Daytrip to Snæfellsnes peninsula

We heard that Snæfellsnes peninsula is one of the most beautiful places in Iceland. So we headed there on our first day to judge it for our selves. It is currently winter here so we have only 6 hours of daylight, the weather is unpredictable and our Icelandic friends discouraged us to go there for just a day. But we proved them wrong :)

Beautiful Snaefellsnes
Round trip from Reykjavik to Snaefellsnes is about 500 km long which means about 6 hours of driving, all the stops added another 6 hours. Days are short here, it starts getting bright at 9:30 and is totally dark at 18:30. So we headed out early to drive during the night and use the daytime for sightseeing and enjoying.  

What can be seen and done in one day:

First intriguing thing on the way from Reykjavik is the underwater tunnel Hvalfjarðargöng. It's 6km long and is at the beginning so steep that I thought we are descending into the Earths core :)
All jokes aside it is quite expensive, the toll is 1000ISK, which is about 8EUR, but it's totally worth is, since it saves you an hour of driving around the fjord Hvalfjörður.

Right after coming out of the tunnel we were greeted by a group of Icelandic horses! Later we saw that those cute animals are almost everywhere, along the roads but behind the fences. It seemed to us that horses are quite used to tourists petting and feeding them, since they came running towards us, as soon as they had seen us.
Icelandic horses in their fluffy winter coats


First real stop for sightseeing we did at hexagonal basalt columns, Gerðuberg. This is actually about 2km long cliff, up to 50m high and consists of thousands of  hexagonal columns. Well, I have to say that the rocks here must have been really old, since the hexagonal shape is not easily recognized, but the interesting part is how the rock are breaking - in vertical lines and then falling down like a huge discs. We also climbed up to the top of this cliff and the view from there is amazing: towards the north you can see mountains covered with snow and towards the south there is huge lava filed.

This is supposed to be the longest such cliff in the country
Hexagonal shape can be seen here!
View from the top of the cliff: our small car and lava field

Further we drove to Helgafell mountain near Stykkisholmur on the northern shore of Snaefellsnes peninsula. Well, it is called mountain in the guidebooks, but with a height of only 72m it's just a hill! Anyways at the parking lot, where the paths towards the top starts, there is a sign, saying it's a challenging trail. Hmmm, 5 minutes of walking and we were on the top! The only challenge was how not to get muddy on the way :)

But Helgafell is worth seeing and climbing because it means a holy mountain in Icelandic and it was believed that dead souls climbed this very mountain and went into afterlife through it. So, mountain is believed to be special, with superpowers: if you climb it in silence (no talking!) and you do not turn back on the way, you can make 3 wishes on the top and the mountain will fulfill them. But beware, there is another trick to it! You have to face east, when making wishes and you are not allowed to tell your wishes to anyone.

Sign says that the path is challenging ... good joke :)

Suggested donation
Where is east?
Typical Katarina - doing poses on the top of the mountain
Our next stop was a small town of Grundarfjörður, from where you can see the most photographed mountain in Iceland, Kirkjufell. Why is it the most photographed? No idea! May be because it's separated from the rest of the ridge, sticking out to the ocean? For the interesting part was how this 463m high mountain was formed: different ages, different layers of rocks - one of them is sediment layer, where different fish fossils can be found. Oh, and the shape of the mountain is thought to resemble a church - that's where the name comes from: kirkja means church in Icelandic.

Since we are hikers by heart, we'd love to climb this mountain, but the weather just wasn't cooperating with us: strong wind was bringing more and more clouds and occasional rain. Too bad! May be next time.

Famous Kirkjafell
The shores and the ocean of the town Grundarfjordur are know for whales. Especially in winter, you are able to see some killer whales off shore! We didn't bring binoculars, so no orcas for us. In the surroundings there is also a very nice waterfall Grundarfoss, but unfortunately it was all fenced, so we couldn't come really close to it.

Trying to reach the watefall

From Grundarfjörður we drove further towards west and the road comes close to Atlantic - and this is where the views are just amazing: on the left side there were black rocks and thousands of waterfalls, while on the right side was ocean with strong waves coming on nice sandy beaches.

At the very end of peninsula is Snæfellsjökull National Park, our favorite place of the whole trip. In the middle of the park is huge glacier and under it a 1446m high volcano, which is actually responsible for the formation of surrounding landscape. Where the mountain ends, there is lava filed: hostile with black rocks scattered randomly around, some already overgrown with green moss, which gives some friendliness to this landscape. And along the coast there are some really nice sand beaches, black cliffs and wild rocky beaches ... but common to all of them are high waves and strong wind. When we were at Öndverðanesviti lighthouse some sun came out and a minute later also extremely strong wind started to blow. It was so strong, that I couldn't stay still, it was moving me! And with a strong wind also extremely high waves came! We have never see such waves, so much power hitting the cliffs. It was scary, but amazing. And then the rainbow formed. Beautiful rainbow right next to the lighthouse ... a moment of peace and harmony in this wild nature.

The only 5 minutes of sun that day
Wild Atlantic
Last thing we visited on this roadtrip were two basalt pillars, Londrangar. The higher one is 75m and the other a bit less - 61m. Both standing there proud and being hit by the ocean and the winds, who actually formed them ... and now slowly destroying them.

Pillars in the distance
Our plan was also to visit Vatnshellir lava cave - a tube that was formed by lava flowing through this area. The outer part of lava stream (the one that was in contact with the air) hardened earlier than the inner part. So the liquid inner part kept flowing and leaving an empty tube behind. It must be very interesting, but due to our bad planing, we missed the last tour in the cave (which is already at 15h).

To conclude: Snaefellsnes is truly beautiful and worth the long drive from Reykjavik. If you have more time and nicer weather, we suggest spending 2 days there, but as we proved, it is possible to visit it in a day and still have fun and enjoy the sights.

One of most beautiful sights in Snaefellsnes peninsula



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