Iceland can get overwhelming. Not in a bad way, more in a “there is so much to see and do, and not enough time” kind of way. AKA, the preferred type of overwhelming! Either way, a day trip to Snæfellsnes is a must.
Snæfellsnes Peninsula — a region of western Iceland located to the north of Reykjavik has a lot to offer. With a rich history, and fantastic tales the sights on this peninsula are a super fun adventure that is easy to do in a single day from Reykjavik. There are too many magical things on this peninsula that I was not willing to miss, and that led to a lot of stops, but it was well worth it. The drive from Reykjavik to the tip of Snæfellsnes Peninsula is about two and a half hours, but have no fear, there are plenty of fun stops along the way.
If you’re planning on visiting Snæfellsnes Peninsula, here’s how to do it.
Olkelda Mineral Spring
First tip of visiting Iceland: bring a reusable water bottle! Tap water in Iceland is very clean and very safe, so there is no sense in paying $5 every time you need more water.
The first stop of your Snæfellsnes Peninsula journey is Olkelda Mineral Spring, where you’ll be glad (sort of) that you brought your water bottle. The small mineral spring, where you can fill your water bottle up, is just a few minutes off of the main road. There’s a sign near the spring that informs you of the water’s nutrients, you should read this before drinking the water (I was quite shocked by the taste). The sign shows that it is carbonated water loaded with minerals such as iron; this is what causes the bright red color on the ground below it.
Snæfellsnes is said to be protected by Bárður Snæfellsás, half man half troll. Many of the stops on your journey to the tip of peninsula revolve around this tale. Bárður descended from a human mother and a half giant, half troll father. He also had a half brother, Þorkell, who is also half man but half giant.
Bárður ‘s daughters and Þorkell’s sons often played together. But one day when Helga, the daughter of Bárður, was playing on the beach with her cousin Rauðfeldur, he pushed her on to an iceberg that drifted away to Greenland (only in Iceland).
This caused Bárður to go mad and battle with his half brother and sons.
As you journey through the peninsula keep this in mind… Many believe the peninsula is protected by Bárður to this day.
30 minutes after stopping at the mineral spring you will come across the fishing village of Arnarstapi. Here you can get something to eat and look at the view.
After the loss of his daughters, the half troll could no longer take it, so he gave up everything he had and vanished into the glacier. Bárður became known as the Gaurdian Spirit of Snaefell, and locals worshipped him and looked to him in hard times.
Directly translated, Gatklettur means “the rock with the hole in it” (have I mentioned how literal Icelandic names are?). After passing Bárður this is off to the left along with a viewing platform.
Here is your photo opportunity to give your mom a heart attack! Go even further down the path and you will see a dip down with this arch across from it. These naturally forming arches run along the coast, and this one you can even walk across.
We opted to pack a lunch (with incredible sourdough bread from Braud & Co) but there is also a cute café located in Hellnar. You can either walk to this from Arnarstapi or drive over.
Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge and Ravine
I was debating on skipping this… but you shouldn’t! After parking our car in the lot and trekking up to the gorge, Zach and I had a great time exploring inside! I definitely recommend waterproof shoes, or else you won’t be able to explore deeper into the ravine (which you’ll want to).
Now back to our story: after Rauðfeldur pushed Helga on to that iceberg to Greenland Bárður became so furious that he threw Rauðfeldur into the gorge. Once you’re in the ravine, if you wish to go even further, there is a narrow crack leading to a rope that you can swing across. You’ve been warned though, in case you encounter the twelve hundred year old spirit of Rauðfeldur.
In all honesty we probably enjoyed the drive here more than Kirkjufell itself. Kirkjufell is Iceland’s most photographed mountain, and this is very obvious due to how packed it is. The parking lot is overflowing with tour buses (who are simultaneously parking you in) and tourists. Kirkjufell is beautiful but we would most likely skip it in the future due to how touristy it is. (I recommend going to Bjarnafoss instead!)
Landbrotalaug Hot Spring
If you are a hot spring hunter this is the perfect spot. I recommend hitting this last so you can just relax and then dry off in the car on your way home. This hot spring is incredibly intimate (it’s just big enough for two people) and provides a gorgeous view of the surrounding mountains. Getting to it can be a bit tough, which is why I wrote a step-by-step guide to finding it!
Now we didn’t have time to do everything on the peninsula, but here are other well known stops if you do have the time!
Vatnshellir Volcano – You can tour this and even go inside of it for a reasonable price.
Búðakirkja – Meaning “little black church”.
Djupalonssandur Beach – A beach with pieces of shipwreck scattered on it.
You can follow our Google map, showing the stops we did in red and the other possible stops in blue!