The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

Snæfellsnes peninsula in the west part of Iceland is one of my favourite places to visit, it is a truly magical place with so many interesting, beautiful sights. It is only a couple of hours drive from Reykjavík, so I visit it often.

Snæfellsnes peninsula and the Westfjords of Iceland are among the few locations in Iceland with golden and pink beaches, we Icelanders are used to our beaches being black lava sand beaches. The beauty there is just breathtaking. You will see stretches of lava fields, amazing gorges and waterfalls, lovely villages, each of which has got its own museum - even a Shark museum where one can taste cured shark!

I will take you on a tour of the peninsula, coming from Reykjavík and driving on the south-coast of Snæfellsnes. This is not a complete guide of the peninsula, just a reference guide in chronological order to many of the interesting sights I visit when I travel around the peninsula.  There are so many interesting sights on Snæfellsnes that I ended up writing 5 long blogs, plus side-blogs!

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

As Snæfellsnes is such a historical peninsula, and I love writing about folklore and trolls and elves, then I will refer to several additional blogs, where I have written in detail about these stories.

The main attraction on Snæfellsnes is Snæfellsjökull glacier, which is a dormant strato-volcano, 1446 m high with a ca 200 m deep crater. Snæfellsjökull glacier towers over the National park of Snæfellsnes at the far west end of the 90 km long peninsula.  There are a lot of interesting stories connected to the glacier, and it is believed to be the meeting place of extra-terrestrials.  Some people believe it to be one of the seven chakras (energy centres) in the world.

You will notice the strange vortex cloud in the photo of the glacier and the sheep.  This cloud looks like a spaceship and one evening I was in the summer cottage of my aunt at Hellnar and we watched as endless such strangely shaped clouds appeared on the sky heading in the direction of the glacier - it truly looked like a spaceship convention :)

All the while visiting the interesting places on the Snæfellsnes peninsula you may be aware of the glacier's magnetic energies. Many people have a hard time sleeping while visiting Snæfellsnes, including me, due to these magnetic energies from the glacier.  

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

Jules Verne wrote an interesting science fiction Journey to the Centre of the Earth in 1864 about a group of scientists, who ventured into the crater of Snæfellsjökull glacier.  Remember the movie, Journey to the Centre of the Earth from 2008, starring Brendan Fraser?  Parts of it were filmed here by the glacier and his female co-star, Anita Briem, is Icelandic. 

Snæfellsjökull volcano hasn't erupted for ca 1,800 years, but one never knows when the next eruption is going to take place.  And you might even meet the half-troll half-man Bárður Snæfellsás, who was one of the settlers of Snæfellsnes, but he disappeared into Snæfellsjökull ice cap after a family tragedy and has since been the Protector of Snæfellsnes.

Now let's start our journey - which I will be adding to with time when I visit more interesting sights on the peninsula.  We drive west on the southern part of Snæfellsnes peninsula and follow road 54.

Gerðuberg columnar basalt 

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

Gerðuberg is my first stop.  Gerðuberg is such a beautiful belt of basalt columns - like a long man-made wall.  The highest basalt columns are ca 10-14 meters. The basalt columns are very even, 1-1.5 m.  

Seeing that Iceland is a volcanic island then we have many beautiful basalt formations in Iceland, but at Gerðuberg you will see one of the longest basalt column belts in Iceland.

It is possible to walk up to the basalt columns and get some good photos and there is a path leading up to the top of the columns.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

Gerðuberg is not by the main road and that is why so many people miss it, but it is so worth it seeing these huge basalt columns up close. It is located on the southern side of the Snæfellsnes peninsula off road 54.

Turn right onto a gravel road by the sign Gerðuberg (opposite the road on 54 is road no 567, but I haven't seen a road number for the road leading up to Gerðuberg.  The road is a gravel road, but there are only a couple of kilometre's drive up to Gerðuberg and you will find parking beneath the basalt columns.

Rauðamelsölkelda mineral spring

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

In Snæfellsnes there are several natural mineral springs, including my favourite, Rauðamelsölkelda, where one can drink fresh carbonated water coming straight from the ground.  If you continue up the road from Gerðuberg and drive to the end of the gravel road you will find Rauðamelsölkelda.

Rauðamelsölkelda is one of the best known natural mineral springs in Iceland as the water from it is so light and refreshing.  It is also believed to have healing properties. The hike up to Rauðamelsölkelda is through a lava field and there is a small waterfall in this beautiful area.

Ölkelda mineral spring

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

There is another mineral spring at Ölkelda, which is quite different from Rauðamelsölkelda and the water tastes differently. 

Ölkelda was built up in 1904 by the farmer at Ölkelda farm. Before that time it welled up from a hole in the ground. It is believed that the water has health benefits and it has been used by the farmers at Ölkelda for centuries.

Ölkelda is just a short distance from road 54 on the south side of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. If you are driving west on the peninsula then you turn right on road 571 and drive for a very short distance. Here you can see the location on a map.

I have written an additional blog on natural mineral springs on the Snæfellsnes peninsula where you can get more information on these mineral springs.  As always let's respect these wonders of nature and leave them as we found them for others to enjoy.

Staðastaður historic site

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

Staðastaður is one of the historic sites on the Snæfellsnes peninsula.  Ari Fróði Þorgilsson (1067-1148) - Ari the Wise,  lived and served as a priest at Staður at Ölduhryggur, which is now called Staðastaður.

Ari the Wise has been called the father of Icelandic historiography as he is best known for writing Íslendingabók or the Book of Icelanders, which tells us about the early history of Icelanders.  Íslendingabók is actually the first written work of history in Iceland from the Settlement of Iceland until 1118.  Ari the Wise wrote Íslendingabók over a period of ten years, from 1122-1132.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

There is a memorial - a big concrete cross - in memory of Ari Fróði at Staðastaður.  It was made by the sculptor Ragnar Kjartansson in 1981.  Ragnar has created several monuments on Snæfellsnes, for example the one of Bárður Snæfellsás at Arnarstapi and the monument on drowned fishermen at Hellissandur.

Written on the cross is "En hvatki er missagt er í fræðum þessum þá er skylt að hafa það heldur sem sannara reynist" meaning that if anything proved to be wrong in his writings then it must be corrected.

On the back of the cross is written what Snorri Sturluson had to say about Ari Fróði "Ari hinn Fróði Þorgilssonar Gellissonar ritaði fyrstur manna hér á landi að norrænu máli fræði bæði forna og nýja. Snorri Sturluson" - Ari the Wise Þorgilsson, the son of Gellir was the first man in Iceland to write in Old Norse both old and new studies (instead of Latin RHR).

There is a vicarage at Staðastaður and the current concrete church, was built in 1942-1945.  It was closed at the time of my visit. 

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

There is a well know Icelandic novel written by the Icelandic Nobel price winner, Halldór Kiljan Laxness.  It is called Kristnihald undir Jökli or Under the Glacier.  The setting of the novel is at and around Staðastaður.

Staðastaður is only a very short drive from road 54.  You will see the church at Staðastaður ahead as you drive west on the peninsula.  It is a beautiful sight when the church stands tall with Snæfellsjökull glacier in the background.

Seal-spotting at Ytri-Tunga

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

Ytri-Tunga is a very popular beach for seal-spotting as a seal-colony resides here, as it were.  The main season for seal-spotting is in June and July but I have seen the seals in the winter months as well.  I love spotting seals, they are so beautiful and curious and often they follow me when I am walking on the beach. You can even see them in Reykjavík and I often saw them on a beach in Grafarvogur suburb, where I used to live.

You can see both the common seal and the grey seal at Ytri-Tunga, but the grey seal is bigger than the common seal. The seals you will see on top of rocks or on the beach are usually the common seals.  On the information sign below, which is by the parking lot at Ytri-Tunga, you will see the difference between these 2 seals, the one to the left is the common seal and the one to the right is the grey seal. 

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

My photos are from my visit in October to Ytri-Tunga.  I saw the heads of some big seals, but I didn't bring my zoom camera with me, so I didn't get any good photos of the seals. But if you look up the google photos from Ytri-Tunga then you can see what the seals look like. 

To get to Ytri-Tunga from the main road (54) you turn left and drive a short distance towards the farm.  There is a ca 10-minute walk on a golden beach to the main seal-spotting location, which you can see on my photos. On the way be on the lookout for seals as they are swimming all around in the sea.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

Here you can see the location of Ytri-Tunga on the map.

Golden beaches by Langaholt

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

Snæfellsnes peninsula is one of only few places in Iceland where the beaches are golden.  

I love camping at Langaholt, which is located almost next to a beautiful golden beach with a lot of colourful pebbles. I come here mainly for a special type of crystal pebbles which I collect.  But also for the sheer natural beauty of this place.

The campground is very popular amongst Icelanders and the kids jump into the cold sea on warm days here. On a sunny summer day this is the place to be.  To us Icelanders spending time on this golden beach feels like we have gone abroad for the day.  

Many of our visitors want to see the black lava beaches as they are so used to golden beaches, but we Icelanders are so used to black beaches that we seek out golden beaches.  It was not until I first went to a beach in Italy when I was 11 years old that I realised that not all beaches are black :)

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

There is a fantastic view of the magical Snæfellsjökull glacier from here and my favourite photo of Snæfellsnes is of the golden beach, the blue sea and the white glacier in the background.

Just a word of warning - bring a stick or an umbrella with you to the beach if you visit this area in the summer time during the nesting period of the Arctic tern.  You will notice a lot of Arctic tern flying incessantly back and forth to the sea and returning with a fish in their beak to feed to their chicks waiting in their nest.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

This area is the nesting site of the Arctic tern and a cranky bird or two have been known to attack people on their way to the beach and on the beach. They will attack the highest point so keep the stick above your head.  In my photo above you can see me ducking with a stick after this darn bird attacked me - in the middle of the night!

My photo above is taken after midnight in August, but during the bright summer nights it is wonderful taking a walk in Icelandic nature.   This is the time when you will be totally alone with nature - it is so still and the only sounds that can be heard are the sounds of nature and the birds singing - just heavenly.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

You might encounter people riding the Icelandic horses (not ponies) on the beach and once I saw this beautiful sight on the beach.  The Icelandic horses are direct descendants of the horses which the Vikings brought with them to Iceland.  Here you can see the location of Langaholt on the map.

Lýsuhólslaug mineral water pool

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

Lýsuhólslaug is a geothermal mineral water pool. When camping by the golden beach at Langaholt I always visit Lýsuhólslaug. 

There is pure carbonated geothermal mineral water in the pool coming straight from the earth and no chemicals are added to the water, so it is as natural as can be. It can get pretty green at times when green tinge floats in the water and fastens itself to the walls of the pool, but that is nature for you.  The water is claimed to be very healthy and healing.

The pool is only open in summer time, but at Lýsuhóll farm there is accommodation and horse-riding.  Here you can see the location of Lýsuhólslaug pool on the map.

Bjarnarfoss waterfall

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

By now we have reached Bjarnarfoss waterfall, which is close to the road by the junction of roads 54 and 574.

There is a legend connected to Bjarnarfoss and it got its name from the farmer Bjarni, who lived here at Foss ages ago.  Bjarni was a wealthy farmer who owned a large number of cattle. He allowed the cattle of other farmers to graze on his land.

One winter's day during a blizzard a vagrant sought shelter at Bjarni's farm. Bjarni refused to let him in and made him feel unwelcome. The vagrant swore that Bjarni would regret behaving like this. Next summer Bjarni found all of his grazing cattle dead, but the cattle of the other farmers were unharmed.

Bjarni got struck by other misfortune until he went crazy and threw his money into the waterfall, which from then on got the name Bjarnarfoss waterfall.

If you want to see Bjarnarfoss waterfall up close there is a road leading up to the farm.  The waterfall is on private property so we should get the permission from the farmer.  We don't want to disturb him constantly though, so the Icelandic Tourist Board advises us to leave the car by an old bridge on the old highway and walk up to the waterfall by the river. You can see this route to Bjarnarfoss on the map.

I have never been up that road as I think it is lovely to admire Bjarnarfoss at a distance. But I want to walk up to it next summer to see the basalt columns and the natural mineral springs.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

I have heard that there is a fjallkona - the Queen of the Mountains formation in the waterfall. They say it looks like there are mist veils falling on her shoulders and bosom and that she can best be seen from the road leading down to Búðir and from Fróðárheiði heath.

Now we are at crossroads, but there is no doubt in my mind where to go next - to the beautiful and romantic Búðir.  Take road 574, Útnesvegur road, to the left which will take you around the peninsula.  If you carry on driving on the main road 54, Snæfellsnesvegur road, it will take you across Fróðárheiði heath and straight to Ólafsvík town.  But we are going on a tour around the peninsula.

Búðir and Búðahraun lava field

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

Very shortly after turning onto road 574 take a left turn for Búðir on Búðavegur road.  This is such a lovely place to visit and in my mind also a very romantic spot.  A white hotel and a small black church can be seen from the distance as you drive down this road.

There is an old, black painted timber church, Búðakirkja church, and a graveyard at Búðir It is the only reminder of a vibrant fishing village once located at Búðir until the 19th century.  It is hard to imagine now that at Búðir was once one of the main trading centres in the west, but as you travel further along the peninsula you will see remnants from fishing stations in many places.

The first church which was built at Búðir dates back to 1703 and became an annex church from Staðastaður, but churches have been rebuilt here several times. In 1816 Búðakirkja was even shut down, but rebuilt in 1848 by a permission from the Danish King.  The current church was consecrated in 1987, rebuilt in the liking of the original church.  Búðakirkja church is very popular amongst photographers as it is so scenic.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

I have an old painting of Búðakirkja church hanging on the wall in my dining room, painted by one of our noted painters.  In the painting the church is white, so the former church must have been white.  But I like the black painted current church, it is so beautiful with the white window cases and the white painted door. 

There are very old (by Iceland's standard) artefacts in the church, for example an altarpiece which dates back to 1750.  And a clock which dates back to 1672.  When I have visited this church has always been closed and most of Iceland's churches are closed now due to robbery and vandalism in the churches :(  

Isn't this sad, how a handful of dishonest people can ruin it for the rest of us, who come here to enjoy the history and beauty of Iceland?  I visit every church in Iceland on my travels around my country and seeing that most of our churches are closed now due to vandalism, theft and general disrespect, then I am having a difficult time getting into the churches in Iceland and am always on the hunt for the person holding the key to the church.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

There is a hotel, Hotel Búðir, very close to the Búðakirkja church. They offer wedding ceremonies at Búðir, where you can get married in the lovely little church, on the pink beach or even on the black lava field, Búðahraun, with Snæfellsjökull glacier in the background. 

I think this must be a beautiful, romantic setting for a wedding ceremony.  Especially on a sunny day.  The photos I have added here are taken in July at 9:30 pm and the light was extraordinary as it cast an orange hue on the beautiful landscape, the church and the hotel. 

The first hotel was built in 1947 here at Búðir, but a fire started back in 1999 which burnt the hotel to the ground.  It was so sad as this hotel was so iconic for Búðir.  Fortunately a new hotel, the spitting image of the old hotel, was built shortly after. The same thing happened at Þingvellir national park when the iconic Hotel Valhöll burnt to the ground in 2009 - we Icelanders were devastated when this happened as the hotel was not rebuilt.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

Búðahraun lava field is vast, ca 915 hectares and 5,000-8,000 years old. The area here is so beautiful and the pitch black lava stretches down to the pink and golden beaches creating a striking contrast.

There is a crater in the middle of the lava field called Búðaklettur or the Búðaklettur Rock. This is an extraordinary lava field because there is so much vegetation here and a lot of ferns. You can follow a path leading through the lava, do stick to the path as this is a dangerous area, like all lava fields, as there are fissures and holes all around, some visible and others covered in vegetation or moss.  Búðahraun lava field has been a protected area since 1977.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

Here you can see where Búðir is located on the map.  Now let's drive back on road 574 and turn left.

Rhyolite mountains 

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

There are some beautiful rhyolite mountains on Snæfellsnes peninsula.  After visiting Búðir turn left on Útnesvegur road 574 which takes you around the peninsula.

All of a sudden the landscape changes and these beautiful mountains open up to you.  

The rhyolite mountains are just by the road so one can just pull over and take a photo of them. Beneath the most beautiful mountains is a farm, so that road is closed, but these mountains are so close by the road that they can be admired from afar.

I hope you like them as much as I do, I thought of adding them to my list as I always stop by them. There are also rhyolite mountains on the northern side of Snæfellsnes, which I will show you later on in my blog.

Here is the location of the mountains on the map.

Rauðfeldsgjá gorge

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

Rauðfeldsgjá gorge is a magnificent gorge by Breiðavík cove, cutting into Mt. Botnsfjall.  It looks like something out of a fairy tale, it is so majestic. I could picture this gorge as being the backdrop of a scene in the Game of Throne series or the Lord of the Rings. Don't you agree with me?  I am always in awe of the rugged beauty of Rauðfeldsgjá when I visit Snæfellsnes.

Rauðfeldsgjá gorge can easily be seen from the road on your right hand side. You can hike up to it and have a look inside. There is a short uphill hike to the gorge from the parking lot. Inside the gorge you will find a creek and by stepping on the stones in the creek you can have a look further inside the gorge.  

If you follow the creek by stepping on stones in the creek you will eventually reach a waterfall - that is high on my list of things to do and I never seem to get around to it.  I have even bought new Wellingtons for this hike so I don't get wet feet when wading in the creek.  Waterproof clothes are also needed for this hike.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

It is a narrow gorge, but fun just having a look into it. There is a natural platform inside the gorge where you can stand and ponder on whether to venture further on.

Rauðfeldsgjá gorge or Rauðfeldargjá, as it is also called depending on the declension of the male name Rauðfeldur, got its name from a tragedy which happened here on the south-side of the peninsula. This story can be found in the Saga of Bárður Snæfellsás, which is the story of the first settlers of this area. 

Cousins were playing on the beach and one of them, Rauðfeldur, pushed his cousin, Helga, onto an iceberg which then drifted away with her to Greenland, but she was not harmed.

Helga's father, Bárður Snæfellsás, who is said to have been half a man half a troll, got so angry at his nephew Rauðfeldur that he threw him into the gorge. Thus the name.  After killing Rauðfeldur, Bárður also killed his other nephew, Sölvi, at Sölvahamar cliff by Arnarstapi. After this family tragedy Bárður disappeared into Snæfellsjökull glacier.

I have told you the story of Bárður Snæfellsás in another blog where I show you the places on the south side of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, which are mentioned in this very interesting Saga.  Bárður is now the Protector of the Snæfellsnes peninsula.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

There is a beautiful view of Breiðavík cove and Klifhraun lava field from Rauðfeldsgjá, as you can see in my photo above.

We are now ca 213 km from the capital city Reykjavík - here you can see the exact location of the gorge on the map.  Next stop will be at one of the main attractions of Snæfellsnes peninsula, Arnarstapi, but I just want to give you a little peak into one of the caves, Sönghellir or the Singing Cave, on the side road 570, just before we reach Arnarstapi.  

Sönghellir cave

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

Sönghellir - the Singing Cave or the Cave of Song is a well known cave on the Snæfellsnes peninsula and the echo or acoustics in this small cave are excellent.

There are several caves in Iceland named Sönghellir, but the Sönghellir cave on the Snæfellsnes peninsula was named by the  the settler and Protector of Snæfellsnes, Bárður Snæfellsás, and is believed to be the first cave in Iceland with this name.  

According the the Saga of Bárður Snæfellsás he stayed in this cave with his men while he was building the farm at Laugarbrekka where he later settled. 

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

Here you can see the location of Sönghellir cave on the map.  Now let's go back to Útnesvegur road number 574.

Mt. Stapafell

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

Mt. Stapafell is a peculiar 526 m high palagonite volcano next to Snæfellsjökull glacier.  It is shaped like a pyramid if you look at it from Arnarstapi (my photo above) and if you drive up road 570 (Jökulhálsleið) on the east-side of the mountain and look at it from above, as you can see in my photo below.  

But if you look at it from the side it loses its pyramid shape.  So the best photo angles are from below and above Mt. Stapafell.

These two volcanoes, Snæfellsjökull glacier and Mt. Stapafell, make an out of this world pair. There seem to be some supernatural forces at work here and many people can sense these energies at work when they are close to these two volcanoes.  Mt. Stapafell is also said to be the home of elves, which makes sense as a little bit further on at Lóndrangar, you will find their church and their library.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

On top of Mt. Stapafell there is a rock called Fellskross, which is a Viking sign of holy powers.  I have not been on top of Mt. Stapafell, so I have never seen this Fellskross, would love to though.

Arnarstapi 

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

Now we take a left turn on Arnarstapavegur road which leads to one of my favourite places on the south-side of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, the beautiful Arnarstapi.  One of Iceland's most beautiful natural harbours is at Arnarstapi and the extraordinary columnar basalt and cliff formations here look like artwork - I would describe Arnarstapi as a beautiful artwork of nature :)

In former times Arnarstapi was a vibrant community.   The photo below is one of the best known photo angles from Arnarstapi, with Mt. Stapafell and the white house and the cliffs in the foreground.  I think everybody takes a photo like this, but I have written an additional blog on Arnarstapi and Hellnar, where I show you more beautiful photo opportunities of Mt. Stapafell at Arnarstapi.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

When you take a walk around the harbour and the sea cliffs during breeding season of the birds you will hear and see myriad of birds squawking, mostly kittiwakes, fulmars, gulls and the Arctic tern.  

I have told you before that I sometimes feel like I have stepped into a magical world on my travels in my country and Arnarstapi is for sure one of these magical places.  Now take a look at the photo below.  This is a hole in the middle of the ground, so let's be careful while visiting Arnarstapi!

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

There are some great photo opportunities at Arnarstapi.  I especially like the photo below. It is not as dangerous as it looks though, this stone bridge is wide, but then stone bridges have been known to collapse!  

Anyhow, this stone bridge is close to the white-coloured Arnarstapaviti lighthouse, which is only 3 meters high. When visiting this small lighthouse you can walk straight from it to this stone bridge.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

The coastline at Arnarstapi is dotted with beautiful basalt pillars and it is possible to walk along/above the coastline from the small harbour.  

There is also a parking lot by the big stone structure of Bárður Snæfellsás, where you can leave your car and walk to an observation platform above the beautiful Gatklettur - Arch Rock at Arnarstapi.

From the observation platform you will also see such lovely basalt columns, which reach inside a beautiful cave.  I am totally in love with basalt columns and think they are the ultimate artwork of nature.  They are ever so beautiful and look like they have been sculptured by an artist, which of course they have been, the creator of all. 

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

I am in the process of making a blog solely on basalt columns in Iceland.  Iceland is a volcanic island and basalt columns can be seen in many places of Iceland, it is just a question of knowing where they are located, so I think a blog on this topic would be good, right?

You remember Bárður Snæfellsás, the Protector of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.  I have mentioned him in several blogs as there are so many places in this area, which bear his name.  

Bárður Snæfellsás was the settler of this area, half a troll and half a man, but his mother was human. He came to Iceland in the 9th century and gave the peninsula its name, Snjófellsnes peninsula, but both words "snær" and "snjór" mean snow in Icelandic.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

The big stone structure of Bárður Snæfellsás at Arnarstapi was made by one of our sculptors, Ragnar Kjartansson, but you can see his work in several places on the peninsula.  It was unveiled on Iceland's national day - the 17th of June 1985.

Arnarstapi is one place on the Snæfellsnes peninsula that should not be missed!  

There is a 2,5 km long hiking trail leading through the lava field between Arnarstapi and Hellnar, the next place of interest.  But we are going to drive there, so let's drive back to Útnesvegur road number 574 and have a look at Hellnar.  It is a very short drive as you can see from the hike between these two places only being 2,5 km.  Turn left on Hellnavegur road and drive down to the parking lot overlooking the sea.

Hellnar

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

Hellnar used to be one of the biggest fishing stations in Snæfellsnes with the oldest documented information about Hellnar being a fishing village dating back to 1560.  According to a census 194 people were living here in the year 1703, plus all the people who were doing seasonal work at Hellnar.  All in all there were 38 buildings of some sort at Hellnar with various functions; farms, lodgings for the seasonal workers and fish-related structures.

Times have for sure changed at Hellnar - now there is even a hotel at Hellnar and a very popular little café, Fjöruhúsið café, down by the sea.  Plus many more activities.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

There are such beautiful rock formations down by the sea and a protruding rock, Valasnös, with a huge opening.  It is possible to walk right up to the opening.   A cave called Baðstofuhellir is to be found inside the cliff, but I have never managed to see it.

You will see and smell a lot of fulmars in the cliffs and whales are often seen in the ocean outside of Hellnar.  My great-grandmother was born and raised at Hellnar so I have special ties to this beautiful place.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

You will find a lovely little café called Fjöruhúsið right by the sea at Hellnar.  It opened in 1997 and is ever so popular amongst us Icelanders. The café cannot be seen from the road as it is well hidden away until you reach the top of the hill.

The location is fantastic and it is ever so lovely drinking coffee (or whatever) on the veranda right by the sea and the majestic cliffs.  I visit this café every time I am in the area. It is a small café, not a restaurant, but you can buy light meals here, for example home-made cakes and bread, hot chocolate, waffles and their famous fish-soup. 

The 2,5 km hike from Hellnar to Arnarstapi starts here by Fjöruhúsið on the right hand side.  And if you walk a bit further up behind the café and turn left you will find a statue of the Virgin Mary by holy spring water.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part INot many people know about this holy spring, but I come here to pray when there are difficulties in my family.  According to legend (not documented), Guðmundur góði biskup - Bishop Guðmundur the Good had a vision in year 1230 at Hellnar of a woman accompanied by three angels. She bade him consecrate the spring, which he did. You will find more information on this holy spring in my blog on Arnarstapi and Hellnar

The coast between Arnarstapi and Hellnar is a nature reserve as it is so beautiful and unique.  Let's treat it as such and stay on the trails and within the boundaries and as always leave no litter, and especially cigarette stubs, behind. It always makes me both sad and mad when I visit beautiful nature and somebody has left litter behind :(

Here you can find the location of Hellnar on the map. Now let's drive up the Hellnavegur road again and stop by Bárðarlaug pool, which is on the left hand side by this road.

Bárðarlaug pool

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

Bárðarlaug pool was the bathing pool of Bárður Snæfellsás, the settler and Protector of the Snæfellsnes peninsula.  Bárður had a farm at Laugarbrekka close by and used this lake inside an explosive crater to bathe in.

The explosive crater is from the close of the last glacial epoch and it seems fitting that the half troll - half human used an explosive crater in which to bathe. Just imagine him chilling in Bárðarlaug pool with this beautiful view of Snæfellsjökull glacier. After pushing his nephew into Rauðfeldsgjá gorge Bárður disappeared into Snæfellsjökull glacier and is said to be protecting the peninsula from the glacier.

You will find an information sign by the road and parking.  There is a short, easy ca 10-minute hike from the road if you want to have a look at this lake-filled crater.  The once warm water is now cold, so don't bathe in it - the pool is a protected natural monument. You can see Bárðarlaug pool here on the map.

The serial killer Axlar-Björn

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

You will notice a cairn (stone pile) by the parking for Bárðarlaug pool. Customary cairns were stacked to show the way here in Iceland, but this cairn is actually one of the burial spots of the most notorious serial killer in the history of Iceland, Axlar-Björn.  

He murdered ca 9-18 people, mainly people travelling in the vicinity of his farm, Öxl. He took their possessions and threw the bodies into a pond on his land, Íglutjörn.  Several more dead bodies were discovered in the lava, but Axlar-Björn claimed that he had found them dead on his land.  

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

I have written a side-blog about Iceland's most infamous serial killer if you want to get better acquainted with his bloody story.

Now let's do something more fun than talking about serial-killers!  Now we return to Útnesvegur road number 574 and drive for a short distance to Laugarbrekka, which is on your left hand side.

Laugarbrekka

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

Laugarbrekka is a well known stop here on the south-side of the peninsula as here Bárður Snæfellsás, the settler of this area, built his farm and from here he walked up to Bárðarlaug pool, where he bathed.  Bárður lived at Laugarbrekka until he disappeared into Snæfellsjökull glacier after the incidence at Rauðfeldsgjá, which I told you about earlier in this blog. 

Axlar-Björn was also executed at Laugarbrekka as this was the meeting place for the local assembly, but we are not going to talk about him any more.  

An extraordinary woman, Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir (980-1050), was born in 980 at Laugarbrekka.  Guðríður is believed to have been the most widely travelled woman of the Middle ages and she managed to go on 8 sea-voyages and travelled twice over the whole of Europe!! 

If you want to know more about Laugarbrekka and the story of this adventurous woman then I have written a side-blog on Guðríður :)

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

I bet you thought this statue was bigger, right?  ;)

Here you can see the location of Laugarbrekka on the map.  

Now, let's return back to road 574 and drive just a short distance to two magnificent volcanic plugs called Lóndrangar, which I am going to tell you about in my next blog the Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II  along with many, many more interesting places to visit on the Snæfellsnes peninsula.

I have also added the Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part III.  And the Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part IV and the Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part V :) I hope you are going to enjoy travelling around the peninsula with me.

Also check out these guided tours to the Snæfellsnes peninsula! I have always wanted to hike on the mysterious Snæfellsjökull glacier and the difficulty level is marked as easy, so I should be able to make it :)

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part I

Also check out these self-drive tours which include Snæfellsnes:

5 Day Self Drive Tour | Wonders of West Iceland

6 Day Winter Self Drive Tour | Snaefellsnes & The Golden Circle

7 Day Budget Self Drive Tour | Snaefellsnes and the South Coast

Summer 8 Day Self Drive Tour | Westfjords & Snaefellsnes Peninsula

9 Day Self Drive Tour | Circle of Iceland & Snaefellsnes Peninsula

9 Day Budget Self Drive Tour | Circle of Iceland & Snaefellsnes Peninsula

9 Day Self-Drive Winter Tour | Snaefellsnes Peninsula, South Coast, and Ice Cave

10 Day Self Drive Tour on a Budget | The Ring Road with Snaefellsnes Peninsula

10 Day Self Drive Tour | Best Ring Road Attractions with Snaefellsnes Peninsula

12 Day Winter Self Drive Tour | The Ring Road of Iceland with the Snaefellsnes Peninsula

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