If you've been to Iceland, you've probably done the famous "Golden Circle" tour, which hits all of Iceland's main tourist attractions in a couple hours drive through the southwest part of the country. It might surprise you to know that there's an attraction in that region that most tourists miss: the Solheimar eco-village. Located just half an hour away from Geysir and Gulfloss, and Hveragerdi, Solheimar lies on the road back to Reykjavik. This tiny village deserves more attention than it gets, as it is one of the oldest thriving ecovillages in the world, and is a model community for green-minded individuals.
Solheimar was founded in 1930 by Mrs. Sesselja Hreindis Sigmundsdottir as a children’s home and organic farm, and that tiny settlement has grown into the prosperous community that it is now. Sesselja had been strongly influenced by the writings of Rudolph Steiner (upon whose work the Waldorf education program is based) particularly with his emphasis on the relationship between individuals and the environment, and she ensured that their little community was self-sustaining, in symbiosis with the land. Many of the children she worked with had special needs, and they thrived in this gentle, creative environment.
Although it wasn’t known as an ecovillage back then, it has certainly become one today! In 1997, the Global Eco-village network proclaimed Solheimer the first sustainable hamlet in Iceland. There are roughly 120 residents (of whom over 40 have special needs), 5 businesses and 6 workshops (horticulture, a tree nursery, handicraft production, a candle factory, a musical instrument factory, and a weaving factory). There are also two guesthouses, a geothermal pool, and an organic cafe for visitors. Solheimer is only an hour outside of Reykjavik, and it’s highly recommended that both visitors and Icelanders alike check it out when and if the opportunity arises. In addition to its gardens, there are some great examples of both modern and traditional architecture that are definitely worth seeing here.
Unfortunately, I must have shown up on the one day that everyone was on holiday—there was no one around when I arrived! It was an eco-village ghost town. Sadly, there was no one to show me around or let me buy organic food at the cafe (and I was unfortunately very hungry). The village was beautiful nonetheless, and looked like a great place in which to spend a retreat. Next time I’ll call ahead, and I’d advise other interested visitors to do the same.