Black sand beaches, waterfalls, volcanoes, remote lighthouses, iconic mountains, lava fields, street art, and some of the most dramatic coastal cliffs in Iceland…this is the amazing Snaefellsnes Peninsula in Iceland. Whether you plan to be here on a quick day trip from Reykjavik or on a longer stay, here are the best things to do on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
Interesting Facts about the Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Snaefellsnes Peninsula is called Iceland in miniature, since it contains a sampling of many of Iceland’s natural wonders: black and white sand beaches, a volcano, a glacier, lava fields, mountains, waterfalls, and craters.
Snaefellsjokull National Park, one of three national parks in Iceland, covers the western tip of the peninsula.
Several movies were filmed here, including the Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008). Kirkjufell Mountain makes an appearance in Game of Thrones.
It takes roughly 3 hours to drive around the peninsula, not allowing time for stops. To visit everything on this list, plan to have a minimum of one full day and one night on the peninsula.
Driving through the Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Best Things to do on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula
This list is ordered as if you were to road trip around the peninsula. We start with Stykkishólmur in the north, travel counterclockwise to Kirkjufell and the western coast of the peninsula, and end on the southern coast.
At the end of this article, we give recommendations on where to stay and how to plan your time.
Stykkishólmur is the largest town on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. It’s a colorful fishing town and features a modern church designed to look like a whale vertebra. From the harbor, cross the causeway to Súgandisey and climb up to the tiny red lighthouse.
Grundarfjördur is a very small town that is also located on the northern coast of the peninsula. This is where we stayed on our visit to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
There is a wonderful restaurant, Bjargarsteinn, that serves fresh fish dishes and has lovely views of Kirkjufell.
If you are planning to photograph Kirkjufell at sunrise or sunset, this town is a great place to base yourself. From here, it is only a 5-minute drive to Kirkjufellsfoss.
3. Kirkjufell & Kirkjufellsfoss
Kirkjufell is Iceland’s most photographed mountain. It’s unique arrowhead shape, coastal location, and isolation from other mountains makes it a very unique photography location. Throw in a series of waterfalls and you have a stunning photography and filming location.
Without a doubt, a visit to Kirkjufell is one of the best things to do on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
View of the coastline from the path to Kirkjufellsfoss. Off in the distance is Grundarfjördur.
Without a doubt, this is a highlight for many visitors to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. It can get crowded here, especially midday and even at sunset.
The classic viewpoint of Kirkjufell is located next to Kirkjufellsfoss, the waterfall that you commonly see in photos.
Parking: There is a small parking lot on highway 54. Midday it can take a bit of luck to get a spot here. There is no fee for parking. Walk up the short trail to Kirkjufellsfoss and then enjoy the view.
It is possible to hike to the top of Kirkjufell. This is a challenging hike that takes approximately 3 hours. It is best done with a guide because there are several dangerous sections. There have been two recent deaths (one in 2017 and one in 2018) when hikers fell from the trail.
Kirkjufell at Sunset
This is an extremely popular sunset photography location in Iceland. In mid-July, when we visited Iceland, the sun set at 11:30 pm. Unfortunately, there was hardly a cloud in the sky on the night we were here, less than ideal conditions for sunset photography.
I was surprised by the number of people here. There were fifteen cameras and tripods set up, all capturing the action. Plan to get here early to stake out your spot.
4. Hellissandur, the Street Art Capital of Iceland
This was not on our original list of places to visit on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, but as we drove past this quiet town, a brightly painted sign that read “Welcome to the Street Art Capital of Iceland” caught my eye.
It takes all of 30 seconds to drive into town to see various buildings painted with colorful murals. Here are some of our favorites.
5. Snaefellsjökull National Park
Snaefellsjökull National Park is one of three national parks in Iceland. It is located on the western tip of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
The main feature of the park is the Snaefellsjökull, the glacier-topped volcano that is the centerpiece of the park. On a clear day, you can see Snaefellsjökull from Rekyjavik.
The Snaefellsjökull volcano received its claim to fame in A Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne. Otto Lidenbrock travels here because he believes that this volcano leads to the center of the Earth.
You can climb to the summit of Snaefellsjökull and on a clear day the views are stunning. From here, you won’t journey to the center of the Earth, but you can do something similar at Vatnshellir Cave, mentioned later in this article.
If you want to hike to the summit of Snaefellsjökull, it takes 8 to 10 hours and can be done with a guide. Learn more here.
The next seven sights on our list are located inside of the national park. These include Skardsvík Beach, Öndverdarnes and Svortuloft Lighthouses, Saxhóll, Djúpalónssandur Beach, Vatnshellir Cave, and Londrangar.
6. Skardsvík Beach
Now we journey into the rugged, remote northwestern section of Snaefellsjökull National Park. You’ll drive on rough, unpaved roads through a volcanic landscape. On the day we did this, cloudy skies, high winds, and cooler temperatures really added to the isolation we felt out here.
Pro Travel Tip: The next three spots (Skardsvík Beach, Öndverdarnes Lighthouse, and Svortuloft Lighthouse) require driving on a rough, unpaved road. I read online that these roads are passable for most vehicles, however, I disagree. These roads are extremely rough. In fact, they are rougher than the F-roads we drove on to get to the interior of Iceland. I recommend only doing this if you have a 4×4 vehicle that is permitted to be driven off-road.
Since this part of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula is so remote, most likely you will only see a handful of people here.
Skardsvík Beach is rather unique in Iceland. Many beaches in Iceland are made of black sand, but not Skardsvík Beach. This is a golden sand beach that is surrounded by black, volcanic cliffs. It’s a beautiful spot, and on a sunny day day, the aquamarine water against the golden sand makes it look more like you are in the Mediterranean than in Iceland.
Getting Here: From Hellissandur, drive west on Highway 574 (Utnesvegur) for 5 km. Turn right on an unpaved road with a sign pointing to Öndverdarnes. Drive 2 km down this road until you get to the small parking lot for Skardsvík Beach.
7. Öndverdarnes Lighthouse
A visit to Öndverdarnes is more than just a view of a lighthouse. On short walking trails, you can visit historical sights and hike out to the rugged coastline. This part of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula feels wonderfully wild and remote. During our visit, we had this all to ourselves.
If you like the idea of getting off-the-beaten-path, this (along with Svortuloft Lighthouse and Skardsvík Beach) is one of the best things to do on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
Falki is a water reservoir that was used for centuries by the people who once lived here.
The coastline is lined with black volcanic rocks and boulders. We spotted a seal here and I have also read that you can see sharks.
Getting Here: From Skardsvík Beach, it is a 5 km drive to this lighthouse. From Skardsvík, continue west until the road ends at the Svortuloft cliffs. Turn right to go to Öndverdarnes. Expect it to take 10 to 15 minutes to drive here from Skardsvík.
8. Svortuloft Lighthouse
This is another brilliantly orange lighthouse. The highlight, at least for us, was seeing the black, coastal cliffs, the stone arch over the water, and the hundreds of birds that nest here.
Getting Here: From Öndverdarnes, drive south for 2.5 km (10 minutes) until you get to the parking lot for this lighthouse.
9. Saxhóll Crater
If you want to summit a crater with minimal effort, this is worth the quick stop. Only 100 meters high, you will walk up a long staircase to the top. On a clear day, you will be treated to 360° views of Snaefellsnes Peninsula, the Atlantic Ocean, and Snaefellsjökull glacier.
Getting Here: Saxhóll is located on Highway 574 (Utnesvegur). From the Svortuloft Lighthouse, drive back out to Utnesvegur, turn right, and drive 7 km until you get to the parking lot for the Saxhóll crater.
10. Djúpalónssandur Beach
A visit to Djúpalónssandur Beach is one of the best things to do on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Walk on a black sand beach, see the wreckage of British trawler, and explore the jagged, volcanic rock formations that line the coast.
A visit here can be quick, with a short walk to a viewpoint, or can last hours, as you walk on trails along the coastline.
At the parking lot there is a large map that shows you the hikes you can do in the area. The trails are well marked with names of the viewpoints and walking distances.
For a short walk to a stunning viewpoint, walk the 50-meter boardwalk trail to Útsyni.
To walk out onto the beach, it’s a 300-meter walk through a very cool canyon.
Once on the beach, you’ll walk past the wreckage of the Epine GY 7, a British trawler that shipwrecked here in 1948. Bits and pieces of the ship have washed up on the shore.
Walk out to the beach and enjoy the view.
If you want to keep going (it’s worth it!), you can hike to Dritvík Cove. Along the way, you will get a panoramic view over Djúpalónssandur beach and the cove. From the parking lot, it is a 2 km round trip hike to get here.
11. Vatnshellir Cave
Journey to the center of the earth by walking through an 8,000 year old lava tube. You can only visit Vatnshellir on a guided tour. Tours leave every hour on the hour from 10 am to 6 pm year-round. They last approximately 45 minutes. Click here to visit the official website. If this sounds like something you would like to do, book your tour in advance because they do sell out.
12. The Basalt Cliffs of Londrangar
These dramatic coastal cliffs are formed of basalt, a dark, volcanic rock that you can see along the southern coast of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. The cliffs you see here are the remains of a crater that has mostly eroded away.
Londrangar is also a nesting site for puffins, northern fulmar, and other birds.
Near the Londragar Cliffs is Malarrif Lighthouse. It’s simply a white lighthouse that sits near the coastal cliffs. It doesn’t take long to visit it but I think your time is much better spent visiting the other sites on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
Getting Here: Park at the parking lot on Utnesvegur (labeled Londrangar Parking on Google Maps). From the parking lot, it is a short walk out to the Londrangar viewpoint.
At one time, Hellnar was one of the largest fishing villages on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Now, it is a popular spot for visitors.
You can simply take in the view from the viewpoint (labeled Hellnar View Point on Google Maps and you can see it on our map below) or you can walk down to the sea for up close views of the extraordinary rock formations (recommended!!).
Getting Here: From Utnesvegur, turn onto 5730 towards Hellnar. This road will end at a small parking lot and viewpoint over the coast.
14. Gatklettur and the Arnastapi Coastal Cliffs
This is one of the most scenic spots on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Black, volcanic basalt columns plunge into the sea, numerous species of birds who nest here fly overhead, and waves wash up onto the black sandy beaches.
One of the highlights is Gatklettur, a natural stone arch that is a very popular photography location.
You can also see the statue of Bárdur Snaefellsás, half troll and half man, who was the settler of this area.
Here are more photos of this beautiful coastline. Getting these views are one of the best things to do on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
Getting Here: Park in the large car park in Arnastapi, located on Arnarstapavegur. From here, you will walk past the statue of Bárdur Snaefellsás to the Gatklettur viewpoint. The trail continues along the coast cliffs. A visit here lasts approximately 30 to 45 minutes. There are restaurants next to the parking lot.
15. Port Arnarstapi
For a stunning view of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, it’s worth making a quick visit to Port Arnastapi.
Getting Here: Drive on Arnarstapavegur until it ends near the port. There is a small parking lot and viewpoint.
16. Raudfeldsgjá Ravine
From a distance, you would never know that this ravine exists. But as you get closer, you can see a narrow cleft in the mountain.
To get inside of Raudfeldsgjá ravine, you’ll have to walk across stepping stones in a shallow stream. Once inside, you are treated to moss-covered rock walls and views of several small waterfalls. Those feeling adventurous can climb up several of these waterfalls to the back of the gorge.
Wear waterproof shoes and if you plan to hike up the waterfalls, waterproof pants and a jacket are a good idea. This can be a crowded spot midday, so expect so share this narrow canyon with other people.
Getting Here: There is a large parking lot located on Utnesvegur, labeled Raudfeldsgjá ravine on Google Maps. You will drive on a short, rough, gravel road to get to the gravel parking lot. If you do not have a 4×4, have caution. This short road is very rough and there was one unfortunate man changing a flat tire on his car.
17. Budakirkja, the Budir Black Church
This small, black church is a surprisingly busy spot on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Many photos make it look like it is all alone, surrounded by lava fields, without anything else in sight.
Well, that’s not exactly the case.
Immediately next to the church is a parking lot. A parking lot that is much too small for the amount of midday traffic that comes through here.
To get a photo, without people, takes a bit of luck if you are here in the middle of the day. Somehow, luck was on my side, since a large tour bus arrived at the same time we did, depositing 30 more visitors to the church doors. They all miraculously disappeared inside of the church and I was able to take this photo.
The church dates back to 1703. It has been dismantled and rebuilt and the church that sits on this site today dates back to 1987.
Getting Here: From Utnesvegur, turn onto Budavegur and drive 2 km to the parking lot for the church. It is free to visit.
Bjarnarfoss is a tall, two-tiered waterfall. You can quickly and easily view the waterfall from the viewpoint on Highway 54 or walk up the trail to get a closer look.
Getting Here: Bjarnarfoss is located on Highway 54, just a short drive north of Budir and Budirkirkja.
19. Ytri Tunga Beach
This is another golden sand beach on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. It also makes a good place to spot some seals, if you are lucky (we weren’t).
Getting Here: Ytri Tunga is located on Highway 54 on the southern coast of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
20. Eldborg Crater
5000 to 6000 years ago this crater erupted, leaving behind one of the most picturesque craters in Iceland. To get to the top of the crater, it is a 6 km round trip hike that takes 3 hours. Read more here.
Getting Here: Eldborg Crater is located on the eastern end of the Snaefellsnes
Peninsula where it meets the mainland. Parking for the hike is located at Storrastadir Farm Holidays.
Things to do on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula: On a Map
How to Use This Map: Click the icons on the map to get more information about each point of interest. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.
How much time do you need to visit the Snaefellsnes Peninsula?
If you want to see and do everything on this list, you will need a minimum of one full day. And that will be a very, very busy day. I recommend spending two days here with an overnight stay on the peninsula if you want to see everything on this list.
One Day Snaefellsnes Peninsula Itinerary
With one day and one night on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, you have enough time to visit the highlights without feeling rushed.
With one day on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, it is best to drive a loop around the peninsula, starting at either Grundarfjördur, Stykkishólmur, or Arnarstapi/Hellnar. If you stay in Grundarfjördur, you will be able to see Kirkjufell at both sunrise and sunset.
You can drive in either direction around the Snaefellsnes Peninsula and the direction you choose does not matter very much. It will be nearly impossible to visit all of these sites crowd free. Just expect to see the biggest crowds between 10 am and 3 pm.
If you are staying in Grundarfjördur, like we did, I recommend driving around the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in a counter-clockwise direction. You will visit the sites on the same order as I have listed them earlier in this post, but just for clarification, here would be the itinerary:
- Kirkjufell. This is a great spot for sunrise photography. By visiting this first thing you might even have the view all to yourself.
- Check out the street art in Hellisandur
- If you have a 4×4, visit the rugged and remote northwestern corner of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula: Skardsvík Beach, Öndverdarnes Lighthouse, and Svortuloft Lighthouse
- Climb Saxhóll Crater for views over Snaefellsjökull National Park
- Spend an hour or two on Djúpalónssandur Beach
- Journey below the earth into Vatnshellir Cave (don’t forget to book your tour in advance)
- Visit Londragar Cliffs viewpoint
- Visit Hellnar View Point (and it’s worth the quick walk to get up close with these unique coastal cliffs)
- Explore the Arnarstapi Coastal Cliffs and Port Arnarstapi
- Go inside Raudfeldsgjá ravine
- Make a quick stop at the Budir Black Church
- See Bjarnafoss, either from the parking lot or walk uphill to the waterfall if you are doing well on time (and energy)
- Cross your fingers that you will get to see the seals on Ytri Tunga Beach.
- Return to Grundarfjördur to complete the circle, or continue on to your next destination.
Snaefellsnes Peninsula Day Trip from Reykjavík
From Reykjavík, it takes two and a half hours to drive to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula (5 hours round trip).
You can visit the Snaefellsnes Peninsula on a day trip from Reykjavík. You will have to be choosey on what you see, since you will have limited time. Most people visit Kirkjufell and the sights on the southern coast (Londrangar Cliffs, Djúpalónssandur Beach, the Budir Black Church, Hellnar, and Arnarstapi).
Here are three highly rated tours of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula from Reykjavík (perfect if you are staying in Reykjavík and don’t have plans to rent a car).
What We Did
On day 1, we drove from Reykjavík, hiked to Glymur Waterfall, and arrived on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in the early afternoon. We visited Kirkjufell and Grundarfjördur, had dinner at Bjargarsteinn, and spent one night in Grundarfjördur.
On day 2, we drove counterclockwise around the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, visiting the remainder of the sights on this list. In the early evening, we checked into our hotel in Fludir, which was our home base for the Golden Circle and Landmannalaugar.
Where to Stay
There are numerous small towns located throughout the peninsula. Here are some of the highest rated hotels in these towns.
Pro Travel Tip: Book your accommodations well in advance (6 months or earlier). The highly rated, mid-range places will sell out first, leaving expensive or poorly rated hotels for those who are late to the game in planning their trip.
This is the largest town on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula so it has a lot of hotels to choose from. The downside of staying here is its location. Stykkishólmur will have the longest drive to the main sights on the peninsula.
Helgafell 2. Stay in a small, private cottage just a short drive away from Stykkishólmur. Rooms can accommodate two people and this property gets rave reviews.
Akkeri Guesthouse. This guesthouse is rated as one of the best values in Stykkishólmur. All rooms feature a private bathroom and can accommodate two people.
This tiny town is more centrally located. Plus, it’s just a 5-minute drive to Kirkjufell, perfect if you want to snap a sunset or sunrise photo of this iconic spot.
H5 Apartments. This is where we stayed. All units have at least two bedrooms and come with a kitchen, private bathroom, and a washing machine. The apartments are nothing fancy but they are clean, spacious, and the Wi-Fi works well. Plus, it’s just a 5-minute walk to the grocery store and the restaurant Bjargarsteinn.
Kirkjufell Guesthouse. At this highly rated guesthouse, all rooms have a private bathroom and share a kitchen and lounge. Rooms can accommodate two to four people. This guesthouse is located a short distance east of Grundarfjördur so you will have to drive into town for meals and groceries.
BUDIR: Hotel Budir. Located in Budir, this hotel features rooms that can accommodate up to three people. Rooms offer views of the mountains, the sea, the lava fields, or the black church. There is an onsite restaurant and bar.
HELLNAR: Fosshotel Hellnar. This eco-friendly hotel offers rooms with private bathrooms that can accommodate up to three people. There is an onsite restaurant.
ARNARSTAPI: Arnarstapi Hotel. Located right in Arnarstapi, you will be able to walk right out to some of the most scenic coastal cliffs on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Rooms can accommodate up to four people and all rooms have a private bathroom.
This small town is located near the eastern end of the peninsula. It’s not all that close to any of the sights on this list, but it still makes a good place to stay. Since it is on the eastern end of the peninsula, it is less of a drive to get to Reykjavik, the Golden Circle, or the Ring Road. Plus, we have one highly rated hotel to recommend.
Hotel Rjúkandi. Rooms can accommodate up to three people and have a private bathroom. At the onsite restaurant, dine on traditional Icelandic dishes made from organic ingredients.
Are you planning a visit to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula? If you have any questions about the best things to do on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula or if you want to share your experience, comment below!
More Information for Your Trip to Iceland:
- Iceland Itinerary: 10 Day Iceland Itinerary: 4 Amazing Itineraries for Your Trip to Iceland
- Travel Advice: Iceland Travel Tips: Things to Know Before You Travel to Iceland
- Landmannalaugar: The Essential Landmannalaugar Guide for First-Time Visitors
- Fimmvorduhals Hike: Fimmvörðuháls Hike: A Step-By-Step Guide to Iceland’s Best Day Hike
- Kerlingarfjöll: How to Visit Kerlingarfjöll and the Hveradalir Geothermal Area
- Glacier Hike: Iceland Glacier Hike: Complete Guide and Best Tours
Read all of our articles about Iceland in our Iceland Destination Guide.
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