Snæfellsnes peninsula is one of my favourite places here in Iceland, it is absolutely magical with so many interesting, beautiful sights. You will see stretches of lava fields, amazing gorges, and waterfalls, lovely hamlets, basalt columns in abundance, mineral springs and volcanoes - just to name a few of the amazing sights on the Snæfellsnes peninsula!
I have written a 5-part series of travel-blogs on Snæfellsnes peninsula, but as many people have been asking me about guided tours to this area I decided on checking out a guided tour. I chose the Mysterious Snæfellsnes National Park Day Tour with Nicetravel.
Our first stop was at Eldborg crater. I had wanted to hike up to this crater for many years, but as I was always in a hurry to visit some other places in Snæfellsnes then I had always left this hike for a later day.
Nicetravel doesn't always visit the same places in Snæfellsnes on their tours and this was actually the first time they included Eldborg crater in their tour! I was thrilled to be able to finally go on this hike. We stopped the bus on the parking lot of Snorrastaðir farm and hiked from there.
Eldborg crater is believed to have been most active 5000-8000 years ago. The name Eldborg means the City (Fortress) of Fire. This beautiful volcano was preserved back in 1974.
The hike back and forth is around 6 km and it took us 1.5 hours to hike both ways with brisk walking.
The major part of the hike is easy, but be careful to not trip over rocks and roots on the trail. It is only when we got up to the roots of the volcano that it started getting really rocky (rough lava fields), but there were chains to help people climb up the steps to the top of the crater.
It is possible to see ravens which nest inside the crater, but I didn't spot them on our hike.
The height of the crater is 100 meters above sea level and the ascent is 60 meters. The crater is 50 meters deep and 200 meters in diameter. I had been ill with the flu for 5 weeks on this day in May and was in no shape for a hike, but up I went although I was the last one and very raggedy looking in the photo ;)
On my way down from the crater I noticed the beautiful colours of the lava. I just couldn't stop taking pictures of it. I love taking pictures of lava and seek out colourful or oddly shaped lava, so I was thrilled to see all these different colours in the lava at Eldborg.
You can see the distance to Eldborg crater in my photo above. The hike in itself is a delight as you can see this beautiful volcano drawing closer and closer. Eldborg, unlike many other volcanoes in Iceland, is in the "traditional" shape of what many of us think a volcano should look like. I find it to be so beautiful and am so happy that I was finally able to hike to the top of it :)
Our next stop was at Ytri-Tunga farm, where seals can often be spotted - it is actually a well-known beach for seal-spotting. It is a beautiful beach with pink sands, but pink sand beaches are rare in Iceland and the Snæfellsnes peninsula and the Westfjords are amongst the few places where pink/yellow beaches can be seen.
Other beaches in Iceland are black and I always find it to be so exotic to visit the pink/yellow beaches of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Before I visited the first sunny beach abroad when I was 11 I thought all beaches were black!
We saw the heads of some big seals, but I didn't bring my zoom camera with me, so I didn't get any good photos of the seals. But if you look up the google photos from Ytri-Tunga then you can see the seals. I love spotting seals, they are so beautiful and curious.
Our next stop was at Arnarstapi, which is one of my favourite places on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Here you will see bird cliffs with kittiwakes, fulmars, gulls and the Arctic tern in abundance. In my opinion, the most beautiful harbour in Iceland is at Arnarstapi.
We stopped by two observation platforms and in my photo above you can see Gatklettur "Arch Rock". Quite magnificent! And there are so many beautiful basalt columns in this area, that I consider this a must stop while travelling in Snæfellsnes. The coastline here is amazing!
There is a huge stone structure of Bárður Snæfellsás at Arnarstapi by one of our sculptors, Ragnar Kjartansson. Bárður Snæfellsás was/is half a man and half a troll and is considered to be the protector of Snæfellsnes.
Folklore is related to Bárður and a very sad family tragedy, which you can read about in my travel-blog Bárður Snæfellsás - the Mythical Protector of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland.
Behind the statue of Bárður, you will see Mt. Stapafell, which is a peculiar 526 m high mountain and a volcano next to Snæfellsjökull glacier. Mt. Stapafell is made of palagonite and in the shape of a pyramid.
My photo above is one of the best-known photo motives from Arnarstapi; of Mt. Stapafell and the white house with the red roof and the bird cliffs in the foreground. We made a stop at the observation platform to take this special photo.
Our 4th stop was only 5 minutes away from Arnarstapi, by Svalþúfa-Þúfubjarg, which is a crater that has been almost washed away by the ocean through the ages.
A short hike takes you up to the top of the hill, which really is a sheer rock. In the summer of 2015, an observation platform was put up here. Before the observation platform was put up I used to stop walking up the hill when I started to smell the guano from the sea-birds in the cliff - that was the only indication that I was getting too close to the edge of the cliff!
Now we are in elf territory and it is forbidden to mow the grass here because of the elves! From Svalþúfa-Þúfubjarg there is a beautiful view of Lóndrangar cliffs, which are 2 ancient volcanic plugs, 60 m and 75 m high, the higher one is called "Tröllkarlinn" or the Ogre. One of the cliffs is believed to be the church of the elves and the other one to be their library, and one can understand why as their formation is very distinctive.
There is a path leading to Lóndrangar. Standing next to these majestic volcanic plugs is amazing. Sometimes Nicetravel includes this hike in their tour, but as we included the hike to Eldborg in our tour, then we skipped this hike. I have been on another Snæfellsnes tour with the same company and on that tour, we went hiking up to the magnificent Rauðfeldargjá gorge, which is a spectacular hike.
By now we were right by the famous Snæfellsjökull glacier, which is a dormant stratovolcano, 1446 m high. It is the main tourist attraction on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, towering over the National park at the west end of the peninsula. It was partly overcast when we visited and we could only see the lower part of Snæfellsjökull glacier, so I add a photo of the glacier which I took 3 days after the tour when I visited Snæfellsnes again.
Remember Jules Verne's science fiction "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" from 1864 about a group of scientists who ventured into the crater of Snæfellsjökull glacier?
There is special energy at work by this glacier and some people get filled with energy here and cannot sleep when they are in the vicinity of the glacier, I included!
Our 5th stop was at Djúpalónssandur beach - I love this place - it is like stepping into lava wonderland!
From the parking lot, you walk down steps and up opens this beautiful black beach. The beach is made of small black smooth pebbles called Djúpalónsperlur or the Pearls of Djúpalón. These pebbles are protected.
On the beach, you will see iron remains from the British trawler, the Epine GY7, which was wrecked east of Dritvík on the night of 13th March 1948. Fourteen men lost their lives and five were saved by Icelandic rescue teams.
The iron remains are protected and should not be touched.
At Djúpalónssandur beach there are 4 stones. They are well-known lifting-stones "aflraunasteinar" here in Iceland. They were used to measure the strength of fishermen.
The biggest stone is called Full-Strength and weighs 154 kg. The second one is called Half-Strength and weighs 100 kg. The third one is called Weakling and weighs 54 kg and the fourth one is called Useless and weighs 23 kg. All these names refer to how strong/weak the person is lifting them up on a plinth. If the fishermen could not lift the 54 kg stone they were not accepted on the fishing boats.
Some of the people in the group tried to lift the stones, which caused quite a cheer amongst the other travellers. I didn't even try, I am far from being strong enough to lift these stones ;)
Be careful while visiting this beach - the suction of the sea in Djúpalónssandur is very powerful so please don't go too close to the sea.
After stopping for early dinner in Ólafsvík town we headed for Grundarfjörður town, where my grandfather was raised. Now just recently Mt. Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall have become the most popular photo stop here in Grundarfjörður. Everybody seems to want to take a photo like the one above, i.e. from this angle - so we made our final stop here. It is a beautiful photo spot.
Mt. Kirkjufell is the most prominent mountain in Grundarfjörður and a landmark of this fishing town. It is free-standing and referred to as the most beautiful mountain in Snæfellsnes.
Antonio, the tour-guide had found out that it is possible to walk behind one of the waterfalls, something I had not known about. There is something so special about walking behind waterfalls in my opinion. The path has now been closed due to too much traffic.
You can see Antonio in both the photo above and below, where we were trying to touch the top of Mt. Kirkjufell - we almost succeeded ;)
I loved this tour, the guides are so friendly and laid back that it felt like I was on a tour with my friends. The bus accommodates 12 people, which is a perfect size if you want to get to know your fellow travellers.
Antonio, one of the guides, is awesome, I have been twice on the Snæfellsnes tour with him and he loves Iceland - just like I do, so it is a delight travelling with him and we constantly swap stories about our travels around my country. A highly recommended tour. And now they are even offering a 2 Day Snaefellsnes Tour|The Wild West of Iceland!
Have a lovely time on the Snæfellsnes National Park Day Tour :)