Less than two hours drive from Reykjavik lies the Snæfellsnes peninsula, sometimes known as “Iceland in miniature,” such is the diversity of the landscape. Here are a few examples what you can see on one-day trip out west.
The story goes that there was once a natural bridge there formed by a stone arch. A man who’d been sentenced to death escaped at the last minute and ran over the arch, which collapsed as soon as he’d reached the other side. This was taken as a divine indication of his innocence.
Staðarstaður is a small settlement and parsonage located in the south side of the peninsula. It’s claimed that Ari Þorgilsson lived there in the 12th century and in 1981 a memorial by artist Ragnar Kjartansson was erected.
3. Ytri Tunga
Ytri Tunga is a farm, with a little secret hidden away down by the sea. There’s a gravel road leading toward the farm, but before entering, you can turn right and head for the coastline to find dunes and a white sand beach. The secret of this place is the seals that can be spotted there, sticking their heads up from the water or lying lazily on the rocks just a few metres off the coast.
A romantic, windswept location, this former fishing village sits at the head of the expanse of white sand that backs the Búðavík bay. The settlement, like so many others in this part of the country, was abandoned in the early nineteenth century and today consists of nothing more than a hotel and a church, both situated just a stone’s throw from the ocean. It’s surrounded by the Búðahraun lavafield, rumoured to be home to countless elves.
5. Rauðfeldsgjá Canyon
Fantasy stories abound with tales of hidden passages leading to secret mountain chambers, but the Icelandic fissure known as Rauðfeldsgjá—which allows access to a hidden stream source and damp green chamber—may be one of the closest versions we can see in reality.
Arnarstapi was an important trading post in the past, when it had a much bigger population. Basalt columns, ravines and grottoes surround the Arnarstapi pier. An old path follows the coastline, where you can see old landing places of fishermen, and birds such as the kittiwake, the Arctic tern and the fulmar. If you take a guided tour, you will also hear a ghost story. A sculpture of Bardur Snaefellsas by Ragnar Kjartansson stands by the beach at Arnarstapi.
Hellnar village used to be a major port of call for fishermen, and the busiest centre of fishing in Snæfellsnes. There were also a few farms in and around the village, along with quite a few semi-permanent and short-stay living quarters for seamen and the migrating workforce. Hellnar village can in all probability trace its function as a major port of call back to the Middle Ages, and the oldest written source of it being describes as a fishing port dates back to 1560.
At 75 and 61 m tall, these basalt plugs are a singular sight, rising above the ocean on the southern coast of Snæfellsnes. According to historic accounts, the taller cliff was climbed in 1735, while the smaller one was not climbed until 1938.
Saxhóll is a beautifully formed crater that erupted three to four thousand years ago. The crater rises 109m above sea level.
The Snæfellsjökull volcano is regarded as one of the symbols of Iceland. With its height of 1446m, it is the highest mountain on the peninsula, and has a glacier at its peak (jökull means “glacier” in Icelandic). The volcano can be seen on clear days from Reykjavík, a distance of about 120 km. The mountain is also known as the setting of the novel “Journey to the Centre of the Earth” by the Jules Verne. The area surrounding Snæfellsjökull has been designated one of the four National Parks by the government of Iceland.