Snaefellsjoekull National Park

About a two hour drive north of Reykjavík is the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and Snaefellsjoekull National Park, loaded with coastal gems like historic fishing villages, ancient volcanic formations, cliffs, and beaches, and was once one of the most active trading areas in Iceland.

If the peninsula is as far north as you’re venturing out of Reykjavík, it could be done as a single day trip, if you’re willing to spend upwards of 14 hours on the road getting there and back. We suggest, however, spending at least one night on the Peninsula, and giving yourself two days to really experience all the sights there and back, including Mt. Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss.

We stayed in Ólasvík and spent a tiring but awesome full day (9 hours) exploring Snaefellsjoekull National Park. We first drove south from Ólasvík to the small fishing village of Arnarstapi, about 45 minutes away.

We originally thought Arnarstapi was going to be a quick stop, a town we would stop to get gas and continue on.

As we reached the edge of the town, we noticed a natural harbor and bizarre cliff formations–we had to stop. We parked and walked around, but not long enough. Give yourself at least 45 minutes to explore this place on foot!

Continuing west, we drove 10 minutes to Hellnar, another old village. However, Hellnar’s highlights is the waterfront, the black rocky beach and the surrounding hiking area.

We wandered for about an hour and a half, partly following the man-made paths to explore the surrounding cliffs and unique rock formations. There’s a small cafe here with a single stall bathroom, accessible from the outside of the building.

We continued on to the Lóndrangar Cliffs, just 5 minutes west of Hellnar. From a distance, the colossal basalt formations look like a withered shipwreck from another time.

Off the road is a gravel parking lot and path that lead you to the edge of the cliffs, where if you look close enough you may just see a puffin!

In the distance to the west, across a moss covered lava field, stand ancient basalt formations, said to be remains of a volcanic crater. We walked across most of the field, but based on our research and other photographs, it’s possible to walk all the way to Lóndrangar and down to the beach on the other side. As usual, be conservative and cautious when near Icelandic waves, as they can be deadly. We spent about 2 hours there.

After Lóndrangar, we had intentions of stopping at Vatnshellir Cave, but we just missed one of their 45 minute tours, and didn’t want to wait for the next one (and didn’t feel like spending 3,750 ISK / $35 per person). Driving west, past the Vatnshellir Cave, we stopped at Djúpalónssandur, a long uninhabited black sand beach.

The beach is famous for the 1948 shipwreck from Grimsby, England in which only four English men survived. Now, years later, iron pieces remain skewed across the black sand, not to be disturbed. The red, massive lava rock on the beach, named “singing rock” is said to be the church of the elves. So watch what you climb!

Of note, the waters at Djúpalónssandur are dangerous due to sneaky waves and powerful suction and the beach pebbles are protected by law and shouldn’t be taken home with you. Can you tell we are rule followers? And like to stay alive? We spent a good hour at the beach.

Our next stop was 15 minutes north, at the Saxholl Crater. We parked in the dirt lot and walked up hundreds of steps to the top of the crater, overlooking the Snæfell (Snæfellsjökull) mountain. This stop only took about 20 minutes.

Back in the car, we drove another 30 minutes north along a shitty dirt road and arrived at Svörtuloft Lighthouse, located in Öndverðarnes, the outermost point of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The peninsula offers great views of crashing waves and a basalt archway.

Our seemingly endless list of places to stop in Snaefellsjoekull National Park ended at Skardsvik Beach, a golden sand beach, a stark difference to the black beaches in the area. The water here is bright blue, but locals and bloggers still regard the waters as dangerous, during high tide when the waves and wind compete. Enjoy a sandwich, instead.

Tired and cold from the wind and rain, we ended our day long journey around the Snaefellsjoekull National Park after about 9 hours on the road. If you have questions or comments regarding this post, please message us!

If you would like to read more about our road trip to the Westfjords, click here.

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