“Out of the 500.000 tourists that give Icelanders the honour of their presence every year, 80 percent visit this mind-blowing natural treasure hidden in the North called Mývatn, so mind what you see.”
Those were the first words our guide uttered at us Grapeviners when we finally arrived at this legendary haven, after nearly six hours of stuffy car-atmosphere, bad coffee and way too much gas. The truth is though that the alleged guide wasn’t really a guide, and our aim was definitely not to collect material for a cliché-ish tourist piece. Plenty of that to go around elsewhere.
A Sodom Abyss and Woeful Hotel Employee
Full disclosure: our “guide” and his spouse are rather good friends of ours, and one of our reasons for travelling up there was to check out their pizza parlour, Daddi’s, that they recently opened there in the wilderness. And to take in the amazing sights, of course.
After glancing over the menu and rolling down a slice of the Grjótagjá, the idea of documenting the area through the menu came up. Let’s elaborate: the good people of Daddi’s have named every single pizza on the menu after every noteworthy sight in the area. Each pie’s name is meant to indicate their demeanour, appearance and vibe. This was of course an upright task to research, that is if they succeeded in replicating the sights with the pizzas and if a tasting menu of pizzas could even replace the sightseeing completely. Eat your way through Iceland. Ha.
Since we’d already tasted the, well, the plain weird pizza Grjótagjá (which boasts of featuring the absurd topping combo of tuna and bacon), we’d of course have to dip our toes into the abyss. The locals call it Sodom Abyss, and they like to jump in there regularly—stripped to their toes—to sit in the boiling water buried in a cave. Like the pizza, the combo seemed odd. But the pizza was also surprisingly tasty, so we had hopes for Sodom Abyss.
As soon as we had let the water boil our bare butts for few minutes, we discovered what all the fuss was about; the calm drone was genuinely soothing, the warm water softens your sturdy limbs and the nudity takes on an air of irrelevance. You couldn’t achieve an erection even if you really tried. Seriously.
We got invited to a party at the local hotel after we’d dried the euphoria off us and gotten our heads straight. Thank god they don’t have a pizza named that party. It was packed with woeful kids that had obliviously travelled to the country to detoxify the accumulated city ramshackle, but as in a slasher flick, their fantasy had gone horribly wrong. Simply put, there was a lot more boozing and debauchery than I’d ever witnessed in Reykjavík’s sloppiest after-parties. I can even think of a topping the pizza would have on top of it. But I won’t tell you what.
Fête in the “Clearing” and Norwegian Blackmetal
After gulping the second day’s pizza portion, we had a lot on our hands: Dimmuborgir and Skútustaðir had to be explored, gnats needed to be unearthed, Höfði had to be conquered and the notorious cowboy had to be found. Skútustaðir is an eminent farm near the village where they produce smoked trout, which is, alongside their rye, an area delicacy. Surprisingly, its pizza didn’t boast of any smoked trout at all, but it did have some mincemeat and bacon.
The pizza was definitely a crowd-pleaser, but if old Daddi is going to replace the beat with his pizzas, he might wanna pair them up better. The gnats weren’t hard to locate, the lake is of course named after those little bastards. They might seem a bit cosy at first, but they’ll turn on you. As for the pizza of the same name, it seemed to follow a similar maxim: the smoked trout and cream cheese begun by busting your taste buds, but after a few bites you’d rather move over to something like Dimmuborgir.
The lava statues that greet you at Dimmuborgir easily explain why a (formerly) brutal black metal band is named after the phenomenon. They are quite intimidating. For me, as a man who normally doesn’t take pineapple on his pizza, the eponymous pie was also intimidating. But once you lay off the prejudices you realize that there’s nothing demonic about it, just an absurdly formed cosiness. That goes for both the pizza and the place.
Next up was Höfði, a secret garden full of mystique and lust. As soon as one stepped over the fence, it was as a calm wind subdued all your thoughts and everyone got quiet. We walked through the pouring rain in radiant sun and the pizza made sense; carefully chosen mushy vegetables—appeasing and fulfilling.
After we visited our dear abyss that night, we moved over to something every local cherishes —a party at ‘The Clearing.’
The party place lived up to its name, although it might sound a bit cliché. A cosy bonding fire, nice guitar tunes and jolly people. That eventually morphed into wobbling drunken unfortunates, falling on their own pee spurts, playing folk songs lying on their backs too drunk to hold them steady sitting up. At seven AM, a few were drunk and cockeyed enough to decide upon a repeat visit to the abyss, yours truly included.
Note to self: five people, a two-person-Renault Smart, way-too-many beers, a few bottles of vodka, climbing down to a cave and boiling hot water is never a good mix.
Geothermal wonders and the endless journey home
It was a wise decision not to knock down a pick-me-up beer when we woke up hung-over off our asses ‘cause what we had in store was hulking: the volcano Krafla was to be visited, as well as the geothermal area Námuskarð. The volcanic Krafla pizza, brimful of various melted cheeses, clearly reminded you of the raunchy surroundings of the still-active volcano, but Námaskarð was positively the best replica. The bubbling hot springs represented the pepperoni and jalapeno filled pizza, and the colour scheme fit!
On the endless, dark and murky way home, we had some time to contemplate our journey. We thrashed out a mutual conclusion: although the pizzas were grand and rich you should definitely accompany the tasting menu with a sightseeing tour. And maybe a beer or two.