The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

​Svalþúfa-Þúfubjarg rock formations

This is part II on my travels around the magical Snæfellsnes peninsula and a direct continuation of my blog the Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula Part I.  There is just so much to see and do here that I have created 5 blogs where I show you the most important sights in chronological order.  

In part I we explored the peninsula from Gerðuberg basalt columns to Laugarbrekka and were heading towards the beautiful Lóndrangar and Þúfubjarg-Svalþúfa rock formations.  Now, let's return back to road 574 from Laugarbrekka and drive just a short distance to two magnificent volcanic plugs called Lóndrangar.  The parking lot is by the road on your left hand side so you cannot miss it.  But I have seen people getting confused by the sign below, so I will explain a bit ;) 

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

Þúfubjarg cliff is the first stop, 250 meters uphill Svalþúfa, which is right in front of the parking lot, and from where you will get a beautiful view of the 2 cliffs of Lóndrangar in the distance.  The hill looks innocent enough, but it turns into a sheer rock so caution is needed here.  Svalþúfa is the name of the hill and Þúfubjarg is the name of the cliff.  This is most likely the eastern part of the old crater.

In the summer of 2015 platforms were put up here to make this place less dangerous.  Before the platforms were put up I used to stop when I started to smell the guano from the sea-birds in the cliff, which are mostly guillemot and kittiwake, then I knew that I was too close for comfort!

Lóndrangar volcanic plugs are on your right hand side, 650 meters away from Svalþúfa-Þúfubjarg and you can see on the sign above that going back and forth to Lóndrangar - hringur means a circle - is 1 km and a one hour easy hike on a path through the lava field.  

Malarrif is the 1,6 km hike to the white lighthouse.  We will be driving there after visiting Lóndrangar to see what it looks like.  The Snæfellsnes Information centre is located at Malarrif.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

Now let's hike up Svalþúfa.  I have seen such beautiful photos of the magnificent Lóndrangar cliffs from Svalþúfa, but have never been able to take such photos myself, as it always seems that sun is in the "wrong" position for good photos when I visit these cliffs. But I will show you what Svalþúfa-Þúfubjarg look like from a "new" perspective - see my photo above ;)

Svalþúfa hill is believed to be inhabited by the Elves - Hidden people and it is forbidden to mow the grass on Svalþúfa, like in so many other elf-locations in Iceland.  We never mow these elf-locations as it is believed that misfortune will happen were we to do so.

Kolbeinn and the devil at Þúfubjarg rock

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

Þúfubjarg is the rocky side of Svalþúfa. There is one well known Icelandic folklore in Þjóðsögur Jóns Árnasonar - the Folklore of Jón Árnason about Þúfubjarg.  It tells the story of Kolbeinn Jöklaskáld - Kolbeinn the glacier poet, and the devil himself.  The devil had made a bet with Kolbeinn and the deal was for them to sit opposite one another on Þúfubjarg and compete in verse-making at high surf.  

The devil was to create the first part of the verses during the first part of the night, but Kolbeinn was to finish the verses and visa versa during the latter part of the night.  If one of them were not able to finish a verse that one was supposed to plunge from the rock into the sea and from then on be in the other one's power. 

They sat on the rock one night and started competing in verse-making.  Kolbeinn passed with flying colours the attempts of the devil and then it was Kolbein's turn.  The devil did very well in finishing the verses, until Kolbeinn pulled up a knife from his pocket and held it in front of the eyes of the devil - and the moon shone on the blade of the knife.  Kolbeinn created the first part of a verse (in Icelandic):

"Horfðu í þessa egg egg

undir þetta tungl tungl"

which translates into

"Look into this blade (edge) blade

beneath this moon moon" - this of course cannot be translated to make it rhyme in another language.

The devil was at a loss for words and couldn't find any Icelandic word rhyming against the Icelandic word tungl - the moon - and said in despair:  "This is not a verse (poetry), Kolbeinn!".  But Kolbeinn finished the verse and said:

"Ég steypi þér þá með legg legg

lið sem hrærir ungl ungl

which makes no sense in English, but refers to Kolbeinn pushing the devil into the sea with his wrist, but wrist in Icelandic is úlnliður, and the first part of the word rhymes with tungl - the moon.

When the devil heard this he plunged from the rock into the surf and did not invite Kolbeinn to compete with him in verse-making ever since.

(Loosely translated into English from Þjóðsögur Jóns Árnasonar - the Folklore of Jón Árnason)

I wanted to include this folklore here as we Icelanders are so familiar with it and I never visit these rocks without thinking about this folklore.

Lóndrangar volcanic plugs

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

Let's walk the short distance down to Lóndrangar,  There is a path from the parking lot of Svalþúfa leading to Lóndrangar.  It is only 1 km back and forth from the parking lot to Lóndrangar.  This hike will take about an hour to complete as you will want to explore the cliffs at Lóndrangar a bit further and if the tide is out then it is possible to walk down to the pitch black lava beach.

It is not a sandy beach, but made of solid lava rock.  My photo above is from that angle.  Be careful though and watch out for the tide coming in.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

Lóndrangar basalt cliffs are 2 ancient volcanic plugs, 61 m and 75 m high, the smaller one is called Lóndrangur rock or the Troll.  One of the cliffs is believed to be the church of the Hidden People and the other one to be their library according to an Icelandic medium.  She, Margrét in Öxnafell, saw a church with many icons in the bigger rock and a library in the smaller one where an old man was writing. 

The bigger one, the church, looks like a natural castle, don't you agree?  We don't have any castles in Iceland, but the volcanoes have provided us with natural lava formations in the liking of fortresses and castles.  At another angle this volcanic plug looks like the Sphinx.

I took a video of Lóndrangar and its surroundings as it is so beautiful.

Standing just next to these majestic volcanic plugs is amazing. These rocks are one of the landmarks of the Snæfellsnes peninsula and there is something very magical about them.  

In Landnáma - the Book of Settlement - there is a story of a troll sitting on Lóndrangar splashing his feet in the sea :)

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

You will find Karl and Kerling troll formations standing side by side in several locations in Iceland. 

They are not always together though as at Lóndrangar the male troll, Karl or Lóndrangur, is located by the sea, while his fiancée troll, Kerling, is stuck in Kerlingarskarð pass carrying a bundle of trouts on her back.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part IIShe was on the way to visit her fiancé when she got caught in the first rays of the sun and turned into stone.  Lóndrangur was waiting for her and also got caught in the first rays of the sun - thus these troll lovers stand apart forever.

I have "heard" that Lóndrangur had a thing for Kerling at Djúpalónssandur ;) 

Now let's go back to road 574 and drive to the white lighthouse at Malarrif and visit Snæfellsjökull Visitor Centre.

Malarrif

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

There is just a short drive from Lóndrangar volcanic plugs to Malarrif - on my photo above you can see Lóndrangar in the distance.  Turn left from road 574 and drive towards the white lighthouse.

At Malarrif  there used to be fishing for centuries, or until 1900, even though this was considered to be the number 1 most dangerous spots for fishing on the peninsula.  At Malarrif there was a farm until 1997, but it is now abandoned like several farms on the peninsula.

Here we are on the southernmost spot of Snæfellsnes south of the Snæfellsjökull glacier, which hovers over and protects this area.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

The new Visitor Centre of the National Park of Snæfellsnes, Snæfellsjökull þjóðgarður, is located at Malarrif.  Do visit it and get additional information on Snæfellsnes.  I am trying to fork out as much information as I can on Snæfellsnes in my series of blogs on the peninsula, but I am sure that you can benefit from stopping by at the Visitor Centre.  My photo above is taken inside the Visitor Centre.  

The opening hours for 2016 at the Visitor Centre were:  every day in summer time from 10 am - 5 pm and in winter time weekdays from 11 am - 4 pm - closed on weekends.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

The landmark for Malarrif is the white and tall (24.5 m) concrete lighthouse.  This lighthouse, which is one of the protected lighthouses in Iceland, was built in 1946 after the first lighthouse at Malarrif, built in 1917 had run its course. 

You will find some playground equipment at Malarrif, which my husband used as always, and walking paths leading to the lighthouse and to Lóndrangar.  This is a lovely area to visit.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

I visited the very pebbly beach where it felt like mountain climbing ascending from the beach, and the small museum with the troll called Steinn or the Rock :) 

Here you can see the location of Malarrif on the map. Now, let's return back to road 574 and drive for a very short distance and park by Vatnshellir cave on the right hand side of the road.

Vatnshellir cave

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

Now I want to show you the extraordinary subterranean lava world in Vatnshellir cave.

Vatnshellir cave is located almost by road 574.  You get your ticket at the ticket office right by the road, where there is also a parking lot. A guide will then take you down into the cave through a couple of winding staircases. Vatnshellir cave is said to be the most accessible cave in Iceland - and for sure the winding staircases help.

The cave is a 200-meters long lava tube, where you will walk in the path of a former lava flow.  The cave system reaches down 35 meters below the surface!

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

There are amazing colours down in this lava cave system as you can see in my photo below.  In one place there was a big bright red pattern of lava, almost scary looking! 

I have written a separate blog on my visit to Vatnshellir cave with loads of photos and more information on this extraordinary lava cave system.

Vatnshellir cave was closed in 2010 for a protective purpose, but the Summit Adventure Guides have been guiding people in the cave since then. 

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

Vatnshellir cave is located in the ca 8-thousand-year-old Purkhólahraun lava field which erupted from the Purkhólar crater family.  There are hundreds of caves in this area, 4 of which belong to Vatnshellir cave. 

Here you can see the location of Vatnshellir cave on the map.  Now let's drive for one minute on road 574 and have a look at Purkhólar crater on your right hand side.

The Purkhólar crater family

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

Just above Vatnshellir cave you will find Purkhólar crater or at least one of the craters in the Purkhólar family, which erupted 8,000 years ago.  The cave we just visited, Vatnshellir cave, is located in the Purkhólahraun lava field. There is only a short hike up to the crater, where you will find all kinds of red, pink and colourful lava formations.  The yellow lava is sulphur.  I love such colourful lava so the hike up to this crater is well worth it although there is not much to be seen there.

But you will see a dent in the landscape, which is an old crater and you can see how the lava flowed.  And from up there you will be very close to Snæfellsjökull glacier, with its incredible energies.

You will also get a glimpse of Lóndrangar volcanic plugs on the south side.  So I would recommend this short hike.  There is a parking lot beneath Purkhólar crater and an easy, but somewhat rocky hike, as you will walk in loose lava.  I didn't see any sign by the road though, but I am pretty sure that this is a crater in the Purkhólar crater family ;)

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

Here is the location of Purkhólar crater on the map.  Now let's return back to road 574 and drive for a short distance until you see road 572 on your left hand side for Djúpalónssandur beach - the Black Lava Pearl beach, which is a must stop.

Djúpalónssandur - the Black Lava Pearl beach

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

Djúpalónssandur or the Black Lava Pearl beach is a beautiful place to visit, it is like stepping into a magical place of large lava formations.  I have written a special blog on Djúpalónssandur and Dritvík with folklore and a lot more information as this is such an interesting place to visit.  I am going to show you a bit of it here in this Snæfellsnes blog, but refer to my other blog for more info.

To get to Djúpalónssandur drive to the end of the paved road 572 and you will find a parking lot and WC (only open in summer time though).  There is a just a short walk down Nautastígur path - the Path of the Bulls - where you will walk through a lava field with huge lava formations.  

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

There are two small freshwater lagoons behind Nautastígur, called Djúpulón or the Deep Lagoons, but this beach got its name from these lagoons - Djúpalónssandur or the Deep Lagoon's Beach.  You can see one of the lagoons in my photo above.

On the beach you will notice the protected iron pieces from the British trawler, the Epine GY7, which was wrecked east of Dritvík cove on the night of 13th March 1948. Fourteen men lost their lives and five were saved.

These iron remains are kept here in memory of these brave fishermen from England, so let's respect them and leave them in peace. 

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

The whole beach is made of small black smooth pebbles called Djúpalónsperlur or the Pearls of Djúpalón.  These black lava pearls of Djúpalón are also protected. 

A distinctive reddish, majestic looking lava rock on the beach, Söngklettur or the Singing Rock, is said to be the Church of the Elves!  See my photo above.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

Another strangely formed lava rock is called Kerling or the Troll woman, and where there is a Kerling there is always a Karl or the male Troll close by.  Kerling is carrying a bundle of fish on her back, but Karl is located a further east.

There is a love story connected to these trolls in this area which I have written about in my Kerlingaskarð blog

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

The suction of the sea in Djúpalónssandur is very powerful so please don't go too close to the sea.  There is a warning sign by the parking lot, but I have seen that many people tend to ignore these warning signs as they are just too excited about seeing the sights .  

At Djúpalónssandur beach you will find 4 differently sized stones called aflraunasteinar or the lifting-stones. They were used to measure the strength of fishermen.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

If you want to read about these lifting stones in Þjóðsögur Jóns Árnasonar - the Folklore of Jón Árnason, then I have added that story in my Djúpalónssandur and Dritvík blog.  And a lot more information about this area.

Dritvík cove

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

It is possible to hike from Djúpalónssandur beach to Dritvík cove, which is only 1 km west of Djúpalónssandur.

From the 16th-19th century the largest seasonal fishing station in Iceland was at Dritvík, with 40-60 boats and 200-600 fishermen. 

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

There are a couple of accounts in Þjóðsögur Jóns Árnasonar - the Folklore of Jón Árnason, which are said to have happened at Dritvík.  One of them explains to us why a certain cave west of Dritvík got the name Draugahellir or the Ghost Cave.  I refer to my Djúpalónssandur and Dritvík cove blog for that folklore and much more detailed information on Dritvík.

"Somewhere" between Dritvík and Djúpalónssandur there is an ancient labyrinth, we don't know how old really, it might even be as old as from the Settlement of Iceland.  I do not want to give directions to it so that it will not be ruined by too much traffic.

Now let us return back to Djúpalónssandur and visit Einarslón by taking a path leading east from Djúpalónssandur beach.

Einarslón

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

There is a path leading from Djúpalónssandur beach to Einarslón, an abandoned farm, where there are only ruins left now.  Earlier it used to be a vibrant fishing station and according to the census in 1703 some 62 people were living at Einarslón on 12 farms.  There was a church at Einarslón from 1563 until 1879.  It is believed that the first church on this site dated back to year 1200.

I walked up on Höfði cape above Djúpalónssandur and followed the path above the rock Kerling which I told you about above, as I read that Karl is located a bit further east and cannot be seen from Djúpalónssandur.  I walked towards Einarslón further east above the shoreline, but there are so many rock formations there that I didn't know which one of them was Karl. The shoreline is dotted with beautiful, colourful lava rock formations, pitch black, red and blue in colour.

I had only meant to find the troll Karl, but carried on further east and the path seemed to be endless even though there is only 1 km between Djúpalónssandur and Einarslón. I had somehow believed that I was going to see a lagoon as Einarslón means the Lagoon of Einar.  

Finally I reached several ruins covered in grass.  There was only one turf outhouse which was visible, but if you walk on the hill above the outhouse you will see many ruins below.  

I was kind of in a hurry as I had spent way too much time looking for Einarslón so I decided on returning back to the parking lot at Djúpalónssandur through the grass and not on the path.  It was a mistake as the grass was high and there were a lot of tussocks which made it very difficult to walk, so it is best to follow the path.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

On my way back there was suddenly a big ram almost next to me, quite startling!  It had not been sheared and its wool was massive, making it look much bigger than it actually was.  I thought it might be a ram that had been left behind when the sheep were round up in fall, as it was barely able to walk around in the summer heat (a whooping 20 degrees C on this July day).  

I talked to it in a soft voice trying to figure out whether it would attack or not, but it didn't mind me.  Then my husband approached it (a macho thing) and the ram went into attack mode, which made my husband jump ;)  I thought it to be best to let the Information centre at Malarrif know about this sheep, but they told me that it hadn't been left behind, but the owner of this ram apparently doesn't shear it.  Poor ram, it must have been so hot!

Iceland's greatest painter, the noted Jóhannes Kjarval, owned half of the land at Einarslón and from here he got material for several of his beautiful paintings of Iceland.  Kjarval visited this only land, which was ever in his possession, every year from 1940-1948.  I will tell you his interesting story in another blog.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

It has been said that Einarslón was the first land on the south side of the Snæfellsnes peninsula to become green in spring time.

On my way back I saw a lava enclosure which defined the land of Einarslón - it is very close to the parking lot, so I had been walking by the land of Einarslón the whole time on the path by the shore.

Now let's return to road 574 and drive to Hólahólar cluster of craters which are close by.  Turn left on a gravel road.

Hólahólar crater

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

Hólahólar craters are a cluster of craters, one of which, the so called Berudalur valley, is very accessible as it is possible to drive into the crater from the road.  There is an opening on the crater and it looks like an amphitheatre.  Some people have seen and heard elves in this area and there are several tales of applaud and cheering from the hills of the crater.

My photos don't do it justice as they are taken from inside the crater and the sun was shining directly above the crater.

There are ruins of the big farm Hólahólar behind the crater. This farm is connected to a folklore which I told you about back when there was a fishing station at Djúpalónssandur and Dritvík cove.  If you have read my blog on Djúpalónssandur and Dritvík then you might remember the Ghost cave in Dritvík cove?

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

Here is the location of Hólahólar on the map.  Now let's return back to road 574 and drive the short distance to Saxhólar cluster of craters.

Saxhólar craters

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

There are several accessible craters on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, one of which is the beautiful red Saxhóll crater.  I have hiked up Litli-Saxhóll a couple of times and in 2016 steps were put up to make the hike easier and to protect the crater, which is very delicate. It is much easier to use the steps than to slide on the loose lava on the steep footpath.

There are 2 Saxhólar craters, Litli-Saxhóll which is 109 meters above sea level, and Stóri-Saxhóll which is 125 meters above sea level  I hiked on Litli Saxhóll or Small Saxhóll.  It erupted some 3-4,000 years ago.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

Once you reach the top in 3-4 minutes, yes, it is a very short hike, there is a beautiful view of the surrounding areas of the Snæfellsnes peninsula.  On top you will also find a view-dial, made by my father-in-law and erected in 2012.  It shows the names of the mountains which can be seen from the top of Litli-Saxhóll crater. 

You can look into the red lava crater and imagine what it must have looked like when it was spewing out lava and fire - nowadays it is so tranquil with grass growing inside the crater.  Saxhólahraun lava field, created in the eruption is block lava, also called aa lava, but we Icelanders call it apalhraun lava.

There is a sign on the parking lot where visitors are asked to stay on the footpaths as this area is protected and we don't want to make any further damage to the crater than was already done, when the red lava was quarried from the crater and used for road construction.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

Also I must ask the visitors to refrain from making piles of stone on top of the crater.  These stone piles are so annoying to us Icelanders - I know the makers of these stone piles mean no harm, but they might not think about the long term effect this has on our nature, so please don't make these stone piles.  

There is one place in Iceland where it is encouraged to make stone piles and that is in South-Iceland at Laufskálavarða cairn, where first time visitors add a stone to existing piles for good luck before driving on the precarious lava sand plains in the south.

Here is the location of Saxhólar craters on the map.  Now let's drive back to road 574 and see what the area around Öndverðarnes looks like.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

After visiting Saxhólar crater and returning back to road 574 take a left turn on road 579, Öndverðarnesvegur road. This is the sign you will see - the many places of interest in this area. I want to show Skarðsvík, Öndverðarnes, Svörtuloft and Saxhólsbjarg.  

Seeing that this road is kind of off the beaten path and many people skip it, I have written a side-blog  called the Majestic Skarðsvík, Saxhólsbjarg & Svörtuloft on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in Iceland.  Do remember to return back to this page after you read the side blog so that you can continue visiting all the sights on the Snæfellsnes peninsula in chronological order :)

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

My photo above is of Skálasnagaviti, which is also called Svörtuloftaviti lighthouse, if you are out at sea. 

And my photo below is of Skálasnagi, which is a beautiful cliff with a stone head, so to speak, which was connected by a stone bridge to land.  Unfortunately the stone bridge collapsed back in 1973. 

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

Here you can see the location of Skálasnagaviti lighthouse a.k.a. Svörtuloft lighthouse on the map. Now let's drive back to the fork in the road and drive to Öndverðarnes, the westernmost tip of the Snæfellsnes peninsula.

Öndverðarnes cape

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

Öndverðarnes cape is the westernmost point of the Snæfellsnes peninsula.  Seeing that it is kind of off the beaten path then I have written another side-blog called Öndverðarnes Cape.

At Öndverðarnes you will see quite a lot of ruins and if you look closely you will encounter an ancient stone well called Fálki, which is said to provide fresh water, holy water and ale :)  I have written much more about this interesting and former vibrant area in my side-blog.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

Here you can see the location of Öndverðarnes on the map.  Now let's drive back to the fork in the road and turn left on road 579 and drive back to road 574.  There are a couple of more sights in this area which I want to show to you, one of which is another old well - Írskrabrunnur or the Well of the Irish.  Drive for a short distance and turn left by the sign Gufuskálavör and Írskrabrunnur.

I will be showing you more interesting locations on the Snæfellsnes peninsula in my next blog the Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part III, where I will continue on my journey around the peninsula - please join me :)

Here are links to all of the Snæfellsnes blogs in this series:

The Magical Snæfellsnes peninsula - part I

The Magical Snæfellsnes peninsula - part II

The Magical Snæfellsnes peninsula - part III

The Magical Snæfellsnes peninsula - part IV

The Magical Snæfellsnes peninsula - part V

Also check out these guided tours to the Snæfellsnes peninsula!

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