added on December 27th 2023
Snaefellsnes Peninsula is not always on peoples minds when visiting Iceland for the first time, but it should not be overlooked. Dominated by the Snaefellsjokull glacier, this is the location Jules Verne picked as the beginning of his book – Journey to the centre of the earth (and you can see why it sparked his imagination). Flanked by black sand beaches on one side and the snow capped mountains on the other, this magical and other worldly region is epic in scale!
Located two hours of north of Reykjavik, even the drive to get there is full of jaw-dropping moments, as you pass glass like fjords and quaint fishing villages. Travelling to this region in the springtime, the moss-covered lava fields are a vibrant shade of green, and the slopes of the mountains awash with colour. There are fewer visitors here, so the paths are less trodden. Pure escapism!
There are many highlights to be seen in Snaefellsnes, so I will try to highlight a few must sees:-
- Gerduberg, a wall of beautiful basalt columns that form geometric patterns in the cliffs. A photo does not do this justice, so I recommend just soaking it up and enjoying the view!
- Stykkisholmur, a quaint fishing town that also offers ferry trips to Flatey Island in the summer months. There is a gem of a restaurant here, Narfeyrarstofa which offers anything from pre-dinner cocktails to the most amazing freshly caught fish of the day. In my opinion, one of the best restaurants in Iceland, located in what feels like the middle of no-where!
- Kirkjufell Mountain, perhaps the most famous and most photographed mountain in Iceland, thanks to its peculiar shape, a bit like the sorting hat from Harry Potter, it has been the backdrop to many of the movie scenes including Game of Thrones. Just make sure you walk far enough to get the best angle of the mountain for the obligatory selfie!
- Arnarstapi, a small fishing village dominated by its pyramid-shaped mountain that casts a shadow on the nearby lake. See the imposing sculpture of Bardur Snaefellsas (a half-human, half troll who was the settler of this area) and take the 2.5km long hiking trail leading through lava fields to Hellnar which rewards you with uninterrupted views of the rocky cliffs, which are also home to a myriad of birds including gulls and Artic tern.
- The quaint black church of Budir, which is one of only three black churches in Iceland. This working church and cemetary is set against the backdrop of the mountains and offers fantastic photo opportunities.
- Dritvik, a black sand/pebble beach tucked away from the main road, accessed by a hidden stone pathway through lava-fields. The beach is stunningly beautiful and yet thought provoking, as you make your way through the scattered debris of a British shipwreck, where 14 men lost their lives in 1948 and is now a living memorial to those lives lost. The beach was deserted and so peaceful, except for the crash of the waves and the exertive pants of breath from my colleague and I as we tested our strength, in lifting (and failing miserably) the Halfdraettingur stone; a 54kg stone onto the platform. Only if you can lift this stone, would you be considered a strong enough oarsman to row a boat from this beach!