Snæfellsnes, the peninsula to the north of Reykjavík, has some of Iceland’s best sights. Sparkling fjords, dramatic sea cliffs and endless lava fields make up the landscape. This 100 km long peninsula’s mystique has inspired world famous novels and enchanted visitors. More recently it became the filming location of Game of Thrones. Snæfellsnes peninsula was the first in Europe to receive certification from Green Globe for sustainable travel and tourism. It’s a visit that you will never forget.
Hopefully this blog post will give you, the traveller, a snapshot of what you ‘must see’ while visiting Snæfellsnes. Hidden Iceland run semi-private day tours to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula all year round which includes the 5 spots below. But, there’s so much more still to see! And fitting all our favourite spots into one action packed day can be a challenge in winter.
Therefore, once the northern lights start to appear in the night sky from September onwards we offer an extended 2 day trip. This allows us to explore under the starry sky on day 1. During both days we take our trip a little slower in winter. Trust us, this can be quite necessary when the winter snow starts to cover the landscape.
So without further delay, here is our Snæfellsnes peninsula – Five Must See Places:
ARNASTAPI FISHING VILLAGE
Arnastapi is a tiny fishing village that used to be a main harbour and trading post when the population was larger. This is an area that you should spend at least an hour at on your travels.
Firstly, the scenic walk along this broken cliff edge is great in all weather. The calming flow of the sea between the angular rocks jutting out into open ocean create a playground for happy seals and seabirds. On the windier and more stormy days the sea becomes a torrent of crashing waves and spray. Instead of sleepy seals you can watch the waves smash between the holes of the cracked rocks.
Secondly, along the way is Gatklettur, which literally translates to ‘cliff with a hole’ (pictured below). It is one of many holes in the area forged out from the crashing waves. However, this is the only one were you get to walk over its bridge. Be careful on the windier days, it’s quite narrow in the middle.
Mt. KIRKJUFELL | THE ARROW MOUNTAIN
Recently famous for making its appearance in Game of Thrones. It is often quoted as the ‘most photographed mountain in Iceland’. We’re a little less sure though as it always feels quite peaceful when we arrive there. Though it is a popular destination. But you can avoid those mid afternoon crowds by opting to go just after lunchtime.
The mountain is a product of multiple volcanic eruptions and glacial erosion. Additionally, each horizontal line shows a new eruption. Also, the odd shape suggests this area was scratched out by glaciers during the last ice age.
Futhermore, Kirkjufell mountain rises 500 meters right on the doorstep of Grundafjörður. The small town nearby has some amazing views of the deep fjord in front. In summer you might be tempted to climb the mountain but beware! The ascent can be tough, and has a long approach. The descent is nearly impossible without ropes. Sadly, there are plenty of stories of tourists needing rescued during the warmer months.
Instead, we suggest keeping a safe distance and checking out the ‘almost as famous’ Kirkjufellsfoss waterfalls. Give yourself around 40 minutes to walk around this area in search of the picture perfect angle. Additional, the rive coming from the waterfall is clean and clear. Make sure to take a drink if you are feeling one with nature.
LÓNDRANGAR VOLCANIC PLUG
Legend has it that for the longest time sailors did not land close to the Lóndrangar cliffs. It was believed that elves lived there. The Lóndrangar cliffs have two rock pillars that stand high out of the ocean, one 61 meter the other 75 meters. The geological term for these two lonely rocks is ‘volcanic plug’. The shape is formed when lave cools in the vent of an active volcano i.e. creating a plug.
The plug is made of strong basaltic rock so less affected by weathering. The softer rock type that made up most of the surrounding area has worn away over the centuries and left behind the strong centre.
Although there are great walks along these sea cliffs we suggest using this as a picture stop only and dedicating more time to other spots.
STYKKISHÓLMUR FISHING VILLAGE
The small town of Stykkishólmur is said to be the most beautiful town in Iceland! We couldn’t agree more. Its well preserved colourful old buildings overlook the countless islands in Breiðarfjörður bay. This town is meant for relaxation, not excitement. Walk aimlessly down to the harbour and soak in the history of one of the oldest fishing towns in Iceland, dating back to the 16th century. If you have time take the steps up to the tiny lighthouse for a panoramic view of the town and fjord.
If you have time you should stop for lunch at our favourite restaurant Narfeyrarstofan. They take advantage of the local produce and seafood, all within the cosiest settings before taking a walk through town as well as visiting The Volcano Museum or the Library of Water whilst there. If staying overnight, make sure to check into Hotel Egilsen which is a true gem in the town. The ten bedroom, family run boutique hotel is located in a recently renovated red house, built back in 1867 overlooking the harbour.
BÚÐARKIRKJA BLACK CHURCH
The black church of Búðakirkja would have to be the most photogenic church in all of Iceland. The church aside, this area has stunning backdrops of lava fields and mountains. On a clear day you are in the perfect place to photograph the towering Snæfellsjökull volcano. If you have read Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth you will know that this volcano was where his protagonist began his adventure. Sadly there is no hole to enter, but it doesn’t stop the perfectly cone shaped mountain from being quite the view.
Besides, you’re here for the church anyway. The church at Búðir was built by Steinunn Sveinsdóttir, a merchant’s widow in 1847. Iceland’s church authorities refused her request to build the church. However, stubborn as she was, appealed to the king who authorised the reconstruction of the church.
Its singular isolation takes us back into the past reminding us of the old days when Iceland’s population barely exceeded 50,000. The nearby luxurious hotel, Hotel Búðir brings us back to the present just in time for dinner and northern light hunting.
Consider spending the night in Snæfellsnes to search for the northern lights. There are not many better spots than this!
To conclude, these five spots are just a few of the amazing sights that can be visited within Snæfellsnes. We were tempted to make a top 10, or even 20. But I guess you will just have to come and see the rest for yourself. One thing is for sure, you will have one of the best day trips of your holiday while in Iceland.
You can join Hidden Iceland to experience all these places and many more on our Snæfellsnes peninsula tour. Read more about our day tour to Snæfellsnes peninsula here.
Hi I’m Dagný Björg, a twenty-something Reykjavík-dweller. I wear many hats. I’m a mother, designer and freelance journalist who loves getting lost in nature, coffee and easy Sunday mornings.
Amazing tips! Can’t wait to go to Iceland myself in September and see all the things in real life 🙂
It really is a fantastic spot to visit all year round!
Thank you for the article. We are in Snaefellsnes Peninsula at the moment and, indeed, it is a magical place! We just wish we were more lucky with the weather. We recommend taking a walk from Arnastapi to Hellnar along the coastal path. http://www.zdziecmiprzezswiat.com
No problem, and yes, it definitely is a fantastic spot to visit! And the hike is fantastic if you have the time!