Jutting out westwards into the Atlantic, and some distance from the Ring Road, Snæfellsness is often overlooked by visitors to Iceland.
This is a shame because Snæfellsness contains some of the most fantastic landscape. The peninsula is dominated by the mighty Snæfellsjökull, a huge glacier capped volcano. A series of huge eruptions over the years saw rivers of lava flowing into the sea. The resulting explosions have produced coastal features that are as surreal as they are beautiful. Pretty little fishing villages that are well connected with good roads adorn the coast and the area is rich in wildlife.
Snæfellsness is rich in both ancient and modern cultural history. Eyrbyggja Saga is one of the more famous sagas and is based on life in the region. The world famous author Jules Verne used Snæfellsjökull as the setting for his masterpiece “Journey to the centre of the Earth”
SOME PLACES OF INTEREST AROUND SNÆFELLSNES
Originally a major trading post in the early part of Iceland´s settlement, Buðir today is a small hamlet sitting within the Buðahraun lava fields. There is a classic 19th century church and restaurant serving excellent local food. There are some wonderful views from the church and a very nice beach nearby.
Vatnshellir Lava cave
Created in an eruption between 6000 and 8000 years ago, Vatnshellir, or “Water Cave is a lava cave and one of the highlights of Snæfellsness. Visiting is only possible with a guided tour. Descending into the 200 metre long cave via a huge spiral staircase, you will enter a tranquil world of colourful and bizarre lava formations. The extreme darkness and silence adds to the magic. Make sure you bring warm clothes as the temperature inside drops down to 6 o C.
Snæfellsnes volcano and Snæfellsnesjökull glacier
One of only three national parks in the whole of Iceland, Snæfellsjökull is dominated by the glacier capped volcano of the same name. On a clear day it is visible from Reykjavik. It last erupted over 1900 years ago, and evidence of this eruption can be seen everywhere. Snæfellsjökull stands at a height of 1446 metres, and with proper equipment and in good weather its peak can be reached (albeit after a challenging climb).
Global warming has seen the glacier shrink over the years, with some experts predicting it could disappear entirely in less than 50 years.
Hellnar and Arnarstapi
These two charming villages sit 2,5 km apart and are joined by one of the most amazing hiking paths in Iceland. The coastline here is a product of volcanic activity and it is as weird as it is wonderful. Friendly cafe houses await hikers at both ends of the trail.
Djúpalónssandur is a black sandy bay that is features strange lava formations and beautiful lagoons. The bay is uninhabited today but evidence of its seafaring past can be found in the form of the four large stones that can be found on the shore. These stones were used as a test of strength for potential fishermen – the heaviest one weighs 154kg! The remains of a British trawler that sunk off the coast in 1948 can be seen on the beach, a sobering reminder of the dangers faced by fishermen in the area.
Whilst not particularly large at around 73m, the mountain of Helgafell offers amazing views from its summit around Breiðafjördur bay. The mountain has a rich history and is mentioned in the Sagas. Legend has it that if you climb to its summit from the grave of Gudrun Osvifursdottir you will be granted three wishes – provided you don´t utter a single word or look back whilst doing so!
We carried out this ascent exactly as the legend advised us, and we can reveal that one of our wishes was for you all to have a fantastic trip to this fascinating part of Iceland!