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Iceland Mag

Lifestyle

Visit Sólheimar, Iceland‘s only eco-village

By Sara McMahon

  • Welcome to Sólheimar Sólheimar is Iceland's only eco-village. Founded in 1930 by a young visionary named Sesselja Sigmundsdóttir, Sólheimar has become reputable for its innovation and  its ecological concept. Photo/Pjetur

Sólheimar, Iceland‘s first and only eco-village, is located in southwest Iceland, 80 kilometres-long (50 miles) east of Reykjavík. Founded in 1930 by a young visionary named Sesselja Sigmundsdóttir (1902-1974), the place has become reputable for its innovation and  its ecological concept, attracting visitors and volunteers from all over the world.

Sólheimar was also Iceland’s first community for children with disabilities and, although it has evolved into a modern eco-village with a thriving community of around 100 individuals, it remains first and foremost a home for people with disabilities and guests visiting Sólheimar are urged to show consideration for the town’s residents.

 

Eco-friendly housing

Sesseljuhús (Sesselja’s House) is Sólheimar’s educational and exhibition centre. The building was formally opened in 2002 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of founder Sesselja Sigmundsdóttir’s birth.  Sesselja trained as a pedagogue in Germany and Switzerland where she became largely inspired by the teachings of Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner. Upon returning to Iceland in 1930, Sesselja established Sólheimar. During Sólheimar’s first year, Sesselja and her foster children lived in tents. The first house to be constructed on site was Selhamar which was completed in 1933 with financial support from the Icelandic government.

Sesseljuhús is extremely eco-friendly; complete with an old-fashioned turf roof, wool and paper insulation, and Iceland’s largest solar cell. The building’s exterior is clad in driftwood sourced from the Strandir region in the Westfjords, an area famous for its abundance of driftwood. The high-levels of sea salt found in the wood make it extremely durable, eliminating the need for further protective finishes.

 

What to see

A number of interesting attractions are located within the Sólheimar village itself, such as the charming coffee shop Græna Kannan. The café serves great coffee and delicious cakes – all organic, of course – and is where locals gather during their spare time for a little tête-à-tête.
The café is open every day during the high season, but opening hours are limited to weekends in winter.

A number of workshops are run at Sólheimar where residents create art, pottery, woodwork, candles, and weave colourful rugs. While the workshops are not open to visitors, one can purchase the beautifully hand-crafted pieces at the Vala Market & Art Boutique, situated adjacent to the café. The market also carries locally grown goods and bread and cakes produced by the local bakery.

 

 

Other attractions
For travellers, Sólheimar is beautifully situated, with popular tourist destinations such as Gullfoss waterfall, Geysir geothermal area and Þigvellir National Park located only a stone’s throw away.

The small village of Flúðir is also close by. There one will find the charming Secret Lagoon – an old swimming pool located in the middle of an area dotted with several geothermal hot springs, of which “Little Geysir” is the most active. The Secret Lagoon’s facilities were recently refurbished and now include showers, a bar, and a lounge area. 

Kerið is a 3,000-year-old volcanic crater lake located a short 15-minute drive from Sólheimar. The caldera is around 55 metres (180 ft) deep and 170 metre (560 ft) wide and an impressive sight.

Mt. Búrfell is a basalt tuya (a type of flat-topped, steep sided volcano formed when lava erupts through a thick glacier), located a short distance from Kerið crater. It’s a lovely hike up to the top and at its foot you’ll find Þjóðveldisbærinn Viking farm museum.

Laugarvatn is a small village located on the shores of a scenic lake, midway between Þingvellir National Park and Gullfoss waterfall. Laugarvatn has long been a centre for education as well as a popular summer resort among Icelanders due to the geothermal bath.

The farm Efstidalur II is situated close to Laugarvatn. A restaurant, guesthouse, horse rental and a delightful ice cream shop is run at the farm. The ice cream is made from local milk, most of it produced by the family’s favourite milking cow, Snjólaug. It’s the perfect spot to visit with children.

Restaurant Mika is a family-run business owned by husband and wife Michał and Bożena Józefik. The couple specialises in hand-made chocolate that taste like little pieces of chocolate heaven, and mouth-watering langoustine dishes. The restaurant is a mere 15-minute drive from Sólheimar. 

Kerið1.jpg

Kerið crater Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

 

Where to stay
A small but comfortable guesthouse is located at the heart of Sólheimar village. The guesthouse is open all year round and includes different two kinds of accommodation: family apartments and a lovely bed and breakfast. Due to its small size, the guesthouse is frequently fully booked. Therefore, vacationers are advised to book well in advance should they wish to stay in the village.

Other accommodation options are available within the vicinity of Sólheimar: Hótel Geysir, Hótel Gullfoss, Icelandair Hotel Flúðir, Guesthouse Flúðir, Héraðsskólinn at Lake Laugavatn, and the Minniborgir cottages are all located a short drive from the village. 

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