Here is the church, here is the steeple…
Is it a church? Is it a… church? No, believe it or not, this is the only tourist accommodation in Stöðvarfjörður, Iceland (unless you brought your tent). Although it's technically a hostel – you need your own sleeping bag – for a fraction of the price of a Rekjavik hotel room you get a self-catering cottage which has to rank as one of the cutest you could find, in Iceland or anywhere else.
There's a sign on the door with a phone number – call it, and someone from the village will bring you the key and show you round.The church was built in 1925, and bought by its current owners to preserve the building and its history. And then – in a stroke of absolute genius – transformed into what we see today. Inside, it still feels like a church – the congregation could have moved out yesterday, and one of the owner's children even got married here. Altar and pulpit are still in place, and a couple of pews provide seating at the dining table.
Yet the building has been transformed into a well-equipped holiday home: everything is tiny, but perfectly formed. There's a shiny new shower-room by the door, and small kitchen tucked into the corner of the main living area – which also has sofas, dining table, and loads of original church features. Sleeping accommodation is a double bed (plus a stack of spare matresses) up in the gallery.
Most tourists visiting Stöðvarfjörður come by coach, spend a couple of hours in Petra's Rock Museum – which claims to be the largest collection of rocks in the world – and leave the same day for hotels in larger towns nearby. If you enjoy splendid isolation, Iceland's eastern fjords deserve a longer stay. RC
Images by Rachel Cotterill