Iceland, Part IV: Djupavik and the most remote swimming pool in the world

Part I: Introduction
Part II: Snaefellsness Peninsula
Part III: Into the Westfjords and Dynjandi
Part IV: Djupavik and the most remote swimming pool in the world
Part V: Hvitserkur and a lot of driving

Welcome back to my Iceland trip report!  If you followed along with Part III you’ll know I did a stupid detour (even though Dynjandi was wonderful) and paid for it with a really long day of driving.  I was super close to my destination for the night, Djupavik.  As I pulled into what I thought was a small town I drove around the back side of a decrepit building, took a left turn and saw some cars in front of a small building.

A note on trusting the recommendations of your friends

When I prep for trips I usually reach out to people I know who have been to places before to see if they have any ideas about what I should do.  My buddy Mike, with whom I generally agree on most things travel, immediately said “Hotel Djupavik.  You have to stay there.”  I didn’t really ask any more questions, logged on to their website, and made a booking for two nights without really looking at what to expect.

Back to Djupavik

So I pulled up to this building, Waze telling me I had arrived, and I wondered where the rest of the village was.  But, no matter, there was a sign that said Hotel Djupavik and honestly I was too tired to really be concerned with anything but getting some food in my belly and that same belly into a bed for some rest.  They asked me to take off my shoes before going upstairs to my room, so I placed them in the pile of shoes from other guests at the foot of an ancient-looking staircase.  My room was across the hall from the shared bathroom and shower and was quaint AF.  I quickly ate the sandwich they made for me and then sat down to start unpacking and getting ready for bed.  My body didn’t have time for that.  I fell asleep fully clothed with the light on and everything!

I slept like an absolute brick until just before sunrise the next morning.  I got out of bed to turn the light off and started to see the first inklings of sunrise and realized the clouds had broken a bit!

I finally felt rested, which I hadn’t really experienced since I got to Iceland, so I took advantage and made my way out to the shore of the bay just outside of the hotel to capture the sunrise.

The colors were great and it was one of the few times I had seen the clouds break during my trip so far.  I sat out in the coolness of the morning for a bit (watching some seals go by) and said a quick prayer of gratitude for safely arriving at such a peaceful place.

As you can tell by the relative stillness of the water in the sound it was one of the first times the wind died down!  I decided to take advantage of it and started getting some drone footage with my new Mavic 2 Pro for the video I wanted to put together.  I sent the drone up as quickly as I could so the noise wouldn’t disturb anyone still asleep in the hotel (the Mavic 2 Pro has low-noise propellors, it’s noisy during takeoff but once it’s in the air above 50 feet or so it’s actually quite difficult to hear).  The sunrise was just as great from the air as it was from the ground.

I sent the drone up very high and turned the lens back toward Djupavik itself, which was the first time I realized: there’s not a village.  There’s basically just the old building from the night before and the Hotel Djupavik, which I’ve since learned is often referred to as “the loneliest hotel in Europe”.  It sits at the base of a sheer mountainside cliff, with the obligatory waterfall (Djupavikurfoss) next to the whole scene.

I wondered why Mike had sent me here, but over breakfast I asked one of the staff members at the hotel (who was part of the family which owned the hotel) about the history of the place and I found it absolutely fascinating.

The Boom and Bust of Djupavik

I’ll write out a quick history based on their explanation and other research I’ve done but I also did a series of Instagram stories about Djupavik that I compiled into a little video for you.

Right around the end of World War 1 an entrepreneur called Elias Stefansson decided to build a factory in the Westfjords of Iceland to process herring caught in the nearby waters.  The factory didn’t do incredibly well, due to the remote location, and the business eventually collapsed.  In the 1940s, after the end of World War II, the factory was rebuilt (and was actually one of the largest structures in all of Europe).  This time the herring business boomed.  People began to settle near the factory and a little town prospered for 20 years or so.  Eventually the herring population declined in the area (whether it was overfishing or myriad other possible explanations) and the factory shut down again in 1964.  In the 1980s a family bought the factory (and the associated buildings) to try and bring some life back to the old building and the area itself.

The current Hotel Djupavik is in the building which used to be the female dormitory of the factory.  The building dates into the early 20th century and still has the original staircase, the original wood flooring, and loads of charm.  It has great free wifi and free breakfast for its guests for a fairly reasonable price (I paid $150/night, pretty reasonable compared to the exaggeratedly inflated prices of the southern coast).

After breakfast I took a nap for a couple of hours and then got back in the car to make my way to a random swimming pool in the middle of nowhere…

Krossneslaug – the most remote public swimming pool in the world

Iceland has tons of geothermally heated springs, particularly in the Westfjords.  Some of the more popular ones, like the Blue Lagoon, are well touristed and have all sorts of infrastructure built around it.  Then there’s a random one on the Atlantic coast of the Westfjords called Krossneslaug.  You’re basically driving along yet another dirt road, avoiding potholes left and right, and all of a sudden you see a random public swimming pool next to the frigid Atlantic waters!

The water from these geothermal hot springs is VERY hot so they combine it with cool spring water to create an open-air swimming pool and hot tub!

The pool is open 24 hours a day.  Sometimes there’s a pool attendant there to collect the entry fee (around $7 USD) but if there isn’t one then there’s a donation box (the donations go toward maintaining the pool and locker room area).

Even in a remote place like the Westfjords the pool ended up fairly crowded by the end of my visit!  A light rain blew in which made it even more wonderful to be in the nice warm water.  I’ve even seen pictures of the northern lights in the sky at night while people are in the pool!

I chatted with a lovely German couple for a while as we watched part of an iceberg float by in the distance (all the way from Greenland!).  Eventually it was time for me to head back to Djupavik to see if there was a sunset worth capturing so I said my auf wiedersenen to zie Germans, dried off, and made my way back to the car.  But then I got out the drone to illustrate just how remote the surroundings of Krossneslaug were.

I went back to the hotel (the sunset ended up being rained out), had dinner in the downstairs restaurant (which was excellent but also very expensive) and sat in my room for a while reading a book and relaxing!  I’m awful at relaxing on vacations, particularly if I’m by myself, so it felt nice to grab a nice shower and get some reading in before a good night’s rest.  The next day would involve, yes, quite a bit of driving again, so I knew I needed to rest up!

I’ll say this about Djupavik and Krossneslaug

If you’re going to be in the Westfjords I think staying in Djupavik is a fantastic option, just be ready for a more boutique experience!  It was one of my favorite places on the trip and I’ll happily go back in the future for the exact reason that it took me out of my typical travel routine and made me appreciate the audacity of the generations before who looked at a place this remote and said “yes, we will do business right here”.  Krossneslaug was an hour or so away (like everything in Iceland) and was well worth the trip!

What would await me the next day?  If you guessed ‘probably waterfalls and somesuch’ then you’re exactly right, stay tuned!

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