Author: Braedyn Brosda
Sarah and I spent two weeks in Iceland in July and August. The Snaefellsnes Peninsula might have been my favourite overall day during our trip. There is just so much to see and do in a small area. Lots of people skip this part of the island but I would highly suggest taking the day to go around. We missed a couple things, but here is what we did.
The unofficial start to the peninsula for us was the Gerduberg cliffs. These are some basalt columns. We stopped here to explore and climb up to the formations. It was a good intro for us and broke up the long drive, however if you are pressed for time this could be one place to skip as there are basalt columns in southern Iceland.
The black church did not disappoint. I thought it might be a cheesy stopover, but it was honestly so cool. Leading up to the church are some lava fields with flowers growing between the rocks. I cannot really put into words what makes this site special but it all just works together to make something I had never seen before. (Sarah note: there are many hikes starting from the church, and with more time it would have been interesting to do some of these).
Bruarfoss was a spur of the moment decision. You can see it from a long way off as the waterfall (“foss”) is very tall. We just got there as a tour bus was leaving which was great as we had the whole falls to ourselves. I thought it was really cool, however I have some regret as I took my picture from too far away. Sarah went up closer and I can only imagine what it would have been like from there (Sarah note: it was fun as there was a bridge to cross, but I would soon tire of waterfalls…).
Arnarstapi & Hellnar
Arnarstapi is a must see in my opinion. The town itself is small and not that interesting but the closer you get to the ocean the more amazing it gets. First there is the tall troll sculpture representing the guardian spirit that protects the bay. Once you get past the sculpture there is a path along the edge of the sea cliffs that will take you to Hellnar if you walk west. We did this short walk (5km round trip) and would highly recommend it. You will walk through lava rock covered in bright green moss. Around each bend are sea stacks. I was fascinated by the formations as I had never seen anything like this before.
The walk was great, but I would recommend coming from Hellnar. This way you would see the Arnarstapi sea arch at the end of your walk instead of the beginning. The sea arch was truly impressive and for a majority of the day I thought it was going to be my favourite sight. We did drive to Hellnar after to see if the town had anything to offer. This led to the first offence that a tour bus caused me along the trip. I had read about this quaint café along the sea cliffs that would make a good spot to stop and have a rest, and I was very excited about it for some reason (I think because it was a place that I had found that Sarah did not know about). You have to walk a little ways out of town to get there so I thought that there would be a few of the tourists like us but not hordes of people. Well we opened the door and all eight tables were full. I thought “oh shoot, it must be more well known than I thought”. Then I saw a tour bus leader address the entire room and inform them that the bus would be leaving at some time. Everyone seated absorbed this information and I immediately became angry at tour buses. How could they take an entire café away from the rest of us. This incident planted the seed which eventually sprouted into a hatred for tour buses.
Djupalonssandur Black Sand Beach
Our next stop was supposed to be Londrangar, a set of super tall sea stacks, however this became the second tour bus incident of the day. We could not park in the parking lot because there were four buses. Each bus takes up about four spaces so there was no room left for us normal travelers. We decided to continue onto the Djupalonssandur black sand beach. I had never seen a black sand beach and was a little shocked when we came across a black pebble beach, but Sarah told me she thought the other ones on the island would be better. This was still a very cool place and a good area to explore.
Just skip this one if you are going to Iceland. You will drive up and think, OMG this is going to be cool but it’s rather a letdown. There are 382 steps from bottom to top (yes I counted). Once you get up to the top after all the build up of seeing the large crater from the drive up, to the never ending stairs (382 to be exact), the crater itself is rather dull. Sarah and I had a little chuckle about this and actually found the surrounding views much more interesting than the crater itself. The road up to the parking lot is rougher than most of the other gravel roads we came across but still very manageable.
This was the second beach we visited on the peninsula. This one was different as it was a golden sand beach. It was pretty cool because you get the dark lava rock, the golden sand, and the blue water all together making a nice scene. However I wouldn't say it was amazeballs because it's more like a normal beach you would see other places.
Kirkjufellfoss is the waterfall beside the Kirkjufell mountain. The mountain is often pictured in Game of Thrones and has made this site very popular. I think I heard somewhere that the composition with the waterfall and mountain is the most photographed scene in Iceland. Kirkjufellfoss was my favourite thing this day and was one of, if not my favourite, waterfall of the trip.
We stayed at two campgrounds on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. The first was Langaholt. This is a hotel with a golf course and campground.. At Langaholt we quickly learned that arctic terns are the most evil birds on the planet. At the campground they had very specific borders to there territory and if you happened to step into their side they would dive bomb you! Our evening entertainment was watching cars driving out to the beach get attacked by birds. That evening the view was spectacular as we watched the sunset over Snaefellsjokull Glacier. Obviously this was not a typical view because the woman who ran the campground was very excited by the sunset.
The other campground we stayed at was in Grundafjordor. The campground was basically a field beside the pool in Grundafjordor. The town was on the sea with a peaceful bay that was visible from the campground.