This is part IV in my series of travel-blogs on the magical Snæfellsnes peninsula, in which I show you the most interesting places on the peninsula in chronological order. There is so much to see and do here that I have had to add 5 travel-blogs with several side-blogs.
I hope that this travel-blog style guide will prove helpful in introducing my favourite peninsula in Iceland to you and that you will be able to enjoy it better when you visit it yourself. If you want to start travelling with me from the beginning then you can do so by reading the Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula part I, then the Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula part II and finally the Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula part III.
In my last travel-blog, we travelled from Gufuskálar to Ólafsvík and are by now leaving that town and driving further on Útskálavegur road number 574 until we finally merge with the main road number 54 just a little further on.
Mt. Kirkjufell (463 m) is the best-known mountain in Grundarfjörður and a landmark of this fishing village. The mountain is referred to as being the most beautiful mountain on the Snæfellsnes peninsula and sometimes it is even referred to as being the most beautiful mountain in Iceland. At least it is the most photographed mountain.
The name Kirkjufell means Church Mountain - it is considered to resemble a church as it is freestanding and majestic.
I have written a special travel-blog which I dedicated to Mt. Kirkjufell & Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall, where I have included many more photos and information.
Mt. Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall have become the most popular place for a photo stop here in Grundarfjörður, and sometimes it can get very crowded by the waterfall when everybody is trying to get the exact same photo of the mountain with the waterfall in front.
The name of the river is Kirkjufellsá river and it creates 3 waterfalls, which all bear the same name - Kirkjufellsfoss.
In my photos above and below you can see my favourite angle of Mt. Kirkjufell, the bench in Grundarfjörður, and the popular Mt. Kirkjufell in the distance.
You can read up on this location in my Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall travel-blog.
On offer now are some kayaking tours by Mt. Kirkjufell, which I think is an interesting addition to activities at Grundarfjörður.
I took this photo above of Grundarfjörður from Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall. As with other villages and towns on the Snæfellsnes peninsula fishing is the main industry in Grundarfjörður, but tourism is a growing industry as well and there are a lot of organized trips and things to do here.
The population of Grundarfjörður is a little less than 900. The Information Centre in Grundarfjörður is located at the Eyrbyggja Heritage Centre museum - Sögumiðstöðin, where you will also find a café, a library and a couple of small exhibitions depicting the changes in Grundarfjörður's history and technology through the centuries. And you will even find an old French cannon at one of the museums.
I especially like the exhibition of the imitation of an old shop, Þórðarbúð from the fifties, and I always pop in for a visit when I visit Grundarfjörður. Þórðarbúð shop was a normal convenience store run by Þórður Pálsson. At Christmas time the convenience store would turn into a lovely toy store. There is just something so friendly and appealing about such old toys, don't you agree? This exhibition is one of its kind here in Iceland.
By the exhibition, you will find a children's play area where they can even play with the toys of olden times, animal jaws, horns, and leg bones.
Also don't miss visiting Bæringsstofa, which is a photo gallery where you can sit down and watch a slide-show on the life in Grundarfjörður through the ages. These photos belong to the photographic gallery of Bæring Cecilsson (1923-2002) who donated his gallery to Grundarfjörður.
I am very grateful to the Information centre, as once when I desperately needed an auto mechanic, the girl at the Information Centre phoned several mechanics and found one for me in Stykkishólmur, the capital of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Such personal help is always greatly appreciated, especially when one is travelling.
And Sunna, who works at the library, was very helpful when I needed some information about old ruins at Öndverðareyri :)
Now, let's get back to the cannon I mentioned - on display is one of two cannons which were unearthed on the Kirkjufell shore sand. These two cannons come from a stranded whaler from France, which stranded here in 1720. Grundarfjörður has got a special bond with the French and is twinned with Paimpol in France.
Our next stop will be at the church in Grundarfjörður. Most of our churches are unfortunately closed due to theft and vandalism in recent years, but I was able to get in during the annual village festival, where my husband was entertaining as a magician.
Grundarfjarðarkirkja church is a big church (Iceland style), which was consecrated in 1966. It has been blessed with the gifts of many benefactors of the church, who have given artefacts to the church in remembrance of loved ones. Almost everything inside Grundarfjarðarkirkja has been donated to the church by friends and benefactors.
The church in Grundarfjörður is especially dear to me as the two beautiful stained windows by the altar were donated to the church by my grandfather and his children. And my favourite, the beautiful stained glass window in the back of the church, depicting Jesus blessing the children, was donated to the church in remembrance of my grandfather, by his children.
My grandfather moved away when he was in his teens, as his father drowned in the bay just outside of the home :( Grundarfjörður was always very dear to my grandfather and we visited this area with him when I was little. Fond memories and this village will always be very dear to me.
Grundarfjörður has got the Green Globe certification for environmental standards and it is probably the only village in the world where the building authorities have donated a special allotment to the Elves of Iceland.
In my photo above you will see the allotment dedicated to the elves or hidden people of Iceland. It is to the left in the photo and there will never be a house built there. I visited it and found several large rocks on the top of the hill.
They have apparently been recognized as being the habitations of elves or the hidden people for years.
A dwarf rock by the church
You will find several elf-rocks in Grundarfjörður and even rocks with dwarfs living in them. One such rock is close to the church. According to Gunnar Njálsson, a medium, who is the brother of Steinunn at the library, a boy, who lives close to the church, was cycling by the rock and accidentally hit it, so both he and the bike fell down.
He stood up and took the bike and walked with it away from the rock. He looked back and saw an angry little man, a dwarf, who scolded him for hitting his home. He then saw the dwarf disappear into the rock again.
Dwarfs live in these 3 rocks
In the interview with Gunnar (in Icelandic) he also told us about the 3 rocks by the church. They are also habitations of dwarfs. An interesting story that happened to Gunnar himself. He was working for the community and put 3 large rocks from the quarry in front of the retirement home.
While he was raking the grass around the rocks he saw 3 dwarfs running towards him with their belongings. They merrily asked him if he would allow them to live in the rocks. Gunnar, of course, allowed them to do so :) And they are still living in the rocks, according to Gunnar.
Marteinn at Suður-Bár showing me maps with invaluable information about this area
It must be amazing being able to see elves, the hidden people, and dwarfs! I would love to meet Gunnar one day and talk to him. This video was sent to me by his brother, Marteinn, who runs a travel-service at Suður-Bár in Grundarfjörður, where my grandfather once lived until his father drowned.
I stayed at Suður-Bár for one night and got a lot of information from Marteinn, which I am very grateful for. Such friendly and knowledgeable siblings :)
You will find a Viking club in Grundarfjörður called Glæsir, which is one of 9 Viking clubs in Iceland. The first Viking club to my knowledge was founded in 1997 in Hafnarfjörður, the home of the Viking Village.
I have visited Grundarfjörður during their town festival and witnessed a Viking fight by these 2 Vikings below.
Here in Grundarfjörður, the traditional skate fish is cured. My grandfather was very fond of cured skate fish and we had it quite often for dinner, probably because he was from Grundarfjörður. Nowadays skate is traditionally eaten on the 23rd of December on Þorláksmessa or the Mass of Þorlákur and rarely as a normal dinner.
There is so much more I can show you in Grundarfjörður, that I will be adding a special travel-blog about this lovely village, which is so close to my heart.
Grundarfjörður is by road 54 on the north coast of the Snæfellsnes peninsula - 185 km from Reykjavík. Here you can see the exact location of Grundarfjörður on the map.
Here I am in the photo on the other side of the gorge with special permission from my relatives at Kverná. The waterfall can only be reached from the opposite side of the gorge though.
You will find 2 lovely waterfalls close to Kverná farm in the outskirt of Grundarfjörður, called Kvernárfoss and Grundarfoss waterfalls. In the gorge by Kvernárfoss it is believed that you will find the biggest concert hall of the elves in Iceland!
The waterfall can only be reached from the road marked "Tengivirki" where you can walk to the top of the gorge and have a look at it from above.
You can read much more in my travel-blog about Kvernárfoss waterfall: The beautiful Grundarfoss & Kvernárfoss waterfalls, where I tell you about the hidden people a medium saw in the gorge, how the women were dressed and what they were like.
Here you will see the location of Kvernárfoss waterfall on the map.
The other waterfall, Grundarfoss waterfall, is 70 meters high and falls in the river of Grundará.
Here you will see the location of Grundarfoss waterfall on the map. I have written a special travel-blog on these 2 waterfalls, so for more information about the hike and the concert hall of the elves, look up my travel-blog the beautiful Grundarfoss & Kvernárfoss waterfalls.
Now let's keep on driving along road 54 to our next destination the Berserkjahraun lava field.
My husband in the lava field
There are several lava fields on the Snæfellsnes peninsula as those, who have joined me on my trip around the peninsula, have noticed. One such lava field is called Berserkjahraun or Berserk lava on the northern side of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Berserkjahraun lava is 3,600-4,000 years old. The lava stems from four differently sized scoria craters.
It formed 2 lakes, one of which you can see if you visit the beautiful waterfall in Vatnaleið,
The lava is massive here and we always stop the car by the information signs leading to Bjarnarhöfn and have a walk in the lava next to the road. It is fun taking photos here, but just imagine what it must have looked like during the volcanic eruption! Let's be careful in the lava, it is no fun falling on the sharp lava.
The Viking Saga which happened in this area is depicted in Eyrbyggja Saga. It is a long story but a very short version of the story is that two berserks from Sweden, Halli, and Leiknir, were killed here and buried by Víga-Styr the Slayer after the berserks made a bridle path through the rugged lava field on his demand.
Víga-Styr's brother, Vermundur hinn mjóvi or Vermundur the thin in Bjarnarhöfn, had imported the berserks to Iceland from Norway in 982. But they were just too rampageous, so he couldn't manage them and gave them to his brother.
Walking on the Berserkjagata trail
Víga-Styr had his hands full trying to control the brothers. Halli the berserk then asked for Víga-Styr's daughter's, Ásdís, hand in marriage or they would "unfriend" him, as it were.
Styr consulted the Chieftain Snorri at Helgafell, They walked to the top of Mt. Helgafell and talked until the evening. Nobody knows what they talked about
Berserkjagarður fence by Berserkjagata in Berserkjahraun lava field
When Styr got back home he told Halli that he could marry his daughter, Ásdís, after the berserks finished making the path and a boundary fence across the lava.
But Víga-Styr was not going to make his daughter marry a berserk, so he tricked the brothers after they finished making the path. (And later on, Snorri goði married Ásdís).
Víga-Styr invited the berserks to take a bath in a hot bath (baðstofa) he had made in the ground and after the berserks had stepped into it he closed it and put big rocks on top of it with the purpose of killing the brothers in the heat from the hot bath.
Berserkjadys in Berserkjahraun lava field by Berserkjagata where apparently the berserks are buried
The berserks managed to break their way free from the hot bath but Víga-Styr killed them as they exited the bath. He then had them moved to a small valley in the lava field and buried them there by the Berserkjagata trail.
So if you want to walk in the Berserkjahraun lava field know that there are two berserks buried in it. And thus the name of the lava field - Berserkjahraun.
A sign by the Berserkjagarður fence showing us that here we find preserved old archaeological finds
Here is the oldest man-made road structure in Iceland, of which the builders are known. Berserkjahraun stretches down to the sea by Bjarnarhöfn and south-east of it you can see the path they made and a grave has been found with the bones of two very large men (berserks).
There was no yellow "Friðlýstar fornleifar" sign by the Berserkjadys, but I found such a sign by Berserkjagarður fence.
Berserkjahraun is on the Natural history site register. Here you can see the location of Berserkjahraun on the map.
I have visited Berserkjagata a couple of times, but always seem to be here in the dusk, so I have hurried a bit as I do not want to get lost in the lava-field in the dark!
There is no mention in Eyrbyggja Saga of the berserks rising from death and revenging their murder. There are several such accounts in Eyrbyggja and it contains some gruesome ghost stories that will make your hair rise like this one Fróðárheiði Heath & the Fróðá Wonders - Icelandic Folklore: Ghosts and Zombies in the Viking Age! and another frightening story from Álftafjörður on Skógarströnd.
But the berserks didn't revenge for their horrible murder.
A lava troll, which resembles a berserk by the end of trail
Now, let's visit the Shark museum at Bjarnarhöfn and turn left from road 54 by the shark sign and onto a road called Helgafellssveitarvegur. Drive for a short distance and turn left on the road leading to the museum.
It is not every day that one sees a sign in the shape of a shark. This sign points you in the direction of the privately-owned Shark museum at Bjarnarhöfn - Hákarlasafnið in Icelandic, which is a must-see. At this museum, you will learn about the history of the farm and shark hunting, and shark curing.
There is a tradition here in Iceland to eat shark. It is either hunted or gets entangled in the nets of fishermen. The shark-meat is poisonous, so it has to be processed. The meat is buried in a pile in crates and allowed to ferment for 6-8 weeks. Then it is hanged up for 4 months. It is fermented during the wintertime when it is cold outside and hanged up during the summertime.
After the processing, the shark is frozen. I wonder who was the first one willing to try the meat after it had been processed; somebody must have died after trying to eat the fresh meat.
The Icelandic term for a shark is hákarl and for a rotten shark, it is kæstur hákarl. Just so you know if an Icelander offers you kæstur hákarl, then you know what you are in for. The taste is very strong and can make your eyes water so it is often eaten together with dried fish.
The owner of the Shark museum, Hildibrandur, and his sons gave you a warm welcome. Hildibrandur processed Greenland shark at his place, Bjarnarhöfn, for over 65 years. Once my husband and I entered the museum just after closing time as we wanted to have a look at the church at Bjarnarhöfn and we were asked if we could come back later. A bit difficult as we were driving back to Reykjavík that same night. Hildibrandur was getting on in years and was tired after greeting visitors all day long.
I hated troubling Hildibrandur when he was tired, but my husband, who is a professional magician, put on a small magic show for Hildibrandur and his sons and meant to leave, but these friendly people saw pity on us and showed us around - very much appreciated. Hildibrandur died in November 2017.
Guests are invited to learn first-hand about the processing of shark meat at the museum and offered a taste of the shark and stockfish. If you have never tried shark before, then eat the shark and stockfish together in one bite as that will make the taste of the shark a bit milder.
I have seen grown men with tears running down their faces when they taste the shark as it is so strong. But you know what, when I was maybe 4-5 years old I was crazy about shark and would eat it out of a jar as I found it to be so yummy - but, it is an acquired taste, I guess ;)
It for sure is a unique experience to visit the Shark Museum, we are used to men being afraid of sharks - here, on the other hand, you will find men who go hunt for sharks!
Here is an introductory video by Bjarnarhöfn:
According to Landnáma - the Book of Settlement - Björn Ketilsson settled this area in around year 886 AC. Björn was the brother of one of Iceland's most influential settler women, the Christian Auður djúpúðga, who settled at Hvammur in Dalir close by. His brother, Helgi bjóla settled Kjalarnes in SW-Iceland, and his sister Þórunn hyrna settled Eyjafjörður up north with her husband Helgi magri.
After visiting the Shark Museum let's return back to road 54 and head in the direction of Stykkishólmur village, the capital of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Here you can see the location of the Shark Museum on the map.
We will pass Vatnaleið heath on our right-hand side and turn left on road 58, which is a 10 km road that takes you to the sacred Mt. Helgafell and a little further ahead to Stykkishólmur, which I will show you in my next travel-blog about the Magical Snæfellsnes peninsula - Part V.
The historical Mt. Helgafell - the Sacred Hill is the next stop on my chronological tour of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. The common belief is that if you can hike to the top of the mountain without looking back or uttering a word you will get 3 wishes fulfilled.
Seeing that this travel-blog of mine is getting to be very long then I have added a special travel-blog on the holy Mt. Helgafell and the 3 wishes with loads of information about this special place and an additional chapter on the giantess and Helgafell.
Here you can see the location of Mt. Helgafell and the church on the map.
Next, we are going to visit the capital of the Snæfellsnes peninsula; Stykkishólmur town.
I have added the 5th travel-blog on what there is to see and do on the return trip back to Reykjavík, where we will be visiting my favourite hidden waterfall, a giantess in a mountain pass, a hot geothermal pool and walk on the rim of the most perfectly shaped crater I have ever seen here in Iceland.
I have written these 5 travel-blogs about the Snæfellsnes peninsula as there is just so much history and places of interest everywhere you look. And I have added a lot of side-blogs.
Here are links to all of the Snæfellsnes travel-blogs in this series:
Also, check out the myriad of interesting guided tours to the Snæfellsnes peninsula!
Have a lovely time on the beautiful Snæfellsnes peninsula :)