Known to many as the "Gateway to the westfjords" or perhaps as "Iceland in miniature" the Snæfellsnes peninsula is a quieter part of Iceland with a lot of secrets to share. Its usually the title of "Iceland in miniature" that catches peoples attentions first and it is a title well deserved given that most of Iceland's unique geographical highlights can ll be found on this one peninsula.
Home to black sand beaches, mountains, a glacier, a volcano, rolling lava fields and it's own national park Snæfellsnes has a lot to offer people with a desire to see the nature of Iceland.
Kirkjufell is a mountain on the northern edge of the snæfellsnes peninsula, close to the small town of Grundarfjörður. Besides being called Kirkjufell the mountain is also commonly referred to as the "Church Mountain" due to its resemblance to a church steeple with its sharp pointed top and large sweeping sides. Fans of the hit HBO show 'Game of thrones' may even know it by the name "Arrowhead Mountain"as, despite heavy editing, Kirkjufell features as one of the lands marks the characters visit when they head north of the wall.
The mountain sits a little further out from the rest of the coast and with the surrounding area being relatively flat the mountain can be seen clearly from a large distance away. It is then unsurprising that the mountain was used as a focal point by those traveling by sea as a way to help then navigate towards the mainland. Today the mountain is thought of as a dream for any nature photographer or artist with endless streams of gorgeous pictures of the area flooding the social media channels of people that come to Iceland and are lucky enough to take a trip up to the peninsula.
During the summer, when the midnight sun hang over Iceland, you can get stunning visuals of the mountain seemingly extending in multiple directions as a small lake sits near it's base offering a perfect reflection of the mountain. During the winter many people are lucky enough to see the northern lights seemingly dancing around the mountains peak as its surface gets covered in a gentle coat of snow.
Djúpalónssandur is an area of tremendous beauty with both gorgeous lava fields and sweeping black sand beaches offering a visual feast for people who visit the area. The name Djúpalónssandur roughly translates to "Deep lagoon's sand" a name which comes from two small lagoons that are nearby which are called Djúpulón, the deep lagoons. While modern measuring techniques have proven that the lagoons are not as deep as people initially thought, with one lagoon that was thought to be incredibly deep only measuring in a 5 meters deep, the names have stuck.
Walking through Nautastígur path, which was an old path used to transport bulls to the water for drinking, will take you through the lava fields and eventually down to the beach which is made up of a mixture of volcanic stones and sand that give it a dark appearance similar to that of the black sand beaches on the southern coast. The beach is home to a number of attention points that all offer up slices of the history of the area and offer windows into its past. One such example of this being the fact that one of the sections of the beach is covered in pieces of sheered iron, this debris came from a British trawler that was wrecked off of a nearby coast and the remains stay here as a reminder of the men who lost their lives during this tragic event. Another example come in the form of four large stones that sit on the beach, while at a glance you may be forgiven for dismissing these as simple parts of the geology of the area these stones were actually weights used by fishermen to determine your strength. Their names are as follows are Fullsterkur ("full strength") weighing 154 kg, Hálfsterkur ("half strength") at 100 kg, hálfdrættingur ("weakling") at 54 kg and Amlóði ("Useless") 23 kg and to be considered for an oarsman position on a fishing boat the minimum a man would have to be able to lift was the 54 kg stone to a plinth at waist height.
Hellnar is an an incredibly old fishing village on the western edge of the peninsula, it is located close to the other fishing village of the area which is called Arnarstapi. In the past this village, while quite small, would have been a major stopping point for fishing vessels to a point where it is believed that this town may have been the busiest location for fishing vessels on the peninsula. A number of farms as well as fisheries and short term accommodation for fishermen and workers could also be found here.
A census done in 1703 recorded as many as 194 people were living in this area and while today its popularity as a living area may have decreased it has found new life as a tourist destination thanks to some stunning nature in the area and its rich history. The area boasts more than just a rich history intertwined with the fishing indistry though, along the coast you will also find some of the most beautiful examples of rock formaitons in the area. In particular many people will travel down to this part of Snæfellsnes to see Valasnos which is a freestanding rock that sits out from the bay and is known for its colourful interior which is caused by light shining against the minerals inside the cave.
Above Hellnar you will find an explosive crater lake known as Bárðurlaug which gets its name from the fact that "Laug" means bath and it was believed that a mythical figure called Bárður Snæfellsás used the area thus it is Bárður's Bath. Bárður was born from the union of a human woman and a half troll and local folklore states that his spirit still guards the glacier and nearby areas.
Arnarstapi, often shortened to simply Stapi, is a small fishing village that sits at the base of the Stapafell mountain in the Snæfellsnes peninsula. The place names of the villages in this region originate from the Icelandic sagas which are some of the oldest examples of literature to have com out of europe. In particular the place names here draw from the saga of Bárðar who was a half man, half ogre said to have lived in this area.
The village has seen new life breathed into it and its fishing facilities thanks to the increase of tourism in the area and during the summer months you can see a large number of boats sitting in its newly renovated docks.
Snæfellsjökull, or the snowfall glacier, is actually a glacier capped stratovolcano that is believed to be as old as 700,000 years. It sits on the western edge of the Snæfellsnes peninsula and thanks to its size it can be seen from as far away as Reykjavik if the conditions are clear.
The glacier volcano became popular after novelist Jules Verne used the central location for his popular work “Journey to the center of the earth”.
The mountain is also a part of the nearby Snæfellsjökull National Park and is celebrated for its immense natural beauty.