Kirkjufell, or 'Church Mountain', is a distinctly shaped peak found on the north shore of Iceland’s Snæfellsnes Peninsula, only a short distance away from the town of Grundarfjörður. It is often called ‘the most photographed mountain in Iceland’ due to its dramatic formation and perfect coastal location.
Visit Kirkjufell on a tour of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. The landmark is incorporated into many self-drive packages, such as this 10-Day Summer Trip, and vacation packages, such as this 6-Day Winter Tour. Those who rent a car can seek it out while exploring the west.
Kirkjufell takes its name from its resemblance to a church steeple, sharpened at the top with long curved sides. From other angles, the mountain has been compared to a witch’s hat or even a freshly scooped ice cream.
Peaking at 463 meters, 1519 feet, Kirkjufell is an impressive landmark. Throughout the centuries, Kirkjufell’s striking slopes have acted as a visual landmark for seafarers and travellers. More recently, it has attracted amateur and professional photographers alike.
Within walking distance from Kirkjufell is the serene and perfectly located waterfall Kirkjufellsfoss, or 'Church Mountain Falls', an excellent subject for photographers who can easily frame the mountain in the background. Despite its relatively diminutive height, Kirkjufellsfoss’ three steps, gentle flow, and dramatic differences between seasons make it as impressive as some of Iceland’s larger waterfalls.
At the base of the mountain, visitors will also be able to find a lake; on calm and clear days, this lake reflects a perfect mirror image of Kirkjufell, only adding to the fantastic photo opportunities around this area.
On top of that, the colours of Kirkjufell change with the passing seasons; the summer sees it a lush green, full of life, whilst the winter months scar the mountain’s face with a mask of barren brown and white. Of course, it is more impressive under the midnight sun in the weeks surrounding the June equinox, and under the northern lights, best seen between September and April.
Fans of the HBO series Game of Thrones will recognise Kirkjufell as a shooting location from Season 7 of Game of Thrones. The mountain is showcased in the ‘Beyond the Wall’ episode when Jon Snow, The Hound, and Jorah Mormont, among others, brave the wilderness in hopes of catching an undead wight.
Having seen it in a vision, The Hound acknowledges Kirkjufell as “ the mountain like an arrowhead”, and the events that happen beneath it are some of the show’s most dramatic.
There is a fairly steep trail to the top of Kirkjufell, from which there are magnificent panoramas of the surrounding fields, coastlines, and rivers. The mountain takes roughly an hour and a half to ascend, with another one and a half hours needed to get back to the bottom.
Given the steep elevation and treacherous trail, you should only hike Kirkjufell if you are a highly experienced and confident mountain climber, preferably in the company of an expert guide. Sadly, there have been three fatal accidents on the mountain, most recently in 2018.
Kirkjufell is very close to Grundarfjörður, a small town on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, which is just over two hours drive from Iceland's capital city, Reykjavík. From Grundarfjörður, one travels a few minutes west down Route Snaefellsnesvegur 54 to the base of Kirkjufell. Visitors have plenty of parking options to choose from, all free of charge.