Last year, I spent seven weeks on a remote camping adventure in Iceland, and was deeply struck by the warm hospitality culture of the island nation. After long days climbing up and skiing down volcanoes, I found comfort in pristine campsites and cozy guesthouses.
Icelandic guesthouses are often tucked under towering fjords, close to natural hot pools or nestled by the ocean. They provide a shelter where one can rest, warm up, and step into a simpler way of life for a few days. These are my five favorite guesthouses, where I was surrounded by northern design, accomplished chefs, extraordinary artists, and an instant sense of community.
Situated on a peninsula just outside the eastern village of Eskifjordur, the Mjoeyri guesthouses are a small group of Alpine-style cottages with warm wood interiors. The married couple who owns the establishment, Saevar Gudjonson and Berglind Ingvarsdottir, are eager to guide guests on expeditions nearby, from reindeer hunts over the grassy slopes to ice climbs up frozen waterfalls. In the adjacent Seahouse Restaurant, local delicacies like shark meat and pickled herring are served in the environs of a preserved fishery.
The sleepy fishing village of Seydisfjordur houses an eclectic art community with a vibrant cultural scene. Davíð Kristinsson and Dýri Jónsson, the owners of Aldan guesthouse, have an ever-changing roster of resident artists. They also operate the nearby Skaftfell Bistro, an eatery furnished with found materials in the spirit of the Swiss artist Dieter Roth, where guests share gourmet pizzas and sip sweet ale while discussing their latest inspirations from the towering depths of the surrounding fjords.
East Highlands, Laugarfell
Natural thermal pools surround the Laugarfell guesthouse, and a hotspring steams just a short walk away from the hotel’s barn-red door. Plunked down on barren highlands, the corrugated metal structure has interior walls lined in pine, creating a snug retreat from the snow-swept landscape. While soaking in the thermal pools, you can gaze out over Snæfell—the highest mountain in Iceland that’s not hidden under a glacier—as pink-footed geese patter across the surrounding moorland.
Isafjordur, Aurora Arktica
Sail alongside whales and rock to sleep under the northern Atlantic stars aboard the Aurora, a 60-foot expedition sailboat which acts as a mobile guesthouse. Captain Siggi Jonsson, who was born and raised in Isafjordur, and his incredible crew of sailors, chefs, and guides offer the ultimate remote travel adventure as guests sail and ski from fjord to fjord.
It is a rugged road to Borgarfjordur, but the Blabjorg spa is well worth the scenic drive. The Blabjorg guesthouse rewards those who make the journey with a soak in their deck-top hot tub overlooking the bay and a steam in an outdoor wooden barrel sauna. Located below breathtaking mountains, and across from a puffin colony, guests awake to breakfast with a view.
All images copyright Alyssa Larson. See more from her adventures here.
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