In recent years, as Iceland has enjoyed an unprecedented influx of foreign travellers, the hospitality industry has taken a rather sudden and in some ways unprepared leap forwards, both in the capital area of Reykjavik and surrounding municipalities and in the countryside. Hotels of good and excellent standard have popped up in every part of the country as investment opportunities have been seized, often by chain operators. However, many individuals have found their niche share of this new market providing travellers with a unique experience tailored to individual needs developing their services in a very sustainable and measured way.
During our last tour of Iceland, we were determined to find such experiences, one of which was highlighted here recently, Brimslóð Atelier in the North of Iceland. After that unique encounter, we felt it might be a challenge too far to expect another such adventure. But, lo and behold, Hrífunes awaited us in the South of Iceland towards the end of our journey, a charming cosy little guesthouse sitting on top of a green hill, a verdant oasis in a volcanic desert, surrounded by moss-covered lava fields, black sand plains, glacial rivers and active volcanoes.
An easy destination and a beautiful drive with our Jeep from Lotus car rental to access Hrifunes Guesthouse which is located in the heart of South Iceland's stunning landscape, 230 km east of Reykjavik, in the beautiful and peaceful surroundings of Skaftártunga, between the towns of Vík and Kirkjubæjarklaustur. This beautiful region, often accredited with the mildest weather conditions in Iceland, is rich with natural treasures and Hrifunes is perfectly placed for exploring some of Iceland's most impressive sights, such as Landmannalaugar, the Laki craters, Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and more.
Our hosts, Hadda and Haukur, the owners of Hrifunes Guesthouse, offered a warm welcome as if we were arriving in a home away from home. Their passion for hospitality, cooking and sustainability is a big part of the home they have created at Hrifunes, where you are met with a quirky and rustic decor with a bohemian feel. In the recently opened, stylish but modest part of their establishment, they offer a deluxe apartment as well as superior double rooms and in the original old building guests can enjoy cosy rooms with a shared bathroom.
You could feel the love and happiness spreading all around from the kitchen to the music lounge decorated with an array of objet d'art and a fabulous record collection, which guests are welcome to play. Dinner is an unforgettable part of any stay at Hrifunes. Two-course set menus are served at the large communal table, where you can share delicious food and great company, meeting and getting to know people from all over the world. The conversation might well include tales of adventure from the day into the barren but beautiful, unforgiving landscape of these parts, guided by Haukur, who also is an accomplished photographer, as evidenced in Hadda & Haukur’s beautiful book of food and photography, Our Land.
Haukur will remind visitors that here forces of nature are still at work, creating and destroying. The land and landscape are ever-changing and there is little sign of human activities in the neighbourhood of Hrífunes. To recall some impactful geological events of the past will convince the modern traveller that you should show due respect to the forces of nature evident here. These include the infamous Eyjafjallajökull erupting in 2010 halting air traffic in Europe, the active but dormant Katla erupting in 1918 and now closely monitored for a major geological event and finally, the enormous climate-changing Lakagígar eruption in 1783.
To be able to visit such a place, to enjoy genuine hospitality in such a personal manner, is surely an opportunity not to be wasted. One visit, though, will probably not suffice to appreciate in full the ever-changing nature to be enjoyed from Hrífunes, not for us at least.