Have you ever wondered what it would be like to spend a night in an old Icelandic church? I had never particularly given it a thought but when doing research for our round trip around Iceland I stumbled upon a rather unusual guesthouse that offered just that. Located in the little town of Stöðvarfjörður in the East Fjords (Austfirðir) you will find Kirkjubær, an old wooden church that now serves as a place for travelers to get a much needed rest after a long day of exploring.
Kirkjubær is owned by a couple of people who were once married and are now divorced but still own this church together. Helga and I had the pleasure of meeting them both and the lady of the house told us that after the building stopped serving as the village church there was some disagreement over who should maintain it (the congregation or the municipality) and there for it was left there for the elements to play with. Instead of letting it rot away without maintenance the family decided to buy it as a summer house and then to make some money they decided to rent it out to travelers when they were not using it.There was something funny about how they interacted with one another, a way of communicating that you only see between people that have known each other for a really long time, and being a child of divorced parents I found it endearing that even though they couldn’t find a way to live together as husband and wife anymore they were still trying to find a way to maintain this house and business together.
Kirkjubær sleeps 10 people at most but we shared it with a Dutch couple who took the balcony while we slept on the ground floor. The sleeping arrangements were somewhat primitive, I slept on a mattress on the floor for example, but it was super cozy and I didn’t find it lacking in any way. The church is equipped with a fully functioning kitchen and a bathroom with a shower. What makes Kirkjubær pretty unique is the fact that the pulpit and the altar are still there and the dining table seating are the church benches. It’s an odd place that still makes perfect sense somehow.
I enjoyed the night we spent in Kirkjubær immensely and the sound of the rain and wind beating on the church walls outside only enhanced that experience. The people who run it were really laid back – it’s just a nice no frills kind of place with a fun extra twist. I would definitely stay there again.
Kirkjubær is located on top of a hill in Stöðvarfjörður and is visible pretty much as soon as you arrive into town (coming from the south). Like I said before it sleeps 10 people at once but they offer sleeping bag accommodation for 4500 ISK but for an extra 1000 ISK you can get a made up bed (or mattress since there’s a limited number of actual beds).
Three things to do in Stöðvarfjörður:
- Visit Petra’s Rock Collection
- Check out the street art around town
- Ask the locals (the ladies at the store/restaurant were really nice) about good hiking routes in the area