches in the North, stylish country hotels along the Southern coast and small wood cabins in the East, Iceland has some of the best farm-style accommodation options in the world. Recently travelling around Iceland in early spring I was lucky enough to stay in some of these places and experience some of the amazing landscapes you can wake up to. When planning to travel around the scenic Icelandic countryside, I highly recommend checking out the accommodation at these stunning locations.
1. Mjóeyri – Reyðarfjörður, Northeast Iceland
Imagine relaxing in a hot tub as the snow slowly drifts down against the backdrop of icy mountains and a windy fjord. Sleeping in a sturdy wooden cabin as the wind howls outside, snug and warm in the lofty heights of your own cozy little cabin. Waking up and stepping out onto a tiny balcony, the distant blue sea on the horizon. This is the reality of staying at Mjóeyri – a piece of Icelandic charm in the middle of a majestic fjord.
Our stay at Mjóeyri was simply the most serene and peaceful experience we had in Iceland – only a short stroll to the small town of Eskifjörður and positioned on a picturesque peninsula, the cabins are modern and well-equipped. The hosts, Berglind and Sævar, were friendly and helpful. The area offers a number of activities in the warmer months, while being the perfect place to hunker down when the weather turns sour (like it did as we arrived!). The warm hot tub and even warmer sauna round out this amazingly scenic location.
2. Einishús – Þingeyjarsveit, North Iceland
A snow storm had rolled in on our fourth day in Iceland, and the mountain road between the East and North was completely snowed over. Following convoys of snowplows and fellow travellers with snowdrifts towering over our 4WD, we began our journey over the mountain pass. After the heroic driving efforts of my road trip companion in nearly complete white-out conditions, we safely arrived in the stunning Mývatn region.
Only half an hour from here are the amazing cottages of Einishús, belonging to the farm Einarsstaðir in the Reykjadalur valley. Fantastically close to the stunning Goðafoss waterfall (which looks even more stunning frozen over and covered in snow) and only a 45 minute drive north to the whale watching capital of Húsavík, the cottages come equipped with your own personal hot-pot, free wi-fi and comfy beds. Our hosts, Einir and Guðfinna, like every other Icelandic person we met, were lovely (especially when we happened to leave things behind!). This cottage comes in at a close second as our favourite place we stayed.
3. Ásólfsskáli – Eyjafjallajökull, South Iceland
The first place we stayed at outside of Reykjavik lay in the shadow of the towering glacier Eyjafjallajökull and was just off the Ring Road in quiet picturesque farmland. There are a number of walks in the area so make sure to send some time wandering around. Also really close to Vík and the base camps of many glacier tour operators, including Arcanum (see my post about snowmobiling on Mýrdalsjökull glacier here!). The cabins are fully equipped and there isn’t much in way of food around, so come prepared with your own supplies!
Close to the spectacular waterfalls Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, the cabins were amongst the warmest places we stayed in Iceland. The view from the window is spectacular – clear vistas of the lowlands all the way to the sea. Remember to check the guest book for photos from the 2010 eruption and the cleanup faced by the hosts, Katrín and Sigurður. The cute dog is also very friendly! Overall, a wonderful and comfortable place to stay on your journey in the South of Iceland!
4. Ytri-Vík – Eyjafjörður Fjord, North Iceland
I have to admit, this was the place I was most excited about – the photos of rolling green grass, the stunning scenery and positive reviews made this place a must-stay during my planning. The reality of the early spring was slightly different however, the green grass exchanged for pure white snow. But that didn’t dull the breathtaking and relaxing atmosphere of the location, nor the hospitality of the owners, Marinó, Sveinn and Ása, who met us as we drove onto the property and showed us straight to our cabin.
Dotting the shoreline and lying in full view of pure white mountains, the cabins at Ytri-Vík are personalised, comfortable and offer tantalising access to the majestic fjord. As an added bonus, each comes with a personal hot-pot. Only about half an hour from the northern capital of Akureyri and the smaller town of Dalvík, the cabins are a great place to explore the area. Make sure to visit the twin towns of Siglufjörður and Ólafsfjörður, separated for years and recently joined by an 11km tunnel under the mountains.
5. Gauksmýri – Húnaþing, Northwest Iceland
Horse lovers will fall for this charming ranch-style accommodation in the northwest corner of Iceland, complete with chicken coop, delicious in-house restaurant (the cod is amazing) and modern lodgings. The stars of this ranch however are indeed the Icelandic horses – the breed are renowned for their gentle nature and friendliness. Walk around the property and they will trot up to greet you. Riding can be organised throughout the year, and the lodge features extensive horse-themed decoration and country art. Take a stroll through the stables and walk around the paddocks – the views over the plains are breathtaking.
The location of Gauksmýri is perfectly positioned mid-way between Reykjavík and Akureyri (just off the Ring Road), and is a great base to explore the Hvammstangi peninsula in search of elusive seals and the even more elusive arctic fox (best seen at dawn or duck if you’re super lucky!). The ranch is also the perfect place to stay before launching a journey into the Westfjords region, something I will definitely be doing when I return to Iceland!
For more information about places to stay when travelling around Iceland, check out the Icelandic Farm Holidays website at http://www.farmholidays.is – they are helpful, efficient and offer some of the best accommodation outside of Reykjavik.