The Snaefellsnes Peninsula Guide – West Iceland

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.

Snaefellsnes Peninsula

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”

Snaefellsnes Peninsula

SOME PLACES OF INTEREST AROUND SNÆFELLSNES

Búðir

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.

Budir Church - Buðahraun lava fields

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.

Vatnshellir

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.

Snaefellsnes Peninsula

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.

Arnarstapi

Djúpalónssandur

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.

Djúpalónssandur

Helgafell

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!

Helgafell

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!

Snaefellsnes Peninsula Travel Guide Iceland – Reykjavik

Þingvellir National Park

Þingvellir is one of the national parks that are on the northern shore in Iceland. Furthermore, it is one of the oldest existing parliaments in the world, which makes it important in Icelandic history. Þingvellir is also labelled as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Þingvellir National Park

Þingvellir is important because of its history yet it is also famed for its unique geology and natural features. The Almannagjá canyon is found here between two tectonic plates, which provide a visual display of continental drift. Tourists love coming to Þingvellir to fish and scuba dive.

Various fish and other water creatures are found in Iceland’s biggest lake, Þingvallavatn, since the regular influx of groundwater allows the condition of the water to remain good. This lake is said to be home to the largest brown trout and chair that is available in the world.

Þingvellir National Park

Travelling to the National Park

There are several ways to get to the national park, which is about forty-five km northeast of Reykjavik.

First, you have to get on road no. 1 and head north to leave Reykjavik. Once you have passed the town of Mosfellsbaer, you will then take the first exit on your right when you reach the roundabout. This will put you on road no. 36 heading towards Thingvellir. This is the main route to reach the national park, and during the winter season, it will be clear for driving.

Alternatively, if you are visiting during the summertime you could head towards Hveragerdi/Selfoss on road no. 1. Once out of Reykjavik, turn left on road no 431 and follow it until you get to road no 435. This road will allow you to see some scenic areas of Iceland such as the Hengill volcano, where you can see amazing views of Lake Thingvallavatn. When you get down the mountain, you will want to make a left turn on road no 360 and drive approximately 11 km and turn right onto road no 36. This road will carry you about 8 km and then you will see the visitor’s center of the national park.

Þingvellir National Park

When taking this route – road no 435 – remember that it is closed during the winter because of snow. You should always make sure you check the conditions before driving this route too.

Iceland Travel Guide – Reykjavík (Iceland)

Camper Iceland – Camper Rental in Iceland

Tourists love traveling around Iceland in campers. This is because when you travel this way you are able to see a lot more of what Iceland has to offer for a reasonable price and it cuts down on the amount of planning that you have to do.

Camper Iceland

Keep in mind Hotels are usually booked as soon the spring season begins. Therefore, finding an available hotel means you have to book months before your trip.

Below you will find eleven reasons to rent a camper van when in Iceland.

  1. It saves you money from having to rent a car and pay for an overpriced hotel.
  2. Iceland allows tourists to park their camper vans anywhere for one night.
  3. You are able to meet other friendly people.
  4. Iceland’s weather is always changing; therefore, you want to make sure that you are mobile and ready to go at the drop of a hat. Imagine how horrible it would be if it started raining while you were asleep in your tent and had to pack up the tent and remain wet inside of your car.
  5. You can enjoy nature without having to deal with the hassles of having tents.
  6. If you have children, a campervan allows them to be able to experience more activities, so they do not tire out and become fussy during the drives
  7. You can go anywhere you want and sleep wherever you want
  8. Iceland has roads made of asphalt, which is ideal for any type of camper.
  9. You do not have to plan your trip. You can just go wherever your heart desires.
  10. You have great views at all times since Iceland does not have many trees.
  11. You save money by having access to be able to cook instead of eating out every day.

Camper Iceland

Closing Thoughts

Iceland is a beautiful place for you to experience nature at its finest. For some tourists it is an expensive place to visit yet if you rent a camper van (Camper Rental Iceland), even a luxurious one (Campervan Iceland), you will find that you will enjoy your trip to the fullest and you will have saved yourself a lot of money too.

Campervan Iceland

Travel Guide Iceland – Reykjavík (Iceland)

Ísafjörður – Westfjords in Iceland

Isafjörður is the capital of the West Fjords region in Iceland, and is home to less than 3,000 people. The small wooden houses and boats in the village are surrounded by some of the most amazing scenery imaginable. There is a reason this place has been used as the backdrop for countless movies and TV shows.

The setting of Ísafjördur is one of a kind. The city sits right in the middle of a sand and dirt strip that runs under the fjord under a pair of hulking mountain ridges that seem to stand as security guards over the area.

Ísafjörður

Access to the areas in the West Fjords (Bolungarvík, Súdavík, Flateyri and Suðureyri) from the Ring Road and Reykjavik has improved in recent years thanks to the addition of a number of new tunnels.

You can now get from the small Isafjörður to Reykjavik in about 40 minutes by plane.

Ísafjörður

Lots of fun in one small town.

As mentioned earlier, Isafjörður is a small town, but the people that live there have access to a great cultural and social life. Roughly 100 students per year take advantage of the distance learning available at University Centre. There is also a hospital, a conservatory, and a cultural center that is home to a concert hall and library. A number of popular bands, Mugison being the best known, from Isafjörður have shone the musical spotlight on the town, as has a pair of annual music festivals.

Ísafjörður

Since the decline of the fishing industry, tourism has become all the more important. That, and the improved communications there, have seen several small IT start-ups move into the area.

Isafjörður was once a major fishing port in Iceland, but drastic changes to the territories in the fishing industry has seen the role the town plays now very much reduced.

Ísafjörður

Things to see:

Streets and buildings put in place during the 17th century are still in place in Isafjörður.

As well as the buildings we mentioned earlier, there is also a Municipal Museum to be found in home that dates back to 1742, making it Iceland’s oldest. There are a number of early 18th century houses still standing and still in great shape. One of those is home to the Maritime Museum.

Ísafjörður Maritime Museum

The two mountains that tower over Isafjörður provide protection from the elements, but they are also great tourist spots that can be easily accessed. Hikers and photographers in particular will get a kick out of the views, especially during the summer months.

Things to do:

Besides the attractions we touched on earlier, there are two more that help put Isafjörður on the map. Golfers can enjoy a round or two on the Isafjörður Golf Corse, the northernmost course on Earth. You can also strap on your skis and head on over to the slopes in Week Fossavatn Skiing and Ski Marathon.

Fossavatn Skiing

There are two large annual music events held here. The first takes place in mid-April and is called “Aldrei fór ég suður” (I never went to the south) http://aldrei.is.

Aldrei fór ég suður

This particular festival travels to a lot of smaller communities throughout Iceland. The other event, the Við Djúpið Music Festival, is held each August, and offers a number of activities besides the music.

If you are looking to beat the cold in winter, we suggest taking a dip in the hot springs found in the area.

This is definitely the place to go if you are looking to get off the Ring Road and find somewhere cool to visit. It may be isolated, but it is beautiful and packed with fun things to see and do.

Ísafjörður Maritime Museum

Travel Guide Iceland Team – Reykjavík (Iceland)