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What Is the Snæfellsnes Peninsula? A Travel Guide to a Hidden Iceland Gem | Tour.is


Sometimes, the most beautiful parts of your trip are the ones no one else talked about beforehand. That's certainly the case with the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, a hidden gem that you should consider for your next trip to Iceland.

It's missed by many. If you just go for the tourist hot spots, you may never even hear about. Yet, in many ways, it's all the best of Iceland, all wrapped into a small area that is as easy to visit as it is stunning. For your next trip to Iceland, we absolutely recommend this hidden gem and its many activities. Consider this your guide to begin planning your trip.

First Things First: Where Can You Find the Snæfellsnes Peninsula?

The reason so few travelers know about Snæfellsnes is that it's off the famous circle road. Most tourists consider this the comprehensive tour of the island. You can find it in West Iceland, only about two hours away from Reykjavik by car.

The way to get there on its own is stunning: you either drive around the Hvalfjörður Fjord or through it, making for stunning vistas before you even arrive. Thus, making it perfect for either a day trip or a full experience that takes a bit longer.

Map of the Snæfellsnes area
Map of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.

Things to Do and Places to Visit: 14 Ways to Experience the Snæfellsnes Peninsula

The entire peninsula is only 90km (about 60 miles) long, making it perfect to explore even on limited time. Still, you'll want to plan ahead. The more you know about the sights and sounds of this slice of paradise, the better. Visit in either summer or winter to take in these unforgettable sights.

1) The Quiet Beauty of Stykkisholmur

That the largest town on the peninsula is still home to only 1,200 residents tells the story. To describe this seaside 19th-century town as picturesque undersells it.

Stop in one of the local shops, take a walk up to the Sugandisey cliff, or simple take in the colorful homes. Make sure you visit the Volcano Museum, one of three museums in town that show both the art and the history of the geological phenomena that have played such a core part in forming the island.

2) The Stunning Majesty of Kirkjufell

Its name literally stands for Church Mountain, and that's fitting considering the importance of Kirkjufell to Iceland. It rises almost 500 meters (1,500 feet) above sea level right by the shore, and the views from the top are stunning.

You might recognize the mountain as "Arrowhead Mountain" from the global hit TV show Game of Thrones. However, you don't have to climb. The nearby Kirkjufellsfoss is a waterfall that seems like it came straight out of a nature painting. 

A wide shot of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and Kirkjufell Waterfall
Kirkjufell Waterfall and mountain, Iceland

3) The Tasty Sharks at Bjarnarhöfn

Bjarnarhöfn is a shark farm that has since been turned into a museum, and it's well worth a visit. Here, you can learn all about the Greenland sharks that have long sustained the fishing villages across the island. Make sure you stay for a shark tasting, a deep dive into Icelandic culture that is surprisingly delicious.

4) The Everyday Life of Ólafsvík, Rif and Hellissandur

Iceland is defined by its small villages as much as its stunning nature. That's no different on Snæfellsnes, where no less than three tiny villages are waiting to show their charm to travelers.

  • Ólafsvík was established in 1687 and is Iceland'soldest trading town. To this day, its harbor remains an important part of local infrastructure.

  • Rif is a historic trading town that now houses most of the peninsula's fishing fleet. Be sure to visit the surrounding areas, home to one of the largest nesting areas of arctic terns in the region

  • Hellissandur, just 2km (1.3 miles) from Rif, is similar in many ways but well worth a stop for its Maritime Museum, home of the island's oldest row boat.

Each village is "typical Iceland". And yet, each has a unique charm as well. A stop at each can do wonders to get that full Iceland experience.

5) The Ageless Wonder of Snæfellsjökull Glacier

Looking for some natural history? How about a 700,000-year-old glacier that also happened to be the focal point of Jules Verne's classic Journey to the Centre of the Earth novel? Snæfellsjökull Glacier is one of Iceland's most iconic landmarks.

Some people say this glacier has unique energy fields around it. You might just be able to feel it; or maybe it's just the majestic rise above the countryside around it. Both from below and after a long guided hike (or drive) to the top, the views are unique.

Wide shot of the Glacier volcano Snæfellsjökull at the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
Glacier volcano Snæfellsjökull

6) The Sheer Power of Vatnshellir Cave

Under Snæfellsjökull, you can find one of the best caves in all of Iceland. Vatnshellir greets you with total darkness and silence, making you uniquely aware of the masses of stones that form Snæfellsjökull right above you.

Of course, you're perfectly safe, thanks to year-round tours in the cave. Learn about the 8,000-year history of the cave or simply marvel at the stones and lava that have formed the most unique of shapes over the course of thousands of years.  

7) The Volcanic Power of Saxhóll

In many ways, Saxhóll is the opposite of Snæfellsjökull. It's a more than 300-feet-deep crater, created through volcanic energy almost 4,000 years ago, that quite literally opens up the land. Climb in and enjoy unique views of the lava and stones that would otherwise be invisible.

8) Djúpalónssandur and the Strongman Stones

Looking for some adventure? How about fascinating stories?  Djúpalónssandur is a black sand beach, which in itself would be a stunning view. No longer a fishing spot, it's now home to two peculiar sites:

  • Two old shipwrecks that are still visible on the shore today.

  • The Strongman Stones, historically a test of strength for local fishermen. Men who weren't able to lift at least the smaller stone were unable to work on the ships.

Enjoy the unique black sand, marvel at the shipwrecks, or try to test your own strength. 

9) The Sights of Þúfubjarg and Lóndrangar Cliffs

Cliffs define the coast of Iceland much like they do most of the coastlines across the North Sea. Naturally, the same is true on this peninsula.

Start at Þúfubjarg, where you can enjoy views of the entire coastline as well as Lóndrangar. That cliff, in turn, makes for a beautiful walk along the seashore. Their close distance to each other makes them a perfect package deal. 

10) The Isolated Spirituality of Búðarkirkja Church

The 19th-century builders of this black wooden church clearly believed that one is closest to God in isolation. Búðakirkja has only a little hotel next to it, with nothing for seemingly miles but mountains and nature. That makes both for perfect pictures and a little bit of reflection as you recover from other portions of your trip.

Northern lights over Buðir on the Snæfellsnes peninsula
Northern Lights above the church at Búðir

11) The Mysteries of Sönghellir Cave and Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge

Both of these places are closely connected to Icelandic legends and myths, and you'll know why within minutes of your visits. Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge is a canyon that just seems like a troll is waiting around the corner. 

Closeby, you'll find Sönghellir Cave. Its name translates to "the singing cave", which explains its fame for acoustics and echoes. Try it out yourself as you imagine yourself hiding from enemies just like the Icelandic hero of legend, Bárðar Snæfellsáss.

12) The Hike Between Hellnar and Arnarstapi Hamlets

If you know Iceland, you might be familiar with Hamlets – a tiny village consisting of just a few houses.

Hellnar and Arnarstapi are just 4 kilometers away from each other. That makes them perfect for a hike between rocks covered in moss and breathtaking views of the coastline. If you're feeling adventurous, you'll even find some caves to explore.

At Arnarstapi you will also find the Statue of Bárður Snæfellsás. According to legends Bárður was half giant and half man. For centuries locals have considered him a protector of the Snæfellsnes peninsula and it's inhabitants.   

Statue of Bardur Snaefellsas at Arnarstapi
The Statue of Bárður Snæfellsás at Arnarstapi

13) The Seal Colony at Ytri Tunga Beach

Golden sand is unusual in Iceland, but you'll find it here along with a seal colony that's well worth a visit. You'll spot them most frequently in summer, sunbathing or playing in the nearby waters. Avoid disturbing them, but this is a great space for a walk along the beach.

14) The Geometric Marvel of Gerðuberg Basalt Columns

Let's end with one of the most fascinating natural phenomena in all of Iceland. In Gerðuberg, you'll find basalt columns up to 14 meters (42 feet) high that form almost perfect geometric patterns.

Forget the mystic beauty of moss-covered lava; this sight seems straight out of a steampunk novel. Above all, though, Gerðuberg highlights just how diverse the Snæfellsnes Peninsula truly is. 

How to Experience the Snæfellsnes Peninsula Through Our Tours

Combine these experiences, and it becomes clear why Snæfellsnes is in many ways a miniature version of the larger island it belongs to. That makes it perfect for a visit, whether you just want to stop for a day visit or spend some more time here.

For that reason, many of our tours include Snæfellsnes as a core piece. These tours allow you to maximize your time in Iceland while still enjoying the countless sights, sounds, and culture of the island. Consider just a few available examples:

Not all of our tours are self-driven, either. A Snæfellsnes Day Tour from Reykjavik gives you the overview of the peninsula with some guidance. Some of our longer guided tours, like the Grand Bus Tour of Iceland, also includes stops here. 

Learn More About the Snæfellsnes Peninsula

The options are there. You just have to know which to choose. But of course, you're not alone in that endeavor. For questions about Snæfellsnes and its many visiting possibilities, contact us. Let's talk about one of the most magnificent hidden gems you could possibly find.
Stykkisholmur Harbor
Stykkisholmur harbor on a beautiful day

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