On my fifth trip to the country, I signed up for buddy excursions, even though I had already been to the “must-do” sites. My guides approached the challenge of showing me something new as if it was their job. Which of course it was.
Day 1 — Plane Talk
The flight attendant Margret Halldorsdottir greeted me with a hug and an introduction to her husband, Gunnar Magnusson, who would be our driver for the day. The country has 300,000 residents but no shortage of land so going anywhere outside the city center requires a car. This explains how the wreckage of a United States military plane can sit on a beach virtually untouched for 43 years. I first heard about this unusual sight from my niece, who hiked to it during a 2013 visit. Ms. Halldorsdottir, who has been a flight attendant for more than 30 years, agreed that a trip to the wreck was a great idea.
The plane is far off the island’s main road in Solheimasandur on the southern coast. We chose to visit in true Icelandic fashion, on all-terrain vehicles. We arrived at Arcanum Glacier Tours, about 100 miles southeast of Reykjavik and put on the heavily insulated orange jumpsuits that are so ubiquitous that I consider them the Icelandic national dress.
Splashing through mud-filled divots and fields of purple lupine flowers, we passed sheep perched on the volcanic rocks that litter the landscape. On the beach, the skeletal remains of a blue whale lay forlornly, a preamble to the aluminum outer shell of the twin-engine United States plane a little bit farther away.
On Nov. 21, 1973, the plane was being flown by pilots on a mail delivery flight to Keflavk. After the engines froze in a subzero fog, the pilots made an emergency landing on the ice-covered sand. Miraculously, all five men onboard walked away.
We examined the wreck. And lest we get the wrong idea about what we were seeing, our guide explained the bullet holes in the fuselage. “That’s not from World War II,” he said. “It’s only a lonely farmer’s weekend here in Iceland.”
Our next stop was to the home of Ms. Halldorsdottir’s friends Greta Onundardottir, a former Icelandair flight attendant, and her husband, Pall Halldorsson, a recently retired pilot and government air inspector.
Over supper, we talked about airplanes like the geeks we were. Pall and Greta are among the first of two dozen families who have bought land in the out-of-the-way community of Haukadalsmelur at Rangarthing Ytra with plans to build homes adjacent to a new airport for private pilots.
The runway and hangar are complete, as is a clubhouse replete with aviation memorabilia. It was easy to imagine future get-togethers here, the fly-ins and barbecues and nonstop hangar talk, and I was delighted when Pall and Greta invited me back on my next visit to Iceland.
Day 2 — Sea Air
On the next day, Inga Osk Olafsdottir, a specialist in the airline’s network control center, which handles route planning, took me fishing. She too, arrived with her companion, Sigurvin Bjarnason, who would drive us around. Mr. Bjarnason deposited us at the dock in Reykjavik’s old harbor and said he would meet us on our return that afternoon. He promised to buy us hot dogs from Reykjavik’s famous Baejarins Beztu stand if we failed to land any fish.
It was windy on the 45-foot yacht, especially topside where we would be throwing out our lines, so I donned a thermal suit. Ms. Olafsdottir was having none of that. Chic in her fashionably torn black jeans and ankle-high boots she was unfazed by the cold breeze coming off the sea.
She was, however, taken aback when she saw our captain, Bjorn Fridbjornsson. At first I thought it was his rugged movie-star looks. I was wrong — he actually is a movie star and singer with five Icelandic films to his credit. Once Ms. Olafsdottir clued me in I was star-struck. But Ms. Olafsdottir quickly turned her attention to reeling in our lunch.
The buddy program matches employee guides to guests by their common interests. Ms. Olafsdottir is a foodie, but it was the offer to spend a morning on the water that spoke to me. That the captain grilling our lunch was, so to speak, a celebrity chef was an unexpected treat.
The cod were so plentiful that we were catching them two at a time. One was so big that the 16-year-old mate, Jakob Freyr Sveinsson, got a scale out to weigh it. Soon I had so many I gave up and let Jakob educate me about what the fish on my line had eaten before they foolishly took my bait. He was pulling starfish large and small out of their bellies.
This did not negatively affect my appetite. The smell from the grill on the fantail was enticing and we dug in as soon as the fish were cooked. Fed from the sea and warmed by the sun, I asked Captain Fridbjornsson if he would sing for us and he agreed.
He raised his voice over the roar of the engine and sang, “Eg er Komin Heim,” a well-known Icelandic tune that means, “I’m coming home.”