Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Iceland: About Waterfalls, Useless Fishermen, and Sheep Heads
Why go to Snæfellsnes Peninsula?
When I do research for visiting a country, I often do image searches on Google to find the most picturesque spots in a country. As a photographer, I love to see the most breathtaking landscapes and scout out the best photo ops, so I can share them with you here on the blog. Finding the most beautiful places in Iceland is no easy feat because it seems this country is scattered with an out-of-this-world scenery. Countless waterfalls, moss covered lava fields, glaciers, and volcanos, Iceland is a photographer’s dream. And as I was clicking through the photos on the screen to find out where the place was located, I came across one region again and again: Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
Located just north of Reykjavik, it looked like a perfect place to explore, even during our short trip. To maximize our time in Iceland, we decided to book a day trip to explore the Snæfellsnes Peninsula with Golden Tours. Usually, we are not tour people, but Golden Tours is different than any other group tour we had been on. On this trip, we were only with 8 other people and we had a lot of time to explore on our own. It was awesome!
We were picked up at around 8 AM at the Bus Terminal by a fancy Mercedes van. We left the city and followed the coast up North. The views during the drive were absolutely stunning. Unfortunately, photos out of moving cars never do the scenery justice. The ocean was a vibrant shade of navy blue. The sky on one side was covered with dark gray storm clouds towering over the mountains – broken up by sun rays hitting the green valleys like stage lights. Over the ocean, the sky was baby blue, scattered with puffy white clouds – such a stunning contrast. We drove through miles of tunnels as we snaked our way along the coastline, passing over fjords and through mountains. The drive alone was worth our trip to Snæfellsnes Peninsula, but our trip had more highlights in store for us.
What you’ll see in Snæfellsnes Peninsula?
Gerðuberg Basalt Columns
Our first stop were the Gerðuberg basalt columns. Reminiscent of a man-built wall, these even shaped gray pillars give you the feeling that you stumbled into a set of Game of Thrones. 7-14 meters high (23-46 ft) and a diameter of 1-1.5 meters (3-5 ft), they reached for the stormy skies. It was a magnificent view.
But how did these columns form? It is actually pretty interesting. The basalt is lava stone, so in this case, the volcano erupted and lava flowed out. As the lava cooled, it contracted and cracked. But why hexagonal? This has something to do with how evenly the lava cools down. Lava has a pretty high temperature, so is cools slowly and evenly. This leads to the uniform hexagonal pattern, similar to the Giant Causeway in Ireland and many other places where basalt columns occur. Interesting stuff, hm?
Unfortunately, we could only admire the columns for a few minutes, because we experienced a torrential downpour that made us all run back to the van instantly.
Unfortunately, we had the same kind of luck at the golden beach of Breiðafjörður. As soon as we walked to the beach, the heavenly floodgates opened and drenched us with icy rain. Thankfully, the driver had the heater running already and welcomed us back into the warm refuge of our van.
Snæfellsjökull Iceland volcano glacier
Jökull means glacier in Icelandic, and if you look at a map of Iceland, you’ll come across this word quite often. Eyjafjallajökull is probably the most famous glacier in Iceland and just like Snæfellsjökull, is also a volcano. Fire and ice – a contradiction that makes Iceland so beautiful and mysterious.
Located at the Western tip of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Snæfellsjökull’s white-tipped crest makes a gorgeous backdrop. If you can see it. Unfortunately for us, the glacial volcano hid behind a curtain of clouds, only revealing a small band of white ice on its steep slopes.
Bird cliffs at Arnarstapi
For lunch, we stopped at a small fishing village. There was a small hiccup with the organization, as the restaurant that we were supposed to eat at had no space for us. So we had some amazing fish and chips at a little food truck and it was delicious. Even our British tour members were impressed with the fish and chips. The sun came out and we enjoyed our food on some park benches, swapping travel stories and drying off. This is typical for Icelandic weather. You go from sunshine to rain and anything in between within minutes. It takes some getting used to, but it also makes for some amazing photos and we spotted hundreds of rainbows that day. Gorgeous.
Strengthened and dry, we took a nice walk along the cliffs. We saw «Elephant Rock» and when we approached, some guy was climbing on top of it for a photo shoot. Pretty crazy what some people do for some Instagram fame, hu?
The view from the cliffs was amazing. I love rugged coastlines like this so much more than sandy beaches and I could have spent hours hiking along the drop-off and staring out at the ocean. But after about 45 minutes, we hopped back on the bus.
Djúpalónssandur Beach is a stunning black beach on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. You walk through a beautiful lava field, covered in moss down to the beach. Walking on the shiny black pebbles is surprisingly hard and makes a crunchy sound with every step. Scattered on the beach you’ll see two things that draw your attention:
1. In stark contrast to the black and smooth stones, you’ll find red rusty pieces of metal. Pieces of machinery from ships that no longer sail, washed ashore as a reminder that humans are only guests in the arctic waters around Iceland and that their invitation by the sea can be revoked any second.
2. The other thing might not catch your eye right away, but luckily our driver pointed them out to us. There were a bunch of different size boulders laying around on the beach. No really anything special, right? Well, those boulders were special. The local fishermen tested the new hires’ strength by asking them to deadlift the stones that ranged from 23 kg (50 lbs) to 156 kg (344 lbs). If you could only lift the smallest one, you were considered useless and to be even considered, you had to lift at least 54 kg (120 lbs). Not an easy feat, let me tell you.
Kirkjufell church-shaped mountain with Kirkjufelfoss waterfall
Kirkufelfoss was one of my must-see places that I had come across in my Snæfellsnes Peninsula Google image search. You have probably seen it before as well. The iconic cone-shaped mountain that is a perfect backdrop for Kirkjufelfoss waterfall. Unfortunately, I only got pictures from the other side without the mountain in the background. Oh well, I guess I have to go back 😉 Am I the only one always looking for excuses to visit beautiful places again?
We arrived back in Reykjavik after dark and were dropped off back at the Bus Terminal. Did you know that the restaurant there is actually one of the best places to try one of Iceland’s delicacies: sheep head. Of course, I had to try it and it was delicious. Would you try it?
What I loved about the Snæfellsnes Peninsula Tour?
I really had a wonderful time on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula Tour with Golden Tours. We saw so many places that we probably would have missed, had we been on our own. Plus, the husband would have never been able to drag me away from Arnastapi and we would have missed some other incredible sights. The group was very small and we had enough time to explore on our own, yet also saw a lot of amazing sights. Like I said before, I loved our tour with Golden Tours or otherwise we wouldn’t have booked a second tour with them. Check out my recap of the Golden Circle Tour with Golden Tours. A big shout out to Golden Tours and thank you for inviting us on this beautiful adventure!
I really fell in love with the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and hope to spend some more time there in the future. Maybe next time we will rent a cabin or a camper van and spend some more time in this breathtaking area to take photos (from the right side this time, haha).
- Available: MONDAYS & FRIDAYS
- Small groups: max 19 pax
- Pickup 8:30 – 9:00 AM
- Duration 9-10 hours
- Price: 18.900 ISK (Please check the Golden Tours website for up-to-date information)
Have you visited the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in Iceland?
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Really beautiful weekend! And great photos. I love all the green and gray. Looks like my kinda place.
I agree, the colors were mesmerizing. This kind of landscape always takes my breath away. Next year, I am going to Ireland, which should be equally stunning!
The pictures were delightful. Iceland is full of so many intriguing places but I would have to draw the line at sheep’s head. Oh my! Snæfellsnes is gorgeous though. 😉
Haha, I hear you. But it was actually really good. Another Plus: They use every part of the animal and don’t waste food, which is great!
The pictures remind me so much of the Aleutian Chain. I’m so fond of that type of landscape. It is so calming and I don’t mind the rain and sun all mixed together in one day. This tour sounds like a great one to go. I’ll keep it in mind when I finally make it to Iceland!
I highly recommend Golden Tours. They really make the trip special and show you some amazing off the beaten path places.
Great pictures this is just feeding our hunger to get to Iceland in January even more. We will be in Reykjavik for 5 days and have a car hired hopefully we will get out this way to see some sights
I highly recommend Snaefellsnes as a day trip. Not sure about road conditions in January. We also visited the Southern Coast and it was spectacular. Have fun and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you get to see some Northern Lights 🙂
This is stunning. Definitely on my bucket list.
I hope you get to go soon, Erica <3
It looks like a great day trip from Reykjavik. I haven’t been to this part of Iceland. The scenery of this country is just amazing. Many photo opportunities for photographers like myself. Thanks for sharing!
Always good to have an excuse to go back to Iceland, right?
Iceland looks incredible! It is on my bucket list for 2017 – those waterfalls look stunning!
The waterfall looks gorgeous. Iceland is such a beautiful place. I would love visiting places here which are not so crowded so that I am able to soak in the natural beauty as much as possible
Iceland is such a wonderful place!! Its on my bucket list for sure!! Great photos!! Thanks for sharing ?
It looks simply stunning! I’d love to see it up-close soon!
Maria, your tour looked amazing! I am heading to Iceland for the second time in February and we will be going to the west coast, I took notes of all the stops to see. Thanks again!