From Iceland — Snæfellsnes Road Trip: Seals, Glaciers, Canyons, Caves & More

Snæfellsnes Road Trip: Seals, Glaciers, Canyons, Caves & More

Published April 11, 2019

Photo by
Art Bicnick & John Rogers

Just a couple of hours from Reykjavík lies Snæfellsnes—a long volcanic peninsula containing a wide array of wonders, from black beaches to towering  waterfalls, lava fields, and the mystical  Snæfellsjökull glacier. You can make it there and back in a long day trip, but we’d recommend spending two or three nights in the area to take it all in.

Visit: Ölkelduvatn Mineral Spring & Ytri-Tunga
These two different but equally interesting spots are on the peninsula’s south coast. At Ytri-Tunga, you can park and walk down to the beach to see—if you’re lucky—a seal colony. A few kilometres away is the Ölkelduvatn spring. A humble tap in a patch of farmland, the metallic, slightly sparkling drinking water is said to have health benefits. 

Hike: Rauðgeldsgjá
This narrow, serpentine canyon can be difficult to reach during winter—you’ll see footprints leading over a steep snow bank to get there. But once inside, it quickly becomes apparent why people made the effort. Birds wheel high above, nesting in the bulging rock walls of the crevice, which has a stream burbling down its centre. Just be careful, it’s slippery.

Visit: Hellnar
There are a few villages dotted around the edge of the peninsula, but Hellnar is possibly the prettiest. Down a dirt track and a steep bank, the rocky, boulder-strewn beach has a huge tidal cavern, where the frothing ocean crashes in, surrounded by stunning rock formations. In summer, there’s a picturesque hike along the coastline to nearby Arnarstapi. Not far away, other notable stops are the Londrangar sea stacks and the eerie, wreckage-strewn Djúpalónssandur.

Stay: Hótel Búðir / Freezer Hostel 
For those seeking some luxury, Hotel Búðir is a hotel in a nature reserve on the southern coast of the peninsula. Those on a budget can stay on the northern side at the Freezer Hostel in Rif, which also has a theatre and a cosy bar. Freezer also operates apartments in Hellissandur via AirBnB—their popular studio apartments are particularly nice, with big windows looking out over the ocean. 

Tours: Vatnshellir & Viking Sushi
There are a few adventurous excursions on offer in the area. On the southern edge of Snæfellsnes like the 8,000 year old Vatnshellir lava tube, complete with rock formations, colourful seams, stalagmites and more. Up north in Stykkishólmur, you can embark on a tasty journey with the Viking Sushi boat tour, where fresh scallops and urchins are dredged up and served fresh, right before your eyes. 

Book Viking Sushi Tour

Eat: Bjargarstein
On Grundarfjörður harbour you’ll find this wonderful tucked-away eatery. Don’t let the humble exterior fool you: inside lies a time capsule of Icelandic history with a view out to Kirkjufell. The restaurant serves ambitious renditions of traditional Icelandic fare—try the seafood soup, served in a mini crockpot, which comes teeming with fresh scallops. The veggie options are good, too.

Swim: Stykkishólmur Pool
There are a few pools in small towns around Snæfellsnes, but Stykkishólmur pool jumps out from the pack. With the properties of the mineral-rich water displayed proudly on an information board by the hot pots, you can luxuriate knowing the water is doing you good. And who knows, maybe the slide will be open. The nearby Volcano Museum is an unlikely location to see works by Hokusai and Andy Warhol.

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