The southern coast of Snæfellsnes is all-too-often ignored, in favour of the more popular Stykkishólmur or even Ólafsvík, both on the north shore. But Snæfellsnes’ south coast is absolutely breathtaking, and it seems more and more people are discovering just that.
Take, for example, Hótel Hellnar. Located in the tiny but awesomely named village of the same name on the southwest coast of Snæfellsnes, it offers what’s possibly the most ideal view in the region—something the hotel takes full advantage of. Maríus Sverrisson, who runs the place and was our gracious host, explained that the hotel had been newly renovated, and it does indeed have that new hotel feel to it. Part of those renovations included making the sea-facing windows so huge you can practically feel the ocean breeze.
“There’s a special energy to this place”, Maríus told me. “You maybe don’t notice it when you’re here, but when you go back to the capital, you feel this stress starting to sink in. Here, you can really relax”. Some attribute this energy to Snæfellsjökull, which sits on top of a mountain and is considered, in New Age circles, to be one of the Earth’s major power centres. Whether you believe this to be the case or not, there’s no question that walking near the shore, just down the hill from the hotel, definitely soothed our road-jangled nerves.
New Age folks aren’t apparently the only ones with a spiritual claim to the area, however. Maríus pointed out that about a hundred metres away, a shrine to the Virgin Mary was set up—odd for a decidedly Lutheran country. We decided to check it out. What we found was a small white statue of the Virgin Mary, standing on a small platform placed into the side of a hill, overlooking a small, stagnant, stone-ringed pool of water. An inscription at the foot of the statue informs the visitor that the Virgin Mary appeared on this spot in the year 1230, Bishop Guðmundur Arason asked her to bless the water at this spot, and the statue was put in place in 1989. We were told that some Christian pilgrims had been at the site just hours before, but they seemed to have cleared out.
After a truly inspired dinner featuring fresh cod, seafood soup, and a cheesecake made from skyr (tastes the same, but it’s lighter, and easier on the stomach), we took a walk down a path to the shore. The beach here consists mostly of large, round stones which were easy to walk on. There, we found an ideal spot—a natural cave carved into the cliffside by sea and wind. It made for a really nice spot to sit, drink and stare at the sea, even providing us shelter when it began to rain. It’s the kind of spot you’d miss if you weren’t looking for it, and exactly the spot we wanted to find.
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