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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Day 8: Snaefellsnes Peninsula "Iceland in Miniature"

If you have been following along on my Iceland Adventures, you know how amazing and diverse the landscape has been thus far.  Day 8 proved to be a perfect way to start wrapping up the trip, seeing some of Iceland's most famous features on one peninsula.  The plan for Day 8 was to drive out and around Iceland's famous Snaefellsnes Peninsula which is known for being "Iceland in Miniature".  If you don't have time to see the whole country, a drive through this peninsula will give you a mini-tour of some of Iceland's most famous geologic structures and landscapes.  It's proximity to Reykjavik (just 1.5 hours north) also makes it an easy way to see a lot of Iceland in a little bit of time.  A famous glacier, charming towns, plenty of opportunities for hiking, beautiful arches, folklore, Iceland's classic basalt features, sunbathing seals, lava fields, famous mountains, flowing waterfalls... it's all here. 

This 90- km long peninsula took about 5 hours for us to drive from our guesthouse in Gauksmyri to our next guesthouse in Bogarnes.  If you are traveling along the Ring Road counterclockwise, this is the route you will travel (above).  Howeve, if you are coming from Reykjavik, you will not need to travel as far north as we did.  Reykjavik to the peninsula is only about 1.5 hours to the edge/start, or about 2.5 hours from Reykjavik to the end of the peninsula by Snæfellsjökull (Journey to the Center of the Earth, yep, here!).  

Road 54 to 574 (to drive to the end of the peninsula) and back to 54
Berserkjahraun lava field
Kirkjufell Mountain and Kirkjufoss
Lunch in Ólafsvík
Djúpalónssandur Beach
Snaefellsjokull National Park/Glacier
Arnarstapi  (Hellnar coastal path and fishing villages and Gatklettur)

The start of our drive around the Peninsula immediately offered some amazing views.  Around Narfeyri and the Alftafjordur west fjords, we were blown away by just how pretty this area was.  And let's be honest, the blue skies didn't hurt either.  This fjord and the Bay of the Whooper Swans made for an amazing background as we followed Road 52 around the peninsula to our first stop.

Berserkjahraun (which translates to mad-man’s lava field) is located in the Northern part of the Snaefellsnes peninsula.  Here, you can observe green moss over black lava stones with mountains and fjords in the background. While not insanely exciting, you pass right through this area and its worth a quick stop and a few photos as you drive through the peninsula.  Here you can also take a detour to the Bjarnarhofn area where you can visit the Bjarnarhöfn farmstead and Shark Museum.  After leaving the lava fields, we were on our way to our second stop, one of Iceland's most photographed mountains. 

Kirkjufell Mountain which translates to "Church Mountain” is one of Iceland's most photographed mountain. This photo (above) is the famous iconic shot with the waterfall (Kirkjufoss) in the forefront of the photo and the mountain in the back.  I know the mountain is famous, but I found the river leading out from the waterfall and surrounding landscape to be even better (and with way less people).  This iconic mountain stretches 463 m (1519 ft) up from the shoreline. 

I also decided we should start making Iceland's Kirkjufel mountain famous for a different reason.  Dorrito mountain anyone? Overall the area was beautiful but the swarms of tourists in this area was frustrating.  A quick stop along the peninsula and worth getting out to walk around but be aware, there will be a LOT of people.  

After Kirkjufell, we made our way down the northern edge of the peninsula, leaving the main loop (54) and jumping onto 574 that would take us to the end of the peninsula and past quaint little towns like Ólafsvík and Rif.  We stopped for a few photos along the way and eventually, at the end of the peninsula in the quaint little town of Ólafsvík for lunch.   Olafsvik is an old fishing village and one of Iceland’s oldest trading town that dates to 1687. Here we found a perfect spot on the water (picnic table and all) to enjoy our lunch outside with views like this.  Believe it or not, this was the first time the entire trip we could eat our lunch outside in the sunshine, not huddled in the car cursing Iceland's insane weather.  

After lunch we were back on the road and soon enough, entering into Snaefellsjoekull National Park.  Within the park, we stopped at the parking area for Djúpalónssandur beach. Here, you will find a short walk down Nautastígur path (the Path of the Bull) where you will walk through a lava field with large lava formations. 

On the beach below you, you can make out iron pieces from the British trawler The Epine GY7 which was wrecked east of Dritvík cove in March of 1948. Fourteen men lost their lives and five were saved by the Icelandic rescue team in the neighboring villages. There are paths down to the beach where you can walk among the wreckage and observe the famous "black pearl beach" but for the sake of time, we were back in the car and onto our next stop.

in Snaefellsjokull National Park

Only in Iceland can you take a journey to the center of the earth.  Or at least travel to the spot where a few fictional characters traveled to the center of the earth.  Snaefellsjokull Glacier is impressive in the background and rises to a height of 1446 meters at its highest point. This volcano is quite famous due to the novel Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864) by Jules Verne, in which the protagonists find the entrance to a passage leading to the center of the earth on Snæfellsjökull. There are various tours in the area that can take you on the mountain or in the nearby caves.  However, we were short on time and just stopped in the visitor's center to learn more about the park and the surrounding area.

Arnarstapi is a historic fishing point on the peninsula. This area is known for its local fishing and rugged beautiful coastline. There are also several walking paths in this area that follow the cliffs and jagged shoreline. We spent some time walking around the area and taking in the gorgeous views along the coastline.

Hellnar coastal path and fishing villages
You can walk along an old horse trail that travels 2.5 kilometers along the coast and through the Hellnahraun lava field to another small village called Hellnar.

On the walking path, you will pass famous arches such as Gatklettur and other interesting coastal features along the way.  We also used this time to soak in the sunshine at a bar across the street, loving every bit of blue sky we could see in the distance. 

Soon enough, we were back in the dirty duster and on our way to Bogarnes, our last exciting night of lodging on our trip before heading back (and spending the night) to Reykjavik. Once in Bogarnes, we were officially back on the Ring Road and at the last leg of our journey around the country.


Our lodging the second to last night of ou trip was high on the list and a top pick for most. Our accommodations were at an Airbnb (someone's home) tucked far away from the busy Ring Road (about 12 km, or 15 minutes one way up road 535).   Here we had the entire house to ourselves, including this beautiful deck, a hot tub, large kitchen, and these insane views.  We were a ways off the Ring Road so instead of going out, we stopped in Bogarnes for supplies and cooked dinner in the house, enjoying a quiet night in.  We had a huge piece of Char locally caught that we paired with pasta and veggies.  The fall colors were spectacular and we spend night 8 in Iceland finishing off our Breninvin in a hot tub under the stars, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. While we never saw the Northern Lights this house was one of our favorite accomodations on the trip. 

Dinner: Cooked- Veggies, pasta, and a filet of arctic char all for around $35
Night 8 airbnb cabin: $170 for four people which included two bedrooms, lofted upstairs, one bathroom, hot tub, large deck, and amazing views in a private area.

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