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Magical nature

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Magical nature

Snæfellsnes - Iceland in a nutshell
The Snæfellsnes National Park is the only park in Iceland that is situated at the coast. Many ruins and remains of the ancient fishing settlements in the area are to be found in the National Park. Trips to the Snæfellsjökull Glacier are available, and there are daily ferry crossings between Stykkishólmur and Brjánslækur, with a stop in Flatey Island, as well as boat tours from Stykkishólmur around Breiðafjörður Bay. Birdwatching and whale watching tours from Ólafsvík and Grundarfjörður as well as sea-angling.
The geological diversity on Snæfellsnes is unique. The lava fields, craters, mountains and the beautiful coastline with both dark and light sandy beaches are the hiker’s dream. Mineral springs can be found at various places, such as at the farm Ölkelda and at Lýsuhóll, which has a thermal pool with naturally-carbonated water.
There are many extraordinary geological formations within the National Park, a magnificent coastline and bird cliffs. Towering over the Park is Snæfellsjökull glacier, a dormant strato volcano. Along the coastline are relics that reveal the harsh conditions which former generations fought against in order to survive. The Park’s Visitors’ Centre at Hellnar offers information about the Park and guided hiking tours are offered at Hellnar in the summer. Those who are hiking or cycling through the Park may camp for one night only, otherwise camping is not permitted within the boundaries of the National Park.

Snaefellsjokull glacier

The Snæfellsjökull glacier is 1446m above sea level. The glacier is an active volcano, having been built up through numerous eruptions during the last 800,000 years. Many believe the glacier to be one of the seven main energy centres of the earth and its mystique is noticed by many. The glacier plays big role as the Center of the Earth in the novel Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864) by Jules Verne. Snæfellsjökull is a part of the Snæfellsjökull National Park which was established on June 28, 2001. The Park's purpose is to protect and conserve the areas unique landscape, indigenous plant and animal life as well as important historical relics. At the same time, the Park is meant to allow visitors easier as well as improved opportunities to get to know the area.

Kirkjufell mountain

Grundarfjörður's beautiful landmark is the most photographed mountain in Iceland. Its isolated position jutting out into the sea makes it a focal point for tourists and seamen alike. Surrounded by beaches, Kirkjufell has a lovely walking trail around it as well as a more challenging climb up to the top where bird and fish fossils can be found (guide is recommended).

Arnarstapi

Arnarstapi was an important trading post in the past and had a much bigger population than it has now.

Columnar basalt, ravines and grottoes surround the Arnarstapi pier. There is good anchorage for small boats.

There is quite a large arctic tern colony in the village itself. A walk along the coastline is recommended to watch the birds and the magnificent lava formations. The seaside and the cliffs between Arnastapi and Hellnar have been made a Natural Reserve in 1979.

A very interesting old path follows the coastline where you can see old lending places of fishermen, lots of birds, like the kittiwake, the Arctic tern and the fulmar and pass through a lavafield. 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.

Vatnshellir Cave

Exploring Vatnshellir cave is truly amazing and unforgettable experience. This 8000 year old lava tube reaches over 200 meters and goes 35 meters below the surface.

During summer, guided tours are offered from 10am-6pm. During wintertime 2 tours a day are offered. Please check on the website www.vatnshellir.is.

All guests will be equipped with flashlights and helmets.

Hiking shoes and warm clothes reccommended.

10 minute drive west of Arnarstapi. 25 minute drive south of Hellissandur.

Further info: vatnshellir@vatnshellir.is www.vatnshellir.is +354-665-2818

Flatey Island

Beautifully kept old houses in cheerful colours line the dusty path through the settlement of Flatey island. Walk through it, and at the end of the settlement, the path becomes even narrower and more crooked, taking you through a dense population of birds, consisting mainly of Arctic terns. Two families stay on the island throughout the winter, but many more migrate during the summer, mainly for leisure but also to serve tourists.

In a charming way, it feels very much like a movie set. And so it is. Many movies are set on the island, most notably The Honour of the House based on a short story by Nobel Prize winner Halldór Laxness, and White Night Wedding, a movie by Baltasar Kormákur. In fact, Baltasar's father painted the unusual altar piece in the island's church, making it worthy of a visit.

In summertime, a ferry goes to Flatey twice a day from Stykkishólmur and Brjánslækur, and, albeit less frequently, a passenger boat offers connection to Reykhólar.

Djupalonssandur & Dritvik

Djupalonssandur is a beautiful pebbled beach, with a series of rocks of mysterious form emerging from the ocean.

It is one of the few areas that lead down to the sea along this coast with its high dramatic cliffs. Watch out for the famous ghosts roaming the place!

The rests of a shipwreck can be seen on the beach. On the beach there are also big stones which people tried to lift and test their strength in the days of the fishing stations: Fully Strong 154 kg, Half-Strong 100 kg, Weakling 54 kg and Bungler 23 kg. Weakling marked the frontier of wimphood, any man who couldn't lift it was deemed unsuitable for a life as a fisherman.

Breidafjordur

Breiðafjörður is a large shallow bay, about 50 km wide and 125 km long and located in the west of Iceland. It separates the region of the Westfjords (Vestfirðir) from the rest of the country. Breiðafjörður is encircled by mountains, including glacier Snæfellsjökull the Snæfellsnes peninsula on the south side and the West Fjord peninsula to the north. Another interesting feature of the bay is that the northern tip was formed about 15 million years ago, whereas the southern end at Snæfellsnes was formed less than half that time ago.

Londrangar basalt cliffs

Uniquely-formed remnants of ancient basalt volcanic dikes sticking out from the sea.

Londrangar and the hill Svalthufa are the remains of a crater, which has been eroded to its present form by the sea.

The farmers in the area never made or make hay on the hill, because it is said to belong to the elves living in the area.

Younger lava fields surround this old crater ruin. The higher pillar (75m) was first climbed in 1735 and the lower (61 m) in 1938.

Below the hill you may find Thufubjarg cliff where according to a folktale the poet Kolbeinn Joklaskald had an encounter with the Devil.

On these cliffs, puffins and fulmars have their nests.

Saxholl crater

Saxholl is a crater which is easy to climb. There is a great view over the area from the top.

Gerduberg basalt columns

An impressive wall of beautiful basalt columns, forming geometric patterns in the cliffs.

Hellnar

For centuries, Hellnar was among the largest fishing villages beneath the Snaefellsjokull ice cap.

Valasnos, a freestanding rock, extends east of the bay. One of Iceland's most peculiar caves, Badstofa, is there. It is known for its special light exposure and colourful interior.

A cold water spring is to be found at the lava's edge. It is dedicated to the Holy Virgin, because it is said she had appeared here once.

The Hellnar church was built in 1945 on a picturesque site where a church was first raised in 1833.

Hotel, café and visitor´s Centre of the National Park Snæfellsjökull.

Gatklettur - Arch Rock

Gatklettur - Arch Rock - is a cliff with a circular arch. Rock Arch shows how distinctive wave action has eroded the rocks into arches and beautiful swirled patterns.

There is great birdlife around the cliffs and pretty flora surrounding the area.

Bardarlaug pool

Bardarlaug at Hellnar is a crater pool and said to have been the bathing pool of the Bardur Snaefellsas.

This demi-troll, instead of dying like ordinary people, made his home in the Snaefellsjökul glacier according to the local legend. Bardur is the patron of the glacier and was said to have had psychic abilities; e.g. being able to communicate with the hidden people.

A big statue of Bardur by the artist Ragnar Kjartansson can be seen at Arnarstapi.

Drapuhlidarfjall Mountain

Drapuhlidarfjall Mountain is beautifully colourful. It is composed of sulphur, basalt, jasper, rhyolite and lignite. As usual with lignite deposits, fossiled plants and petrified wood can be found. Drapuhlidarfjall is 527 m high.

Fiskibyrgi

Near Gufuskalar on the uttermost part of the Snaefellsnes peninsula, there was one of the many winter fisher villages consistant in Iceland in former times.

If you come from Hellnar and look at the lava fields at your right, you may disover the ruins of some 200 very small stone buildings which were used to dry and stock the fish. Their age is estimated at 500-700 years.

It is a 10 minutes walk from the road to one of the ruins which is still in so good condition that you can crawl inside. There, to your surprise, you may find the ceiling high enough for an adult to stand upright.

Helgafell Holy Mountain

Holy Mountain, 73 m with a breathtaking panoramic view across Breiðafjordur Bay. A viewing dial is at the top.

Folklore advises anyone climbing the mountain for the first time to walk straight up without looking back or speaking and three wishes will be granted. The wishes have to be of good intent and the wisher tells no one and faces east when making them.

A small remnant of a wall on the mountain top is dated 1184 and was a part of a nearby monastery built at this time.

Olkelda mineral spring

At the farm Olkelda, near Stadarstadur, in the south of Snaefellsnes, there is a mineral spring with carbonated water.

Mineral springs are said to have healing properties, so feel free to take a sip.

The farmhouse is named Olkelda which means mineral spring in Icelandic.

Ytri Tunga

The beach near the farm Ytri-Tunga is a well-known seal colony. The best time to see seals there is in June and July.

West Iceland

Towns & Villages

The population centres in West Iceland are as varied as they are many. Ten places have over 50 residents and Akranes is the most densely populated with 6,500 inhabitants. 

All of the larger communities put ever-increasing emphasis on dynamic tourism where a wide selection of recreation and services are offered.   

Explore map by categories

Map Hellissandur, Rif Grundarfjörður Stykkishólmur Búðardalur Dalir Arnarstapi Hellnar Snæfellsnes Bifröst Húsafell Reykholt Borgarfjörður Hvanneyri Borgarnes Hvalfjörður Akranes Ólafsvík