Heading West: Self-guided day trip in the Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Puffins in the Breidafjordur Islands

For anybody wondering what to see in Iceland, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula is a must!  Often regarded as one of Iceland’s hidden gems, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula is home to stunning peaks, volcanic craters, the Snæfellsjökull Glacier, and thousands of migratory seabirds.  Located a short two hours north of Reykjavic, The Snaefellsnes Peninsula makes for an easy day trip from Reykjavik or serves as a great destination for anybody taking a road trip around Iceland’s Ring Road.

Getting There

Tours: Tours of Snaefellsnes Peninsula leave daily from Reykjavik and cater to various interests, ages, or physical abilities.

Day trip from Reykjavik:  Rent a car and head North from Reykjavik towards Stykkisholmur.  The first Puffin tour starts at 9, so I recommend leaving Reykjavik around 6 am.  From Arnarstapi the ride back to the City Center of Reykjavik is about 2 and a half hours.

Coming from the north along Ring Road (Highway 1): Turn right off Highway 1 onto Highway 60 heading north.  Highway 60 is unpaved but in good condition and offers stunning views of Breidafjordur Bay.  Be aware that the first Puffin Tour in Stykkisholmur is at 9 am.

Here is a google map with most of the locations described above.  Please note the map begins in Reykjavik’s City Center.  Please adjust origin and final destination depending upon your personal itinerary.

What to See

Pastries and Puffins in Stykkisholmur – Situated along Breidafjordur Bay, the award-winning coastal town of Stykkisholmur offers panoramic views of the Breidafjordur Islands and serves as the port for the Ferry Baldur to the Westfjords.

If you’re looking for puffins, look no further!  With its local colony of ~4,000 puffins, Stykkisholmur is THE PLACE to see puffins on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.  I went out with Ocean Adventures and our Captain, Captain Hreiðar Mar Johannesson, made sure we saw every single one of those 4,000 puffins!  He even took us back a different route to show us the seals that commonly sun on the nearby rocks.  As of June 2018, Ocean Adventure Puffin Tours leave daily at 9 am, 11 am, 2 pm, 4 pm, and 6 pm.  It is recommended to call ahead and book a tour (+354 8982028).  Ocean Adventures runs angling tours as well, which I’d imagine are also phenomenal.

After puffins, warm up in the thermal baths at Stykkisholmus Swimming Pool or grab a delicious pastry at Stykkisholmur’s number one bakery, Nesbraud ehf.

Mt. Kirkjufell – one of Iceland’s most photographed peaks.

Mt. Kirkjufell – Passing through Grundarfjörður on 54 you’ll pass one of Iceland’s most iconic peaks, Mt. Kirkjufell.  Stop at the car park to enjoy scenic views of the peak as you hike Kirkjufellsfoss, the adjacent waterfall.  You may also hike to the top of Mt. Kirkjufell which takes about an hour and a half each way. The hike can be treacherous and a guide is recommended.  I did not do the hike, but fieldmag.com has more in-depth information.

Snaefellsjokull National Park – Located on the western tip of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, the Snaefellsjokull National Park houses the Snæfellsjökull Glacier and is Iceland’s only national park to encompass the shoreline.  Here, you can learn about the area’s geology, explore the glacier, scale sea cliffs, or simply stand on the beach taking in the dramatic and rugged black lava cliffs.  Entry is free and there are several places within the park to pull off the main road and observe the sites.  Highlights including the jagged lava cliffs at Skarðsvík Beach, visiting the bright-yellow Svörtuloft Lighthouse, climbing up the Saxholl Crater,  and watching the rocks dance in the breaking waves at Djupalonssandur.  One could easily spend days here as hiking trails were plentiful; however, the few hours we spent was also sufficient.

Hike from Arnarstapi to Hellnar through lava fields and sea cliffs – Take in views of Mt. Stapafell as you enjoy the 2.5km long hike between the two coastal towns of Arnarstapi to Hellnar.  Begin the Hike in Arnarstapi – look for the carpark and giant stone statue off Highway 574.  For more information on this hike please visit Smart Trippers or Guide to Iceland.

Swimming pools and hotsprings –  popular with tourists and locals alike, swimming pools and hot springs are plentiful throughout the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.  Visit the Lysuholslaug Geothermal Bath, or the swimming pools located in Stykkisholmus, Grundarfjordur, Olafsvik, or at Hotel Eldborg.



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