About an hour’s drive east of Reykjavik in a place called Laugarvatn, you’ll find yourself in a quiet town known for its scenic spa at the edge of Thingvallavatn. But there’s one thing you’ll have to ask to witness: the making of volcano bread.
Being surrounded by water in the Arctic is not an easy space to navigate, but Icelanders have come up with creative ways using the resources around them to survive for generations. Baking bread underground is one of these things. And at Laugarvatn Fontana, the staff still partakes in the traditional act of making a sweet, dense rye bread on the far end of their property every day.
To check out the geothermal bakery, you’ll first have to make it there for one of two tours, which start at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Head to the front desk and ask for a ticket—the $14 fee will get you a front-row view of the bread digging and your fill of the delicious result.
Let’s take a minute to talk about this bread because its flavor deserves a dedicated book of poems—but I’ll only subject you to a paragraph. Think of the warmest, densest slice of bread you’ve ever had and multiply that happiness by 10. Volcano bread is definitely rye bread, but it mixes sweet and savory in a manner that confused my mouth in the best way possible. It’s common to top the bread with a pat of smjör, or butter, but my travel buddies and I spent the rest of the afternoon snacking on it plain as we drove south. In fact, among the world-class natural beauty, Iceland also may be the ultimate road trip snack. I digress.
The act of making bread underground is simple and beautiful. The recipe includes six ingredients: rye, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and milk. It’s as easy as dropping the ingredients in a bowl, mixing them together and kneading into a dough, greasing a pot and adding the dough, wrapping the pot (as tight as you can so the hot spring water doesn’t get into the mix), digging a hole, setting your pot in, and waiting 24 hours. According to the staff at Fontana, you never quite know if it’s going to work out, given that the water temperature is hard to track.
On your unveiling tour, a staff member will walk you down to the water’s edge. There, you’ll spot small mounds of dirt and sand. You’ll know which hillock houses your bread because there will be a tiny rock indicating which baking pits are currently in use. After a few scoops of dirt, your bread will make its appearance, steaming from the underground hot spring water responsible for the baking process.
Back at the main building, you’ll get to enjoy some of the bread. And how many times can you say you’ve eaten bread that was baked underground along a stunning lake? Just add this to the list of many once-in-a-lifetime experiences you can have in Iceland.