Are you looking for an off the beaten path road trip to add to your Iceland adventures? Most people will tackle Ring Road in a day. But I have another one for you to also consider – Snaefellsnes Peninsula! This peninsula is just a few hours from Reykjavik on the western coast of the island. This road trip will give you a chance to view waterfalls, black sand beaches, volcanoes, lava fields, and a national park all in one day.
This peninsula is jam packed with views of most of what Iceland offers. There is so much to see! If you only have a day to drive to the peninsula, I have the perfect list for you of “must go” destinations to see the best of what Snaefellsnes Peninsula offers.
Kirkjufell Mountain: The Crown Jewel
Kirkjufell Mountain. Photo Cred: Ronda McKnight
Kirkjufellsfoss. Photo Cred: Ronda McKnight
The first recommended stop is on the northern side of the peninsula. Kirkjufell Mountain is the most photographed mountain in Iceland which is why it is #1 on the list of any road trip to Snaefellsnes Peninsula. The most famous photograph of Kirkjufell features a small waterfall, Kirkjufellsfoss, in the foreground and you will see many people trying to replicate this shot.
Honestly speaking, we did not even realize we were at the mountain until we were about to pass the parking lot. The twin waterfalls that everyone is familiar with are actually across the road from Kirkjufell, so it is easy to miss it altogether.
Fun fact: Fans of Game of Thrones might recognize Kirkjufell as "Arrowhead Mountain", one of the landmarks north of The Wall.
Hellissandur: Tiny Town, Big Views
If you continue towards the northwestern side of the peninsula along Road 54, you will arrive in Hellissandur. This is a tiny village but calls itself “The Street Art Capital of Iceland.” It will only take 5 minutes of driving into the town to see why 😊
Murals in Hellissandur. Photo Cred: Ronda McKnight
Another less obvious draw to Hellisandur is the charm of its simplicity. It was clear that this was a community with a deep tradition and bond to the sea. It was a great snapshot of Icelandic coastal life and a perfect place to catch your breath and relax while taking in the art murals.
Snaefellsjokull National Park: Where Legends Come to Life
The next stop is one of Iceland’s three national parks, which sits at the very western tip of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. This park is an absolutely cannot miss if you are doing a road trip on the peninsula. The most prominent feature of this park is the Snaefellsjokull glacier, which lies on top of a giant volcano famous for its role in the book A Journey to the Center of the Earth. If the day is clear, unlike my gray and moody day on the peninsula, you will be able to see magnificent views of the glacier while driving through the park.
Skardsvik Beach. Photo Cred: Ronda McKnight
While making your way through the park, there are two places I would recommend making stops: Skardsvik Beach and Svortuloft Lighthouse.
Skardsvik Beach. Photo Cred: Ronda McKnight
Svortuloft Lighthouse. Photo Cred: Ronda McKnight
Iceland is famous for its black sand beaches, but Skardsvik Beach is unique because of its golden-colored sand. It is a small beach surrounded by black lava fields that meet the ocean with dramatic seaside cliffs and cool rock formations. There are breathtaking coastal views here and, because this part of Iceland does not see as many visitors, you can steal a few moments of privacy on the beach as you stare out over the northern Atlantic Ocean at the corner of the peninsula (how cool is that!?)
Svortuloft Lighthouse is not far from Skardsvik Beach, but it does include driving down an unpaved, dirt road that has lots of big potholes. This bright orange lighthouse was a big contrast to the dark lava fields all around. It stood out even more on a gray day in Iceland. Near the lighthouse, you can get panoramic views of the coastline with amazing rock formations and black cliffs.
Djupalonssandur Beach: A Pebble Playground
Crazy lava formations! Photo Cred: John McKnight
Djupalonssandur Beach is just a short drive from Svortuloft Lighthouse. As you are making your way down to the beach from the parking lot, you get to experience a scenic walk through a small canyon of volcanic rocks. My favorite rock formation had a small opening like a window where you can peek out and look over the lava fields. As you exit the canyon, you will see the four lifting stones laying on the beach known as Fullsterkur, Hafthor, Halfsterkur, and Amlodi. These stones once served as a test of strength of fishermen hoping to join a fishing vessel. It was believed that sailors who could lift the heaviest stones were the strongest and best suited for the physically demanding job of fishing.
Beyond the thousands of round black pebbles, one of the first things that will catch your attention is the remnants of a shipwreck. You will also see more rock formations that have been shaped and forged by the pounding waves. Speaking of waves, the waves on this beach were not to be played with…so, word of wisdom: admire from afar!
Djupalonssandur Beach. Photo Cred: Ronda McKnight
Bardur the protector. Photo Cred: Ronda McKnight
Arnarstapi: Cliffs and Folklore
Arnarstapi is a small coastal village that sits just outside the National Park along the southern coast of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. In Arnarstapi, you will find a series of trails that run along the coastal cliffs. At the start of the trails, you will be greeted by a giant statue of a half troll, half man standing tall as the mythical protector of the peninsula.
There are so many beautiful views here of the coastline, rugged cliffs, and basalt columns that will be visible as you walk along the trails. The most popular feature in Arnarstapi is Gatklettur, a picturesque stone arch that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. The formation is caused by the circular wave action around the cliffs. Gatklettur also looks like a sculpture of a heart to me…or maybe I was just seeing hearts because it was my honeymoon!
Gatklettur. Photo Cred: Ronda McKnight
Budir Black Church. Photo Cred: Ronda McKnight
Budir Black Church: Gothic Beauty
For a great pit stop with a stunning backdrop, prioritize a quick stop off Road 54 in Budir to visit Budakirkja. It is a beautiful black church surrounded by the Budarhraun lava field. The church dates back to the 1700s and adds a touch of history to the mystical vibes of the peninsula. The minimalistic background with the contrasting colors of nature makes this church a must-see…particularly for photographers.
Big & beautiful! Photo Cred: Ronda McKnight
So, there you have it—Snaefellsnes Peninsula through the eyes of an adventure seeker. Each location can be so intoxicating that you get off track on your road trip plan, so be careful 😊 Until our next adventure, keep exploring!