Favourite Places – Hótel Búdir


Black Church at Búdir photo by Michael Ridpath author of the Magnus Iceland Mysteries

The Hótel Búdir is my favourite place in Iceland.

It stands next to its black church alone, halfway along the south coast of Snaefellsnes. It is a spectacular location. To the north rises the wall of mountains that runs along the spine of the peninsula, spouting long white streams of waterfalls. To the east, a golden beach stretches for several kilometres along which horses gallop beside the blue waters of Faxaflói Bay. To the south, the Black Church perches on a low ridge. Looking to the west, you gaze over a treacherous lava field surrounding a raised crater, and beyond that the breathtaking Snaefellsjökull.

The hotel bar is cosy, with a telescope to examine local eagles. The food is excellent - lamb, fish, seafood, samphire - and the dining room faces west towards the volcano. Sunset takes its time in Iceland, and you can spend the whole meal watching the light on Snaefellsjökull turn from yellow to pink to red, until finally, once the sun has disappeared beneath the horizon, it gives the glacier an ethereal yellow halo. 

Room 6 contains a desk with a great view of the glacier. Halldór Laxness, Iceland’s most celebrated novelist, used to stay here; I fantasize about spending three months in that room writing a book. Because it is so isolated, Búdir gets very dark at night, and the hotel is a fine place from which to see the Northern Lights. If you ask, the hotel staff will give your room a call if the aurora does its stuff in the middle of the night.

The Black Church stands on a low hill two hundred metres or so from the hotel. The church is small, painted black, with a white door and windows. A little graveyard surrounds the church, enclosed by a wall of neat black lava stone topped with turf, and at its entrance stands a traditional white Icelandic-style lych-gate. 

It has become a popular venue for weddings, with the Snaefellsjökull the perfect backdrop to a wedding photo. 

If you walk - carefully - through the lava field to the south of the church for about ten minutes, you will find the ruins of the village which it served, once the main trading station for the whole peninsula. This lava field is treacherous, dotted with caves and crevasses, one of which supposedly leads to a jewel-encrusted tunnel that goes all the way to Reykholt, many miles inland. 

Unsurprisingly, the place is teeming with elves.

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