Bird cliffs near Arnarstapi on Snæfellsnes peninsula in west Iceland


The beautiful Arnarstapi is one of my favourite places on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. The extraordinary columnar basalt and cliff formations here are breathtaking in beauty and one of Iceland's most beautiful natural harbours is at Arnarstapi.

Take a tour of the harbour and the sea cliffs during the breeding season of the birds and you will hear myriad of birds squawking, mostly kittiwakes, gulls, fulmars and the cranky Arctic tern.  And when you come closer to the pillars, which are white with guano, the smell becomes almost overwhelming.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Arnarstapi and Hellnar

In former times Arnarstapi was a vibrant community. My photo below is one of the best-known photo motives from Arnarstapi, with Mt. Stapafell with the white house and the cliffs in the foreground. I am sure that most people who visit Arnarstapi take this kind of a photo.

I have stayed in one of the summer houses in the background as my dentist and friend owns one of these summer houses. What an extraordinary location for a summer house, one of my wishes in life is to own a summer house here.

Arnarstapi on Snæfellsnes peninsula in west Iceland

I want to show you more photo opportunities for Mt. Stapafell from Arnarstapi. Like this one below with the black and white house, which is called Amtmannshúsið in Icelandic, as it was the residence of the Danish Prefect back when Iceland belonged to Denmark.  Amtmannshúsið has now been declared as a historical site.  

Arnarstapi used to be a vibrant fishing village, but nowadays it is a centre for tourism, seeing that Arnarstapi is one of the most popular sites to visit on the peninsula. The Snæfellsnes Information Centre, on the other hand, is located at Malarrif, west of Arnarstapi.

I like the photo of Mt. Stapafell and Amtmannshúsið house a lot, but most people prefer the photo above as it also shows Snæfellsjökull glacier, given that it is not cloudy.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Arnarstapi and Hellnar

Now to tell you a little bit about Mt. Stapafell then is a pyramid-shaped 526 m high palagonite mountain and a volcano right next to Snæfellsjökull glacier and volcano. The mountain looks like a pyramid only from this direction, but if you drive up by it and visit Sönghellir cave then you will have a totally different view of Mt. Stapafell. 

These two volcanoes make an out of this world pair. There seem to be some supernatural forces at work here. When I meditate on the glacier and Mt. Stapafell I sense a lot of violet energy coming from Mt. Stapafell, so this mountain seems to be as magical as Snæfellsjökull glacier. Or maybe I am just strange ;)

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Arnarstapi and Hellnar

Walking around Arnarstapi is one of my favourite things to do on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, to for me this is a truly magical place, like so many places here in Snæfellsnes peninsula.  

I love when Mt. Stapafell reflects in the pond at Arnarstapi as you can see in the photo above.  So you see that there are many ways of photographing Mt. Stapafell.

Sometimes feel like I have stepped into a magical world when I travel in my country and Arnarstapi is one of these magical places.  If you look at the photo below you will see is a hole in the middle of the ground, so let's be careful while walking around Arnarstapi!  It is extraordinary though having a peak down this hole or chasm.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Arnarstapi and Hellnar

What I am doing in the photo below looks very dangerous and there were some visitors who pointed at me and told one another that I was behaving stupidly. Probably I am behaving stupidly most of the time, but what cannot be seen in the photo is that the stone cross-over is wide and easy to step on.

We Icelanders are brought up to fear the dangerous powers of our country - which resulted in me fearing almost everything. Of course, this cross-over can always collapse as has happened to stone bridges in some places, and you can slip etc., so maybe it is best to skip this one?  

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Arnarstapi and Hellnar

It is possible to walk along/above the shore both from the small harbour, or leave your car by the big statue of Bárður Snæfellsás and walk from there, a short walk, to an observation platform above the beautiful Gatklettur - Arch Rock at Arnarstapi.   

The Arch Rock in Arnarstapi on Snæfellsnes peninsula, west Iceland

From the platform, you will also see the most beautiful basalt columns, which reach inside a beautiful cave.

I am totally in love with basalt columns and call them artwork of nature as they are ever so beautiful and look like they have been sculptured by an artist.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Arnarstapi and Hellnar

You remember Bárður Snæfellsás, the Protector of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula? I have mentioned him in several travel-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.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Arnarstapi and Hellnar

You can read his story in one of our Sagas - the Saga of Bárður Snæfellsás. And I have dedicated one of my travel-blogs solely to Bárður Snæfellsás.

Bárður, who was Dumbsson, sailed from Norway with his men in the 9th century and came ashore in Djúpalón and Dritvík cove. He then built his farm at Laugarbrekka further east on Snæfellsnes and became a prominent figure on the peninsula.

Bárður was the one who gave the 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. Both words "snær" and "snjór" mean snow in Icelandic. It was later changed to Snæfellsnes.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Arnarstapi and Hellnar

Here is another photo I love of Mt. Stapafell and Arnarstapi. You can take many interesting photos of Bárður Snæfellsás with this pyramid-shaped mountain and either make him big or small in comparison to the mountain.

Arnarstapi is a place in Snæfellsnes that should not be missed!  And there is a 2.5 km long hiking trail leading through the lava field between Arnarstapi to Hellnar. 


The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Arnarstapi and Hellnar

Hellnar is the next stop in Snæfellsnes when travelling in this area. 

Here at 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. In the year 1703 194 people were living here 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.

How times have changed at Hellnar - now there is a hotel, a restaurant and a very popular café, Fjöruhúsið café, down by the sea. The Visitor Centre for Snæfellsjökull glacier National Park used to be located here, but in the summer of 2016, the Visitor Centre moved locations down to Malarrif opposite the lighthouse a little bit further east from Hellnar. 

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Arnarstapi and Hellnar

Down by the sea, you will see beautiful rock formations and a protruding rock, Valasnös, with a huge opening. It is possible to walk right up to the opening. The beach is a bit rocky though as there are lava rocks on the beach, which are quite unique, some of them are black and some of them are white.

When I visited Vatnshellir cave which is very close to here, the guide told us about these different colours of the rocks on the beach, that they were from different periods of the same volcanic eruption and that it was rare seeing them together on the beach like this.

Supposedly there is a cave called Baðstofuhellir inside the cliff, but I have never managed to see it - it has been described as very colourful in a certain light. Watch out for the tide when taking photos here, I have been taken by surprise by the tide here and had to jump!

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Arnarstapi and Hellnar

You will see a lot of fulmars in the cliffs and it is so lovely watching them up close and personal, as it were. Usually, they are on high sea cliffs and you can only hear (and smell them) from above, but I have rarely seen them from below.

My aunt has got a summer cottage at Hellnar, overlooking Snæfellsjökull glacier and the sea - she and her husband often watch Orca whales playing in the sea from their living room. I love visiting her and I frequently stay overnight as this part of the Snæfellsnes peninsula is like heaven to me.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Arnarstapi and Hellnar

I also have ties to this place on my mother's side, as at Hellnar one of my great-grandmothers was born and raised. She then moved to a very remote valley, Ingjaldssandur, in the Westfjords of Iceland with my great-grandfather. She had studied management of creamery dairies in Borgarfjörður and had met my great-grandfather at Hvanneyri Agricultural School where he was studying agriculture. They had 8 children in this remote valley in the Westfjords of Iceland.  

What a big change this must have been for her, moving from Snæfellsnes peninsula to such a remote valley where their turf farm was located by the open sea and thus in winter time the valley could only be reached by boat!

Fjöruhúsið café 

Fjöruhúsið café in Hellnar on Snæfellsnes peninsula, west Iceland

There is a lovely little café called Fjöruhúsiðright by the sea at Hellnar. It opened in 1997 and is very popular amongst Icelanders as well as foreign visitors. The location is fantastic, hidden away right by the sea and the cliffs.

One cannot see the café from the road, it is well hidden until you reach the top of the hill. They offer home-made cakes and bread, hot chocolate, waffles and a fish-soup. It is a café, not a restaurant, so only light meals can be bought here. And it is very small, so only a limited amount of guests can visit the café at a time.

The hike from Hellnarto Arnarstapistarts here by Fjöruhúsið on the right-hand side. And if you walk a bit further up behind the café and turn left there is a statue of the Virgin Mary by holy spring water.

Maríulind holy spring water

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Arnarstapi and Hellnar

According to legend, Guðmundur góði biskup - Bishop Guðmundur the Good had a vision in the year 1230 at Hellnar of a woman accompanied by three angels. She bade him consecrate the spring, which he did. I have not been able to find any written records on his vision, but have heard about it frequently.

The statue was donated and erected by the owners of Hellnar in 1989.

It is believed that the water in the spring will never dry up and that it has healing powers. I have been up there several times to pray. I visited Maríulindwhen my father was dying back in July 2008, and prayed for him and always visit this holy spring when there are difficulties in the family.

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Arnarstapi and Hellnar

You can both walk and drive to Maríulind. To get to it you drive down the hill towards the Fjöruhúsið café, but instead of turning to the right for the café you drive on and turn left for Maríulind.

There is a sign leading the way. You can drive almost up to the holy spring water, it is just a couple of minutes drive on this road. There you can park your car and walk for a minute up to Maríulind. When you see it from the road the white statue of Virgin Mary looks so tiny and lovely.

I believe that there are healing powers at work here. 

The Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland - Arnarstapi and Hellnar

There are several guided tours to Snæfellsnes - f.ex. a guided super jeep tour to Snæfellsnes peninsula, the Snæfellsnes minibus expedition and a 2-day tour to the Snæfellsnes peninsula and Northern Lights just to give you a selection of the many guided tours which are available. You can even get a private tour to the Snæfellsnes peninsula.

I have written a series of travel-blogs on Snæfellsnes in chronological order, as there is just so much history and places of interest everywhere you look: 

Have a lovely time at Snæfellsnes :)

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