Town Guide: The Tranquil Coastal Sanctuary Of Hellnar

Town Guide: The Tranquil Coastal Sanctuary Of Hellnar

Hannah Jane Cohen
Photo by
Art Bicnick

The little village of Hellnar used to be a major port of call and the busiest centre of fishing in Snæfellsnes. While it is less industrious nowadays, it has since grown into a mecca of peaceful picturesque beauty. With perhaps the best views on the southern coast of Snæfellsnes, Hellnar shines humbly under the shadow of Snæfellsjökull. Go for an afternoon or a quiet weekend, you’ll leave rejuvenated and inspired.

Stay: Fosshotel Hellnar

Fosshotel Hellnar was the runner-up this year in the best accommodation category of our Best Of West Iceland awards. The retreat wowed our panel with its tranquil aura, gorgeous patio, and stunning seaside views. Part of the acclaimed Fosshotel chain, it also has a fantastic restaurant if you’re hungry for dinner and an impressive breakfast buffet.

Walk: Arnarstapi to Hellnar

The one hour trek between Arnarstapi and Hellnar often makes those lists of must-do activities in Iceland and for good reason. The leisurely coastal path will have you serenely meandering through bulging lava fields and past stunning ocean outlooks. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for kittiwake, the Arctic tern, and fulmar as you rejoice in the fisherman relics and bird nests that freckle the basalt columns, ravines, and grottos. It’s a truly unforgettable locale.

Eat: Fjöruhúsið

When the sun is out and the clouds are hiding, there is no better seaside view in the country than from the patio of this iconic seaside spot. Facing the Baðstofa rock formation and soundtracked by the echo of nesting birds and the swell of the tide, Fjöruhúsið is a tiny old-timey café that serves up great coffee, cakes, waffles, and seafood soup. Cuddle up with a blanket and treat on the terrace and watch the sunset. Now, aren’t you relaxed?

Visit: Djúpalónssandur

Only 15 minutes drive from Hellnar lies Djúpalónssandur, a notorious black pebble beach which is supposedly both haunted and the location of an elf church. It was the site of a shipwreck that took the lives of fourteen British sailors in 1948, and you’ll still come across rusted metal fragments of the accident dotting the rocks. Feel free to explore the history of the region up close, but make sure not to mess with the wreckage, or with any elves. They’re known for being temperamental.

Pray: Hellnar Church

With a year-round population of fewer than ten people, it’s difficult to say how many people use Hellnar’s church. It’s a somewhat spooky building—the type of small-town church you usually see in horror movies. That said, the strangeness of it only adds to its beauty. Inside, you’ll be met by a bright blue ceiling and chandelier. Make sure to take a stroll around the lumpy cemetery before you sit in the bright red pews. Now say Amen.

Road Trip: Snæfellsnes

A one-day road trip around the Snæfellsnes peninsula, a.k.a. “Iceland In Miniature,” grants you access to essentially every notorious Icelandic topography you’d dream of: think geothermal areas, lava fields, canyons, cliffs, black sand beaches, and, of course, the Snæfellsjökull glacier. Follow Route 54 to circle around the area, and make sure to check out Stykkishólmur—it’s a gem of a coastal fishing village.

Distance from Reykjavík: 188 km

How to get there. Route One North, then Route 54; turn onto Útnesvegur then Hellnavegur

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