For some reason, my favourite places on Earth seem to be islands. On numerous occasions in these pages I’ve mentioned that facts that I have spent time in Hong Kong both in childhood and as an adult, and that I consider Sri Lanka a kind of “spiritual home”. Another place – vastly different to either of these two – that holds a special attraction for me is Iceland.
It’s a place I’ve been fortunate to be able to visit several times, most of them initially spent in and around Reykjavík on arrival before heading north by air to Akureyri (the so-called “Capital of North Iceland” with a spectacular approach to the airport running down the fjord), and thence onwards by road to the Mývatn region and the great volcanic caldera and fissure zone of Krafla (where tours are available of the geothermal power plant as well as out onto the lava landscape that is indescribably stunning). So when Shawn Shakespeare informed me Serene Footman has settled on another part of Iceland for his latest region offering, I had to hop across and take a look.
For his latest 2022 build, Serene has chosen Dyrhólaey (“Door Hill Island”), a place almost directly opposite my stomping ground (so so speak) of Akureyri, being located on Iceland’s southernmost reach of coastline. It’s a part of the island I’ve not personally visited – although it, the village of Vík í Mýrdal and the area around Katla have been on the list of potential visits for a future return to the island.
Dyrhólaey started life around 100,000 years ago as an island resulting from a volcanic eruption. Today, it forms a small promontory sitting between the North Atlantic to the south and the Dyrhólaós estuary to the north. Rising some 120 metres above sea level, it runs eastwards and links to the Reynisfjara, the black sand beach that runs west from the mainland, and which in 1991 was ranked one of the ten most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world, and in 2021, the 6th best beach in the world.
With views across the beach towards the Reynisdrangar that sit off-shore to the east and inland toward the glacier Mýrdalsjökull and the uplands of Katla, Dyrhólaey is a popular attraction for both tourists and Icelanders alike, being a 2-hour drive from Reykjavík. However, the two things that make it most notable is the sweep of the beautiful – if at time treacherous – Reynisfjara sands, complete with their basalt columns, and the a gigantic black arch of lava standing in the sea that gave the promontory its name.
The latter two – the basalt columns and the great arch – are features of Serene’s build, but rather than confining himself to the landscape around Dyrhólaey, he brings together elements from across Iceland (and another from the imagination) to capture the sprit of the island. As he notes in his own blog post, Iceland has many waterfalls, a good many of which are stunning.
To honour theses waterfalls, Serene includes a set of high falls within the build whilst also mentioning the glorious Svartifoss (“black waterfall”) which lay 140 km east of Dyrhólaey. It’s an apt choice to mention: the falls drop over a set of basalt columns of a similar nature to those at Reynisfjara – columns that have influenced many an Icelandic architects, one of whom built the unmistakable Hallgrímskirkja church in Reykjavík (a building with which I’m very familiar, the bed and breakfast we use during visits being located a short walk away, on the route down to the harbour area.
Iceland is a genuinely dramatic country – and one that isn’t the easiest to visualise, not when it comes to trying to fit that drama into the 65,536 square metres and just 5,000 LI available within a Homestead region.
However, from the high cliffs through gathering the black sands of the beach around the base of the cliffs, from the tough grass that makes a good portion of the island’s vegetation to representing its rich diversity of wildfowl and birds – and even the hardy Icelandic ponies – to the off shore rocks that capture the spirit of Reynisdrangar, this is a region that does so admirably. Even the touch of American architectural visualisation inspired by Alex Hogrefe fits right into the setting; while he may not be a son of Iceland, Hogrefe’s work is very mush in the style of forward-thinking Icelandic architects.
Once again, a marvellous visualisation by Serene – so be sure to see it while you can!