Snæfellsnes peninsula is located North-West from Reykjavik and it is a truly magical place.
You will find natural hot pots, mineral springs, the smallest national park in the country, dramatic volcano peaks and much more.
Traveling in Iceland in the summer is cool: you have sunlight for 24 hours a day, so you can spend as much time on the road as you wish and not losing the view for a single minute. As the fall arrives, the days are getting shorter and the weather is getting colder, but these are coming together with the northern lights, a more colorful landscape and some snow on the top of the mountains. Snæfellsnes offers a totally different experience depending on the time of the year.
If driving from Reykjavik, you must take road nr 1 towards Akureyri until Borgarnes. As you leave the town take the second exit at the roundabout (road nr 54), this is where your adventure begins.
The first sight I passed by is the Eldborg crater, and according to geological estimates the last eruption occurred about 5000-6000 years ago. You can take a walk through the lava field to the top of this perfectly shaped volcano. It will take about 1.5- 2 h.
After this short hike, my next stop was the hot spring Landbrotalaug. If you plan to bath it is good to know that there are no changing facilities there, so getting ready in the car or bringing a huge towel with you. There are two different hot tubs, a small one, which could fit 2 - 3 persons and a bigger one, ideal for about 10 more. The tiny tub is cozy and romantic, I got really lucky, I had the whole pool for myself for 30 minutes. This was a pure Icelandic experience: the view of the Snæfellsnes glacier, cold wind playing with your hair, yet your body stays warm in the temperature of 38 degrees Celsius.
The Gerðuberg cliffs was the next place to visit. These basalt columns are like a whole frozen army. They are standing tall and still, waiting for a never arriving command. But as time is passing by, they are falling slowly, one-by-one. Losing the silent war with the water, freeze and the strong Icelandic wind. There is a path, starting at the parking lot, which leads you to the top of the cliffs, but choose carefully where you set your foot, nobody likes if people are walking on their head.
I read somewhere about a natural mineral spring and I wanted to find out if the rumors are true: if you continue walking from Gerðuberg on the gravel road, by the end of it you will be rewarded with the healing and refreshing water of Rauðamelsölkelda. I have to say, they are partly true, but I am not sure about its healing power though. It looks more like a pool, than a spring, but the water is refreshing. It was time for a lunch break and this moment was just perfect: far from everybody and every man-made thing, in silence, connecting to the nature, where we originally belong.
My next stop was another mineral spring, Ölkelduvatn. The local farmer built a tap so everybody can enjoy his spring, which is also believed to have healing power. It might not be the right cure for cancer, but it has a lot of necessary minerals.
After eating and hydrating my body I was ready for some more adventures. Bjarnarfoss was the next pin on my map. To reach the bottom of the waterfall you will have to climb a steep slope, but a short and not too demanding walk takes you already closer to the basalt columns, which are protecting the bathing lady at the top, when you get there you will understand what I am talking about. The tired ones can also enjoy the view from the parking, although it is not as stunning as it is from the top.
The next up is Búðir, which became my favorite in the region in a few seconds. There is only one old, black, wooden church and a hotel. And, of course the beach, but this one has golden sand, black-red lava rocks and snowy mountains in the background. It is a popular place for weddings and other family events.
Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge was my following destination, which became famous thanks to the popular series: Game of Thrones. From the road it looks like a cut in the mountain. There is a parking lot and from there it is a short 5 minute walk to the entrance. After crossing the creek, I found myself in a narrow chasm. It feels like the walls are running all the way up to the sky and as I was walking deeper in, it got even slimmer and the stream stronger.
The next sight is Arnarstapi, which back in time was a vibrant fishing village and the trading center of the region. Nowadays much less people are living here permanently, but the natural harbor, the waves, the cliffs and basalt columns remained the same. Maybe, they have a bit more bird guano on them. I would recommend wandering around and explore Mt. Stapafell, take a picture with the Protector of the peninsula, Bárður Snæefellsás and stroll along the coast. This took me about an hour. Standing on the natural stone bridge was an outstanding, yet thrilling experience, I loved it. I think we all have those moments in life, when we feel so vulnerable, so tiny, so weak when we sense the magnificent power of nature.
The path led me to the Gatklettur arch Rock, which is also a great viewpoint, especially for the one that love the ocean. You can’t get really close to it, but it’s still worth the walk.
Hellnar is another fishing village, dating back to 1560, in the neighborhood of Arnarstapi, but nowadays it is also more like a tourist destination. I took a walk on the seaside to stare at all the art pieces what the volcano created 1000s of years ago. Just be careful here, the wind might get strong and the waves big, think before you step.
From here it takes about 5 minutes to get to Lóndrangar. These rock pillars are two trolls, who didn’t make it back to their caves before the sunrise, or, if you prefer the more scientific version, they are the remains of a crater, which survived the power of the nature through the centuries. The taller one is 75 m, the shorter one is 61 m high. They were believed to be unclimbable, until a man from the Westman Islands, Ásgrímur Böðvarsson, reached the top in 1735.
The border of the Snæfellsjökull National Park, the smallest one in Iceland, which was established in 2001, is somewhere between Hellnar and Lóndrangar. In the middle of it, underneath the glacier, stands the 1446 m high dormant stratovolcano. The glacier is also believed to have mysterious powers, and to be one of the seven energy centers of the Earth. The famous Jules Verne’s novel “Journey to the center of the Earth” is also settled here.
Djúpalónssandur, the Black Lava Pearl Beach, was my last stop on the south of the peninsula. This place used to be the biggest fishing station from the 16th century until the 1860’s, but the season was really short, only a few months during spring, when the waves allow the fishermen to sail out. The ocean here is extremely wavy, so all the men had to test their strength before getting on the boat. The stones they had to lift can still be found in Djúpalónssandur and are used nowadays on strong-men contests. They have different names and different weights, the heaviest one is 154 kg and it is called Full-strong, while the lightest is 23 kg and its name is Hamlet or Weakling. You can also try them yourself, if you feel like competing with Icelandic fishermen. I got stuck at the Hamlet level.
The remains of an old English fishing ship can still be seen on the beach, those are here since an accident in March 1948, when fourteen men lost their lives and four were rescued by the locals.
This place with all the abstract lava formations is like a big playground of elves and the ocean, depending on the time of the day and the year. But whenever you go, watch out for both.
From here it was a bit longer drive to my next destination, which is already on the northern part of Snæfellsnes, called Svöðufoss. This is a big waterfall, similar to the very popular Skógafoss in the south, maybe it is a bit smaller, but the view of the glacier behind makes up for it. It is rare, even for Iceland, to see the glacier and the waterfall, fed by the melting ice in the same time. Of course, it is beautiful, but it is thought-provoking.
My last stop on the peninsula was Kirkjufell, which I visited during the night to catch some amazing northern lights. I got lucky, the show that night was breath-taking, there is no light pollution. So if the sky is clear, the chances are really high of seeing them. This perfectly shaped, pointy mountain is popular among tourists, locals and photographers too, because of this, it is almost impossible to be on your own here, but this should not be a reason for skipping this stop. There is a small waterfall, Kirkjufellsfoss, on the other side of the road, this is the place where most of the pictures of this mountain are taken. A lot of the scenes in the movie “The secret life of Walter Mitty” have been shot here and in the small fishing village nearby, Stykkishólmur.
Visiting all the sights on the peninsula in one single day is impossible, so I would recommend taking your time and count at least 2-3 days to enjoy everything what Snæfellsnes has to offer. My trip lasted 3 days and I still feel I was a bit in a rush. If you decided you are ready for this adventure, after booking your flight, or even before, check out the two cozy hostels in the area: Böðvarsholt HI Hostel and Grundarfjörður HI Hostel.
And here is an example of a 4 days self drive adventure around the Snæfellsnes peninsula Hostel and Car Combo Itinerary.
Eszter Mátyás is a student from Romania, who visited Iceland once and then decided to move here.
She is a nature lover and a travel blogger, passionate about hiking, photography and outdoor activities.