With huge volcanic rock formations, stark landscapes and snow capped mountains, Iceland really does feel like another planet. Trees are few and far between, rivers rush through the lands, waterfalls cascade everywhere. It’s the land of fire and ice where elves exist, the population of people is just 320,000 and volcanoes erupt every four years. A place of ethereal, other worldly beauty unlike anywhere that I’d visited before.
After a night at 101 Hotel we headed to nearby Reykjavík Airport and took the short forty minute flight to Akureyri in Northern Iceland, the second largest town in the country. Of course, still very small by a Londoner’s standards but it is important port and fishing centre and home to two of the largest fishing companies in Iceland. My decision to visit the North of Iceland rather than the more frequently visited South was actually based on the hotel. As soon as I heard about Deplar Farm, owned by Eleven Experience, I knew it would be the perfect place for me to live out my Icelandic dreams.
When we arrived in Akureyri we were met by a driver and guide from Deplar Farm who led us to a four by four with drink and snacks in the back to keep us going. With a detour to do some whale watching on the way, it was about and hour and a half journey to the lodge. We really were going to the middle of no where. Passing through stunning scenery, very small towns, and seeing more sheep than people…beautiful Deplar Farm eventually came into view.
Located in the (very) remote Fljot valley in the Troll Peninsula between the fjords of Skagafjörður and Eyjafjorðu, lies the beautiful Deplar Farm. The lodge has been lovingly converted from a sheep farm with the original farmhouse still recognisable as the facade of the hotel.
The first thing I noticed was a quirky grass roof, but I soon found out that the ‘Icelandic Turf House’ was traditional, and actually provided better insulation against the harsh Icelandic conditions. But it also meant the property fit seamlessly into the valley, as if it had been built by the elves themselves!
You can see from the view just how isolated the lodge was – just sheer beautiful nothingness as far as the eye can see.
Entering into the reception we were greeted by more fantastic views as floor to ceiling glass is used where possible to make the most of the incredible landscape.
We were introduced to Kristinn, a strapping native Icelandic who would be our Experience Manager throughout our time at Deplar Farm. Everyone who books into Deplar Farm is allocated an Experience Manager who contacts you about a month before you stay. He ensures that your trips run smoothly on every level and creates a bespoke itinerary and experience for every guest.
A glass of sparkling wine is pressed into your hand on arrival and you’ll seriously never want for anything during your stay. The whole experience is totally all-inclusive (there are no hidden extras at all) and Kristin explained that guests are encouraged to feel right at home in this beautiful hotel that contains only 13 rooms. This means you’re welcome to help yourself from any snacks or drinks in the refrigerators around the lodge, you can feel free to come to dinner in your dressing gown and interaction and dining is very much encouraged between guests.
Our super cosy room was adjacent to reception meaning it was easy to nip back anytime we needed to. Yes, the rooms weren’t the hugest in size but it added to the experience of feeling like you were at home plus encourages guests to socialise and not spend all their time in their room.
I absolutely loved the stylish wood panelling, soft blankets and views out to the mountains – all interiors were designed by the owner’s wife. They also provided us with woollen hats and gloves as gifts which were much appreciated throughout our stay.
As we visited in Summer, the sun was only down for a very short period of time but each night the room is totally blacked out so you get a rather excellent night’s sleep.
There are tea and coffee making facilities and a fully stocked fridge, not just full of chocolate and energy bars but delicious homemade humous and crackers. As it’s all-inclusive you can take whatever you like and it’s all replenished daily.
The bathroom is bijou but there’s a great use of the space, the shower turns into a steam room and we were provided with gorgeous full size Aesop products. Inside the medicine cabinet is everything that you might need after a day hiking in Iceland such as plasters, tissues, luxurious moisturisers and lip balm.
Eleven Experience was founded by Chad Pike to offer a new standard in experiential travel – offering totally bespoke experiences that are both authentic and once in a life time. It is their unofficial mission to make guests utter the words ‘that was the best day of my life.’ As a big fan of skiing and fishing, the owner chose the location of his properties based on his favourite hobbies. Colorado was the first location with Iceland being another obvious choice and additional ‘hideouts’ in the Bahamas, Florida and France with more to come. And why the name ‘Eleven’? It goes back to the film This is Spinal Tap and the phrase “up to eleven,” which refers to an amplifier that goes past ten and up to eleven. In other words taking it one step beyond the usual.
In reception you can also find a gear room, they provide you with onesies, over shoes and other items of sporting kit you might need. Guests are given a locker and welcome to leave any wet or muddy things there. Next to the reception is the dining area – at Deplar Farm they encourage communal dining, though they can set up more private spots for you in the bar. One night were were matched up with two other couples our age which was a really fun experience and great way to meet people.
Like the rest of the hotel. the dining room has a cosy Nordic inspired feel with a brick fireplace that was lit up at night, Icelandic birds lining the walls, a soft throws to relax on.
Once again a fully stocked bar makes you feel right at home as you can take anything that you like – nuts to snack on, juice to quench your thirst after a day of hiking or chocolate to have with you coffee.
Speaking of which, the terrace outside the dining room was my absolute favourite spot.
Here you’ll find one of the hotel’s hot tubs with a glorious view of the mountains beyond.
And beautiful wooden seats to just watch the world go by.
We’d visited Iceland during August and summer time isn’t crazy cold – temperatures are around 15 degrees. But if you come in winter of course these mountains are covered in snow. I’m going to write about our activities in another post but a summer visit allows for hiking, fishing and horse riding whilst winter is more about skiing and snowmobiling. One of the major activities is heli-skiing which takes place March to June and the lodge’s two helicopters shuttle guests to the surrounding hills, which can soar up to 3,000 feet above sea level. The Fljot valley sees some of the highest average snowfall on the planet and almost complete isolation makes it an out of this world experience.
In terms of clothing, I’d advise bringing layers but I was fine in jeans, jumper and a rain coat. Trainers were suitable footwear for all the activities that we did but the more dedicated outdoorsy types will want hiking boots.
The hotel library is found next to the dining room and honestly I don’t think I truly knew the meaning of the word hygge until I stayed at Deplar Farm.
A Danish word that’s entered popular vernacular, it’s about acknowledging a feeling or moment that is ordinary or extraordinary as cosy, charming or special. This can be alone or with friends, at home or out and is like the art of creating intimacy – something Eleven Experience have honed to perfection. Simple things like lighting a candle or a fire, drinking a coffee, admiring flowers just feel comfortable, secure and familiar. And if you could express the feeling of hygge through interior design, Deplar Farm have nailed it.
The main bar is both the hub of the lodge and a living / gaming area. Think your friendly neighbourhood pub where everyone knows your name, the barman remembers you favourite tipple and you may make a new friend for life. The beautiful horseshoe shape is even made of Siberian driftwood salvaged by the staff from a nearby beach.
You can gather around on the comfy sofa and play a game of cards or just enjoy the blaze of an open fire.
Fill a bowl up with crisps or popcorn from the bar or have a few of the homemade canapés that just seem to magically appear on the bar in the evening.
Whether you like pool, table tennis or a simple game of connect four, there’s something for everyone. Everyone staying in the lodge was full of high-spirits and with the sun not setting until late it was easy to lose track of time and stay up for ‘just one more drink’…
There’s even a fully equipped band with a costume box – hello kareoke nights! And the hotel is very family friendly so it the stage is great fun for kids.
There’s a full wraparound balcony, it’s the perfect spot before or after dinner to enjoy a glass of wine specially selected by the lodge’s expert sommelier.
Speaking of which, food and wine is a big deal at Deplar Farm and with the lodge being so remote and the package being all inclusive, expect the majority of meals to be eaten in house. When we were out on excursions we visited local restaurants but Deplar Farm still cover the cost as per the package.
A breakfast buffet is small but perfectly formed and served in the main dining room whenever you want it. Think fresh bread and croissants, butter whipped in house, homemade jam and local salmon. Little yogurt pots are an absolute treat and the local skyr, a type of Icelandic yogurt is of course a must try. You can order anything you want for a hot breakfast but huevos rancheros and Icelandic pancakes are two of the specialities.
We were only at the lodge once for lunch when we were served an avocado and prawn salad – it was delicious though we were a little surprised it wasn’t more hearty.
Dinner could be in a different location every night and always came with a different home made bread and whipped butter.
The food is a celebration of Iceland and where possible it’s locally sourced and farm to fork. We tried local fish such as salmon, Arctic char and cod. Meats were goose with a beautifully matched cranberry sauce, Mountain lamb and slow cooked beef.
The concept is creative cleaning eating using the very freshest ingredients all expertly paired with wines by the charismatic sommelier. We met the chefs who come to your table to personally explain every meal and it’s clear to see that their fantastic food is born of love and inspiration by the beauty that surrounds them.
Finally in the main building is the spa which occupies most of the lower ground floor at Deplar Farm and it is truly breath-taking.
I pretty much bypassed the gym and pilates centre, though admittedly working out with that view wouldn’t be too shabby!
There’s a private kitchen area with help yourself healthy snacks such as fruit salads, energy balls and nuts accompanied by flavoured waters, juices or fresh made smoothies.
You can choose between a spa treatment room with a view or relax in darkness allowing the spa therapist’s expert hands to massage you after a day hiking or horse riding. With so few guests you don’t even really need to book in. Just give the therapist or Experience manager a little notice – and while spa treatments are one of the only things not included in the package we were given ours for free as an apology for the fact our horse riding was delayed by a couple of hours.
Pods filled with salt-water are the ultimate in sensory deprivation, allowing you to float for an hour in a dream-like state.
A beautiful scandi-style relaxation area boasts fabulous views, the perfect way to adjust yourself back to the land of the living after that awesome massage.
But the piece de resistance of the spa, and perhaps possibly of the whole hotel, is the main pool.
Running from indoors to outdoors and geothermally heated, the pool is like a big dreamy bathtub!
And best of all, there’s a bar in an underground bunker in the pool with stools just outside. Just let the staff know you’ll be there and it’ll be manned with a mixologist and / or sommelier ready to make whatever you like! They even bought homemade canapés down for us to eat whilst in the pool. You could have some seriously good parties here!
Also by the pool is one of the cutest saunas I’ve ever seen. Like a little hobbit cave covered in turf – there’s a cold plunge pool right next to it too for the very brave. But if you don’t want to face the plummeting temperatures, you’ll find a sauna, steam room and hot tub inside too.
Finally, and I think from the length of this post you can tell how much I loved the hotel, I want to tell you about the gorgeous little property off-site also owned by the hotel.
After a hike up one of the hills to see a waterfall, our guide took us to the Ghost Farm. A perfect little spot for a drink or lunch apres ski or just for a group of you to chill out!
Ok, so it doesn’t look like much from the outside but inside is the most charming log cabin with a fully stocked bar and plenty of space for flopping!
A little bedroom even means that you can stay the night in this beautiful bolthole.
There’s a big rustic, farm-style kitchen too with lots of choice of wine and snacks.
And I can just imagine how amazing it would be to get all your friends together for a barbecue here.
We also discovered Mr S’s hidden talent for archery (check out the video below to see what I mean!) as there are bows and arrows at the Ghost Farm and shooting target.
I’ve referred to hotels as ‘a home away from home’ before but never has a property really made me feel so at home. From the communal environment and cosy interiors to the fantastic food but most of all it’s the incredible friendly and attentive attitude of the staff. At Deplar Farm you really will feel like part of the family.
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