Top 15 Things to Do in Snaefellsnes Peninsula – Must Sees in Snaefellsnes Iceland
About Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Snaefellsnes Peninsula located in the West of Iceland is a unique region. It has so many different landscapes and natural highlights to offer and is therefore also called “Iceland in miniature”. But despite that it is a region that many travelers oversee who only have the famous Golden Circle and the South of Iceland on their radar. So if you are looking for a slightly lesser visited region of Iceland that is still easily reachable from Reykjavik and the international airport Keflavik read further and get inspired about the best things to do in Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
1. Gerduberg Basalt Columns
Gerduberg is a really interesting site which has amazingly large and geologically significant basalt columns. Those columns are lined up as a cliff of about a kilometer. It almost looks manmade because of the regularity of the columns.
2. Get Three Wishes on Helgafell
For many Icelanders, Mount Helgafell is a sacred hill. It is located on the way to Stykkisholmur and it only takes about 10 to 15 minutes to reach the top. From there you have a great view over the area. 3 wishes get fulfilled when you hike to the top of the mountain without looking back and talking a word. The exact rules are described on a board right next to the hill. This is a wonderful little extra stop before visiting Stykkisholmur.
Stykkisholmur is a charming fishing town that got famous thanks to the film “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”. We recommend visiting the small lighthouse right next to the harbor and the old colorful houses in the center of the town. If you have a little extra time, the Volcano Museum and the Library of Water are interesting stops as well.
4. Berserkjahraun Lava Field
Berserkjahraun is a picturesque 4,000 years old lava field. The road through this incredible lava field offers stunning views at every stop and from every angle.
Grundarfjordur is a charming fishing town in the North of Snaefellsnes and worth to visit. It is also the perfect place for a lunch stop or a short coffee break. The cosy Láki Cafe right next to the harbor offers a variety of food at a reasonable price. For more information about Grundarfjordur we recommend reading this blog.
6. Puffins in Snaefellsnes Peninsula
The cute little puffins are Iceland’s unofficial national bird and Snaefellsnes peninsula is the perfect place to watch them. On the small island Melrakkaey, just outside of Grundarfjördur hundreds of puffins and other seabirds nest during summer. The island is protected but you can visit it on a birdwatching boat tour from Grundarfjordur. Read more about this puffin tour from Grundarfjordur.
7. Whale Watching in Snaefellsnes
Snaefellsnes Peninsula is also a unique place for whale watching in Iceland. It is the best area to see sperm whales and orcas in Iceland. Snaefellsnes is also famous for the impressive amount of whale species that are seen during the year. The 3 hours long boat trips start in winter from Grundarfjordur and in summer from Olafsvik. Do not miss the chance of seeing whales during your holidays in Iceland. Learn more about whale watching in Snaefellsnes.
8. Mount Kirkjufell and the Waterfall Kirkjufellsfoss – Most Famous Landmark on Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Kirkjufell or the “Church Mountain” is a very prominent mountain close to Grundarfjordur. Thanks to its free-standing and unique shape, it became one of the most photographed mountains in Iceland. Therefore we highly recommend adding it to your itinerary when visiting Snaefellsnes Peninsula. A popular photo motif is the mountain together with the waterfall Kirkjufellsfoss right next to it.
9. Svörtuloft Lighthouse at the Tip of the Peninsula
On the westernmost point of Snaefellsnes you find Svörtuloft. Extra time is needed to visit the beautiful orange lighthouse since you have to leave the main road and drive along a narrow and bumpy gravel road. From a viewing platform you have a great view on a long cliff where sea birds nest during summer. On the way to the lighthouse we recommend also stopping at Skardvik, one of the few white sand beaches in Iceland.
10. Black Pebble Beach Djúpalón Beach
The Djúpalón Beach is a beautiful and special place in Snaefellsnes. It is a pebble beach and a dramatic place with bizarre lava formations. At the beach you find some pieces of rusted metal from the English trawler Eding which ran aground there in 1948. This place was once home to a fishing village. Fascinating remnants of this period are four lifting stones that you find down on the beach. They were used to test the strength of fishermen.
11. Saxholl Crater
It is not without reason that Snaefellsnes Peninsula is called Iceland in miniature since you can basically find everything on this peninsula Iceland is famous for. For visiting a volcanic crater in Iceland we recommend stoping at Saxholl Crater. A well made metal sturdy staircase brings you to the top. Once up there, the view over the peninsula is great.
12. Snaefellsjökull National Park with the Snaefellsjökull Glacier
Snaefellsjökull is a snow-capped glacier that covers a volcano. It is part of the Snaefellsjökull National Park which was established in 2001. Snaefellsjökull became famous thanks to Jule Verne who wrote the classic science fiction novel in 1864 about the journey to the center of the Earth that started from the Icelandic volcano Snaefellsjökull. This area is a paradise for photographers and the glacier provides breathtaking views over Snaefellsnes peninsula. Some people believe the glacier is surrounded by a unique energy field and is one of the seven energy centres in the world.
13. Cliffs in Arnarstapi
The impressive cliffs in Arnarstapi are another must see in Snaefellsnes. During summer, hundreds of sea birds nest at these cliffs and the noise of the birds is quite impressive. We recommend parking at the old harbor in Arnarstapi which we feel is one of the most beautiful natural harbors in Iceland. From there, you should follow the small walking path along the ocean. The most famous formation in this area is Gatklettur, a cliff with a circular arch. Close to the cliffs you can also find a huge stone sculpture of Bardur Snaefellsas created by the artist Ragnar Kjartansson. If you have some extra time, we recommend following the popular hiking path between Arnarstapi and Hellnar. It is an approximately one hour long hike along the coast with awesome views.
14. The Black Church Budir
The black church of Budir is a very picturesque spot. It is a two minute drive off the main road and we highly recommend not to miss it. The stark blackness and its isolation is the main attraction of the place. We also highly recommend to follow the small path to the ocean where you find one of the rare white sand beaches of Iceland with black lava.
15. Observe Seals at Ytri Tunga Beach
The beach near the old farm Ytri Tunga is known for its seal colony. The best time to see seals is during low tide when they usually relax on the stones. But also be always on the look out for seals in the water since they spend the majority of time swimming. But even without seals, Ytri Tunga is a nice place to stop since it is one of the few golden sand beaches in Iceland.
How Long Does it Take to Drive Around Snaefellsnes Iceland?
According to google maps, the drive from Reykjavik around Snaefellsnes and back to town is approximately 475 kilometers (about 295 miles). Many travellers visit this area of Iceland in only one day and there are also several guided day tours available from Reykjavik. While this is doable (in summer), you should be aware that you would need for the driving and sightseeing at least 12 hours. Please also have in mind that there will be not enough time to visit all mentioned places described in this article. Therefore, we highly recommend spending more time in this unique and beautiful region.
Stay Overnight in Snaefellsnes
As you can see there is so much to see and explore in Snaefellsnes. Therefore we highly recommend visiting this area not only for a day tour from Reykjavik but staying for at least one night in the area. Especially if you are planning to join one of the mentioned tours, extra time is definitely needed. The Grundarfjordur Bed and Breakfast is the perfect place to stay in Snaefellsnes. This small guesthouse offers 8 comfortable rooms for up to 3 persons and also has 2 great apartments.
When is the Best Time to Visit Snaefellsnes Peninsula?
Snaefellsnes Peninsula is always worth to visit and we highly recommend including in to your travel itinerary. As you can see on the photos in this article the peninsula looks quite different during summer and winter. In summer, all mentioned places are easily reachable and no special 4×4 vehicle would be needed. In winter, the weather might be a bit more challenging and you have to be prepared for snow, icy roads, wind and sometimes also closed roads.
Photos of the Snaefellsnes peninsula landscape – Oliver Degener
Photos of the whales, puffins, and guesthouse – Láki Tours Crew
Text – Christina Degener