If you've only got a few days to visit Iceland, Snæfellsnes Peninsula could be the perfect choice. This dramatic territory in West Iceland is known as Iceland in Miniature thanks to its plethora of typically Icelandic highlights. Looking for massive glaciers, careening waterfalls, and Game of Thrones filming locations? What about postcard-perfect shots of sprawling landscapes and scenery and those typically Icelandic quaint little fishing villages? Snaefellsnes has it all, and you don't want to miss out.
Because it's only two hours away from Reykjavik by car, it makes for a great weekend getaway or day trip. It's the perfect way to get a taste of everything this beautiful Nordic country has to offer. This country has a lot of character and charm, much of which you'll find here. So grab the keys to your Iceland car rental and let's cover what to see in Snaefellsnes peninsula.
Snaefellsnes: How to get there
Driving the Ring Road is the most popular way to get around Iceland. Once you leave Reykjavik, you're going to head north on Route 1 towards Borgarnes. There's going to be a roundabout, so take the exit for Road 54 (Snæfellsnesvegur). You can either head counterclockwise towards Kirkjufell in the north or clockwise towards Snæfellsjökull in the west. Many people head clockwise, so that's the route of highlights we are going to follow.
Top Sites To Visit in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula
This volcanic crater is our first stop on this magnificent peninsula in Iceland. The former volcanic mountain had its top blown off between 5,000 to 6,000 years ago. The powerful explosion left a gaping hole and almost forms a perfect circle. The crater towers 200 feet (60 meters) above the lava fields that surround it. And the coolest thing of all is that you can walk right up to the edge at the top and peer over into the abyss.
To arrive, you'll need to park your car at Snorrastaðir farm and walk for about 30 or 40 minutes.
Landbrotalaug Geothermal Pool
Iceland hot pots and geothermal hot springs are all over the country. The formerly secret “hidden“ hot pot has now become a favorite among tourists looking to come take a dip. It's located behind an old, abandoned farm with no signs, so it might take you a little while to find it. If you plan on coming, I suggest getting here either early in the morning or late at night.
This is because the Landbrotalaug only fits two to three people. It could be an off the beaten path (and possibly romantic) spot from which to watch the Northern Lights. You could also just go for a nice soak as the water is between 35-40 ºC (95-104 ºF). I highly recommend going on a little hot pool treasure hunt to find this Icelandic gem. It's only about 5 minutes away from Eldborg Crater.
Gerðuberg basalt column cliffs in Snaefellsnes Iceland
Iceland is famous for its hexagonal basalt rock formations. From Svartifoss waterfall to Reynisfjara beach in South Iceland, these impressive geological wonders are found all over the island. It never gets old seeing these unusually shaped volcanic basalt rocks, and the cliffs in Snaefellsnes give you the chance to do that.
You can see the sheer cliff wall from the road, which makes it a really nice part of the scenery. But when you start to approach them, make sure that you don't get distracted and lose focus while driving. Pull over so that you can take it all in while snapping the obligatory photos.
Ytri Tunga Beach
If you're an animal lover, then you absolutely have to pay a visit to Ytri Tunga. This beach is a well known seal colony and gets its name from the nearby do you Ytri Tunga farm. Who doesn't love watching adorable seal pups play and bask on the rocky shores? Maybe one will even be friendly enough to approach you.
Another unique feature is that it has golden sand, which is unusual for a country known for its black sand volcanic beaches. This stop is just a short detour off of the Snaefellsnesvegur (Route 54), so take time out of your day to go say hello some friendly seals.
Visit Budir in Snaefellsnes Peninsula Iceland: The Black Church
The Budakirkja, also known as the black church in Iceland, is one of my favorite things on a list of what to see in Snaefellsnes peninsula. It's in a tiny little hamlet named Budir and the small, 19th-century wooden church is surrounded by lava fields. The whole area is quite scenic, so it's no wonder that it's become quite popular among photographers and the past few years.
The church itself is built in the traditional Icelandic architectural style, but there's a twist that gives it its unique appearance. It's painted jet black and there's only a little bit of white trim on the windows and the white door. This is quite unusual considering the fact that the color black in the Christian church has traditionally represented the concept of evil, wickedness or the devil.
Rauðfeldargjá (Red-Fur Canyon)
Iceland has many tales and legends told in its famous, archaic sagas. One of them was the violent story which gives does canyon its name. Despite the canyon’s bloody history, it's actually quite beautiful. I recommend taking a hike to go find the peaceful stream that flows throughout and searching for the hidden waterfall.
Arnarstapi and Hellnar: Quaint Icelandic fishing villages
When driving Snaefellsnes peninsula, you’ll definitely want to take a rest at one of these two charming seaside municipalities. Iceland is famous for its small towns and fishing villages, and Arnarstapi and Hellnar are both particularly lovely. Plus there's a 2.5 km (1.5 mile) hiking trail along the shore that connects the two towns. The coastline features hexagonal basalt pillars that jut out towards the sea.
Snæfellsjökull Glacier in Snæfellsnes National Park
The glacier-capped stratovolcano that towers over Arnarstapi and Hellnar is over 700,000 years old. Snæfellsjökull glacier its probably best known among literature lovers who might recognize it from Journey to the Center of the Earth. The protagonists in this 1864 Jules Verne science fiction classic famously come here to enter the passageway to the center of the Earth. Along their way they encounter prehistoric animals, risky adventures, and natural hazards.
Snaefellsjökull has actually had a connection to mysteries and more esoteric beliefs for a while. The national park is not just home to a glacier and former volcano. It’s also considered to be one of the earth’s energy centers. Supposedly our planet has seven chakras, and this special mountain is one of them.
Another theory that people throw around is that this is a place where aliens meet up. This is a more unusual one, but it’s what people say nevertheless.
But where did all of these strange tales come from? Part of it could be that many who come here experience sleep disturbances, so they think something funny is going on. But that is attributed to all of the magnetic energy located here. High amounts have been detected, which probably explains why people think this area has something not quite right happening.
Whatever the case, there’s definitely more to Snaefellsnes National Park than meets the eye.
Snaefellsnes Peninsula Iceland: Vatnshellir Lava Cave
As you make your way around the road, another one of the best Snaefellsnes peninsula attractions is the Vatnshellir lava tube. As you descend the spiral staircase into the 8,000 year-old lava tube, you just might feel like one of the characters from Jules Verne's novel. The lava tube extends for an impressive 200 meters (656 feet) and sits 35 meters (115 feet) below the ground’s surface.
You'll be given helmets with a flashlight on the head and follow your guide deep into the lava cave. You must go with an experienced guide, so sign up to view the colorful volcanic geological tour in advance. It's definitely one of the coolest experiences you'll have in Iceland.
Djúpalónssandur black pebble beach
While Iceland is already known for its spectacular black sand beaches, A visit to Djúpalónssandur ups the ante. This scenic locale is also known as Iceland's lava pearl beach. The stones here have been smoothed and eroded by the sea over time and are known as the Pearls of Djúpalón, The rounded black volcanic stones that make up this pebble beach give this spot a particular quality and character.
As when visiting any beach in Iceland, do not get too close to the shore. Sneaker waves will sneak up on you and they are quite strong. The last thing you want is to get taken by surprise and carried out to sea.
Kirkjufell mountain and Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall
If you only have time to do a day trip to Snaefellsnes peninsula, these two stunning natural wonders need to be on your itinerary and no Iceland Snaefellsnes Peninsula tour would be complete without them. If you decide to take a day tour, it's better to head counter-clockwise as these gorgeous natural attractions are on the northern part of this Iceland peninsula.
They’re quite prominent, so you’ll see them from the road regardless of which side you approach from. Pull into the parking lot across the road (on the south side) and head over to the most photographed mountain in Iceland. Just be aware that you can't really climb the mountain. Due to its particular shape, it’s very dangerous and steep with adverse conditions.
Eagle-eyed readers who also watch Game of Thrones will easily recognize this mountain from the show. As Jon Snow and his band of rebels marched northward to face the Night King and the approaching army of White Walkers, they passed a mountain. It was one that the Hound had seen as a vision in the fire as “a mountain shaped like an arrowhead”.
Of course, during this scene it was covered in snow, so it looks much different than the colorful, fully saturated summertime photos on Instagram. But make no mistake, it’s Kirkjufell mountain. Iceland is filled with many Game of Thrones filming locations and this is one of them.
Top Things To Do in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Whale watching on Snaefellsnes Peninsula
The area close to Kirkjufell is also the perfect spot for whale watching in Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Although Húsavik in the north is typically known as the whale watching capital of Iceland, you’ll find several popular species in the west. Orcas especially have been known to frequent these waters.
Stykkishólmur Fishing Village in Snaefellsnes Iceland
This is another one of those quaint little Icelandic fishing villages that you will encounter all around the country. In fact, the town makes much of its income from either tourism or fishing. It's another good place to stop overnight if you plan on doing more than just the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in one day.
You can also take a peek into Iceland's fiery secrets at the newly-opened volcano museum in Stykkishólmur. They've got objects and artifacts along with volcanic rock and art spanning various periods which shows volcanic eruptions. Make a stop in this tiny little Icelandic haven and you won't be disappointed.
Snæfellsnes Peninsula: Iceland in Miniature
Hopefully this list has given you a good idea of where to start. A combination of the most popular attractions on Snaefellsnes peninsula Iceland and some off the beaten path gems are great. Whether you do it as a day trip from Reykjavik or decide to explore the area more in depth I have no doubt you will thoroughly enjoy your time in Snaefellsnes Iceland.