14 Places Not to Miss in Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

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The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is often called Iceland in Miniature as you can see everything the country has to offer in one area: volcanic craters, lava fields, a glacier, waterfalls, fjords, hot springs, black and golden sand beaches, lush meadows, and cute fishing villages of colourful wooden houses.

It was the first destination on our Iceland road trip as it’s just a two-hour drive north of the airport. On our trip we aimed to get off the beaten path, and while the peninsula isn’t exactly empty, it’s far less crowded than the popular Golden Circle and would make a great alternative if you only have a short time in the country.

Snaefellsness Peninsula farm on south coast

How long to spend in Snaefellsness

You could do a Snæfellsnes day trip from Reykjavik, but there’s so much to see that I recommend staying at least two days. We had two nights in the area (with 1.5 days to explore) and wished we’d had another night.

While you could see all the sights below in one long day, with a few extra days you can take your time and perhaps go hiking, horse riding, caving, or kayaking.

Snaefellsness self-drive vs tour

The best way to explore the Snæfellsnes is by self-driving (we rented a car at Keflavik Airport through Rental Cars) as you can travel at your own pace and stop at less well-known sights. The roads are quiet, easy to navigate, and are mostly paved. If you don’t want to drive, you could take a Snaefellsnes tour from Reykjavik.

See our Iceland itinerary for road trip tips and our exact route. 

The best time of year to visit

The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is a great destination at any time of year. The summer (June to August) is busiest, but you’ll have the best weather and can experience the midnight sun.

We visited in late September and had cool temperatures but smaller crowds, and we got to see the first snow appearing on the mountains.

It’s one of the best areas to visit in the winter as the roads are usually passable (with winter tires) and you can enjoy long sunsets and the northern lights. It would be gorgeous covered in snow.

Snaefellsness mountains in September snow

We woke up one morning in September and the mountains were sprinkled with snow

Our top spots

Below I’ve listed the best stops on the peninsula in a clockwise direction (starting on the south coast) to make it easier to put together your Snæfellsnes itinerary, but you could travel in either direction.

All these destinations are free, but you might want to budget for coffee and cake at a cafe in one of the cute towns. I recommend taking a packed lunch for the most flexibility.

Tip: If you are coming from the airport or Reykjavik, Bogarnes is a good place to stop on the way up to stock up on supplies at Bonus supermarket. The bakery cafe Geirabakari Kaffihus is next door and you can enjoy a chocolate-covered cinnamon bun with a sea view—it was featured in the film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty as Papa John’s Pizza. History buffs might want to visit the Settlement Centre. 

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Snaefellsnes Peninsula Map

1) Gerðuberg Cliffs

Gerðuberg Cliffs in Snaefellsness, Iceland

As you enter the peninsula it’s worth a quick stop just off the main road 54 at the Gerðuberg Cliffs, a wall of basalt columns. You can walk the length of the cliffs to really appreciate their massiveness, but we didn’t last long because of the powerful wind that almost knocked us off our feet.

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2) Ytri Tunga Seal Beach

Ytri Tunga Seal Beach on the Snaefellsness peninsula, Iceland

The next stop along the south coast of the peninsula is Ytri Tunga, a beach that’s home to a seal colony. Summer is the main seal season, so we didn’t have high expectations, but the golden sand beach was a lovely place to stroll in the beautiful Icelandic light with cute farm buildings and volcanic mountains in the background.

We got lucky, though, and saw two Harbour seals lazing on the rocks and a number of others swimming in the sea. I didn’t have my zoom lens and they were too far away to get a good photo. The information sign asks visitors to keep more than 50 meters away from the seals to avoid disturbing them.

The turnoff to Ytri Tunga down a short gravel road isn’t marked from the main road, but the Google Maps location is correct. Head right from the parking area and look out for the seals on the rocks between the two beaches.

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3) Bjarnarfoss

Bjarnafoss waterfall, an off the beaten track stop in Snaefellsness Iceland

Bjarnarfoss is a little-known waterfall that we discovered at random while driving past, but it turned out to be Simon’s favourite in all of Iceland.

The narrow but tall falls tumble down the side of craggy green mountains just off the road 54 before it goes over a stunning mountain pass to the north coast. You can see the waterfall from the road, but it’s well worth parking and doing the short walk up to the bottom of the cascade.

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4) Búðakirkja Black Church

Búðakirkja is a little black wooden church in the hamlet Búðir in Snaefellsness Iceland

Búðakirkja is a little black wooden church in the hamlet Búðir (which seems to consist of a hotel and this church) that was originally built in the 19th century. It has an isolated location amongst the Budhahraun lava fields just above the sea.

We parked at Hótel Búðir and walked up. There are stunning views of the mountains here, and you can also do longer walks through the lava fields.

We planned to go horse riding at nearby Lýsuhóll where you can ride on the beach and through the lava fields, but our trip was cancelled on both mornings due to high winds. They also have a hot spring there, but it’s only open in the summer.

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5) Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge

Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge one of the best things to do in Snaefellsness Peninsula, Iceland

Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge is a mysterious looking place, an imposing craggy mountain blanketed in fuzzy green moss. The gorge itself isn’t obvious—you need to walk about 10 minutes from the parking lot up the hill to reach the narrow opening where a stream gushes out.

It’s easy to enter the canyon but to go any further you have to clamber on rocks over the small falls. It becomes trickier the further you go in. We were glad for waterproof shoes.

Climbing inside Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge in Snaefellness Iceland

6) Arnarstapi to Hellnar Hike

Stunning view in the small town of Hellnar on the Snaefellsness Peninsula

The viewpoint in Hellnar

Our favourite thing to do in Snæfellsnes Peninsula was the coastal hike between the teeny towns of Arnarstapi and Hellnar. You walk through mossy lava fields with spectacular views of rugged cliffs, towering black lava formations, sea caves, and the pyramidical mountain, Mt. Stapafell.

Hellnar sea cave in Iceland

Hellnar sea cave

Little blue house in Hellnar, Iceland

I loved this little blue house just outside Hellnar

The hike from Arnarstapi to Hellnar is one of the best things to do in Snaefellsness Iceland

The hiking path goes through these astounding lava fields

Arnarstapi to Hellnar hike in Snaefellsness

There are sea views throughout

Arnarstapi village with Mt Stapafell in the background

The cute Arnarstapi village with Mt Stapafell behind

We started in Hellnar, but you can begin in either town as you’ll have to return the way you came to get back to your car. It took us 1.5 hours for the return walk of just over 6km (3.7 miles). You will want to stop and take photos often!

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7) Lóndrangar Cliffs

Lóndrangar Cliffs are another worthwhile place to visit on a Snæfellsnes tour. We didn’t have time to stop but saw the basalt sea stacks as we drove past. If you can, take the time to walk along the beautiful cliffs.

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8) Snæfellsjökull Glacier

Snæfellsjökull glacier taken near Budir

Snæfellsjökull is a 700,000-year-old glacier and volcano at the tip of the peninsula and is famous for being featured in Jules Verne’s novel Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

In the summer you can take snowcat, snowmobiling or hiking tours on top of the glacier, but in September we had to enjoy the view from afar. You can do tours into the Vatnshellir lava cave under the glacier all year round.

The glacier is part of the beautiful Snæfellsjökull National Park that you are now driving through on this route.

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9) Djúpalónssandur Black Beach

Shipwreck at Djúpalónssandur beach in Snaefellsness Iceland

Djúpalónssandur beach was one of the busiest places we visited in Iceland with a number of tour buses in the parking lot—get there early if you can. It’s well worth braving the crowds though, and if you have time to follow one of the longer hiking trails, it’ll be much quieter.

The lava field walk down to Djúpalónssandur beach

The lava field walk down to the beach

To reach the beach follow the footpath through the lava wonderland of huge mossy volcanic towers (as much the attraction as the beach itself).

The black pebble beach is wide and long and features lifting stones that were used to test the strength of fishermen (the strongest got hired) and the scattered remains of the shipwreck of a British trawler from 1948.

There’s a small freshwater lagoon backed by Snæfellsjökull glacier on the opposite side from the sea.

Take advantage of the toilets at the carpark as they are in short supply on this route.

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10) Saxholar Crater

Saxholar Crater in Snaefellsness Peninsula, Iceland

Saxholar Crater was another unplanned stop that caught our eye from the road. The 109m crater was formed by a volcanic eruption 3–4000 years ago.

A staircase has been constructed up the side to protect it and it only takes about five minutes to reach the top. It’s fascinating to see inside the crater and there are fantastic views of the lava fields, mountains, and sea.

Stairs up Saxholar Crater in Snaefellsness Peninsula, Iceland

The view on the way up

Inside the crater at Saxholar Crater in Snaefellsness Peninsula, Iceland

Inside the crater

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11) Kirkjufellsfoss

Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall in Iceland

Kirkjufellsfoss is one of the most photographed waterfalls in Iceland, not because it’s very big but because it has the uniquely shaped Mt. Kirkjufell as a backdrop, a mountain that appeared in the Game of Thrones TV show.

This is another place you’ll want to arrive early. At midday the carpark was busy, but we managed to get a space and were lucky that everyone seemed to leave when we were taking photos.

To see the famous view follow the footpath over the bridge. It is beautiful but to be honest was a little anti-climatic—there are just so many gorgeous places in Snæfellsnes that it didn’t feel particularly special.

Toilets are hard to find in Iceland so after visiting the waterfall we continued five minutes down the road to the tiny town of Grundarfjörður.

You can pay a fee to use the toilet at family-run Cafe Emil or do what we did and enjoy some delicious chocolate cake and hot chocolate. It’s also home to an information centre, library, small settlement museum, and kids play area.

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12) Berserkjahraun Lava Fields

Berserkjahraun lava fields on Snaefellsness Peninsula, Iceland

The Berserkjahraun lava fields were one of the most extraordinary places we visited in all of Iceland and most people don’t know about them.

It’s an otherworldly place with fields of black volcanic rock and weirdly shaped lava towers covered in pale green moss and bright red blueberry bushes. Behind them rise snow-topped mountains and red volcanic craters.

We felt like we were alone on another planet—we only saw two other cars near the end of the drive.

Berserkjahraun lava fields on Snaefellsness Peninsula, Iceland
Berserkjahraun lava fields with snowy mountains on Snaefellsness Peninsula, Iceland

You can access Berserkjahraun by driving down the narrow dirt road 558—it’s rather rough so take it slow. We did a loop starting off the 54 just past the junction with 56 and continued to the other end which emerges further along the 54 (between Grundarfjörður and Stykkishólmur).

See the map at the top of this post where I’ve marked the entrances (it doesn’t matter which way you drive it). We spent 30 minutes driving the road (with a few stops), but we could easily have spent much longer in this special place.

Dirt road 558 through Berserkjahraun lava fields on Snaefellsness Peninsula, Iceland

13) Stykkishólmur

Stykkishólmur view from Sudansey cliff in Iceland

Stykkishólmur from Sudansey cliff

Stykkishólmur is a cute colourful seaside town that appeared in the film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It’s the largest town on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, but with a population of just 1200 it’s still a quiet place. There is a Bonus supermarket for supplies.

I recommend wandering around the historic wooden buildings, seeing the futuristic church Stykkishólmskirkja, and walking around the harbour and up the steps at Sudansey cliff for views of the charming town.

The cosy and friendly Cafe Nu (part of Harbour Hostel) is the perfect place to take a break on the vintage sofas and enjoy excellent coffee, herbal tea, and cake (their berry crumble was tasty).

If we had had more time, we would have visited the unusual Library of Water. Other museums include the Volcano Museum and Norska Húsið (Norwegian House).

From Stykkishólmur we took the 2.5 hour Baldur ferry across Breidafjordur bay to the Westfjords and continued our Iceland road trip. You can also stop off at the remote Flatey Island.

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14) Road 56

Lake view at viewpoint on Road 56 in Snaefellsness Iceland

It’s hard to pick a favourite in an area of stunning drives, but Road 56 was probably the most scenic we drove in the Snæfellsnes. The mountain pass connects the north and south coasts of the peninsula and has incredible views.

We ate our packed lunch at a viewpoint overlooking a lake with a backdrop of green and red and snow-sprinkled mountains and the Berserkjahraun lava fields.

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Where to Stay in Snaefellsnes Iceland

The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is small enough that you could use the north or south coast as a base. Most people stay on the north coast where there are a few small towns—Stykkishólmur and Grundarfjörður have the most choice of accommodation.

We’re glad we stayed on the more isolated south coast—just stock up before you arrive as there are no shops.

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Tradir Guesthouse and Cabins

Cabins overlooking the sea at Tradir Guesthouse on the south coast of the Snaefellsness Peninsula

Cabins overlooking the sea at Tradir Guesthouse

We stayed at Tradir Guesthouse, a horse farm (rides in summer only) that has rooms with shared bathrooms and a small restaurant in the main building, a campsite, and five cabins overlooking the sea.

It had the best location of anywhere we stayed in Iceland between the grey volcanic mountains and sea, very quiet and wild. There’s a small black sand beach in front of the cabins and running along the coast at sunrise was very special.

Cabins overlooking the sea at sunrise at Tradir Guesthouse on the south coast of the Snaefellsness Peninsula

Sunrise at Tradir

Our cabin was simple but comfortable and we loved the sea view out the large glass doors that lead onto the balcony. We had a couch, two tables, and small kitchenette that was fine for simple meals.

The two bedrooms were basic with bunk beds in one, two twin beds pushed together in the other, and no other furniture except hooks on the wall.

Our cabin at Tradir Guesthouse

Our cabin at Tradir Guesthouse

The radiators took a long time to warm the place, but we discovered a separate more powerful heater. The WiFi was surprisingly fast. I recommend requesting cabin 3 which is further forward than the others.

It was the most expensive place we stayed in Iceland and although not the most stylish, it was worth it for the location and views. If you get lucky it’s a fantastic place to view the northern lights. 

Check the latest prices at Tradir Guesthouse here.

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Other Snaefellsnes Accommodation

As we’re vegetarian and wanted to stay in more remote locations, we chose self-catering accommodation, but you can also find hotels and guesthouses (usually with shared bathrooms) on the peninsula.

Have a look on Airbnb and Booking to see the options—I would let availability help you decide exactly where to stay.

Here are a few suggestions of highly rated places to stay:

Budget

  • Guesthouse Hof – A budget option with rooms with shared bathroom, kitchen and jacuzzi. In a quiet location near the seal beach on the south coast. 
  • Kirkjufell Guesthouse – Simple double rooms with private bathrooms, shared kitchen, and views of the famous mountain. 
  • Harbour Hostel – A friendly hostel by the harbour in Stykkishólmur with dorm beds and private rooms with shared bathroom and kitchen. We love the onsite cafe. Ideal for solo travellers. 

Mid-Range

  • Arnarstapi Cottages – Tiny but cute cottages near the Arnarstapi to Hellnar hike. 
  • Hotel Búdir – Comfortable rooms in an isolated and gorgeous location amongst the lava fields near the black church. There are outstanding views and an onsite restaurant. A good place for seeing the northern lights.
  • Hótel Egilsen – Charming rooms in an 1860s wooden building in Stykkishólmur with friendly owners and excellent breakfasts. 

I hope you’re inspired to visit the Snaefellsnes Peninsula—it’s a magical place with so much to see and do. I’ll be sharing more Iceland tips soon and you can see our full Iceland road trip itinerary here.

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7 Comments (2 pingbacks)

  1. Another great post. Love reading your journey. Not sure if appropriate, may be think about adding a small preface to each article of how you got there with a pic or three (smartphone happy snap is fine). This was we’re actually coming along for the virtual ride as well.
    Nonetheless, best and safe travels to you both.

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    • Thanks for the suggestion JoJo! It’s always a balance deciding how many photos to include – I always have so many I want to share but too many makes the page slow to load.

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  2. We visited the Snaefellsnes Peninsula about 8 years ago in June. There was virtually nobody there and it was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Sadly, we only spent 1 night. Your photos are fantastic, and you got to see far more of the peninsula than we did. Iceland is a magical place.

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    • Iceland is magical isn’t it? That golden light! How wonderful that you go to visit the Snaefellness – it will have changed a lot in eight years but is still gorgeous and a lot less crowded than some spots in Iceland.

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  3. Dear Erin,
    Firstly, your photos are incredibly stunning! They showcase the natural beauty of this island country and get me excited to see these lovely landscapes in person.

    Secondly, thank you for all the very interesting and useful information you shared in this post. Since I’m planning a trip to Iceland, your post is extremely helpful. I appreciate all the facts, personal opinions, and little tidbits such as bathroom locations and places to find yummy chocolate cake as well as options for vegetarians. Since I have a sweet tooth and love chocolate cake/cupcakes, I find these comments super helpful.

    Lastly, I may be jumping the gun but did you tour the whole island or just one region? If you traveled around one area, why did you pick that region to explore? I’m curious if you went to the southern area of Iceland since that area looks very attractive to me.

    Thank you very much and I look forward to your next post about Iceland and all your travels,
    Heather (WorldXplorer1 previously HomeFreeHeather)

    Reply

    • Hi Heather
      Thanks for your kind words. It’s always good to hear these posts are actually useful!

      We chose to spend our 12 days just on the western side of Iceland. This is an unconventional approach as most people with that long tour the whole island (around the ring road). We really wanted to explore the Westfjords, which are more off the beaten track, and didn’t feel we’d have time to do them as well as the ring road. Some people would in that time frame, but we prefer to take things a bit slower.

      We didn’t go to the south. It was a shame to miss the glacier lagoon but that area is one of the most popular in the country and we made a conscious decision to write about places that are less well known. We’d love to go back one day and explore more.

      I’ll be sharing our full itinerary next week.

      Reply

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