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The Beautiful Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Snaefellsnes Peninsula – 10 Things to Do

Just 150 kilometres northeast of Reykjavik lies the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. It’s home to a fantastic landscape of dramatic sea cliffs, desolate lava flows, rugged volcanic peaks and Snaefellsjökull National Park, made famous by Jules Verne as the location for the movie Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

The Snaefellsnes Peninsula is often overlooked by visitors who just stick with the Ring Road. But its worth a few days of your time. If you don’t have that and you’re a little on the crazy side, do it as a long day trip from Reykjavik (a 2 hour drive each way).

It’s full of amazing things to do – weather permitting of course – and it’s a gateway via ferry to the stunning but desolate Westfjords region.

The landscape would be even more dramatic on the peninsula if the clouds would lift
The landscape would be even more dramatic on the peninsula if the clouds would lift

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Snaefellsnes Peninsula – includes these stops

My favourite spot on the peninsula were the cliffs at the western most edge near Öndveroarnes. Take Route 579, a combination dirt and paved road and follow it as it swings past Skarosvik. (You can stop here to admire one of the few golden beaches that I saw in Iceland.) From here the road deteriorates but is still passable.

Drive to a T- intersection, about 15 minutes away and turn left to check out the orange lighthouse beside the Svortuloft bird cliffs. Go in the evening when the light is good and the birds have come back to roost. After a look around return to the T-intersection and go right a short distance to a parking lot.

From there you can walk past a low, squat orange lighthouse to the very tip of the peninsula. Keep your eyes peeled for whales. Also, check out an ancient stone well called Falki where it’s reported there are three types of water – regular, holy and ale.

The bright orange lighthouse beside the Svortuloft bird cliffs
The bright orange lighthouse beside the Svortuloft bird cliffs
The fantastic bird cliffs at the western end of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula
The fantastic bird cliffs at the western end of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Big drama and it wasn't even stormy
Big drama and it wasn’t even stormy

Hike to the top of Helgafell, located just south of Stykkishólmur

It will only take you about 15 minutes to get to the top and if you follow all directions – do not look back once you’ve started hiking, do not speak on the way up and face east when you’re making your wishes – then you will be granted three wishes if they are of good intent. You can’t tell anyone what your wishes are if you want them to come true.

On the day we did it, a group of school kids had started off ahead of us. They were dead quiet going up but at the top they did everything in their power to make us speak. But we persevered and now I’m hoping all my wishes come true.

Looking down from the top of Helgafell
Looking down from the top of Helgafell

Visit the Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula

You’ll learn everything related to making fermented shark, a traditional Icelandic dish, safe to eat. The fermented shark is made from Greenland Shark.

It’s poisonous when fresh because of high amounts of urea and trimethylamine oxide. Modern methods of making the shark fit for human consumption involve pressing the meat to remove fluids. After it’s cured it’s hung in strips to dry for several months. A brown crust forms (it just sounds more delicious by the minute doesn’t it) which is removed before cutting into pieces and serving.

A view out through the jawbone at the Shark Museum
A view out through the jawbone at the Shark Museum

On the Snaefellsnes Peninsula hike from Hellnar to Arnarstapi 

There’s a café in Hellnar at the start of the trail so I think this is a better place to start. The hike will take a couple of hours with stops for photos and bird-watching.

Fortunately this was the only really rainy day we had in two weeks
Fortunately this was the only really rainy day we had in two weeks
Impressive columnar basalt on a cliffside walk out of Hellnar
Impressive columnar basalt on a cliffside walk out of Hellnar
A stunning arch near Arnarstapi
A stunning arch near Arnarstapi

Stop and admire the drama of the coast whenever an opportunity presents itself.

If the sun had been shining the trails along the coast in the national park would have been even more beautiful. Any nature lover or birder will be in heaven along the southwestern section of the peninsula.

Drama along the southwest coast of the peninsula
Drama along the southwest coast of the peninsula

Ride an Icelandic horse

If riding an Icelandic horse is high on your wish list then the Snaefellsnes Peninsula would be a good place for it. It had been in our plans until the rain started. One of the best areas is around Lysuholl, about halfway along the peninsula in the south. You’ll probably be able to ride on a beach out of here.

You will fall in love with the Icelandic horses - even if you don't ride one
You will fall in love with the Icelandic horses – even if you don’t ride one

Spend some time wandering around the cute and colourful town of Stykkishólmur

There are a few good hotel and restaurant options including Hotel Egilsen where we stayed – and loved. For a reasonably priced, delicious meal order the fish and chips on the dock.

Get fish and chips on the pier in Stykkisholmur
Get fish and chips on the pier in Stykkisholmur

Be sure to hike the trails on Súgandisey

It’s a beautiful, small island attached to a causeway that protects the Stykkishólmur harbour. The tall, basalt columns on a couple of sides of the island are a stunning sight.

You can admire these basalt columns if you're in the ferry line-up as well
You can admire these basalt columns if you’re in the ferry line-up as well
The view from Sugandisey Island in Iceland
The view from Sugandisey Island
Looking out in the direction of the Flatey Islands
Looking out in the direction of the Flatey Islands

Do the Vatnshellir Cave Tour

Walk inside an 8,000 year old lava tube formed by a volcanic eruption. It’s the most accessible cave (and probably the most visited) in Iceland. Tours run year round and once summer arrives, tours occur hourly from 10 AM to 6 PM.

Drive the backroads and let the wind blow you where it will.

The peninsula isn’t big, it’s hard to get lost and there is great beauty to be seen.

Driving the gorgeous Snaefellsnes Peninsula and stopping where the wind blows you
Driving the gorgeous Snaefellsnes Peninsula and stopping where the wind blows you
Catching a rainbow on the horizon on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula  
Catching a rainbow on the horizon on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Having fun in the wind in Iceland
Having fun in the wind

Further reading related to Iceland

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

10 exceptional things to do on Iceland's Snaefellsnes Peninsula

 

 

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

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