Snæfellsnes Peninsula

When I woke up at my hostel in Stykkishólmur, I wasn’t ready to leave Iceland. But it was my last full day in the country. How was I going to spend that day? I wasn’t really sure. I didn’t have any accommodation booked, but I knew I wanted to spend the night close to the airport because my flight was around noon. Going back towards Reykjavík was probably my best option. But I would not do that before seeing some more of Iceland’s beauty. I was going to start the day by circling the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.

But first I want to introduce Stykkishólmur a bit because I liked it so much.

Conquer Fear Snæfellsnes Peninsula
The seaside neighborhood view from my hostel’s porch.

Stykkishólmur has such a friendly feeling to it, that my hostel didn’t even have a lock for the front door. Yeah. Yeah, think about that. When I ate in town, my restaurant was just the first floor in someone’s house. Boom. Awesome, right? And the shellfish they served? Those were caught in the harbor just about a football field away from where I was sitting.

Talk about local.

There’s also a cool basalt island called Súgandisey attached to the town by a concrete causeway. It’s got a historic lighthouse and some excellent views of the surrounding harbor.

Conquer Fear Snæfellsnes Peninsula
The tiny town of Stykkishólmur. Notice the car ferry loading up on the right.

From Súgandisey, you can see how small the community is. Also, if you’re one of the super cool people that have watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, then you might actually recognize Stykkishólmur. The town was used for shooting the Greenland scenes – you know, with the helicopter takeoff and such. And if you haven’t seen Walter Mitty, then you should definitely watch it.

It’s a story about breaking out of your comfort zone, learning new things about yourself, and finding your courage.

I know you might think it was just a silly throw-away short story from English class (that’s what I thought), but the movie is a damn solid piece of work from Ben Stiller.

Conquer Fear Snæfellsnes Peninsula
A tall shadow points to the pot of gold under the rainbow…

It was windy and brisk on Súgandisey, but it was cool to see more rainbows pop out of the clouds. The wind on the waves created a nice chop, and I could feel how frigid the water was even from up on the island.

Ok. Enough of Stykkishólmur.

It’s time to explore the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.

I headed west in my car, seeking the mountain Kirkjufell. And just after passing through Grundarfjörður, I found it.

Conquer Fear Snæfellsnes Peninsula
I’ll never forgive myself for missing out on the famous angle…

You may recognize it from Game of Thrones. It played the part of the “arrowhead mountain” located north of the wall. You can easily recognize Kirkjufell by it’s iconic shape, and it’s also a rather isolated peak. It’s backed up against the sea on a peninsula that it has all to itself.

I will definitely return to Iceland.

I have a burning desire to capture a proper shot of this majestic mountain.

But next time, I’ll need much, much longer than a 7-day stay.

Conquer Fear Snæfellsnes Peninsula
In the distance you can see the small settlement Grundarfjörður.

I didn’t stop in any of the towns along the northern edge of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. I continued straight on until I reached the road’s western limit. There, I entered Snæfellsjökull National Park, which reminded me of the first lava field that I drove through a few days previous.

You could tell this lava field was older than the one just outside of Keflavík. It had short grasses growing over the top of it, and the rocks seemed a little more crumbly and not quite so sharp and jagged.

Conquer Fear Snæfellsnes Peninsula
In the distance you can see mighty Snæfellsjökull past the old lava field.

The mountain in the distance is actually named Snæfell, but is commonly referred to as Snæfellsjökull because there are three separate mountains with the name Snæfell (meaning snowy mountain). It’s a 700,000 year old glacier-capped stratovolcano rising 1446 meters above the ground, and holds a place in the heart of the superstitious Icelandic population for it’s mysticism and energy (thanks again, internet).

Conquer Fear Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Looking up at the ancient volcano, and adding some autumn color to the foreground.

The mountain was famously used in the famous Jules Verne story, Journey to the Center of the Earth. In the novel, Snæfellsjökull is the entrance to the subterranean world explored by Hans, Axel, and Professor Lidenbrock. 

Imagine if there truly was an entrance in one of the craters…

Would you journey forth to discover its secrets?

I don’t know if I could. Claustrophobia has a tendency to affect me – I find being surrounded by rock walls rather constricting.

Conquer Fear Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Even a cloud’s shadow can’t fully hide the redness of autumn’s touch on the volcano’s base.

While I was making great time around the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, I missed out on a few landmarks near Snæfellsjökull. In the event that you embark on this round-the-peninsula trip yourself (do it), you should know what else is out there.

At the base of the volcano is the sandy beach Djúpalónssandur. There is a sea arch here worth seeing, but the real attraction is something a little different. At Djúpalónssandur are the ancient lifting stones, used by the locals as a test of strength. If a sailor could not lift the second heaviest stone – Hálfsterkur (meaning half-strength), which clocks in at about 100 kg, the captains would not allow him to work. The lightest stone is called Amlóði, which means useless.

They sure had a sense of humor!

You’d better be able to lift 23 kg, or you’d never live it down at ye olde tavern.

There’s also a lava tube that you can explore. Vatnshellir Cave. Tour guides are available to show you around the beautiful natural landmark.

The one nearby attraction that I didn’t miss, was Lóndrangar.

Conquer Fear Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Lóndrangar. When I look at it, I always see it as an ancient castle melted by dragon fire.

The magnificent basalt rock formation is a pair of pinnacles 75 and 61 meters tall. Apparently the higher pillar was climbed in 1735, but the smaller one was not climbed until over 200 years later, in 1938. I guess in Iceland, you either go big or you go home.

Lóndrangar is what remains of a large crater that has been mostly eroded away by the ocean. It’s a survivor. Although I still think dragon fire is a much better story than erosion. Dracarys, baby!

Conquer Fear Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Sometimes you just gotta kick back for a minute and enjoy the view.

Lóndrangar was just about the end of my journey around the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. There was one more stop to make – for food of course – but that would come when I arrived in Hellnar. Just before lunchtime, I took a few moments to relax on the coastline and reflect on the morning’s drive. 

It had begun in Stykkishólmur, remembering an amazing movie about an ordinary man taking the journey of a lifetime. Then I moved on to Kirkjufell, one of Iceland’s most photographed landmarks. I still can’t believe I screwed up the shot! I’m obsessive with stopping for pictures and getting different angles, how could I have missed the best one!? 

Ahem. Moving on.

Snæfellsjökull, the entrance to a mysterious world in a Jules Verne novel from the 19th century. Lóndrangar, the basalt formation sculpted by the ocean… And everything in between! Every view is something special. Sometimes, the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is called Iceland in Miniature, because of the many iconic landmarks you can find there (much appreciated, Wikipedia).

I can always appreciate a beautiful drive. 

Which is very good, because I still have a half-a-day of driving ahead of me. Next stop, Hellnar. And then?

Southward! Homeward bound!

P.S. Snæfellsnes Peninsula was Iceland Part 6. Read on!

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