I have always been fascinated by small spaces. I grew up in a concrete jungle, inhabited by more than 1.1 million people, and had to trek for miles to escape the city. That’s what brought me here. In Iceland, it’s easy to feel small, and for those who feel claustrophobic in the city, cabin life is idyllic.
I’m not the only one with a cabin fetish. The tiny house movement is sweeping the globe, as urbanites become increasingly desperate to go off grid and reconnect with nature. Those lucky enough to own a home are downsizing too, amongst environmental and economic concerns. The movement has gained cult-like status over the last five years, with TV shows, books and websites showcasing a variety of amazing spaces. Late to the party, I decided to orchestrate my very own cabin hunt around the west of Iceland to capture bite-sized buildings in all their glory.
By definition, a cabin is a “ small wooden shelter or house in a wild or remote area.” I use the term very loosely, as in Iceland, you’re spoilt for choice. The vast landscape is scattered with unique cabins and shelters, serving a range of purposes. Driving around the country, you’ll see abandoned houses, old barns, emergency huts, summer houses and log cabins. Here’s a pick of some favourites, spotted on a road trip from Reykjavík to Snæfellsnes and the Westfjords.
The Old Mill – Brúarfoss
The safari began en route to Snæfellsnes. In the distance, a turquoise-coloured roof grabbed my attention. The roof belongs to an old mill, offset by azure blue waters. Located close to the Brúafoss waterfall, the house overlooks stunning scenery and in the early summer, you can see the famed harlequin duck hanging out on the rocks.
The Moomin House – Miklaholtshreppur
The Moomins may not be Icelandic, but if they took a vacation, they would definitely visit this spot. This rotund building is set in picturesque farmland, surrounded by mountains. On the approach, I came across a burnt-out building, masked behind young trees. Nothing remained inside but a toilet and a fire extinguisher—a fat lot of good it did. Abandoned houses dot Iceland’s landscape, many of which have been colonised by birds or stray sheep.
The Salthouse (Salthús)
The Salthouse was built in 1940, by fishermen who used to make saltfish out of cod. Abandoned in 1980, the building has recently been renovated and is now home to an exhibition exploring memories of the last known inhabitants. Visitors can expect to find out about rural life in Iceland, along with tips and tricks from farmers on stopping your theoretical sheep from getting lost in a storm.
The Cabin – Reykhólahreppur
En route to the Westfjords, I came across a textbook red cabin in the middle of nowhere. No neighbours, no traffic. Just sheep. I pulled over to get a little closer, and felt completely tranquil. I started daydreaming, thinking about a life in this tiny red house. Twenty minutes later, I had to slap myself before someone called the police and I got arrested for squatting.
The Emergency Shelter – Vestfjarðarvegur
Akin to the set of a sci-fi film, this little tin emergency shelter fits right in with the Martian backdrop of the Westfjords. The outside of the shelter is covered in stickers, and it makes an impact with its 70s-style design. Offering respite for tired travellers, inside you’ll find blankets, bunk beds and emergency rations. It’s for emergencies only, and isn’t listed on Airbnb—yet. So don’t get any ideas.