The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is the long peninsula on the west coast of Iceland. The prominent volcano Snæfellsjökull Glacier is out on the tip of the peninsula. Jules Verne used Snæfellsjökull in his novel Journey to The Centre of The Earth as the gateway into the earth.
There are various signs of volcanic activity out on the peninsula including craters and vast lava fields as well as some black sand beaches and rock formations creating an extraterrestrial ambient recalling stories of trolls and monsters roaming the wilderness. Out on the peninsula there are a few fishing villages here and there, the largest town being Borgarnes to the south and Stykkishólmur to the north. On the south coast you can find among other things the Black Church at Búðir and the so called golden beach close to Ytri Tunga where seals can often be spotted. On the northern side of the peninsula lies the beautiful bay Breiðafjörður, said to be the source of all things romantic in Iceland. Next to the small town of Grundarfjörður is the cone shaped Mount Kirkjufell which has become an increasingly popular photo stop combined with a pretty little waterfall next to the parking lot. A day tour of the peninsula should be really well planned out since it is not only quite a drive but also has so many interesting places to visit, it has in fact been said that The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is Iceland in miniature.
Starting with Borgarfjörður where Borgarnes is situated and the road splits into the Ring Road going north and the road out to Snæfellsnes. In Borgarfjörður there are few good stops including the great Deildartunguhver hot spring and the beautiful waterfalls at Hraunfossar which flow from underneath a lava field, plus there is Húsafell which is a departure point for the tours up to Langjökull and the glacier tunnel as well as the lava tube Víðgelmir. To the west lies the bulk of the peninsula and Snæfellsjökull National Park which covers an extensive area leading out to the settlements of Hellnar and Arnarstapi and further out to Djúpalónssandur and Lóndrangar. Rounding the tip of the peninsula on a clear day can offer some stunning views of Snaefellsjökull volcano rising up 1446 meters. The bay of Breiðafjörður has hundreds of small islands scattered over a large area and these are home to numerous bird species including fullmars, seagulls, eagles and puffins which use the islands as safe nesting grounds. During summer it is well worth considering some of the boat tours offered in the area specially Viking Sushi sailing out from Stykkishólmur offering a fresh catch dripping from the sea of scallops, mussels and sea-urchin roes served sushi style with soy sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger.
Most of the small towns out here have their own geothermal swimming pools and it might be a good a idea after checking out lava fields, fishing stations of the past and the setting for the start of Journey to the center of the earth, to soak in those healing waters for a while contemplating life, the universe and everything enjoying a pint of local brew.
Borgarnes in Borgarfjörður is right on the crossroads between the Ring Road heading north and road 54 which rounds the snaefellsnes Peninsula. Close by are Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls, and one of the most powerful hot springs in Europe, Deildartunguhver. The road up to Langjokull glacier and Húsafell where Into The Glacier operates from. Also, Hallmundarhraun lava field has the great lava tube Víðgelmir, and there are a few lava caves out here but Víðgelmir has been made safe for visitors and you can book tours with a guide.
The geothermal baths at Krauma are here and since there is hot water almost everywhere around here close to the surface there are a quite a few greenhouses in the area as well as swimming pools which can be well worth looking up. The town of Borgarnes is also well known for being a part of the setting for Egil Saga, the story of Egill Skallgrímsson, the great viking warrior poet. The Settlement Center has an exhibition dedicated to Egil Saga and another one the first settlers who came to Iceland and populated the country in the 9th century based on the Icelandic Sagas. The Settlement Centre gives a straight forward and well put together account of these events and for anybody interested in a bit of history and viking lore this is a must. Reykholt is in this area as well, known for being the home of Snorri Sturluson scholar, bard and chieftain, considered the be one of the worlds most important medieval writers, possibly the author of Egil Saga.
Borgarnes is a great stop when heading out from Reykjavík either for a day tour or a longer journey. Around one hour drive from Reykjavik right next to one of the longer bridges in Iceland the town is a service center for most of the area including supermarkets, pharmacies and a liquor store. Even if you are travelling by super jeep on your way to Langjökull Glacier this would still be great pit stop.
The Snaefellsnes Peninsula is a place where nature, history and folklore come together to form a place of rugged beauty and mysterious charm. Jules Verne used Snæfellsjökull glacier, the volcano at the western tip of the peninsula, as the gateway in his story “Journey to the Center of the Earth”, it was also used as a backdrop in the film version from 2007 starring Brendan Frasier and icelandic actress Anita Briem. Icelandic novelist and Nobel Laureate Halldór Laxness also set one of his best novels, “Under the Glacier”, here.
A private tour with a driver and vehicle is a great way to explore the area since it is quite extensive and having somebody who knows their way around can be a gamechanger.
The drive out the peninsula is a very scenic one, the landscape is a wonderful symphony of extinct volcanoes, hot springs, craters and lava fields created during volcanic activities in the distant past. The rock formations at Gerðuberg, the black church at Búðir and the seals at Ytri Tunga beach, are all possible stops. There are black sand beaches and also what is called the golden beach at Skarðsvík. The fishing villages of Arnarstapi and Hellnar are often visited and a reminder of Iceland's history as a fishing nation. A little further out is Djúpalónssandur beach, a breathtaking spot where a lava flow from the great volcano met the ocean at some point and created a natural harbour. Rounding the peninsula there is great view of the glacier capped volcano that rises from almost sea level up to 1446 m. On the northern side of the peninsula we find Kirkjufell, a cone shaped mountain close to the fishing village of Grundarfjörður. This area is also a national park and there are many good photo stops along the way. Snæfellsjökull is also a place where aliens were expected to land a few years ago although the welcoming party did not locate them at that time, or any other time for that matter.
The small town of Borgarnes is about one hour drive from Reykjavik and marks the start of the peninsula. The area is a setting for large parts of one of the best known sagas, Egil's Saga and at The Settlement Center there are two exhibitions, one is about the first settlers of Iceland that arrived here as a part of the viking expansion into Europe, the other is dedicated to the great viking warrior poet Egil Skallagrímsson.
Arnarstapi and Hellnar
Two old fishing villages with a path between them. Some of the bird cliffs and rock formations along the shoreline are fascinating and can easily spark the imagination. At Arnarstapi there is a tall sculpture of the saga figure Bárður Snæfellsás which oversees the village. At Hellnar there are some amazing lava formations on the beach and there's also a nice little café there.
For centuries in the past farmers came here in winter to work on boats sailing out from the rugged volcanic coastline to the rich fishing grounds just off land. The massive lava flow that stopped here sometime in the distant past created a natural shelter where they set up camp. A reminder of these harsh times are four heavy rocks of different sizes which decided how much any individual got paid at the end of the season; a tenth, a quart, half or full pay, all depending on the weight they could lift after a journey that often took days over rugged terrain in the middle of winter. A trawler ran aground here in 1948 and has been disintegrating slowly since then leaving chunks of rusted iron the beach making this place the most extensive natural art installation in Iceland.
Named the church mountain this is a place that reminds us of Iceland ́s rich folklore and many myths. The first settlers most likely saw the mountain as some sort of a place of worship from either trolls or elves or even some other entities they thought were hanging out in the area.
Possible add-ons along the way(entrance to be paid locally):