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.

It can get cold down in the cave, so a parka is needed - the temperature is a little bit above the freezing point. Hiking shoes are the best shoes to wear because of the uneven surface. It is advisable to wear gloves as it will prevent you from abrading your hands on the harsh lava.  You will be given a helmet and a flashlight as it is dark down in the cave.

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!

I love the entrance to the cave, it looks like you are going into a time machine. And for sure it is another magical world down in this beautiful lava cave where you will see amazing lava colours and beautiful lava formations.

There were such extraordinary lava formations and colours that I had quite a few "WOW" moments and was trying to take photos left and right in the dark lava tube. The colours in the cave are out of this world! I  have seen such colours in Icelandic cave books, but this was the first time I saw them with my own eyes. Lava can be ever so diverse and so colourful. 

In some places the lava had such a bright red colour that it looked almost scary. I didn't realise this until I saw my photos - what awesome colours of nature!

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 seem to be hundreds of caves in this area, 4 of which belong to Vatnshellir cave. Above this area hovers Snæfellsjökull glacier.

It is amazing really thinking about what lies below ground and we don't know about.  The name, Vatnshellir cave - or Water Cave - stems from water being fetched in this cave for the cows at Malarrif in the vicinity.  

The 4 caves in Vatnshellir cave are called Vatnshellir, Bárðarstofa, Vættargangur and Iður - together they are called Undirheimar or the Nether Regions.  In some places the guide knocked on the lava walls, thus showing us that they were hollow and leading into more undiscovered caves.

In one location I noticed a sign pointing down into the earth - with Stromboli 3.597 km written on it. This is a funny referral to the science fiction "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" by Jules Verne, when they travelled through Snæfellsjökull glacier and exited on the other side of Europe in Stromboli.

The way these lava tubes are formed is that during a volcanic eruption the fiery lava runs down the hills like a river of fire.  As it rushes further down the surface begins to cool down and a crust gets created on top.  When finally the volcanic eruption stops, the lava stops flowing like a river through the riverbed and the hot lava drains out from under the crust above - and a beautiful lava tube has been created.  So we were literally walking on the riverbed where the hot fiery lava used to flow!  Quite extraordinary, don't you think?

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

One of the caves is called Bárðarstofa or the Living room of Bárður Snæfellsás, but Bárðurwho is half a man and half a troll, is the protector of Snæfellsnes.  I have told you about Bárður before, as there are many interesting stories about him. Remember that he disappeared into Snæfellsjökull glacier after the family tragedy at Rauðfeldsgjá gorge, where Bárður pushed his nephew into the gorge?

In the Living room of Bárður you can see his giant chair and desk in the cave :)

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

Vatnshellir cave was closed in 2010 for a protective purpose, but the Summit Adventure Guides have been guiding people in the cave since then. They are the only tour operator which has permission from the National Park of Snæfellsnes to take people down into 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 Lava Wonderland.  I have written a special blog on Djúpalónssandur and Dritvík with folklore and more information as this is such an interesting place to visit.  I am going to show it to you here in this blog, but refer to my other blog for more info.

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 name of the path, the Path of the Bulls, derives from bulls being led down this path and watered by the lagoons below.

To me this is the most beautiful part of Djúpalónssandur.  There is a peculiar rock here with a hole in it, called Gatklettur, which is a good photo spot.

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. The lower lagoon, Djúpulón, was said to be abysmal as it was so deep.  It was measured by the noted Eggert Ólafsson (1726-1768) and turned out not to be abysmal but ca 5 meter's deep.  The other lagoon behind Gatklettur rock is called Svörtulón or the Black Lagoon.  

Bishop Guðmundur góði or Guðmundur the Good (1161-1237) is said to have blessed the lagoons in his time, but he is said to have blessed many springs including the Maríulind spring at Hellnar and many others around Iceland.  

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

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 by the Icelandic rescue team in the neighbouring villages, which managed, after two long and cold hours, to get a line to the trawler.

There was a blizzard on this cold winter night in March and the fishermen were losing their grip and had started falling into the cold sea.  One of them fell aboard and washed up on the beach where the rescue team managed to survive him.  Three others were already dead as their bodies washed up on the beach. The skipper, Alfred Loftis, clinging to the ship, shouted to the rescue team:  "I do not mind what happens to me as long as the boys are all right.  Look after the boys!".  Shortly after he was gone, swept away by a big wave :(

The iron remains, which washed up on the beach, are protected and should not be touched. They are kept here in memory of these brave fishermen from England, so let's respect them and leave them in peace. There have been several other shipwrecks in this area and all around the Snæfellsnes peninsula.

When you exit the lava field up opens the Black Lava Pearl beach and the whole beach is made of small black smooth pebbles called Djúpalónsperlur or the Pearls of Djúpalón.

The black lava pearls of Djúpalón are protected. 

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

There is a very distinctive huge lava rock on the beach, Söngklettur or the Singing Rock - it is reddish in colour and so majestic looking - it is said to be the Church of the Elves!  Just keep in mind to show respect around elf locations and don't climb on them or make racket.  Always ask the elves for permission to visit their habitation or churches and you will be fine.  Respect is the keyword here and it is better to be safe than sorry in my opinion. 

I know that our foreign visitors cannot know where all these different elf locations are to be found, a rock might just seem like a rock. That is why I am introducing the elf-locations in Iceland to you in my blog.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

There are more strangely formed lava rocks on Djúpalónssandur, like this one in my photo above. It is called Kerling or the Troll woman, and where there is a Kerling there is always a Karl or the male Troll.  These trolls were turned into stone when they saw daylight, as this is what happens to trolls in Iceland, they get petrified when they see daylight, as everybody knows ;)  Kerling is carrying a bundle of fish on her back, but I read that Karl is located a bit further east and cannot be seen from Djúpalónssandur. 

I walked up on Höfði cape towards Einarslón further east by the shoreline, but there are so many rock formations there that I didn't know which one of them was Karl.  But I have "heard" that Lóndrangur had a thing for Kerling at Djúpalónssandur as I told you earlier in this blog. His Kerling is not beside him, but stuck up in Kerlingarskarð pass where she was caught by the first rays of the sun, so she couldn't return to her fiancé at Lóndrangar.  I love troll stories like these ones :)

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 the warning signs.  Do not wade into the ocean at high tide.

At Djúpalónssandur beach you will find 4 differently sized stones. They are well known Aflraunasteinar or lifting-stones. They were used to measure the strength of fishermen and you can try your strength on these stones yourself.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

The biggest stone is called Fullsterkur - Strong and weights 154 kg and only the very strong can lift that one. The second one is called Hálfsterkur - Half-Strong and weighs 100 kg. The third one is called Hálfdrættingur - Half as good and weighs 54 kg, and the forth one is called Amlóði or Lightweight and weighs 23 kg.  

All these Icelandic names refer to how strong/weak the person is lifting them up on a plinth. If the fishermen could not lift Hálfdrættingur (54 kg) they were not accepted on the fishing boats.

Nowadays stones like these are used in the strong-men contests, which are very popular here in Iceland.  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.

I found a dreadful account in Þjóðsögur Jóns Árnasonar - the Folklore of Jón Árnason.  It is a continuation of the account on the hardy fishermen and the lifting stones.  It tells the story of how these fishermen used the body of an old woman as bait and how she got her revenge on them.

Dritvík cove

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

You can hike from Djúpalónssandur beach to Dritvík cove. The hike is only 1 km west of Djúpalónssandur, the path is rocky at the very start of the hike though, so good hiking shoes are advisable if you plan on popping over to see Dritvík cove.

Dritvík has got a natural harbour encircled by high lava walls. The black lava beach in this cove is called Maríusandur or the Beach of Mary. At Dritvík was the largest seasonal fishing station here in Iceland from the 16th century until the mid 19th century, with 40-60 boats and 200-600 seasonal fishermen. The season was only in spring from the beginning of April until mid May.  

Now both these former vibrant spots, Djúpalónssandur and Dritvík cove, are deserted - nowadays they are only visited by tourists and locals alike. 

The trail on Suðurbarði cape is called Vatnsstígur or the Water trail as there was no fresh water to be had in Dritvík and water had to be fetched to Djúpalónssandur beach. The Dritvíkurlón lagoon is mixed with seawater so it is undrinkable. 

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

When you visit Dritvík you will notice the pitch black lava formations which take on all kinds of forms;  there is a Tröllakirkja - Troll church, Bárðarskip - the Ship of Bárður and Bárðartrúss - the Baggage of Bárður - remember Bárður Snæfellsás, the half troll - half man, who is the Protector of Snæfellsnes peninsula?  You can read his story in one of our Sagas - the Saga of Bárður Snæfellsás Bárður sailed from Norway with his men in the 9th century, and came ashore in Djúpalón and Dritvík cove.

Bárður was the one who gave name to the Snæfellsnes peninsula when he saw the snow and ice on Snæfellsjökull glacier, which hovers over this part of the peninsula.  He called it Snjófellsnes peninsula.  

Right in front of us on the photo above you will see Bárðarskip or the Ship of Bárður in the sea, and to the right of it on the beach is Bárðartrúss or the Baggege of Bárður, referring to the time when Bárður came ashore on Dritvík cove.

Then you will see Víkurklettur rock farthest to the left, inside it is the aquamarine Pollurinn. 

There is a rock on the beach which looks like something out of the sea-monster stories from the Westfjords of Iceland. You can see it in my first photo of Dritvík. It had a head and a mouth and legs...

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

There is a Tröllakirkja - Troll Church in Dritvík.  It is the one stretching into the sea. In the Saga of Bárður it is written that the settler Bárður and his men worshipped their heathen gods for luck when they came ashore in Djúpalón.

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.

On the west part of the beach and in the lava along the hike you will see some ruins from that time. The seasonal fisherman stayed in fisherman's huts built out of lava rock and sand and covered with tents.   You will also see ruins of old fish drying sheds. 

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

"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. Or the seasonal fishermen might have built it for fun, while they were on shore. 

It is not easy to find though.  I have visited it and found my way through it, but as it is old and fragile then I will just add a video of me trying it out here and not give directions to where to find it as too much traffic might ruin it.  Don't you agree with me on this?

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.

Skarðsvík cove

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.  The first stop is by Skarðsvík cove.

Skarðsvík is a lovely, secluded golden beach which to us Icelanders looks like a beach in Spain.  As I have told you before then we Icelanders are ever so impressed with golden beaches, as most of the beaches in Iceland are black.  Only in the west have I seen golden beaches in Iceland.  Skarðsvík is thus very popular amongst Icelanders and on sunny days you can see people sunbathing, swimming in the ocean and jumping off the cliffs. 

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II
There is a good picnic area here and a lot of lava clefts - reminding me in places of a miniature Þingvellir National park

A pagan Viking grave from the 10th century was discovered here in 1962. The well preserved skeleton of a young man aged 18-25, and his belongings, are now preserved at the National museum of Iceland.  Some of his earthly possessions were put in the grave with him like was customary at this time, we call it "haugfé" - men were buried with their weapons and women with their jewellery. 

The old things found in the grave of this young Viking were:  a 95 cm long sword, a broken knife, pieces of iron, an elaborate boss from his shield, a spearhead and a pin made of bone.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

The road to Skarðsvík is paved, but further on it is a bumpy gravel road - here you can see the location of Skarðsvík on the map. In a little while the road splits in two, the road to the right will take you to the orange coloured Öndverðarnes lighthouse and the road to the left will take you to the orange coloured lighthouse on Saxhólsbjarg cliff - Skálasnagaviti lighthouse and Svörtuloft.  Let's first take the road to the left.

Svörtuloft - Skálasnagi & Saxhólsbjarg

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

Having driven down road 579 and visited Skarðsvík cove we now take the road to the left and drive to Skálasnagi and Saxhólsbjarg cliff where you will see a lighthouse and the infamous Svörtuloft or the Black Ceiling.  This is a ruggedly beautiful place to visit. 

The name Svörtuloft sounds ominous and has always been so scary to me, but the name stems from the cliffs being formed of pitch black lava, like in so many other places in this area.  Here the lava flow didn't stop until it reached the cold sea and the surf has eroded the pitch black lava through the centuries.

If you are out at sea Skálasnagaviti is called Svörtuloftaviti lighthouse.  Bear that in mind that it has got two names - one from land and one from sea.  The concrete lighthouse, which was taken into use in 1931, is 12,8 meters high is the successor of the first iron bar lighthouse, erected in 1914, which had eroded.

There are at least 14 places in Iceland by this name, Svörtuloft. The lava here looks like it has been cut and made into a massive, sheer black wall, almost 4 km long.  If you visit this area from May until end of August you will see many seabirds in the cliffs and even some puffins.  Just be very careful not to lose your balance while having a look at them and taking photos. 

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

A viewing platform has been put up by Skálasnagaviti lighthouse, but not at Hvalrauf just before you reach the lighthouse.  At Hvalrauf you can see an old landmark between the land of Saxhóll and Öndverðarnes. I do not think many people stop there anyway, but I stepped out of the car and had a look at the birds below. One really needs to lie down on ones stomach as not to lose balance here. You can see Hvalrauf in my photo below.

From the Settlement of Iceland and until the 20th century these breeding birds were a food source for the inhabitants of Snæfellsnes peninsula.  They would collect the birds eggs in June and the grown birds in August.

Collecting eggs in these craggy black cliffs is dangerous and they would rely on ropes to lower themselves down these cliffs.  

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

Ships don't stand a change against this black lava wall in bad weather and when I was standing on this spot looking out to sea I felt fear creeping over me, when thinking about ships crashing against the infamous Svörtuloft.  There are so many dangerous places in Iceland, which we who live here, are brought up to respect and fear.

Here by Svörtuloft the mailboat Anne Dorothea stranded and the whole crew perished - and only one hand was found.  And only as recently as back in 2001 the fishing boat, Svanborg from the neighbouring village, Ólafsvík, stranded by Svörtuloft, with 3 fishermen losing their lives and 1 being saved. Many more ships have been wrecked here and too many people have lost their lives.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

The name, Skálasnagi, stems from a a cliff which was connected by a stone bridge to land. The stone bridge collapsed in 1973 and now this cliff stands alone and majestic looking - it even looks like it has got a head. I hope the surf will not manage to destroy this beautiful headed cliff, but that is to be expected as the surf is so strong in this spot. 

Don't go here in really bad weather, it is better to be safe than sorry in these dangerous places.  

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.  I have visited Öndverðarnes several times over the years and I always seem to find something "new" of interest.  It amazes me how many ruins are to be found here at Öndverðarnes.

Here you will find a "short" orange lighthouse (1973) and a parking lot next to the lighthouse. The sea-shore south of Öndverðarnes is the aforementioned 4 km black lava wall Svörtuloft.

In 2007 a coach-driver, driving 40 tourists around, lost control over the coach and seesawed on the edge of the rocks. Nobody got hurt, but it must have been a scary experience for these poor tourists.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

Öndverðarnes used to be a vibrant fishing station in the olden times with fishery and a lot of fisherman's huts. Here was also a farm and a chapel, which is long gone now.

Since 1945 Öndverðarnes has been deserted, but you can see the ruins of the huts all over if you walk behind the lighthouse.  Here you can see the ruins of fishermen's huts, fish storage huts as well as farm ruins.

I walked around this area thinking about how lively it must have been, now everything is quiet, all the stories, conversations, laughter and tears from at least the 13th century until the 20th century - all gone.  I can get quite sentimental when I visit such areas ;)

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

You will encounter a skilfully made ancient stone well called Fálki or the Gyrfalcon.  It was the only water supply on Öndverðarnes.  There are 17-18 steps down to the well, which is dark and narrow...

According to legend there are three water-holes in the well, one with fresh water, another one with healthy holy water and the third one provides ale :)  I have also read that instead of the holy water one of the 3 wells provided brine. 

We don't know the origins of this well and who built it, but it is obviously old so it is now declared as protected.  I have heard that it was thought to bring back luck to fetch water from Fálki after the sun had set, so wanting to use this well in winter time during the shortest days would have been a challenge.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Part II

There is a yellow sign to the left of the well with the letter R and "friðlýstar fornleifar" written on it meaning that the well is protected.

When you walk by the shoreline of Öndverðarnes, or should I say above it as it is so rocky, it is hard to believe that this was the landing for many a small rowing boat.  Both the inhabitants and other fishermen would row from this landing.  

When the rowing boats came ashore with their catch they had to be careful as to not scratch their boats against the rocks on the beach. The fishermen would drag their boats up the shore, high enough for the sea not being able to reach them.  Marks can be seen in the stones from the keels of the boats. What a hard task this must have been. Above the landing a sign has been put up explaining how this was done.  I always appreciate such signs and would like to see them in more areas.

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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