Visiting the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in Iceland offers a breathtaking experience with its diverse natural landscapes and iconic landmarks. Here’s your guide to visiting this exciting and unforgettable region of Iceland!
Snæfellsjökull National Park
Begin your journey by immersing yourself in the stunning Snæfellsjökull National Park. This park is dominated by the mighty Snæfellsjökull glacier-capped volcano, famously known as the “Gateway to the Center of the Earth” from Jules Verne’s novel. The park boasts a variety of landscapes, including lava fields, coastal cliffs, and picturesque beaches.
Spanning over 170 square kilometers, Snæfellsjökull National Park is a nature lover’s paradise. The centerpiece of the park is the Snæfellsjökull volcano, a glaciated stratovolcano that stands proudly at the tip of the peninsula. Its snow-capped summit creates a stunning contrast against the dark lava fields and green valleys below. Embark on hiking trails that wind through the park, offering panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes. Keep an eye out for unique flora and fauna, including rare mosses and seabird colonies nesting along the coast.
This black pebble beach is a true gem of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. As you stroll along the shore, marvel at the dramatic rock formations and the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Don’t miss the four lifting stones on the beach, which were used in the past to test the strength of fishermen.
Nearby Dritvík Bay is nestled along the western coast of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, surrounded by towering cliffs and vast stretches of black sand. As you approach the bay, the rugged beauty of the landscape unfolds before your eyes, evoking a sense of tranquility and awe.
The bay itself is a wide and curved expanse of shoreline, with dark volcanic sand contrasting against the vibrant blue hues of the Atlantic Ocean. The panoramic views of the bay are truly breathtaking, offering a sense of isolation and peacefulness.
One notable feature of Dritvík Bay is the remnants of its former life as a bustling fishing village. In the past, it was a thriving hub for local fishermen, with several houses and structures dotting the landscape. Today, you can still see the ruins of these abandoned buildings, which add a sense of history and intrigue to the area.
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula in Iceland offers fantastic opportunities for birdwatching, with its diverse habitats and proximity to the sea. Here are some of the best places to go birdwatching on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula!
Arnarstapi and Hellnar: These two coastal villages provide excellent vantage points for birdwatching. The towering cliffs and rocky shores attract a variety of seabirds, including nesting colonies of puffins, guillemots, razorbills, and kittiwakes. You can observe these charismatic birds from viewpoints along the coastal paths or join guided tours to get closer to their nesting sites.
Lóndrangar: Situated near Hellnar, Lóndrangar is a pair of basalt sea stacks rising dramatically from the ocean. The cliffs and surrounding areas are home to various seabird species, including fulmars and gulls. With binoculars or a spotting scope, you can witness their aerial displays and nesting behaviors.
Bjarnarhöfn: This small village is known for its traditional shark museum, but it also provides opportunities for birdwatching. The nearby marshlands and wetlands attract a wide range of bird species, such as ducks, geese, waders, and occasional rarities. The peaceful surroundings offer a serene atmosphere for bird enthusiasts.
Breiðafjörður Bay: Although not technically on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Breiðafjörður Bay lies just to the north and is worth mentioning for its rich birdlife. This expansive bay is a designated nature reserve and a significant breeding ground for numerous bird species, including eiders, common guillemots, and black-legged kittiwakes. Boat tours are available, allowing you to observe seabird colonies and the diverse bird population of the bay.
Remember to bring your binoculars, a bird identification guide, and appropriate clothing for the weather conditions. Additionally, respecting the birds’ natural habitats and keeping a safe distance is crucial to ensure their well-being.
Known as the most photographed mountain in Iceland, Kirkjufell is a distinctive cone-shaped peak that rises majestically from the surrounding countryside. Capture the iconic Kirkjufell from different angles and viewpoints, especially with the nearby Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall, creating a picture-perfect scene.
It’s worth noting that Kirkjufell is actually a very dangerous mountain to climb. Although there is a hiking trail to the top, we strongly advise against it, as the trail is very steep. Tragically, a hiker died on the mountain in 2022. At the map below, you can find the trailhead for a moderate, 3-hour hike to the summit of a nearby mountain. We think this hike is a much better alternative, because you can actually see Kirkjufell while hiking it! The hike rewards with a great view of the area, while being safer and more fun than climbing Kirkjufell itself.
Of course, you’ll probably still want to take a picture of Kirkjufell. It is Iceland’s most-photographed mountain, after all! There is a pulloff near Kirkjufell, where you can step out and snap a picture. There is also a very beautiful waterfall nearby! Be aware, however, that Kirkjufell is on private property and you will have to pay for parking.
Stykkishólmur: A Peaceful Fishing Village
Nestled amidst picturesque landscapes, Stykkishólmur is a vibrant and welcoming fishing village. Its colorful houses, lined along the harbor, create a postcard-worthy scene. The village is known for its maritime character, as fishing has been a vital part of its economy for centuries. Strolling along the waterfront, you’ll find a bustling harbor filled with fishing boats and charming cafés serving freshly caught seafood.
One of the prominent landmarks in Stykkishólmur is the impressive Stykkishólmskirkja, a Lutheran church perched atop a hill. Its unique architecture and panoramic views of the surrounding area make it a popular attraction for visitors.
Exploring the village’s narrow streets reveals delightful shops, art galleries, and museums. The Norwegian House, a beautifully preserved timber building, now serves as a cultural center and museum, showcasing the historical ties between Iceland and Norway. Stykkishólmur also hosts the Library of Water, an innovative installation that houses a collection of Icelandic water samples and offers a tranquil space for contemplation.
Throughout the centuries, the Snæfellsnes Peninsula played a vital role in Icelandic trade and fishing activities. It served as a hub for fishing villages, which thrived due to the rich marine resources of the surrounding waters. Towns like Stykkishólmur were established as important fishing centers, contributing to the economic development of the region.
In addition to its maritime history, the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is also renowned for its literary and folklore connections. The awe-inspiring Snæfellsjökull volcano, with its mystical aura, inspired Jules Verne’s famous novel “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” The glacier-capped volcano has long been considered a sacred site and is often associated with supernatural and mystical tales.
The peninsula’s rugged landscapes, including lava fields, coastal cliffs, and picturesque beaches, continue to captivate visitors. Today, the area’s natural beauty, combined with its historical and cultural heritage, makes the Snæfellsnes Peninsula an enchanting destination that offers a unique glimpse into Iceland’s past and present.