Snæfellsnes Peninsula to Borgarnes
We didn’t have a whole lot on the agenda for today, so we had a lazy morning. We had our breakfast of champions (PB&J) out on the picnic table at our hotel, Guesthouse Snjofell located in Arnarstapi, with its cute, grass-thatched cafe beside us and Mt. Stapafell watching over us. It was a peaceful start to the day just taking in the sounds and views of the area. Across the street from our hotel was our first sight for the day, Gatklettur rock arch, so we headed that way to begin the day’s journey as we traveled the rest of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula to the city of Borgarnes.
As soon as we began the short trail toward the rock arch and ocean, we were greeted by the Bárðar Saga Snæfellsáss Statue, which has ties to an old Icelandic saga. As the story goes, Bárðar was born to a human mother, but his father was half giant and half troll. He was fostered by a mountain-dweller in the area and now sets guard over the land. While I am on the topic of stories and folklore, which Iceland has a rich heritage of, it is also worth mentioning Jules Verne’s classic novel Journey to the Center of the Earth, which takes place in the Snæfellsnes region, specifically the Snæfellsjökull Volcano. I have not yet read the book, but it is sitting on the table in front of me as I type! What I do know about the storyline so far is especially interesting to me after visiting the Vatnshellir Cave the day prior where we explored the cast of an 8000-year-old lava tube. Apparently, there’s an expedition in the book where the characters travel through lava tubes toward the center of the earth experiencing numerous adventures along their journey. Given the fact that our tour guide told us there could be thousands of other lava tubes under the ground that we are just not aware of, this area makes the perfect setting for Jules Verne’s storyline. Can’t wait to read it!
It’s pretty obvious when you walk beyond the Bárðar Saga Snæfellsáss Statue that this area has something special to see because there are lots of other tourists browsing the scene. It’s a short walk to the Gatklettur rock arch and viewing deck where you are met with beautiful views of the coastline. You will quickly set your eyes on the perfectly eroded circle in the rock on one side of the deck and a natural cave formed out of basalt columns on the other side. This is a great area to take a stroll or hike along the sea cliffs to take in the many rock formations, wildlife, flora, coastal and mountain views. You may never want to leave!
Next up, we headed to one of the places I most looked forward to visiting, the Budakirkja, which in Icelandic means black church. It was only about 20 minutes away from Arnarstapi, but it was the longest 20 minutes of my life because I was so anxious to see it! I first set sight on the fairytale-like church in pictures when initially researching for our trip to Iceland and pretty much from that point I HAD to see it! The wooden church, originally built in 1703 and resurrected a few other times in later years, sits isolated and sandwiched between the mountains and the coast among a lava field. The landscape is beautiful and dreamy! There’s just something so unique about a black painted, wooden church because we don’t really have anything like that in the US, at least not that I’m aware of. The way the church sits with the mountain as its backsplash and wildflowers all around makes it wildly idyllic and photogenic. Make sure to ready your camera if you’re ever out this way because you’ll never want to forget the magical scenery and feel this place leaves you with!
Once Ben was able to peel me away from Budakirkja, we continued our journey to Ytri Tunga Beach where our main objective was to see some seals! Ytri Tunga Beach is known for its seal sightings, and we were determined to eyeball some Icelandic seals before our trip in the country came to an end. We had struck out so far on spotting the beloved seals in other areas of the country, and as we walked along the coast at Ytri Tunga Beach, it seemed as if we were going to strike out yet again. We were just about to head back to the car feeling a bit bummed, but then our determination outweighed our apathetic attitudes and we decided to keep on searching. We went to an area of the beach filled with large, black stones where we jumped from rock to rock until we got closer to the water’s edge. We got confirmation of a seal spotting from another strong-willed couple, so we took off our socks and shoes and trekked through the shallow, icy water and slimy seaweed to get a closer glimpse. Our steadfast determination was rewarded with what appeared to be a small seal family! This trek to seal territory was no easy venture and eventually got a bit too slick and dangerous for us to keep going to get as close to the seals as possible, but our longing for a seal sighting had finally been quenched! This experience brought to mind this quote, “At first glance it may appear too hard. Look again. Always look again.” I love this and I think it rings true with all travel experiences.
We stopped for a late lunch at Rjúkandi Kaffi right off the main highway. There are really not a lot of food options on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, so when you see a cafe, I would go ahead and stop. This was a very nice restaurant with a good selection of foods to choose from. The weather started to cloud up a bit so we decided to make way to our hotel, Laekjarkot Rooms and Cottages, in Borgarnes. We passed the Gerduberg Cliffs with their wall of perfectly etched basalt columns, as well as the exquisitely formed Eldborg Crater along the way. We were pleasantly surprised by our either newly built or newly renovated room at Laekjarkot, and we were especially excited to have a TV! We only ventured out one more time for a fast food dinner in Borgarnes where I was ecstatic to find my first Starbucks product in store! We spent the rest of the evening trying to mentally prepare for the fact that the next day would be our last full day in Iceland before heading back to reality. I truly never wanted this incredible journey to end!