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Epic Things to Fix and See on Iceland’s Snaefellsnes Peninsula
The Snaefellsnes Peninsula, with its crashing coastline, natural hot pools, basalt columns, volcanoes, waterfalls, fluffy horses, and glaciers, encapsulates almost everything Iceland is known for all within a 90-kilometer-long peninsula.
The peninsula north of Reykjavik also embodies some of Iceland’s non-visual characteristics, such as small, cozy hotels, fresh seafood, an adventurous spirit, and a reminder of how wild and harsh Mother Nature can sometimes be.
On the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, you can visit black sand beaches with ghostly shipwrecks, walk along coastlines shaped by the crashing sea, descend into caves formed by molten lava, and hike on a massive glacier atop a dormant volcano.
I’ve visited the Snaefellsnes Peninsula three times in the last decade, twice in the summer and once in the winter. And it is, minus a doubt, one of my favorite parts of Iceland. Whether it’s your first visit to the Land of Fire and Ice or your fifth, it’s worth making time to see “Iceland in Miniature” for yourself.
Top Snaefellsnes Peninsula Activities
This list will take you around the peninsula clockwise on Highway 54, though you could also go the other way.
1. Basalt columns from Geruberg
The Geruberg Cliffs are one of the first points of interest on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. These hexagonally-shaped basalt columns were formed thousands of years ago by rapidly cooling lava during a volcanic eruption.
The columns range in height from 23 to 46 feet, forming what appears to be a wall.
The columns are easily accessible; they are not far from the main road and have designated parking. Climb up to the best of the column wall for some spectacular views.
2. Ytri Tunga Beach
This beach remains distinguished by its golden sand (instead of black). It’s nice to walk along the beach and rock pools here, and it’s one of the best places on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula to see Harbour Seals.
A parking lot and a trail leading to a viewing area. Remember that if seals are on the beach, you must give them plenty of room! After all, they are wild animals.
One of the most impressive waterfalls you’ll see on this route around the peninsula is the first one! Bjarnarfoss is a two-tiered waterfall that falls approximately 260 feet from basalt cliffs.
There’s a large parking lot and a well-marked trail leading to a bridge over the lower portion of the falls. You can technically climb higher up as well but do so with extreme caution.
I highly recommend stopping by! I went later in the day, and we had the entire place to ourselves.
Another photogenic location near Bjarnarfoss is the black church Bakirkja. Nobody knows why some Icelanders began painting their churches black, but they stand out against the already striking landscape.
This one remains located on the Bahrain lava field, just uphill from a hotel. (There is a small parking lot at the church, which you can reach by driving up the hill.)
5. The Raufeldsgjá Gorge
Raufeldsgjá Gorge, also known as “the Crack,” is a small gorge with a stream running through it.
A short uphill hike is required to reach the mouth of the small canyon, and waterproof shoes are needed if you want to go beyond the mouth. But I promise it will be worthwhile! The gorge walls remain covered in moss on the inside.
There are no main cities on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Instead, there is a slew of small fishing villages dotting the coast. Arnarstapi, a popular summer destination for locals and tourists and a traditional Icelandic port, is one of these.
The harbour, the Stone Bridge, the Gatklettur rock arch, and the Bárur Saga Snaefellsás Statue are worth seeing in town. Most of these remain linked by a well-kept trail of crushed black lava rock.
Most of these remain linked by a well-kept trail of crushed black lava rock.
The town remains nearly deserted in the winter. In the summer, however, it becomes positively frantic. Arnarstapi has a couple of hotels as well as a few restaurants.
7. Coastal path from Arnarstapi to Hellnar
The path connecting Arnarstapi’s main sites continues for 1.5 miles along the coast and through the Hellnahraun lava field to another small village called Hellnar. The hike lasts about an hour (you’ll want to stop frequently for photos!) and includes spectacular views of the coast as well as a few scrambles over lava rocks.
Even if you don’t do the coastal walk, the village of Hellnar is worth a detour. The views from Hellnar View Point are worth it.
Lóndrangar’s cliffs rise out of the sea in a distinctive shape, and the basalt rock pillars here are the remains of an ancient volcanic crater battered by the sea. The Lóndrangar View Point remains connected to a parking lot, but the rock formation can also remain seen from elsewhere in the area.
Another hiking trail runs along the coast between the Lóndrangar View Point and the Gestastofan Visitor Center near the Malarrif Lighthouse. The one-mile trail leads down to the beach and then up and around the 200-foot-tall pillars of Lóndrangar. This trail also provides spectacular views of the glacier-capped Snaefellsjökull mountain.
10. The glacier Snaefellsjökull
Snfellsjökull, located in the center of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, is a 700,000-year-old stratovolcano. It’s also the name of the glacier on the volcano’s rim.
From all over the peninsula, you can see the mountain and catch glimpses of the glacier (though the glacier is sadly receding rapidly due to climate change). In the summer, daring hikers can even scale the 4700-foot volcano. However, because the hike is challenging and takes most of the day, it remains recommended that you do it as part of a guided hiking tour.
A Dangerous Business is a travel blog that provides travel tips and itineraries to help you fit more travel into the lifestyle you already have. Detect fresh posts and updates on Dangerous Business. Warning: This site contains some obscene material.
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