The most wonderful thing about touring the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is that you feel like you have it to yourself, at least in the offseason. When the roads are slick and the weather is harsh, most tourists will stick to more established areas: Golden Circle, South and Southeast Coast especially felt crowded. On the scenic Snæfellsnes (pronounced SNY-FELS-NESS, or so I believe my guide said), you’ll have all the fantastic fossar (waterfalls) at your fingertips and be able to snap photographs easily, and take as many moments as you like to appreciate the natural beauty.
An intro picture to the scenic beauty of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula!
You’ll commonly hear the Snæfellsnes referred to as “Iceland in miniature“, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to say you could only travel there and no where else to get a feel for the country, it does contain marvelous examples of the natural wonders Iceland has in spades. I took a day trip with Goecco Expeditions, one of my favorite tours during my time in Iceland, though next time I would overnight to spend more time in this seemingly untouched part of the island.
Our trusty Land Rover Defender takes us to the sights of the Snæfellsnes.
We began by some light hiking and visiting some secret foss just outside Borganes. We moved on to traversing the landscape around Eldborg, a volcanic crater that gives way to some nice little hiking moments, the hybrid grass/rock sweeping plains, and an odd area oft referred to as Mars for its red volcanic sand. This part of the trip we experienced rain, snow, hail, and sun alternating on and off for a full hour, so while photographic opportunities were often a bit hit and miss, the adventurous experience was merely ratcheted up.
“Secret” Unnamed Waterfall outside Borganes, just after an impromptu rain/hail shower
Moss covered rock meets grass, giving almost an earthy sea feel to the area.
From there, we made it to Budir, where we had a quick break at one of Iceland’s few (but increasing) luxury options in the countryside, the Hotel Budir. We had steaming bowls of paprika soup, which was creamy and of course well spiced, along with Icelandic butter and bread. After that, some chose to relax and take in the area around Budir from the floor to ceiling glass windows: I elected to wander the hillsides of Budir, and watch one of the storms that had been following us blow offshore.
Lunch with a view at the Hotel Budir!
Storms sweeping the churning Atlantic make for beautiful seascapes.
After Budir, we were off to Hellnar, where we set off on an hour long ramble along the path to Arnastapi. This walk presents some of the most scenic coastline and best birdwatching in Iceland. Craggy cliffs meet powerful, crashing waves to create dramatic seascapes for the amateur photographer. Above the din of the Atlantic rise the cries of nesting kittiwakes, skua, and arctic terns. Scampering and slipping on wet rocks and tan sea grass, I felt like a child at play, running and walking and having nearly the whole coast to myself, shared only among the six of us on the tour.
A bench is a great break along the path between Hellnar and Arnastapi
Walking the path, and presenting some of the Snæfellsnes’ most scenic areas
One of the final legs of our tour of the Peninsula was the iconic Kirkjufell, a mountain most commonly used as a backdrop for Northern Lights photographers in the winter. While we were there by day, the mountain was no less beautiful, though you had to work for the view a bit, climbing the slick stairs to the top of Kirkjufellsfoss. But then, sjáðu (look)! The foss becomes the foreground for the side profile of the mountain, and accordingly, I took pictures madly. These may be some of my favorite photographs I’ve ever taken.
The beauty of Kirkjufell, ambassador for Iceland and the Snæfellsnes in particular.
Though the full day trip was nearly 12 hours long, it almost didn’t seem like enough time in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula for me. And indeed, on a future trip to Iceland in a different season, I would spend at least 1-2 nights out there, looking for more surprising, interesting, hiding in plain sight types of places. We drove past gleaming glacial lakes and we were back to the city again, but the Snæfellsnes tour would be the most memorable day among a trip full of them.
The beauty and serenity of Snæfellsnes offseason is not to missed, nor underestimated.