The Go Campers’ Guide to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is one of our favourite regions in the country because it’s got a little bit of everything that a campervan trip through Iceland will offer you. There are brooding volcanoes and glaciers, raging rivers flowing past wistful villages, black sand beaches and windswept churches. The region packs a lot in for such a small area, too much to squeeze into a day. Those that linger discover a more authentic Iceland, and the locals are more than welcoming. Even though it’s so close to Reykjavik and a popular day trip from the capital, there’s still plenty of room to find your own camper adventure, and a lot of hidden secrets. Welcome to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
The 15 Best Things to See in Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Many tours will try to tackle the peninsula on a day trip from Reykjavik, but there’s far more to see and do here than that time allows. Spending 2 to 3 days on the peninsula in your camper is the best way to enjoy all that it has to offer. This will go through what to see and do as if you’re travelling anti-clockwise around the peninsula, having set out from Reykjavik.
1. Eldborg Crater
The first thing that you’ll see that lets you know you’re entering the peninsula is the Eldborg Crater. This great volcanic crater rises 60 metres above the surrounding lava field and is one of the most perfectly formed craters in the country. Turn off onto the road that’s marked Snorrastaðir, where you can park your car and follow the trail out to the crater (about 1.5 hours one way).
2. Landbrotalaug Hot Pot
A short distance away from Eldborg is one of the smallest hot springs in the country, Landbrotalaug. This small but deep pool can only fit two people at a time, but you’ll be in up to your necks. There’s also a bigger one on the site that’s fed with a hose. Remember when bathing in the natural pools around Iceland to always clean up after yourselves, respect the environment and those whose land you’re on.
3. Gerðuberg Cliffs
After your quick dip, continuing along the main road and you’ll see the basalt columns of Gerðuberg Cliffs to the north. These are worth checking out, as there are trails that take you to the top and offer stunning views out over the landscapes.
4. Natural Carbonated Water Springs
Further up along the road is Rauðamelsölkelda, a natural mineral water spring from which you can drink and fill up your water bottles. Another spot to get even more carbonated mineral water is at Ölkelduvatn (both are marked on the map below)
5. Ytri Tunga Beach
On the south coast you’ll find Ytri Tunga, a rocky beach that is often filled with seals. Take a good pair of shoes with you as you’ll have to walk across a lot of rocks to be able to see them, but this is still one of the nicer locations on the peninsula that you won’t want to miss.
6. Búðakirkja – The Black Church
Many will have already seen this famous Icelandic church in photos. The iconic black wood contrasts beautifully with the backdrop of mountains, and the windswept outcrop that it sits on couldn’t be prettier. This is a location that photographers won’t want to miss, and don’t forget to take a walk down to the beach as well.
7. Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge
As the road veers to the south to skirt the glacier Snæfellsjökull, the first stop will be at the Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge. A massive cleft in the tall cliffs has allowed enough space to walk inside for a little bit, where a river is rushing out from within the mountains. The mossy walls and dripping water give the whole place a special atmosphere, and it’s a chance to get up close and personal with the nature on the peninsula. Be warned, it’s slippery getting inside and you will get wet.
8. The Arnarstapi to Hellnar Hike
The coast line between these two sleepy fishing villages is a spectacular display of rocky formations, lava field and wistful beaches, and one of our favourite hikes in the country. It’s very easy to do, and there’s a small café waiting for you in Hellnar to recharge before heading back to the camper in Arnarstapi. Lots of great photo opportunities as well.
After driving past Hellnar, you’ll enter the boundaries of Snæfellsnes National Park. This protected area is one of three National Parks in the country and encompasses the famous glacier and volcano Snæfellsjökull. Twisted fields of lava and gorgeous coastline make up the park, and there’s plenty to see and do within its borders – especially hiking, so get your boots on and hit the trails. There are plenty of stops along the way in between the following sights.
A popular stop in the park, Londrangar is a collection of sharp basalt spires rising from the ocean in an impressive display of geology. For most it’s a short stop to snap a photo, but there are trails that lead along the coastline here which are worth checking out if you’ve got the time.
10. Vatnshellir Cave
Only accessed via a tour, Vatnshellir is an 8000-year old lava tube. Explore the wonderful colours and learn about lava flow and the effects it has on the island.
11. Djúpalónssandur beach
This gorgeous black sand beach is another popular stop along the peninsula and has the remnants of an old shipping vessel scattered across the sand. There are also several round stones of varying sizes at the beginning of the beach where the Vikings of old would prove their strength.
12. Saxhóll Crater
Another volcanic crater surrounded by a sprawling lava field. A steel staircase leads you to the top and offers great views of the glacier and out towards the coast.
13. Skarðsvík Beach
This beautiful golden sand beach contrasts beautifully with the black sand beaches that came before. On a sunny day you’ll feel as if you’re in Spain somewhere, but don’t test the water. At the end of the road is the bright orange
14. Svörtuloft Lighthouse
Another great spot for photographers (please note that the use of drones isn’t allowed in any of Iceland’s National Parks), and a short drive away from the Skarðsvík Beach. The bright orange lighthouse staves off ships from getting too close to the rocky peninsula.
15. Kirkjufell Mountain
Last but certainly not least is Kirkjufell Mountain, the most photographed mountain in Iceland and one of the country’s most recognisable landmarks. Its perfect cone shape and ideal position behind two scenic waterfalls has helped grow its popularity in recent years. Many will also recognise the peak from north of the wall in the TV series Game of Thrones, where it played the Arrowhead Mountain north of the wall.
Towns Along the North Coast
Hellissandur, Rif and Ólafsvík
Before you reach Kirkjufell, all three of these small towns are worth a visit. Hellissandur has been transformed over the past years into an epicentre of street art in Iceland. The old fishing buildings and warehouses near the harbor have all been painted with murals, and it’s a great place to enjoy some international art in a remote location.
Over in Rif is the Freezer Hostel and Culture Centre, one of our favourite spots in the country. There’s always something going on here, whether it’s a live music concert, a theatre performance, or just a lot of great people hanging out in the awesome common area. The owner is the same guy behind the street art in Rif. As an added bonus, if you want to spend the night here they’ll charge you a small fee to park your campervan in their parking lot and use the hostel facilities.
Ólafsvík is an atmospheric and quiet little fishing town, with a few cosy places to eat and drink and get a feel for rural Iceland. Kaldilækur is our favourite place in town. This tiny café/bar in the middle of the park is in one of the oldest houses in the area, so having a drink here is of course very atmospheric. Highly recommended.
A small and fanciful Icelandic fishing village set on a dramatic bay, Grundarfjörður is surrounded by snow-capped peaks wreathed in mists and some stunning waterfalls crashing down from the mountain tops. There are plenty of tourist facilities in town, like cafés, tour operators, and a good campsite.
The Best Place to Eat in Grundarfjörður
By far the best restaurant in town is Bjargarsteinn. The exceptional views are the perfect spot to splash out a bit on a fine meal, and the food here is indeed excellent. Don’t forget your credit card though.
The largest town on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Stykkishólmur is a port town that’s loaded with charm. With a handful of colourful wooden houses and a pretty harbor area, some might recognize the town from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. In the film, Stykkishólmur plays the town where Ben Stiller makes landfall on Iceland. The small town is home to many different hotels, guesthouses, and nice restaurants which make the most of the innumerable mussels and fish found in the nearby waters.
The Best Place to Eat in Stykkishólmur
Our favourite place to eat in town is Sjávarpakkhúsið, a beautifully restored fish packaging house that now serves up fresh Icelandic seafood.
The Best Campsites on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula
The campsite in Stykkishólmur is a sprawling area with plenty of room to find your own little corner. While there are no cooking facilities and only two outdoor showers, the proximity to town means that this is one of our favourite places to stay.
Camping outside of Guesthouse Langaholt is another winner on the peninsula. Cold water only, but you’re right next to a beautiful golden sand beach that’s gorgeous for evening walks.
The campsite at Ólafsvík has fairly new facilities, including hot showers and a well-equipped kitchen.
Other Useful Information for Campervans
Stykkishólmur is the main town along the peninsula and has all the services you’ll need for a campervan trip. There’s a Bonus Supermarket there, a Samkaup supermarket in Grundarfjörður, and a small local supermarket in Ólafsvík.
Stykkishólmur is also the place where you can catch the ferry across Breiðafjörður to the Westfjords. The ferry has room for campervans, so if you’re planning the trip into your itinerary contact us to find out the dimensions of your chosen campervan for booking space on the ferry.