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Deplar Farm: an adventure playground like no other

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Deplar Farm: an adventure playground like no other

Gun shooting, axe throwing, whisky-fuelled whale-watching – photographic artist Zoë Zimmer develops a taste for the wild side in Iceland

Zoë Zimmer

BY Zoë Zimmer12 November 2021

Deplar Farm is in the middle of nowhere – and it’s perfect. With only a handful of other houses scattered around the area, being here makes you feel like you’re one of the lucky few people left on the planet. The traditional turf-roofed farmhouse is beautifully understated, and manages to be both homely and elegant at the same time. The interior is only outdone by the sweeping panoramic views of the mountains and valleys that can be seen from the floor-to-ceiling windows throughout the hotel.

After being given a tour and shown to our room, we joined some other guests for breakfast. Now, I’m not much of a morning person at the best of times let alone pre-coffee and post-propeller plane, so when someone told me that an hour in a floatation tank was equal to four hours of sleep, I headed straight downstairs to the spa to try it out.

Feeling much more human after floating around for a while, it was time to meet our personal guide Gestur, aka Thor (yes, really). As part of the booking process for Deplar, you’re sent a form to fill out with various activities that you can do, which is then turned into an itinerary for your stay. I was slightly concerned that I’d just signed up to some kind of adventure boot camp and, as a born and bred central Londoner, my idea of an adventure is getting on the DLR. Having said that, I’m pretty game to try most things, which is how I ended up kayaking in the Arctic Ocean less than 24 hours later.

One of the many great things about Deplar Farm is that you can tailor the experience to be what you want it to be. The itinerary is actually more of a guideline, and you can be as active or as relaxed as you want, whether that’s spending your afternoon heli-skiing or hanging out in the Viking sauna. So I was slightly relieved to hear that no one was going to make me ride a mountain bike over a glacier at 8am.

One of the activities I had chosen was horseback riding, so that afternoon Thor took us to a nearby horse farm. The fact that it was 5° at the time was made easier by the thermal onesies provided for all activities. So all I had to think about was trying to master the tölt (a special gait that only Icelandic horses have), while taking photos of the unbelievable scenery we were trotting through.

Once back at the hotel we went for a swim in the indoor/outdoor geothermal pools to warm up, followed by a whisky by the fire. Not just any whisky though – earlier that day Thor had pointed out an iceberg that had drifted over from Greenland, and had gone down to get some ice that had washed up on the beach to use in lieu of ice cubes, which took having my usual whisky ‘on the rocks’ to a whole new level.

Staying at Deplar is a little like being at a friends house – you’re encouraged to walk around in your slippers, and meals are all eaten in a communal dining room with the other guests. You can request to dine alone should you want to, but it’s much more fun to sit with everyone and hear about where they’re from and their day’s adventures. The dining room features a long table that can seat everyone when the hotel is at full capacity, but as we were there during off season there were only six of us, which felt like being at a family dinner. (Although, I only wish that my family dinners were as incredible as this – sorry mum). The food at Deplar Farm is amazing. All locally sourced and expertly paired with the right wines – coming home and having to accept that an award-winning chef won’t be preparing all my meals has actually been quite difficult.

The next day started with a small hike, (a word I wasn’t particularly excited about, so we called it an ‘uphill walk’ instead – much better), to a waterfall. London doesn’t have enough waterfalls in my opinion.

Next we went for lunch at the Ghost Farm, which is a small cabin Deplar own down the road from the main hotel. A chef came from the hotel to prepare another delicious meal for us, however I was completely distracted by a mountain game that consisted of a ring hanging from a piece of string on the ceiling that you try to swing onto a hook on the wall. Sounds easy, right? Well it’s not, and I was obsessed – I’m actually still trying to work out where I can install one in my flat.

After proving I was better at the ring game than Thor (he may or may not tell a different story), it seemed like a good idea for everyone’s sanity to go outside and shoot some guns instead. Despite appearances, I’m actually more likely to be found skeet shooting than doing gong yoga (another Deplar activity), although I’d never been shooting in the snow before. I’d also never tried axe throwing either, which as it turns out, I’m terrible at, and vowed that when I got home I’d throw axes around Notting Hill until I improve.

After successfully managing to not kill anyone, we went for a drive around the local area. At this point I feel like I don’t even need to say that every inch of this country is jaw-droppingly beautiful, and every time we went anywhere I had to pinch myself because I couldn’t quite believe that what I was seeing was real. The drive ended up down at the beach, where we got into dry suits and the aforementioned kayaking happened – something else I hadn’t done before, but am immensely pleased that I did.

On our final day, we went whale-watching. This was the number one thing Mr Smith and I had wanted to do during our stay, so to say I was excited was an understatement. We went out with another couple from the hotel (all activities are done privately with just your party and your guide, but whales are obviously hard to manage so sometimes small groups go out together depending on timing).

After about an hour of speeding over the Arctic, the captain announced that some whales were right ahead of us. He cut the engines, and sure enough there were two humpbacks only a few metres away. As I stood there, overwhelmed at how beautiful it all was, I thought I might actually cry…but instead I threw up everywhere. Yes, it was at that exact moment that I found out I get seasick. After I insisted I was fine, we continued on to check out the Greenland iceberg and I happily accepted the whisky someone handed me which, yes, I proceeded to throw up also.

Once back on dry land – and after a lot of apologising to the captain of the boat – we headed to the airport. On the way I asked our driver if he could take the long route there, just so I could soak up as much of Iceland as I could before I had to leave.

Nothing I say here can really convey what an incredible place Iceland is – and how Deplar Farm and its consistently lovely staff so effortlessly allow you to experience it in the very best way possible. It was truly unlike any experience I’ve ever had. The only thing I missed was seeing the Northern Lights…so I guess I’ll just have to go back.

This review was first published in 2018 so some hotel details may have changed. All photos shot on a separate visit by Louis AW Sheridan


London-born Zoë Zimmer started modelling aged 15 and seven years later transitioned into working as a photographer, featuring in the likes of Vogue, Tatler, The Observer and Dazed Digital. Self-taught, she initially started working in fashion and portrait photography, later focusing on her own photo and graphic art projects, including album artwork for major labels and, fittingly, a number of hotel commissions.