The Snæfellsnes peninsula is a region jutting out of the western coast of Iceland. Many natural wonders can be found in the area, including the Snæfellsjökull volcano, regarded as one of the symbols of Iceland. With its height of 1446 m, it is the highest mountain on the peninsula and has a glacier at its peak. The volcano can be seen on clear days from Reykjavík 120 km away. The mountain is the setting of the novel Journey to the Center of the Earth by the French author Jules Verne. This 90 km long peninsula is a world of diversity. Friendly towns and villages, spectacular mountains, a multitude of bird species nesting on treacherous cliffs and beaches of sand and pebbles. This area provides a fantastic opportunity to see pods of Orcas in the wild at Kolgrafafjordur Bridge
Sights and Highlights
Deildartunguhver is Europe’s most powerful hot spring. It provides 180 l/sec of 100°C hot water. Most of the water used for central heating in the towns of Borgarnes and Akranes is taken from Deildartunguhver. The hot water pipeline to Akranes is 64 km long, the longest in Iceland and the water is about 78 – 80 degrees when it reaches Akranes. If you take a shower anywhere within a 65 km radius of the spring, you have already bathed in the hot water the spring with the highest flow rate in all of Europe.
An impressive wall of basalt columns that have formed geometric shapes in the cliffs as the molten rock solidified. You will find them about 5oom off the main road as it begins to curve left into the peninsula.
The largest of three volcanic craters along a volcanic fissure. Estimated to be around 3,500 years old. A second crater is located about 3oom to the north-east. There are nice walking trails that take you up to the lip and then inside the unique landscape of the crater.
Stykkishólmur is a lovely town located by Breiðafjörður Bay on the north of Snæfellsnes peninsula. It is surrounded by wonderful views of the innumerable islands – so named because there too many to count . One of the landmarks in Stykkishólmur are the old townhouses residing here. In 2008 Stykkishólmur was presented with a planning award in part for its renovation these houses. Harbour Hostel is a great option if you are looking to spend a night or even two in the region. You can spend the days exploring the region and the nights exploring the town.
Kirkjufell Mountain and the nearby Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall are probably the two most photographed landmarks in the Snæfellsnes peninsula. They are located a few kilometres to the west of the town of Grundarfjörður. Grundarfjörður Hostel is another great option if you are looking for some accommodation in the region.
The Kolgrafafjordur Bridge and surrounding landscape is perhaps the most beautiful area in the peninsula. The beauty is amplified by the fact that this is a very good place to try to catch a glimpse of Orcas (killer whales) in the wild. They swim around and under the traffic bridge feeding on fish that get caught in the strong tides forcing water in and out of Kolgrafafjörður fjord.
Djúpalónssandur is a sandy beach and bay at the foot of Snæfellsjökull glacier. It was once home to sixty fishing boats and one of the most prolific fishing villages on the Snæfellsnes peninsula but today the bay is uninhabited. Four lifting stones are in Djúpalónssandur, used by fishermen to test their strength. They are Fullsterkur (full strength) weighing 154 kg, Hálfsterkur (half strength) at 100 kg and hálfdrættingur (weakling) at 54 kg and Amlóði (useless) 23 kg. They were used to qualify men for work on fishing boats, with the Hálfdrættingur being the weight a man would have to lift to hip-height to qualify. On the beach there are remains of the Grimsby fishing trawler that was wrecked there on March 13, 1948.
One of the interesting features of Snæfellsjökull national park is Vatnshellir lava cave which was opened to the public in the summer of 2011. Vatnshellir is a great example of a typical lava cave in Iceland. The length of the cave is 200 meters. The upper section has unique formations of lava statues curved on the sides of the lava tube. The lower part of the cave takes the visitors deep underground to a place which was hidden from the outside world for thousands of years. Guided tours are available all summer and sometimes in the winter. Visit summitguides.is for tour information and contact details.
Arnarstapi was an important trading post in older times. Columnar basalt, ravines and grottoes surround the Arnarstapi pier. There is a large arctic tern colony in the village. A walk along the coastline is recommended to watch the birds and see the magnificent lava formations. The seaside and the cliffs between Arnarstapi and Hellnar were made a Natural Reserve in 1979. In Jules Verne’s A Journey to the Center of the Earth, Arnarstapi is the last stop on the route the protagonists take before they climb Snæfellsjökull and enter the interior of the planet though a tunnel in the crater.
There are tours available that will take you through this area of Iceland however a cheaper option is to rent a car and go exploring yourself. It possible to rent a small car for as little as 50€ per day in peak season and 30€ in winter, a rental car is by far the better option. This will also give you greater freedom to visit all the stops in the order that suits you and at the time of day that is most convenient. Perhaps the cheapest car rentals in Iceland are through sadcars.com