If you have time to visit only one place outside of Reykjavik, Snæfellsnes Peninsula should be the place. If you’re driving around the country, leave at least one day for this peninsula. If you have more than a week to explore this beautiful country, give Snæfellsnes Peninsula a good chunk of your time. The hardest part about visiting Iceland for me was feeling like I had to continue on to the next great thing, never spending enough time to explore the nooks and crannies of every town or national park. I think this is what I liked most about our trip to Ireland last summer. Instead of driving the whole country like every blogger had suggested, we stayed put in one hotel and only explored what was within a days drive from our base camp. This is what I wish we had done in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Instead, we gave into all of the blogger suggestions with Iceland and decided to drive around the country, spending the night in a different place every night.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Iceland is a magical country and it really is worth seeing all of the island at some point. But if I could go back and do it again, I would have done it differently, instead opting to stay put in Snæfellsnes for a half the trip and Vik or Hofn for the other half. However, whether driving around the country or staying put in one place, Snæfellsnes Peninsula should be on everyone’s Iceland itinerary. This part of the country won my heart over and became hands down my favorite place in Iceland. You could spend days just exploring this one peninsula (and I recommend you do!).
First of all, let’s just talk about the views from the road. Snæfellsnes is covered in green, mossy lava fields. This lava is what makes the coastline so magnificent, the water so much bluer, and the contrast between light and dark that much better. There is a road into Snæfellsnes that is completely paved, but of course our GPS took us onto a single lane dirt road for about 30 kilometers. While this added about 45 minutes to our trip due to slower speeds, stopping for oncoming traffic, and pausing for sheep families crossing the road, we really got to see some true Icelandic countryside. Plus, I love sheep. And they were everywhere. This little family had just finished crossing the road when Henry rolled down the window and baa’d at them. He even got a response from the little lambs. The adults heard him for what he really was – an imposter – but we still got their attention.
Once you reach the coastline and start driving along the water, waterfalls along the mountainside start popping up. There aren’t a ton of car pull-offs along the road, so we made sure to stop every time one came along. The roads are narrow and usually only have one lane going in each direction, so it is definitely not safe to stop in the middle of the road to snap a picture. We pulled over at one pull out and then hiked nearby to take in the sites (below). I love the ocean and could walk along it all day, every day. And the waterfalls only made the walk sweeter.
Perhaps the most popular and photogenic place on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is Kirkjufell mountain, partly because it’s one beautiful mountain but also because it’s neighboring waterfall is positioned in such a way as to serve as one of the most picture perfect sites in all of Iceland.
Kirkjufell is definitely a tourist site and while everyone who makes it to Snæfellsnes Peninsula should stop there, it shouldn’t be the only thing you see on the peninsula. In fact, if there’s one place in all of Iceland that is a must-visit place, I’d say it is Snæfellsjökull National Park located at the very end of the peninsula. This beautiful park offers some of the most beautiful and dramatic coastline I’ve ever seen.
The first National Park in Iceland and the only one in the country to stretch from the ocean to the mountain tops, Snæfellsjökull is drop dead gorgeous. We didn’t have time to visit the namesake glacier or active volcano, which tend to be the biggest draws to the park. Instead, we opted to explore the miles of trails through volcanic rock to take in the views of this magnificent seashore. Visitors may recognize parts of the park for its starring role in films like Journey to the Center of the Earth.
There are plenty of pull-offs in the park where you can take a walking trail in every direction – down to the beach, through the lava fields, or along the coastal cliffs. Once you’ve had your fill, travel onward to Arnastapi beach and Hellnar. From here, you not only get great views, but more trails that lead you through similar and equally stunning landscapes as in Snæfellsjökull National Park.
There is so much more you could do on this peninsula if you stay in the area. You can walk through lava caves, hike the Snæfellsjökull glacier, and go hunting for waterfalls. But even if you’re just on a day trip from Reykjavik, Snæfellsnes, and more specifically Snæfellsjökull National Park, really should not be missed.