This is the final part of my I-V part series of travel-blogs where I invite you on a tour with me of the magical Snæfellsnes peninsula in West-Iceland. There is so much to see and do that one blog wasn't enough and the whole trip around the Snæfellsnes peninsula ended up filling five travel-blogs! Plus side-blogs on interesting locations on which I wanted to divulge further. I hope you enjoy travelling with me around this beautiful peninsula :)
Stykkishólmur - the capital of the Snæfellsnes peninsula
In my last travel-blog the Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part IV we had just left the historical and sacred Mt. Helgafell, where you can get 3 wishes fulfilled, and have driven just a couple of km further on road 58 to visit Stykkishólmur town.
Stykkishólmur is the biggest town on the Snæfellsnes peninsula and often called the capital of the west, with a population of 1,168. It is the centre for trade, service and transport in this area and here you will find the only Bónus discount supermarket on the peninsula.
Some of the old houses in Stykkishólmur were owned by Danish traders and every year in August there is a Danish town festival in Stykkishólmur called Danskir dagar or Danish days. The inhabitants have put their pride into preserving the old houses and have done a great job - walking in the centre of town is like walking in another era. The oldest house in Stykkishólmur is the Norwegian house, which dates back to 1832.
In 2011 Stykkishólmur received the EDEN award as a European Destination of Excellence, with the words that Stykkishómur is "a fascinating town". I totally agree with this, it is a beautiful town.
As in every village and town in Iceland there is a good swimming pool in Stykkishólmur. What is special about this swimming pool though is that the water in the pool has been certified by Institut Fresenius, which specialises in environmental certification. They say that the water is good for people suffering from exoskeletal problems. I especially like soaking in their hot sea-tub.
There is a very special church in Stykkishólmur which reminds me of a modern time sculpture. It was consecrated in 1990 and inside the church you will find the most beautiful altarpiece of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus.
The church stands on a hill and is a spectacular in itself - a kind of a landmark of Stykkishólmur town. This church seats 300 people. The older more conventional church was built in 1879 and is located in the centre town by the old houses.
The newer church has always been open when I have visited, but the old church has always been closed.
There used to be a Catholic convent until recently in Stykkishólmur, but it has now been turned into a hotel! I am going to show you different accommodation and galleries in Stykkishólmur in another blog.
The Norwegian House
The Norwegian house is a very nice district museum by the harbour in Stykkishólmur, and in my opinion one of the pearls of this lovely town.
It is the oldest house in Stykkishólmur, built in 1832 by Árni Ó. Thorlacius (1802-1891) a big entrepreneur in Stykkishólmur in his time, but he had wood imported from Norway for the building of the house. The Norwegian House is 500 square metres and was the first two-storied home in Iceland and one of 3 biggest homes in Iceland at that time, so you can see that it is quite a historical house, and I am glad that it was preserved in such a lovely manner.
The district museum shows you a reconstruction of this gentleman's home - it is extremely well made and you feel like you have just popped in for a visit.
Just imagine the size and grandeur of this beautiful house at the time when most Icelanders lived in turf houses! After the owner died the house was used for multiple purposes and 4 families lived in it at one point.
On the ground floor there is a museum store, Krambúðin store, where girls dressed up in costumes from this time assist you. Visiting the Norwegian House is like stepping into another time, a very lovely visit.
The museum is located at Hafnargata 5.
The Library of Water
The Library of water at Stykkishólmur is a one of a kind museum - and a very interesting one. It is situated on a hill with a stunning view of the harbour on one side and the town of Stykkishólmur on the other side. The exhibition is created by the American artist Roni Horn and it is now a permanent sculpture installation and community centre.
What makes it so very special is the constellation of 24 glass columns which contain glacial water gathered from glaciers around Iceland, f.ex. the glacial tongues of Vatnajökull, Hofsjökull, Langjökull and Snæfellsjökull - jökull being the Icelandic word for a glacier.
Each column is dedicated to a single glacial source and you can see on a chart in the museum which column contains the water from which glacier. The columns make a beautiful reflection and watching the village and the sea through the columns makes for a very special experience of the senses.
I have visited the Library of water in both summer time and winter time. It is equally beautiful, but seeing the houses through the columns is better in daylight.
What I miss is not seeing the names of each glacier by the columns. This information was visible on the wall, but it would be better, probably not possible or else it would have been done, to see the names by the columns.
The Library of water is located at Bókhlöðustígur 17.
In Stykkishólmur you will find Æðarsetur Íslands - the Icelandic Eider-Centre, where you will be able to get acquainted with the eider-ducks of Iceland.
In Breiðafjörður fjord you will find the largest eider-duck nesting site in Iceland and one of the world's largest eider-down farming, so it is fitting to have an Eider-Centre here in Stykkishólmur.
At the centre you will find various eider-down duvets for sale, but they make for the best duvets ever.
I picked up a big heap of eider-down and could not believe how light it actually is!
Æðarsetur Íslands is located at Frúarstígur 6 in Stykkishólmur.
By the harbour stands the basalt island Súgandisey and shelters the town from the northern wind. Súgandisey is connected to land by a road by the harbour so you can walk or drive to it and park by the island and walk up stairs which lead you up this beautiful cliff. Other stairs take you further up where you can rest on a bench and have a look at Stykkishólmur from high up.
On the top of Súgandisey you will find a lighthouse from where you can get an even better view. This lighthouse was once located at Grótta in Seltjarnarnes town, which is part of the Great Reykjavík area, but was moved to Súgandisey.
From the harbour you can catch the boat Seatours which will take you around the islands on a nature- and bird-watching tour, including puffins in summer time.
That boat tour takes you on a 2 hours and 15 minute's long trip on Breiðafjörður bay with its wonderful innumerable islands, Breiðafjarðareyjar or the Islands on Breiðarfjörður. The islands are actually on the list of 3 innumerable things in Iceland. The islands are so many that some of them even have the same name - but I have heard the number 2,700, although I prefer to think of them as being innumerable ;)
The boat will take you straight up to some islands for bird-watching and we saw a lot of kittiwakes, shags and puffins. And awesome columnar basalt in various forms depending on which island we were visiting. The columnar basalt is riffled in one of the islands and it is often referred to as the Bookshelves of God.
You will be shown the hiding place of Eiríkur rauði or Eirik the Red the father of Leif the Lucky. who discovered America. And you will see an island with a boulder in a rift in the rocks - the boulder was thrown there by a giantess living at the time at Mt. Helgafell - she has now been turned into stone on top of Kerlingarskarð pass - you can read about her story further on in this blog.
These islands were populated and here on Hrappsey island was even the first printery in Iceland. But as the story goes with the Vikings then there is also one rock in Breiðafjörður bay where people were hung and left to hang for months as a warning to others to behave right. These islands are for sure filled with history. We were told many stories on life in the old days on the islands by a very good guide.
Now, this is what some call the highlight of the tour of the Breiðafjarðareyjar islands - the throwing out of the net. This was actually quite exciting, two members of the crew threw a net into the ocean and we waited for the catch of the day!
Everybody on the boat watched as the net was drawn in to see what they had caught. The catch was quite impressive: beautiful purple sea-urchins, red and orange starfish, scallops, crabs and all kinds of shells and conches - to sum it up: the Fruit of the Ocean.
The crew opened up the sea-urchins and scallops and offered them to the group - fresh and raw and free of charge. Sea-urchin roe, which you can see in my photo above, are considered to be a delicacy and an aphrodisiac.
Stykkishólmur is 172 km away from Reykjavík if you drive through Vatnaleið mountain pass on road 56 which I will be showing you on our way back.
From Stykkishólmur you can also go sea-kayaking in summer time.
Vatnaleið and the waterfalls in Fossá river
Now, let's take a left turn at the intersection by road 56 in the direction of Borgarnes and Reykjavík and drive through Vatnaleið or the Route by the lakes.
Vatnaleið is a shortcut, as it were, from the north part of the Snæfellsnes peninsula close to Stykkishólmur town and down to the south part of the peninsula.
Vatnaleið mountain pass replaced Kerlingarskarð pass, which is now closed to traffic. Vatnaleið was opened on November 2nd 2001 and takes you through the heath of Snæfellsnesfjallgarður with 3 beautiful lakes. The lakes are called Baulárvallavatn, Hraunsfjarðarvatn og Selvallavatn and there is angling in all of them.
On a sunny day it is so nice to stop by the beautiful view-spot with chairs and tables made out of basalt columns. From here is a breathtaking view of the lakes, volcanoes and the vast lava field. This is one of my favourite places here on the Snæfellsnes peninsula and my secret place, as it were, is hidden away here.
If you go down the hill you will find these waterfalls in the river Fossá in two parts, the upper part has a path behind it and the lower waterfall is wonderful for a picnic, where you can be totally in peace in a very tranquil place. Or that is what it used to be like.
Now that I have told some tour guides about my secret place they have added it to their itinerary, and why not, this is a beautiful place to visit. I could spend a whole day here, but usually only stop for a couple of hours, especially if the weather is as beautiful as it was on the day I took these photos.
These waterfalls don't seem to have a name, they are just called Foss in Fossá river, as far as I know. Foss in Fossá literally means Waterfall in Waterfall river :) I wonder why these lovely waterfalls didn't get a name of their own?
Here you can see the location of Vatnaleið on the map. After visiting the waterfalls we will drive over the 16 km long heath. At the intersection of roads 56 and 54 you will see Vegamót gas station and restaurant on your right hand side and can stop there for coffee or an overnight stay in their new guesthouse. I recently had a look at their rooms and they are very lovely.
Now lets turn left for Reykjavík so that we can close the circle of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. There are 2 more stops on the way.
Landbrotalaug hot spring
Landbrotalaug is one of the hidden natural hot springs in Iceland. It is off the beaten path, but still on our way back from the circle we have made around the Snæfellsnes peninsula.
I am not going to give directions to it as too much traffic will probably destroy this area, so let's leave it to the locals. I just wanted to include it in my unofficial guide to what I find to be of interest on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. You will be able to find road directions to the pool on other websites, but when I saw that the sign "Heit laug - hot spring" had been spray-painted black then I gathered that the pool was seeing too many visitors.
Landbrotalaug is only 1x1 m big and ca 1,50 m deep, with about 35-40 degrees C hot water. Only ca 4 people can fit into Landbrotalaug at any given time as it is so small. It was occupied when I got there, 4 people were already soaking in it and more were on the way, so I didn't get to dip into it this time around. It is heavenly being alone here in nature soaking in a natural hot spring.
If you decide on visiting this hidden away hot spring then you will have to tiptoe on these rocks in my photo above. And as this is pure nature then there are no changing facilities so you will have to undress and leave your clothes on the ground - then put on a bathing suit.
It seems like the wind blew away somebody's panties, as this is what I saw on my way back to the car ;)
By now we have reached the boundaries of the Snæfellsnes peninsula and Mýrar with Eldborg crater standing like a guard on the boundaries. Eldborg is 38 km away from Borgarnes town, but on your way to Reykjavík we will be driving through Borgarnes. A really delightful town with a lot of Viking history, which I am going to tell you much more about later on.
I hope you enjoyed travelling with me around the beautiful Snæfellsnes peninsula in my 5-blog series of the Magical Snæfellsnes peninsula in West-Iceland :)
Here are links to all of the Snæfellsnes blogs in this series:
Also check out these guided tours to and of the Snæfellsnes peninsula!
Also have a look at all the self-drive tours which include Snæfellsnes: