Guesthouse Stong above Myvatn
After whale-watching in Husavik we drive south toward the Myvatn region. Guidebooks recommended skipping the Blue Lagoon because of crowds advocating hot springs further from Reykjavik like the Myvatn Baths as a better travel experience if you have the travel time. We have time. This next farmstay was chosen to be near Myvatn and spend an entire day around the famous hot spring. We drive through a mild rain along the dirt road leading to Guesthouse Stong. Along one section near the farmhouse we spot a lamb in a gully, separated from its twin and mum, trying desperately to get back over the fence to them. As we walk in to the reception area, I mention it to the woman at the counter and she makes a quick call on the phone and thanks me, as a farmhand is dispatched for rescue. We check into our room on the third floor of the old house, built in 1929, then put on our suits to take a dip in the outdoor hot tubs. Like most buildings in Iceland, wells drilled for hot water at 60-degrees Celsius provide an underground heating system for house & cottages as well as lovely mineral water for the hot tubs.
Before dinner, on the recommendation of the receptionist, we drive up across the gravel track to the vista point on highlands overlooking the mountains that loom above Myvatn. These upper pastures are covered with the grazing lands for the many sheep, horses, and a few cattle that are the staple of Icelandic farms. Myvatn below is breathtakingly beautiful punctuated by the rise of volcanic deposits and mountains all around.
Dinner at Stong Guesthouse is truly an Icelandic delight. On the farm they make their own skyr, cheeses, meats, and pastries. I never tire of the amazing range of delicious when ordering my usual in Iceland, rack of lamb. Each restaurant or farmhouse kitchen has their own version of combination rubs & sauces that are epicurean ecstasy. Breakfast the next morning will be another dream meal with the leftover sliced meats, smoked fish, and cheeses from the dinner spread with the addition of fresh breads. Dinner is followed by a sweater selection from the dining room gift shop. A small corner holds a rack of beautifully handknit Icelandic sweaters. I pick out an ivory sweater with grey-black yarns woven in traditional lopapeysa pattern that matches my lucky Icelandic cap, bought in a bookstore in Husavik. Since my birthday is approaching, I select a second sweater in deep charcoal with cream-color zig-zag patterned yarns in a floral motif, thigh-length and a zip-up cardigan. The hostess squeals with delight, explaining that it was knit by her grandmother, Audur, and her boyfriend, Hermann, just this past winter. I’m honored to have it, thinking of the time my mother spent knitting sweaters and scarves for all eight of us children year in and year out, new ones as we grew or passed on, outgrown by siblings. I appreciate how important it is to buy souvenirs from local residents like this rather than from larger outlet stores. From the moment I walked through Keflavik Airport, surrounded by luscious patterns and wools of Icelandic designs, I’ve been yearning for the perfect traditional sweater. The shops and sweaters at the airport were very tempting, and I did check prices for comparison. I’m so glad that I waited to find authentic sweaters, knit by local farmers who depend on tourist dollars for their income, where 100% of the profits go directly to them to sustain this way of life.
Sustainable tourism supports the best of regional families and environments. It’s a double win because these farms farther away from Reykjavik have substantially reduced prices and better quality knits. We bring our day to a close with another long soak in the outdoor hot tub; brisk cold, steaming with underground hot springs feeding the tank. The stars are spectacular for the brief period when clouds disperse across the landscape, prefacing a sunny day tomorrow to explore Myvatn and finally savor epic hot springs up close and personal. Our spa bags are packed before we go to sleep.