We approached Eleven Experiences’ Deplar Farm from the south, coming over a seasonal gravel pass loosely translated as the Olafsfjardarvgur Road.
Ben Hoffman and I were 1,100 kilometers into our 1,763 kilometer Icelandic road trip – rears numb from rumbling along in our borrowed ancient Nissan Patrol rolling precariously down the lush washboard pass on 44 inch tires. Let me say, our arrival could not have been more anticipated and what an arrival it was.
When Deplar Farm crests the horizon the first things guests might note is that it blends perfectly into its natural surroundings. Rough sawn lumber is meticulously lacquered in black onyx paint that blends effortlessly into the surrounding volcanic topography. A curious sod roof nearly camouflages the property thus blending into the undulating meadows that lead down to the nearby shores of Lake Stifluvatn which beckon paddle boarders, kayakers and anglers alike.
As I downshifted, coasting to a halt our Eleven “experience manager,” Auslaug, and copious numbers of lodge staff walked down the flagstone path to welcome their weary travelers with a chilled libation and a smile.
Deplar Farm is not your average Icelandic getaway. In fact having been to the island in both winter and summer, nearly circumnavigating it and splitting the radius twice, it is like nothing I have experienced at all. The 12 room lodge boasts large spans of glass specifically manufactured to accentuate the northern lights welcoming the outdoors on all sides. Antiqued timbers, warm wide planked wood floors, stone and hand-hewn black iron fixtures immediately reminded me of properties I had built in the American West during a former life.
Elegantly appointed rooms are equipped with every comfort – think remote control blackout shades for 24 hour light in summer and every imaginable electronic charger at your fingertips – are only some minor features of the destination. As I wandered the halls for the first time the marvels grew exponentially. Pilates, yoga and workout studios beckoned, each with instructors. The private spa and masseuse would have had my three sisters crawling over each other to be first in line. Hot stone, Swedish, sports, trigger point, where would they begin and end?
Further into the spa there are two private suites, each with its own Serenity Float Pod awaiting guests, promising the ultimate experience in enhanced wellness by promoting zero gravity relaxation, it was remarkable.
I strolled past these amenities and was then stopped in my tracks. In a glass and concrete grotto bubbled a geothermal hot tub, sauna, steam room and an enormous indoor/outdoor heated pool complete with submerged bar stools and water level bar. I had found my stop for the moment.
Embracing my inner Viking, I found my favorite of the spa amenities was an outdoor underground steam room. Turf covered with a solid sturdy wood door it resembled a home for Bilbo Baggins, this luxury was just outside the back glass doors of the indoor spa. Free running water coursed into a hewn log tub saturating large lava rocks which are then dropped with wooden tongs onto a searing grill. I have been in many saunas; however, this design was superior to all with a unique distribution of a soothing heat. As if the heat on a cold June day was not enough, just outside the den is a manhole-sized pool 10 feet deep and cooled to a bone-chilling just above freezing temperature. Coaxed by lodge staff I heated in the sauna then exited immediately and immersed myself in the pool before I had time to reconsider. The sensation was shocking and fantastic and is said to promote vitality and longevity of life. Seconds into the first plunge I was certain it would be the end of my days due to the massive temperature swing in my body. However, the experience grows on you and weeks after departing Deplar your body still longs for the sensation.
Amenities at Deplar are nearly endless and everything is over the top. Our team had hardly finished wandering the farm when, by request we were summoned to the activities barn which is a place the guides plan your day and which is packed to the rafters with top of the line sporting gear ranging from fishing, biking, trekking, shooting, paddle boarding, kayaking, surfing and more, for guests to use on their adventures. To my left where Simms G4Z zip front waders and a vast array of Scott rods, to my right O’Neill 5mm hoody full wetsuits while directly ahead of me, a full stable of Trek Farley mountain bikes awaited us.
The inclusive equipment for guests is certainly impressive however what puts the “experience” in Eleven Experience’s Deplar Farm is their staff. Led at this particular lodge by Jack “Griff” Griffith – an imposing, professional and jovial character from Wales – the guide staff is ever energetic and genuinely took an interest in all the folks at the lodge and what would make their stay remarkable.
Prior to one’s visit a questionnaire is sent out and each member of the family, both adult and children alike are asked to complete a few pages of what they might like to do at the lodge during their visit. This is then downloaded for the guide and staffs review and an initial visit plan is put into place. However, while the activity map is helpful the guides remain fluid and willing to change plans on a dime as clients wants and whims modify. During my stay, I heard stories of “all lodge” laser tag battles complete with furniture forts, surf trips to the beach with a bonfire, mountain bike rides to a haunted farm house just to name a few. This was on top of our amazing fishing.
Our day of arrival our activities consisted of a mountain bike ride to the Ghost Farm, salmon fishing and a bit of skeet shooting on the sporting clays course finished by hot toddies surrounding a roaring bonfire on the Icelandic tundra. It was a rough day but someone had to do it, and I would surely volunteer again.
Some photos courtesy of Eleven Experience.