Nestled in western Iceland, the Snaefellsnes peninsula is nicknamed ‘miniature Iceland’ because it appears to contain the full-range of Icelandic charm within its relatively small boundaries. The western coast is sprinkled with fishing villages and dramatic scenery. This captivating peninsula was chosen by the French author Jules Verne as the setting for his novel ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’. With so much to explore, be sure to dedicate a full day – if not two – to this frosty gem! Our Snaefellsnes Peninsula Travel Guide has everything you need to know to soak up the natural beauty that is so abundant in this region.
Getting to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula
The Snaefellsnes Peninsula is a two hour drive from Reykjavik – and takes the scenic route to a whole other level. You can rent a car and travel around the Hvalfjörŏur or via the new tunnel that passes under the fjord. Take Route 1 to Borgarnes and then Snæfellssvegur (Route 54). The peninsula is the smallest National Park in Iceland and is 90 km in length. As you begin your journey around the peninsula, you’ll be welcomed by the Eldbourg Crater, which rises 60 metres high and is mysteriously dark in color. If you want to sit back and enjoy the exquisite views without the hassle of navigating, there are a variety of day tours available!
The Snæfellsjökull volcano is a dramatic and familiar feature, estimated to be 700,000 years old and often depicted in articles about Iceland. At 1,446 metres, its the highest mountain on the peninsula. The jökull in its name means glacier, indicating the glacier that is perched atop the volcano. On a clear day, its possible to see the ice-capped summit of Snæfellsjökull all the way from Reykjavik – a distance of more than 100 kilometres! For a truly unique experience, venture into the Vatnshellir lava tube beneath the glacier and marvel at the total silence of this underground world.
The triangular shaped mountain of Kirkjufell – meaning ‘church mountain’ – is famous and widely photographed. Enjoy a circular walk around the volcano to the Kirkjufellsfoss waterfalls. Experienced climbers can test their skills with a challenging climb to the top of the mountain, where many fish fossils can be found! Fans of the HBO hit series Game of Thrones will recognize this distinctive symmetrical mountain under its alter-ego moniker: Arrowhead Mountain!
Ytri Turga Seal Observatory
As you reach the Snæfellsnes peninsula, head to Gerŏuberg and walk along its impressive basalt wall, marked with intriguing geometrical patterns. At its highest point, the wall is 14 metres high and up to 1.5 metres in width. Continue to Ytri Turga beach, where you’ll find a colony of seals stretched out on the rocks. Visitors are requested to maintain a distance of 50 metres to avoid disturbing the basking beauties. Venture onward to Búdakirkja Church, a small 19th century wooden church in a lava field with spectacular mountain views. Lýsuhóll is village atop lava fields, with charming wooden houses and revitalizing hot springs.
Amarstapi Fishing Village
Amarstapi is a fishing village with black-stoned beaches strewn with remnants from a shipwreck that happened in 1948. During the early 18th century, the village was an important trading post. There are four large stones that were used to test the strength of fishermen wanting to be hired, as only the strongest were given work. The largest stone is the Fullsterkur (meaning ‘full strength’) which weighs 154 kg, the second is the Hálfsterkur stone (‘half strength’) weighing 100 kg, and the third is the Hálfdraettingur stone (meaning ‘weakling’) which weighs 54 kg. The smallest is the Amladi stone which weighs 23 kg. The translation of Amladi is ‘useless’ – this meant you became the laughing-stock of the village and didn’t get hired!
There is a lovely six kilometre coastal walk from Amarstapi to Hellnar, passing through lava fields and strange rock formations along the cliffs (created by wave erosion). Additionally, you’ll find lava formations and sea caves where elves are said to live.
Lôndrangar Sea Stacks
On the coast near Malarrif stands the famous Lôndrangar sea stacks. The two stacks are thought to be the remains of a volcanic crater – 72 metres and 61 metres in height. There is plenty of local folklore associated with them, and it is believed that a group of elves live there. At certain times of the day and from a distance, the stacks look like a tumbledown castle. During the summer months, there are usually plenty of puffins to be seen! And once you’ve explored this spectacular peninsula from top to bottom, where will you go next? The choice is yours!