May 8, 2016


A tale of ice and fire: touring East Iceland : This summer, new flights from the UK to Egilsstaðir, East Iceland, bring this region of volcanoes and fjords within easy reach (Kevin Rushby, 8 May 2016, The Guardian)

We are in Fljótsdalur, an upland valley made famous in the 1930s by novelist Gunnar Gunnarsson, who lived up here. His tales of stoical people battling the elements of ice, water and fire (of the volcanic sort) still ring true today.

Denni tells me that one of his own horses was lost on the high plateau that borders the great ice cap of Vatnajokull for a whole year, and has just been found.

I get in the crate and haul myself over the river - without mishap - to an abandoned house. I peer in at the old bedstead and table: life was abominably hard here, and people were often forced to leave when their luck turned. An hour later, back at Denni's home, Arna shows me the Bible they found when they took over the dwelling, which had also been abandoned. "It's dated 1728, and we think it was left behind when the volcano, Askja, erupted in 1875. The family emigrated to America."

Despite all the departures, however, East Iceland is now experiencing a small but significant return, with people coming back, often to family roots, and finding new ways to make a living, often through tourism. Film-maker Denni was born in East Iceland, but has lived in Rejkjavik and the US. He and Arna are now based here and have built a traditional bađstofa or longhouse for guests. Their fascinating collection of artefacts and antiques from Fljótsdalur history are dotted around. Like many others they believe in slow food and slow tourism: "We encourage guests to go walking, chat in the kitchen, or just play with the dog."

It's a philosophy I find all over the area. Many farms use volunteering websites such as or to bring in visitors who want to stay longer and earn their keep. At one farm they sang the praises of a British student who had just spent a fortnight painting the barn, between making excellent pancakes and doing hill walks.

Posted by at May 8, 2016 8:53 AM