Good thing we caught up on our rest on day 12 because day 13 was packed full of sights around the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is like a condensed version of the country. You will find landscapes and topography in this one region that you would see elsewhere in the country. Hence why it is also known as Iceland in Miniature. You will find mountains, beaches, lighthouses, lava fields, hiking trails, craters, wildlife, cliffs, waterfalls, museums, caves, historical relics, churches, and the most dominating sight of all, the Snæfellsjökull Volcano with a glacier blanketing its peak! If you ever visit Iceland and are limited on time, visiting this area will give you a good taste of variety that the country has to offer.
To kick our day off to explore the Snæfellssnes Peninsula, we said a sad goodbye to our charming, little cabin at Seljiland and traveled the dusty, gravel road toward Stykkishólmur. Stykkishólmur is where the ferry docks if you travel via the Baldur ferry from the West Fjords. It is also said to be one of the locations used in the The Secret Life of Walter Mitty movie starring Ben Stiller. For that reason alone, we thought we’d go check it out! Unfortunately, we didn’t see anything that stood out from the movie, but we did find a really yummy bakery where we made a pit stop for breakfast. We drove around the small, maritime town for a few minutes, but decided to make way deeper into the peninsula to start checking some star sights off our list because there were many!
First up was the Kirkjufell Mountain and nearby waterfall, Kirkjufellsfoss! Ben and I called Kirkjufell the “Hershey Mountain” because that was easier to say and the mountain looks like a Hershey’s Kiss from the right angle. The weather has swirled and whipped this mountain in such a unique way that it has become the most photographed mountain in Iceland. If you google Iceland, it is highly likely a picture of Kirkjufell will pop up because it has become so synonymous with the country. At first, I was a bit bummed that it was a cloudy morning and that we wouldn’t get to photograph it against sunny skies, but once we got behind the waterfall where we were able to get some awesome panoramas, I kind of liked the gloomy setting. There was some kind of Lord of the Rings vibe to the hazy area that gave it an energetic heartbeat. I liked it. I liked it a lot.
Next we drove through quaint towns and numerous lava fields, making a pit stop to climb Saxhóll Crater, along the way to Djúpalónssandur Beach. It happened to be Iceland’s Independence Day the day we traveled the Snaefellsnes Peninsula and the towns were filled with jubilant Icelanders. One town in particular was having a celebration in the town square where families gathered to watch their children perform some of their talents on stage. It was precious and their lively spirits were infectious! I loved seeing the pride that they have for their country!
If you’re not careful, you will pass your turn for Djúpalónssandur and its narrow road leading you down to the black sand and pebble beach. It is definitely a sight you don’t want to miss! We got distracted by the bright, green moss-covered lava fields on either side of the road and spent a few minutes playing in the fields before making it down to the beach. Before you can set eyes on the ocean, you are first greeted by giant rock formations that form a short trail for you to walk through. To the right of this rock-formed trail, you’ll find a jagged, circle window cut in the rock that peers through to a body of water on the other side. This is a great place for a photo-op! As you continue your way to the beach, you’ll pass some lifting stones used back in the day to test a man’s strength and to determine his eligibility to work on fishing boats. You’ll also pass small, rusted remnants of a fishing vessel, the Grimsby, which wrecked on the beach in 1948. Finally, you’ll glimpse the beautiful cove set against gray, carved rocks and shimmery, black sands. It is a sight to behold for sure!
About five minutes from Djúpalónssandur is Vatnshellir Cave. We got there just in time to catch the last tour for the day. After getting our gear, a flashlight and helmet, our tour guide led us down a spiral staircase into the chilly, humid, dark bat cave – minus the bats. There are no lights set up once you’re in the cave, so everyone has to rely on their flashlights to get around. Basically, the 8000-year-old cave formed after a volcanic eruption. When the eruption stopped, the surface of the lava flow cooled forming a crust while the lava buried underneath oozed out leaving behind an empty cast. So, we were walking around in a lava tube. No big deal, right?!? Our tour guide was able to show us the area where the tube pinched off forming the beginnings of the cave. He also had us turn our flashlights off at some point in the tour where we were in complete darkness just listening to the music of the cave with its water droplet rhythms. I would say that exploring an 8000-year-old lava tube in Iceland is a once in a lifetime experience and a must-do if you are ever in this area!
Last on our list of sights for the day were the Londrangar rock formations. I thought we’d make a quick hike to see the archaic, basalt, rock pinnacles and then be on our way, but this area had a surprising amount of things to experience! As soon as we started the hike, we noticed a fun see-saw and zipline that we immediately had to play with. We had some serious fun taking pictures and videos flying along on the zipline! We continued on the hike to the rock pinnacles where we passed a rocky beach. The interestingly shaped volcanic rocks may not look like much from far away, but once you get up closer, they are just massive. If you keep traveling around the giant rocks, you get beautiful views of sea cliffs on the other side. With backdrops of the ocean on one side and the glacier-capped Snæfellsjökull Volcano on the other, it really doesn’t get much better! Check out the sights below!