Exploring Snaefellsnes Peninsula
If you want to see the beauty of the world you go to Iceland where everything’s there, from desert to ice fields, volcanoes to waterfalls and glacier cave to lava caves, but if you want to see the entire Iceland then head to Snaefellsnes Peninsula. This part of Iceland is also called Iceland in a nutshell, though this is actually just a figure of speech. Or is it? Let’s find out.
For best beaches, most fun path for horseback riding, place where you can spot some seals, and the place for most rain, the peninsula’s southern coast is on top of the list. On the western tip of Snaefellsnes Peninsula, you will spot Snæfellsjökull and its wide lava field. However, if you are a social person and wants to know about Icelandic culture more through the Icelanders, head to the northern part where the majority of the population are. The northern coastline holds the best harbors where fishing is the main source of living of the locals.
You can reach Snaefellsnes Peninsula by 4×4 cars or by taking a bus, Trex (www.trex.is) has a daily route year-round from Reykjavík.
Southern part of Snaefellsnes Peninsula
There are many places to explore in the southern part; Eldborg is one of the famous destinations simply because of its unique crater. The exquisite symmetrical, oblong shaped crater rises from the wide lava field, which is about 8000 years old, has this dramatic scene like those of Hverfell and Lake Myvatn, though this is the nearest scoria crater you can visit from Reykjavík. You can have an easy hike around Eldborg for 2 hours and you most probably won’t regret it.
If basalt columns are one of the things you favor have a short visit at Gerduberg and you will find a ridge of hexagonal basalt columns, they are stunningly broad with quadratic shapes. Forwarding to Ytri-Tunga Farm and to the nearby beach where the seal colony resides. The seals are curious and friendly so you can see them climbing up on the rocks. The seal watching season’s peak is in June to July, though sometimes you need to be patient and wait for them to show up. Please don’t disturb them and feeding the seals is strictly forbidden. Also from this point you can have a terrific view of Snaefellsjokull Glacier.
Lysuholl geothermal pool can be found west of Ytri-Tunga. This is a natural geothermal pool you can even see blob of algae floating in the surface, for the locals, this is a healthy pool. Though you need to pay an admission fee about 250 ISK or $4 and is open from 10 in the morning up until 10 in the evening.
Continue to Budavik then you will find yourself along the bay with magnificent shoal and the glacier for a background. You can have a short stopover or you can continue to Budir. Here an 1848 church called Búðakirkja is located and Hotel Budir, a cozy country hotel where you can stay while you’re in Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Budir is the starting point if you also want to visit Búðahraun and head along Frambudir coast, one of the main fish trading center back in the Settlement Age. You can still see the ruins of the fishermen’s huts, sheds and even their trading booths. This is also a great place where you can spot whales offshore. Near Frambudir is Búðaklettur, a volcanic crater surrounded with lush greens of wildflowers, ferns and mosses; and rocks of different textures and unusual colors.
Southern Snaefellsness is also where Arnarstapi is located. This is a great place for bird watching but beware as Arctic Terns are not so friendly you can wear a sunhat when doing so as they really attack humans like peck on heads and well, they let go of bird droppings so never leave your hats at home. May and June is the best season for bird watching in this area as there are really many different species you can find nesting on the cliffs. You may also notice a bulky stone sculpture when you’re here. That would be Bardur Snaefellsas, the half human, half giant Saga hero and believed to be the local guardian spirit. Just few kilometers away outside Arnarstapi is the mountain Stapafell, also known as the Elf’s Abode. A painted entrance can be seen by the rocks. Hiking is also a very popular activity in this area; this is the starting point of Arnarstapi to Hellnar trail where you can hike along nature reserves and seaside. You can witness peculiar lava formations from the clifftop trail and Gatklettur, the most striking natural arch stretching into the sea. Arriving at Hellnar, you can have a rest at the Fjoruhusid Café with an outdoor viewing deck. A sea cave called Baðstofa (Bathhouse) dominates the view where you can hear echoes of birds.
Western part of Snaefellsnes Peninsula
The main tourist spot in the Snaefellsnes Peninsula is Snaefellsnes National park; its mission is to ensure that the area’s exceptional natural scenery, indigenous plants, wildlife and the significant verifiable relics are well protected and cared for. Today, the park permit guests to improve the chances of them to get to know Snaefellsnes well.
National parks are amongst Iceland’s finest stakes and everybody is allowed to visit. You can get access to a park map at all tourist information centers. There are many great options on how you can hike up to Snæfellsjökull glacier and the maps shows detailed alternatives and options. Snæfellsjökull glacier is less crowded so you must always be hiking with a local mountain guide or with proper knowledge of the place. Everything about this place offers stunning enterprises. Even the actual journey to the start of the hike offers amazing views just surpassed by the vistas from the inclines and the crest. During clear days, the entire Westfjord can be viewed and past the North Atlantic Sea, the shores of Greenland can be seen. This is one of the most breathtaking glaciers to hike on in the whole world.
Snæfellsjökull glacier by all means one of the most stunning and picturesque mountains in Iceland and the setting of Jules Verne’s novel, Journey to the center of the Earth. But before the novel had been written, Snæfellsjökull was the home of Bárðar saga Snæfellsáss, an adventurous and one of the best known sagas of the Icelanders.
Moving on to the southwest end of the peninsula you can reach Malariff or Pebble Reef and Londrangar, a pair of single jagged sea pillars known to originate from a long bygone volcano. As you move 2km ahead you will come across a black sand beach, Djúpalónssandur , with unusual clumps of lava.
Going west on Snaefellsnes Peninsula, you can drive along Dritvik, a scenic cove, Holaholar, a crater cluster and Berudalur the large crater.
The northwest part is accessed via Route 579, by here the drive gets a little bumpy as the road extends. Skarðsvíkis the one of the significant places as it has alluring golden sand beach and where the Viking grave site has been discovered. The beach is underrated and a solemn place for meditation or just for a memorable picnic at the beach. Just one kilometer away is a lava field called Neshraun that heads towards Vatnsborg, another small crater with steep walls and Grashólshellir, a small cave where you can explore freely. And at the very northwest tip is Öndverðarnes, you can view Svortuloft, the austere cliffs where you can see a stumpy lighthouse.
At the end of northwest part of Sneafellsnes Peninsula, Fiskbyrgi is situated. The six hundred years old fish-drying sheds. It is made up of lava rock piled up and made into a shed.
Northern part of Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Hellissandur is one of Iceland’s oldest fishing village and is the home of Sjómannagarður, a historical center was made by the Counsel of Seamen of two neighboring towns; Hellissandur and Rif to safeguard the historical backdrop of anglers and angling stations in the territory. Among numerous intriguing artifacts on showcase are old one stroke motors, the anglers’ home called Thorvaldarbud, and the oldest angling watercraft, Bliki, an open eight paddles’ boat, constructed in 1826. This watercraft was utilized for the sea angling until 1965. The museum likewise possesses the open rowing boat Olafur Skagfjord, which is going to be showcased soon. Besides everything else of investment are a geographical map, rocks, which were utilized by the anglers to test their real quality and the figure “The Glacier People” by Ragnar Kjartansson. The west part of the museum grounds is perfect for various types of festivals. From that point a trail takes individuals to an incredible viewpoint with magnificent landscape. This trail continues to the Sandahraun, a wide lava field. The museum is open from June 1 to August 31 at 09:30-18:00.
Moving on Route 574 you will come across the oldest trade center in Iceland, Ólafsvík. Here you can find two museums which also focused on Icelandic culture and sea angling. Snæfellsbæjar Regional Museum or Byggðasafn Snæfellsbæjar, by local name, is a warehouse built in 1841. The displays are mostly antique household items and farm equipments. The other museum is Sjavarsafnið Ólafsvík, a small aquatic museum towards the harbor that holds tanks with Icelandic fishes and crabs. The museum also has a stunning collection of old angling boats and fishing materials used from generations to generations. Throughout summer, you can buy the local fishermen’s daily catch at a small market at the entrance.
Then entering Grundarfjörður, the most adorable town in the North Coast, the town only has 980 inhabitants but houses here are luxurious. With beautiful mountains surrounding the town, the most notable among them is Mount Kirkjufell, a popular mountain and photographers love capturing its picturesque landscape. A charming waterfall located at the skirts of the mountain makes the scene more dramatic. The mountain, the waterfalls and the northern lights makes the scene dramatic and justifies the title one of the most stunning places in the whole world.
A museum worth visiting in the Snaefellsnes peninsula is Eybyggja Heritage Center. In this museum you can explore and learn about the inhabitants, culture and natural places in the whole peninsula. The friendly and very helpful staff can help you plan your day giving you the list of places to go and the activities you can do. There are lots of activities for those who love outdoors like hiking, horse riding, fishing and bird watching. During winter you can go skiing, ice climbing and of course northern lights hunting.
Located between Grundarfjörður and Stykkishólmur is the weirdest part of Iceland, Berserkjahraun. You can cross a big lava field called Berserkjahraun or Berserkers Lava Field, where you can feel warmth, even in winter; you cannot see or feel snow everywhere. The lava formations have fascinating contrast and the rocks are covered with thick mosses.
Moving to the Westfjords after exploring Snaefellsnes Peninsula, a visit to Stykkishólmur is a great bonus to your unique trip from the peninsula. The small town of Stykkishólmur is the most popular tourist destination in Iceland mainly because of its environmental awareness. Recently, the town received the Blue flag which signifies the town to be one of the cleanest and greenest places in the whole world.
If you still have enough time you can also take a ferry and visit Flatey Island in Breiðafjörður. You can read everything about the place here: Flatey in Breiðafjörður
Snaefellsnes Peninsula has so much to offer and exploring the place, you can learn about the Icelandic heritage as well as its rapidly changing culture.