There’s so much to see in Iceland that it’s nearly impossible to plan one tour to encompass all the sites. But we think that we’ve managed it with our trips to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula! This little strip in the West is often called “the mini-Iceland,” as it combines so many diverse attractions in one location. From exceptional beaches and unique lava formations (both above the ground and underneath), to majestic mountains and natural hot springs, Snaefellsnes has it all. If you’re looking to see the best of Iceland in one day, we’ve got you covered.
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is located in Western Iceland, halfway between Reykjavik and the Westfjords. This famous peninsula stretches 56 mi (90 km) and hosts Snaefellsjökull National Park. Easily reached from Reykjavik, it only takes a couple of hours to drive from the capital.
Our Snaefellsnes and Kirkjufell day tour picks you up from Reykjavik and takes you to explore the most extraordinary sights of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. This tour is ideal for those seeking to see the very best of Iceland in just one day.
One of the highlights of Snaefellsjokull National Park is Snæfellsjökull Glacier. “Snæfell” means “Snowy Mountain” and “Jökull” is “Glacier.”
Snæfellsjökull is a 700,000-year-old glacier-capped stratovolcano, dormant for nearly 2,000 years. Among geologists, a volcano is considered active if it’s been less than 10,000 years since its last eruption, meaning that Snæfellsjökull remains an active volcano. Snæfellsjökull is located on the most western part of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. On a clear day, the giant 4,744-ft (1,446-m) mountain can be seen all the way from Reykjavik, nearly 75 mi (120 km) away.
Snæfellsjökull is one of the most famous mountains in Iceland. Jules Verne portrayed the volcano in his novel Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864). In the novel, Snæfellsjökull has the entrance to a passage that leads to the center of the Earth.
Djúpalónssandur is a unique beach at the foot of Snæfellsjökull covered in smooth black stones and impressive lava formations of all shapes and sizes. Strong winds and mighty waves polished the black rocks over the centuries and turned them into Djúpalónsperlur – the Pearls of Djúpalón. The beach also harbors pieces of a British fishing trawler that was tragically shipwrecked in 1948. The iron pieces are protected and lay on the beach as a memorial to the lost fishermen.
One of the most popular activities at Djúpalónssandur is four different sized stones sitting on the beach. They were used to measure a fishermen’s strength and weigh from 50 lbs (23 kg) to 342 lbs (154 kg). If a fisherman wasn’t able to lift the 119 lbs (54 kg) stone, he wasn’t allowed to work on a fishing boat as a rower.
One of the first stops for those visiting the peninsula is the Ytri Tunga beach. Located on the south coast of the peninsula, the shoreline is just a short walk away from a nearby parking lot. Unlike most of Iceland’s iconic black sand beaches, this one has golden sand. It’s a perfect place for seal watching. These cute animals reside in the area throughout the year, but summer is the best time to catch a glimpse of the friendly local colony. Spot them hauling themselves out of the water and lolling about, as the harbor seals enjoy playing around the rocks that stick out from the water.
Snaefellsnes has a number of charming villages well worth a visit. The picturesque fishing village of Arnarstapi was once a significant trading port when Denmark ruled Iceland. You can still see the Danish influence reflected in the architecture of the village. Since then, Arnarstapi’s population has significantly shrunk and tourism has become its main industry. It’s now a popular spot among travelers who are about to enter the Snaefellsjokull National Park.
Grundarfjörður is another charismatic village, sitting in the shadow of the Kirkjufell Mountain. It was once a prosperous fishing town and is now loved by travelers from all over the world that come here to capture the mountain. The small town delights visitors with picturesque hiking and horse riding trails. It also has a golf course and is an ideal spot for whale watching in the early summer. Orcas, also known as killer whales, regularly frolic in its waters. They travel in family groups, so if you catch sight of one, there’s a good chance there are more nearby!
While there’s no doubt Snaefellsnes has amazing sights above ground, it’s no less impressive beneath! The Vatnshellir Lava Cave is a 650-ft-long (200-m) lava tube stretching 115 ft (35m) below the surface. The cave is located in the Purkhólahraun lava field that erupted around 8,000 years ago. Vatnshellir is easily accessible via a winding staircase that leads to the cave. It’s a truly unique experience to walk so deep into the Earth underneath an active volcano, surrounded by colorful lava formations. Escape the chaotic noise of the modern world and travel down into an ancient sanctuary, where the only sound that you’ll hear is the soft trickle of water.
Pyramid-shaped mountains, fjords, and green-moss covered dark lava rocks make for a truly impressive picture. Imagine it all stretched out in front of you - that’s Berserkjahraun lava field. Formed around 4,000 years ago, the field has two large craters. Rauðkúla (the Red Crater) is 1243-ft (379-m) wide, and Grákúla (the Grey Crater) stretches 692 ft (211 m). Berserkjahraun’s name comes from the Icelandic legend Eyrbyggja Saga, and means “Berserker’s Lava Field.” According to the saga, a farmer hired two berserkers from Sweden and gave them to his brother Víga-Styr, who lived on the other side of the lava field. One of the Swedes fell in love with Víga-Styr’s daughter and asked for her hand in marriage. The man agreed to give his blessing if the berserkers cleared a path between the brothers’ farms. The Swedes completed the seemingly impossible task in no time. However, instead of keeping his word, Víga-Styr killed the berserkers and buried their bodies near the path. You can find landmarks that tell the saga’s story along the path.
When it comes to the best destinations for photographing Iceland, Snaefellsnes is certainly at the top of the list.
One of the most photographed mountains in Iceland, Kirkjufell, sits on the northern shore of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. With Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall by its side, and scenery that dramatically changes each season, the mountain offers some of the best pictures in the world! The name Kirkjufell translates to Church Mountain. Reaching up 1,519 ft (463 m), the peak has long served as a landmark for seafarers. Experienced climbers can ascend Kirkjufell (preferably with a guide) and enjoy breathtaking views of the sea, meandering rivers, and endless fields. Game of Thrones fans will recognize Kirkjufell from Seasons 6 and 7 of the show. The HBO series used the iconic landmark as a shooting location for some of the scenes that occur “Beyond the Wall.”
You’ve probably already seen pictures of the black church of Budir (Búðakirkja). This beautiful little sanctuary stands in the small hamlet of Búðir and overlooks a large lava field. It’s located near the main road between the Ytri Tunga beach and the village of Arnarstapi. Once a fishing village with a large port, it now consists of a hotel and the church. The original chapel was built in 1703, but its parish was dismissed a century later on the orders of the Danish King Christian VIII. The church was rebuilt in 1849. Some of the original details were saved and incorporated into the new construction. It’s now a beloved spot of photographers from all over the world.
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula has a few natural mineral springs, including Rauðamelsölkelda and the geothermal mineral water pool, Lýsuhólslaug. One of the lesser-known spots is Ölkelduvatn Mineral Spring. The ground around the spring is red because of iron, and the water is carbonated. The water has been tested and is safe to drink. It contains a lot of beneficial minerals, such as iron, calcium, and potassium to name but a few. Feel free to fill up your bottle!
Landbrotalaug hot spring may not be easy to find, but it’s definitely worth the hunt! Follow Road 54 after passing the Eldborg Crater, and turn onto the dirt road with the sign “Stóra Hraun.” Simply follow the road and it will take you to the relaxing hot water spring. Landbrotalaug is rather small and can fit only about two people at once. But it’s quiet and off the radar. Travelers often find it empty and get to enjoy it all by themselves. Once you lower yourself into the hot water, take a look around for an unparalleled view of the snow-capped mountains that punctuate the horizon in front of you. Here’s what it’s all about: that magical feeling of being completely at one with nature.
Still got questions about Snaefellsnes Peninsula? Find the answer here!
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is best reached by car. You can either rent a car or choose one of our tours that will pick you up from Reykjavik.
One full day is enough to visit the most famous sights of the peninsula. However, if you wish to spend more time at each sight, you should allow yourself more time.
There are a number of hotels, hostels, guest houses, farms, and lodges around the area. Most of them are based in the local villages. There’s a good selection of camping sites offering scenic views.
The area is open for tourists all year round. It’s significantly colder in the winter, but the views make up for the cold! Roads do get covered in snow. If you’re not comfortable driving in these conditions, we offer tours to Snaefellsnes in any season.