Snæfellsnes Peninsula is an area on the western side of Iceland that has many beautiful places to see. It is less visited than other popular places such as the Golden Circle, but it is not too far from Reykjavik. On a clear day, you can even see the peninsula from Reykjavik. There are glaciers, volcanoes, mountains, craters, waterfalls, and the ocean all in this area. Read further to see all the places you should stop on a road trip around the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
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About Snæfellsnes Peninsula
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is a peninsula northwest of the capital city of Reykjavik. It is famous for fishing villages, being part of the famous Icelandic Saga, and Snæfellsjökull National Park which is one of only three national parks in the entire country. The peninsula is sometimes referred to as a miniature Iceland due to the wide variety of natural features on the peninsula.
How to get around the Snæfellsnes Peninsula
The best way to get around the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is by driving. However, depending on your trip to Iceland, driving may not be an option for you.
If you drive on your own, you can stop at as many or few places that you want. It is also helpful to drive on your own so that if there is somewhere that you really want to see, but it is pouring the rain, you may be able to wait for the rain to slow down. Driving allows you the flexibility to go where you want whenever you want. There are some really awesome places to stop in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula that large tour buses just won’t stop.
I am not the expert on renting cars in Iceland, but we rented our car from ICEPOL which is actually a Polish-based company. We had a good experience overall and would recommend them.
There are various companies that run bus tours through the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Most tours are a full day tour leaving from Reykjavik. If you plan on taking a bus tour, I recommend reserving your bus tour spot in advance. One site that is popular for finding various bus tours is BusTravel. Of course, if you are traveling on a bus tour, they will have their own itinerary which will likely stop at some, but not all, of the stops listed in this blog post.
About the Snæfellsnes Peninsula Itinerary
We stayed near the town of Borgarnes, so this itinerary starts from the south of the peninsula around the Borgarnes area. If you are coming from Reykjavik or anywhere south of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula then you will pass through Borgarnes and follow the same route.
We drove counter-clockwise through the peninsula which we thought was definitely better than going clockwise. However, if you prefer, you could go clockwise and use this list of stops in reverse.
The full loop starting in Borgarnes and returning to Borgarnes is 4.5 hours without stopping time. The entire itinerary is possible to do in one day (that’s what we did!), but if you prefer to move at a slower pace, you could stay in any of the towns on the itinerary.
Place to stop on a road trip around the Snæfellsnes Peninsula
The first stop to make is the Gerduberg Cliffs. Turn off the main road onto a well-groomed gravel road. You can see the cliffs in the distance from the main road, but you can Here you will find large basalt columns that form a large wall on a hillside. You can walk up to the giant columns and also walk along the top. The columns here are similar to the basalt columns you can find on the black sand beaches along the south coast, but these are much less popular.
If you drive to the end of cliffs, there is a picturesque church with fields of sheep in front of it. Continue following the gravel road and go over the small little hill right past the basalt columns. You will see a large lake to your left that is very reflective and beautiful. I personally liked the little hidden lake here better than the basalt columns.
Kaffihaus at Rjukandi
Down the road from the cliffs, you will find Rjukandi, which is a hotel, gas station, and very adorable café. This makes a great stop for a hot coffee, a cookie (the chocolate chip ones were fantastic), and a bathroom break. (Note that you had to pay a small amount in ISK cash to use the bathroom here).
If you’re interested in other coffee shops around Iceland, be sure to check out my coffee in Iceland blog post.
Selvallafoss or Sheep’s Waterfall
Selvallafoss is an incredible waterfall close to the road that you can walk behind and is really pretty. In full transparency, my mom found this spot (and many amazing spots on our Iceland trip) and I was really skeptical of this one. However, it turned out to be one of my favorite spots on the Snæfellsnes peninsula.
There is a small roadside pull-off to park for this waterfall. You cannot see anything from the road and the trail looks like you’re walking into a field. However, walk a small amount away from the parking area and you will see that the trail drops over a little hump. From here, look to your left and you will see the waterfall. There are multiple tiers of the waterfall. You can walk behind the upper tier of the waterfall and walk farther down the hill to see the different tiers of the waterfall all at once.
A cool thing about this waterfall is that it is much less popular than some of the other waterfalls in Iceland that you can walk behind.
Skykkisholmur was one of the places that I was most excited to see on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula because my favorite movie (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) was filmed there. It is an adorable little fishing town on the northern part of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. There is a marina, cute little downtown with colorful buildings, and hiking trails on the island of Sugandisey.
The main filming location in the town for the Secret Life of Walter Mitty is located at the main intersection near the port. There are some gift shops and cafes around. The Hafnarvagninn Fish and Chips at the port is supposed to be delicious.
If the weather is decent and you are open to a short walk, I recommend hiking on Sugandisey Island. There is a lighthouse and great views of the town. There is a short bridge from the port area of Stykkisholmur that will bring you to the island where you can park. The walk to the lighthouse starts with 58 steps and then becomes more gradual. Once you make it to the lighthouse at the top, you can continue around the island or return back the way you came.
If you’re interested in more Secret Life of Walter Mitty filming locations around Iceland, check out my blog post with details about Secret Life of Walter Mitty filming locations in Iceland.
Stykkisholmur to Grundarfjordur
The drive from Stykkisholmur to Grundarfjordur is absolutely gorgeous. From the road you can see gorgeous mountains and water. There are multiple places to pull off along the road for a picnic for to enjoy the views. Be on the lookout for the long bridge over the water that is shaped like a sword (if seen from above).
When you arrive to Grundarfjordur, there is a lovely coffee roaster, Valeria Coffee Roasters, if you’re interested in a nice cup of coffee.
If you’re interested in other awesome coffee shops around Iceland, check out my coffee in Iceland blog post.
Kirkjufellsfoss and Kirkjufell Mountain
Kirjufellsfoss is a famous waterfall that is often depicted on Iceland postcards and everything from chocolate bars to billboards. The Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall is close to the town of Grundarfjordur. From the parking lot, it is a super short walk to the major viewpoint. Just like the Selvallafoss waterfall discussed above, you cannot see the waterfall from the parking lot and may be confused of why you should even stop here. Walk the short walk to the view point in which you will cross a bridge over the top of the waterfall and turn left to see the waterfall from the side. Here you will see the iconic view of the Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall with the Kirkjufell Mountain in the background.
Most bus tours in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula will stop here. If you are driving, there is a large parking lot for Kirkjufellsfoss that you must pay for. To pay for parking, pay at the kiosk at the trailhead before leaving. You will need to enter your license plate number.
The town of Hellissandur takes pride in their murals. The town is very small but a large part of the town is covered in various murals. A lot of the murals depict dark stories, but there are also some really interesting wildlife and nature murals too. The town is right along the road so it is worth a stop, even if it’s a quick on.
Snæfellsjökull National Park
Rather than one single stop to make, Snæfellsjökull National Park is a large area on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. The main attraction is Snæfellsjökull, a large stratovolcano covered in a large glacier. On a clear day, you can see it, but if its cloudy you may not be able to see it from the road. From the town of Hellisandur, several tour companies run various expeditions including glacier trekking towards the summit.
Fun Fact: Snæfellsjökull is the setting for the famous book by Jules Verne “Journey to the Center of the Earth.”
Saxholl Crater is located in the northern part of the Snæfellsjökull National Park. You can see it from the road and take a short gravel road to the base. If you’re interested in walking to the top, there is a really nice staircase where you can climb to the top of the crater and see inside. Even though it was raining and windy when we visited, we decided to walk to the top of the crater. On a clear day, you could see views in all directions.
Gestastofan á Malarrifi, Visitor Center
Down the road from the Saxholl Crater is the visitor center for the Snæfellsjökull National Park. From the visitor center, there are several trails along the coastline and a lighthouse you can visit.
The town of Arnarstapi is along the coast and has several interested rock formations along the coast. The town is included in the famous Icelandic Saga. You can park at the parking lot in town and walk on the small paths weaving through grassy fields towards the coast. Along the coast there is Gatklettur, a large stone arch in the water. The wind and water are powerful here, creating unique rock formations along the rock cliffs.
Just past the town of Arnarstapi, you will find the Raudfeldsgja Gorge. From the road, it looks like the cliff wall is interrupted and there is a parking lot close to the road. However, you can truly see the beauty of the gorge by taking the short walk up to the entrance of the gorge. The gorge is a narrow crack in the wall where a shallow creek runs through. Walk through the creek to enter the gorge and you can walk up through the gorge, climbing up small waterfalls to get further into the gorge. We did not walk super far into the gorge, but it is a really unique experience, regardless how far into the gorge you walk.
In the town of Budir, you can find Budakirkja, a black church in a field. It is a striking scene with the black church in a field amongst free-roaming sheep. It is not far from the main road and can be a quick stop on your trip.
Bjarnarfoss and other roadside waterfalls
As you continue the drive around the peninsula, there are multiple waterfalls coming off cliffs that you can see from the road. Some appear to be on private property, but some are open to public visitation. Bjarnarfoss is one that is very visible from the road and is huge. If you want to get closer to Bjarnarfoss, there is a steep walk to get to the top.
Tips for the Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Be prepared for rain
Iceland is notoriously rainy, including the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Don’t let the rain hinder your exploration. It is essential to have some waterproof clothing, and possibly a change of clothes with you to prevent being cold, wet, and miserable all day. There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. If you don’t care about fashion, but want to be totally dry, try this rain suit on Amazon. Several in our family used a rain suit like this and were definitely drier than the rest of us.
Have small cash for bathrooms
Bathrooms in Iceland often require a small cash payment, not just on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Most of the bathrooms we encountered were 100-200ISK which is around 1-2 dollars. It is often on the honor system in a jar, so you can’t pay with card or anything.
Pack some snacks and water with you
There are small towns throughout the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, but depending on what areas you plan on spending the most time in, you may be a good distance from somewhere with food. Also, restaurants in small towns are typically pretty expensive. Having some snacks and water with you will make you more comfortable and also save you some money.
Watch out for sheep
Free roaming sheep are all over Iceland. It is really impossible to not see sheep while in Iceland. They will be anywhere and everywhere. We saw more sheep in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, than anywhere else while in Iceland. Drive slow and make sure to not hit any sheep.
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is absolutely stunning. I hope that this guide helps you to plan your road trip around the peninsula.
Do you have any comments or questions? Feel free to leave comments down below!
Thanks for reading!