You’re going to Iceland! And perhaps you’ve started to do some research and you’ve realized:
Daaaaamn. Iceland has it going on.
You might be thinking to yourself…
Where do I even begin?
When we started to research our own trip to Iceland I was positively overwhelmed by the sheer number of incredible sights and points of interest that this island in the middle of the North Atlantic possessed.
But with only 7 full days in which to explore Iceland, how could I get the most bang for my buck?
How could I see everything Iceland has to offer in the most efficient and smart way possible?
The first thing we did when faced with this conundrum was employ the help and expertise of the fantastic travel service Nordic Green Travel. We opted to take their Iconic Highlights of South & West Iceland self-drive tour and you know what?
Best decision ever.
Not only was this a slick, smooth, and stress-free way to travel Iceland, but our itinerary took us to some of the best that Iceland has to offer. And one of those places?
That would be Snæfellsnes Peninsula, of course!
But what makes it so great, and why was Snæfellsnes such a highlight in our Iceland travels?
To put it simply, Snæfellsnes packs all the incredible highlights of the Icelandic landscape into a bite-sized, easy-to-traverse peninsula! It’s also just a hop, skip, and jump from the capital city of Reykjavík.
One can visit the peninsula in a day or two and see examples of all the incredible and varied landscapes that Iceland has to offer, but in a fraction of the time it would take to say, traverse the entire Ring Road.
It’s just a bit of a no-brainer, if you ask me!
(Don’t get me wrong. Me and the Ring Road will totes be having a rendezvous someday!)
Yes, I definitely think that the peninsula is a must, especially if you have limited time.
After all, you know what they say:
It is Iceland in miniature!
THE SKINNY ON SNÆFELLSNES PENINSULA IN ICELAND
Snæfellsnes is a peninsula in the western region of Iceland. And while it is just 90 km (55 miles) long, it is home to an incredibly diverse array of landscapes and geological phenomenon.
As such, the peninsula has become known as “Iceland in Miniature”, as you can experience the wonderful variety of landscapes Iceland has to offer and in a rather small and concentrated area.
This makes Snæfellsnes a fantastic addition to your itinerary in order to get a true sense of what Iceland is all about and what makes it so stunningly beautiful.
Think of the peninsula as the cliff-notes version of Iceland!
FIRST THINGS FIRST: RENT A CAR AND HIGHTAIL IT TO SNAEFELLSNES
Exploring Snæfellsnes by car is, in my mind, the very best way to see it! You can take as little or as much time as you want and open yourself up to all kinds of discovery and exploration that isn’t listed on your itinerary!
As mentioned, we took a self-drive tour offered through Nordic Green Travel. They laid everything out in an easy-to-read document, providing maps and the logistical information we needed to see not only the well-known highlights on the peninsula but also the hidden gems along our route.
It was in this fashion that we got to experience Snæfellsnes and discover what an incredible place it is!
It truly has it all!
And by all, what do I mean exactly?
THE COOLEST OF GEOLOGICAL ROCK FORMATIONS
These cliffs are a sight to behold! It’s one of those landmark features that doesn’t appear overly large when you approach it from a distance.
Then, you actually hike up next to it.
And you think…
That is indeed a rather tall set of basalt columns.
This is a fun spot to walk around and hike. You’ll feel so perfectly puny next to the large boulders sitting at the feet of these columns.
For an entirely different perspective, you can hike to the top and walk them from above!
Basalt columns are one of the most beautiful geological treats you’ll find in Iceland, and there’s no better spot to get a little taste of them than here!
The Lóndrangar Basalt Cliffs
These cliffs are an arresting sight!
Perched directly on the water’s edge, these ancient basalt volcanic dikes make quite the impression as you wind your way along the peninsula coastline.
Yet another feast for the eyes!
Off the fishing village of Hellnar you’ll find an overlook and this distinctive beauty. One glance and you can see why people flock to this like a moth to a flame!
It’s just so exceptionally cool.
I could have stayed and watched the waves batter the shore here all’ll day long, it’s such a mesmerizing spot!
Alas, our day and explorations had just begun.
MYSTERIOUS LAVA FIELDS
Gosh, isn’t this just exquisite?!
Moss-covered lava fields are such a sight in Iceland. There’s just something about them.
These fields have a saga to tell.
They are keepers of some major secrets, I just know it!
I also think the soft lushness of the moss is such a beautiful juxtaposition to the craggy outcrop of cooled lava upon which it sits.
Like a rebirth of sorts.
Add in a bright blue Icelandic sky backdrop and you’ve got picture porn for dayssss, people!
Yes, lava fields are another beautiful feature of Iceland’s landscape that you will encounter regularly on Snaefellsness. Enjoy their beauty, but please, do not walk on the moss! It’s very delicate and slow-growing, and as such should be handled with the utmost of care.
Even Iceland entertainer and comedian Steindi mentions this in the very funny and enjoyable tourist video “The Hardest Karaoke Song in the World” that Inspired by Iceland put out last year.
You can’t watch this video and not be put in a happier mood!
Plus, it’s full of gorgeous Icelandic scenery.
WATERFALLS FOR THE WIN
Man, I love a waterfall.
Isn’t there just something fantastical and otherworldly about them?
Rest assured that a trip to Snæfellsnes will put you squarely in the path of many a waterfall, and this one in particular?
Well, it just knocked our socks right the heck off!
That’s the thing with Iceland.
Think you can just get in your car and drive from A to B?
Don’t be silly!
Iceland is jam packed with gorgeous distractions like this around every bend!
Keep your schedule loose, people!
You’re going to want to stop and hike beautiful waterfalls like this one, just as we did!
Rauðamelsölkelda Mineral Spring
You’ll also find some quieter and less flashy waterfalls like this one on Snaefellsness, which pack their own kind of punch. This is a serene and fairly secluded gem, and though rather small it quickly became a favorite of our travels.
You know when you visit a spot and you are immediately filled with peace, calm, and contentment?
Rauðamelsölkelda mineral spring was that for us.
And then you have this guy!
Hraunfossar is actually a series of waterfalls that flow from and spring forth from the lava field.
And the result is exceptionally unique.
I’ve never seen anything quite like it!
This is another stunning waterfall to enjoy as you explore the peninsula.
Waterfalls…yet another impressive hallmark of Snæfellsnes peninsula!
Just add it to the long, long list of its attributes, my friend.
SO MANY BEACHES, SO LITTLE TIME
One thing I loved about Snæfellsnes was the variety of beaches we were able to discover and explore.
Looking to spot some seals? You gots to go to Ytri Tunga (aka Seal Beach)! Here you’ll find a “typical” sandy beach with a load of rock formations and hopefully some seals sunning themselves! They’re a joy to watch!
If something a little darker and moodier is your cup o’ tea, you’ll enjoy Djúpalónssandur. Here you’ll find a lovely pathway that winds its way down to the black sand beach. Some wreckage from a boat or vessel still remains on its sands, a reminder of how unforgiving the North Atlantic can be.
This beach is striking and a little on the spooky side too. The best of all worlds, if you ask me!
For someone admittedly not religious, I sure did get a load of enjoyment coming across all the picturesque churches in Iceland.
They are truly everywhere!
Perched atop hills overlooking villages and hidden in the shadows of mountains.
I could not get enough of their quaint charm!
Talk about the perfect muse for some picture-taking!
Lucky for you, Snæfellsnes peninsula is home to one of the most photographed of all churches in Iceland:
One glance above and I think you can see why!
There’s just something so stark and hauntingly beautiful about this little black church with its white door and windows, sitting lonely against the Icelandic mountain backdrop and barren meadow.
Snæfellsness! You really are the gift that just keeps on giving!
I have this thing when I visit a new place.
I like to see it from all angles and perspectives.
From the air?
Naturally. Mountain overlook, anyone?
From the water?
Duh. Let’s get ourselves on a boat and stat!
And definitely from down below!
Is there, like, a cavern we can tour around here?
So obviously I wanted to check out an actual cave when I was in Iceland!
And does Snæfellsnes have one?
This is Miniature Iceland!
Of course it does!
You can take a fantastic tour of Vatneshellir cave during your peninsula explorations, and it won’t set you back terribly time- or cost-wise. This was one of the most reasonably priced of all the tours we took.
If you love geology, and if going through dark ancient lava caves by flashlight sounds like your kind of gig, Vatneshellir has your back!
Such a steady, loyal comrade, that Snæfellsnes!
You can see why you need this peninsula in your life!
You know what I love just as much if not more than a great Icelandic church pic?
A great Icelandic lighthouse pic!
Oh, how I wanted to see this fabulous and unforgettable lighthouse when I was doing my trip research!
I love telling the story of how I asked my Nordic Green Travel agent if he wouldn’t please put “the orange lighthouse” into our trip itinerary?
He was happy to do that, of course.
But not without first telling me that most lighthouses in Iceland are, in fact, orange.
I was going to need to be a tad more specific!
Ahhh, the things you learn! I’m sure I gave him a good chuckle with that one!
Yes, this one is a real beauty, a rising orange beacon sitting atop the rocky outcrop as the sea batters the coast below.
A favorite spot of mine in Iceland forevermore.
You just keep hittin’ it out of the park, Snaefellsness!
THE MOUNTAINS ARE CALLING AND I MUST GO
If you’re looking for perhaps the most iconic of spots in all of Iceland, then you’ve found yourself in the right place if you go to Snaefellsness, because this is home to the very famous Kirkjufell mountain!
Yes, Kirkjufell mountain has adorned the cover of many an Iceland travel book, and has even been featured on Game of Thrones.
It’s a bit of a cinematic star, that Kirkjufell mountain!
It just has all the trappings of a truly beautiful and picturesque spot, and is not to be missed!
I also enjoy the fact that the ambiance at Kirkjufell can change as quickly as the weather in Iceland.
I’ve seen pictures of it under a bright blue Icelandic sky, sun shining brightly overhead and looking full of magic and like something out of a Grimm fairytale.
When we went, however, the skies were rather dark and foreboding, giving Kirkjufell a bit of a menacing, haunting vibe.
Let’s just say it felt like we were getting a bit of a chilly reception!
Kirkjufell was in a mood, y’all.
You’ll just have to go see it for yourself to know what kind of day Kirkjufell is having.
Bring some flowers and chocolate, say you’re sorry, and hope for the best!
CRAZY COOL CRATERS
You’re in the Land of Fire and Ice, where Iceland was built and created years upon years ago through volcanic eruptions.
It’s only fitting, then, that you hike a volcanic crater or two in Iceland while you’re there!
You’ll find several on Snæfellsnes, each beckoning you to climb them.
So go on and do just that!
But be warned.
These craters be mad windy when you reach the top.
Like, lose-your-hat, get-blown-back-to-wherever-you-came-from kind of crazy.
Consider this your Public Service Announcement of this blog post:
Don’t get too close to the edge, and don’t forget your windbreaker!
VOLCANOES AND GLACIERS, OH MY!
It’s worth mentioning that you can also check off “volcano” and “glacier” on your list with one singular visit to glacier-capped stratovolcano Snæfellsjökull on the western end of the peninsula. This is considered a “main attraction” in Iceland and was even the setting backdrop in the novel Journey to the Center of the Earth.
And while we made it to the National Park, we didn’t actually get right up to the volcano itself to take a closer look.
But don’t be like us!
This is a terrific spot to get your adventure on and indulge your inner adrenalin junkie! Tours to and within Snæfellsjökull National Park are offered by numerous travel companies and is a perfect place to try your hand at glacier hiking or ice climbing.
Better yet, zip across the glacier in a snowmobile for maximum endorphin release!
When in Iceland!
ADORABLE FISHING VILLAGES ABOUND
One of my absolute favorite villages that I visited while in Iceland was Stykkisholmur.
Combine a colorful village hugging the sea with warm hospitality and kickass food, and you’ve got Stykkisholmur!
But I have heard wonderful things about all the villages on Snæfellsnes, from Hellnar and Arnarstapi to Ólafsvík and Hellissandur.
After all your sightseeing on Snæfellsnes, don’t forget to settle in for the night in one of its quaint villages.
Walk its streets.
Breathe in the fresh Icelandic air.
Count your blessings.
SNAEFELLSNES PENINSULA: ‘TIS THE WHOLE ENCHILADA
Who’s ready to hit the road and check out the beauty of the incredible and unparalleled Snæfellsnes peninsula?
Go on, raise your hand! Don’t be shy!
It is definitely one of my top recommendations for future travelers to spend a day or two exploring this gorgeous peninsula!
Not only is it an easy drive once you’ve left Reykjavik, but the amount and variety of Icelandic landscapes you can see in a short span of time and in a concentrated space cannot be matched.
Yes, Snaefellsnes definitely has it goin’ on, and as such is a favorite for many Icelanders looking to enjoy a weekend getaway.
And when the locals love it, you know you have a winner.
So get in that car and go, you fool!
With all due respect, I must ask:
What are you waiting for?!
Ready to put Snæfellsnes on your list of places to visit during your trip to Iceland? Perfect! Nordic Green Travel stands by ready to help and can arrange a custom itinerary for you that includes the peninsula and all of its highlights and hidden gems! They also have a number of self-drive tours already available to you, which can be perused here.