We have been on Iceland for almost four weeks now. It will soon be mid-May and according to our planning, we are now heading north on our panel van tour along the west coast. But before we visit the spectacular Snæfellsnes peninsula on this stage, it is first necessary to get back to ring road 1 from our current parking space in Strandakirkja .
We enter our next destination "Akranes" in the navigation and follow the recommended route. After just under an hour and a half, we already reach the western Icelandic port city, about 100 kilometers away. On the way there you have the opportunity to pass under the mighty Hvalfjörður through an underwater tunnel or to circle the old road 47. We decide on the first variant and reach Akranes at lunchtime.
The short detour from Ringstrasse 1 via A 51 to Akranes is definitely worth it, because the city has a lot to offer. In addition to some museums, the old shipwreck and the old harbor, the popular lighthouse "Old Akranes Lighhouse" and the hotpot and bathing area "Guðlaug" are inviting more and more visitors. The Guðlaug hotpot has just been inaugurated and has been wonderfully arranged on the city's long sandy beach. With a view over the bay in front of Akranes you can enjoy a dip in the warm water.
A special highlight at the Cape in front of the city is in any case the old lighthouse, next to which the lighthouse "Akranesviti", which has now been erected, shows the way to seafarers. Due to the special acoustics, there are always special concerts, some of which can be viewed on YouTube. Simply enter "Akranesviti" in the search or follow this link to the playlist ...
We have a short chat with the nice older gentleman, who is sitting here in a small information point for the lighthouses and knows a lot about it. He enthusiastically tells us about “his” lighthouses and insists that we climb the newer tower, Akranesviti. After enjoying the really fantastic view from the almost highest point of Akranesviti, we take a few pictures and then look for the campsite in the village.
The private campsite is beautifully situated on a small bay by the sea. The friendly owner welcomes us very warmly and a little later we stand on a perfect pitch next to the sandy beach. All details and further information about this campsite can be found here:
The next day the sun is shining and today we have really perfect weather for Conny's birthday. These are the best prerequisites for our further tour across the Snæfellsnes peninsula. So we leave in a good mood, shop again in the small town of Borgarnes and then leave ring road 1 again. The next few days we will follow road 54 to go around the Snæfellsnes peninsula.
We are already excited to see what awaits us. We read in many publications that Snæfellsnes should offer everything in a small space that makes Iceland's landscape so unique. In fact, after just a few kilometers on road 54, we are impressed when we see the landscape in front of us.
The road turns left before the mountain range and so you follow a wonderful route from here: to the left of us is the North Atlantic and to the right an increasingly higher mountain range. A little further, at the intersection of streets 54 and 50, we meet the Hotel Rjúkandi with a small rest area. We take a little break there and enjoy a delicious coffee before driving the last piece to our next destination, Ytri Tunga . Ytri Tunga is a very special beach in the south of Snæfellsnes. Here you can see seals and countless seabirds up close on the coast.
Before we reach the Ytri Tunga beach, we turn right again. In the distance we can see a beautiful church that glows here in the sun and is a beautiful contrast to the almost untouched nature. Of course we cannot miss such a photo motif and therefore “have to” stop briefly at the Staðastaðakirkja church. Five minutes later we parked in the parking lot by the sea at our actual destination, Ytri Tunga beach.
Seals!! Conny sees her first. Hardly noticeable at first, they lazily frolic in the sun. In addition, countless seabirds screech, dive and fly here, on the beach. The fish-rich waters off the coast are obviously a little paradise for the animals. The water glows Caribbean blue and in the distance you can see the snow dome of the Snæfellsjökull volcano as an unreal contrast. We can't get enough of each other and almost forget the time.
Of course, in a very short time we fill almost an entire memory card with the pictures of the seals and the seabirds, which we unfortunately sometimes do not even know. Anyway - the landscape and the scenery are unique and worth a detour.
Mini gallery Ytri Tunga on the south side of Snæfellsnes
Bjarnarfoss Waterfall is only 18 kilometers from Ytri Tunga Bay. We are just a few minutes later in the next parking lot - overwhelmed by the ever more impressive mountains that characterize the Snæfellsnes peninsula here. You can walk up a short but steep path to the waterfall from the parking lot. But since we want to use the wonderful weather for further visits, we leave it with a short stay near the parking lot.
The Bjarnafoss has a drop of 79 meters on the steep mountain edge that slopes down to the sea here. It is not only one of the larger waterfalls in Iceland on the peninsula. Not far from the waterfall, almost lost and very romantic by the sea, you will find one of the most photographed churches in Iceland, the Búðakirkja. The dark wooden church has been attracting visitors and photographers from all over the world for many years. So we are on our way too….
The first Búðakirkja was built here as early as 1703, but was later dismantled due to the lack of parishioners. The current church was rebuilt in 1987 after a member of the church campaigned for the return of the chapel. Today you can still find the historic cemetery and relics, such as a bell and a chalice from the time when the church was first built.
The black church is a popular photo motif in Iceland today because it stands here as lost and yet proud on the rough west coast. We are lucky when we arrive. Since a couple is obviously getting married in church today, even the Icelandic flag is hoisted. A wonderful photo opportunity.
In the parking lot at the church, we first discuss which route we are going to take. On the one hand, we could continue to follow road 54 to get to the north coast of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. On the other hand, especially in this wonderful weather, it makes sense to drive along the slightly larger arch at the outer end of the peninsula and to follow the smaller road 574 here. We opt for the longer decision and can anticipate it - it was absolutely correct.
The landscape changes here again, in the back of the peninsula. To the left of the road there is a plain in front of the sea, and the mountains on the right become more powerful, more rugged and are characterized by colored layers of rock. We can see countless Icelandic horses on the slopes and in the meadows. It is unbelievable how many different types of landscape can be experienced here.
Some stud farms offer guided tours in this region. So if you are interested in riding tours or Icelandic horses at all, you will get your money's worth here.
Before we reach the fishing village of Arnarstapi , there is another attraction waiting for us next to the road. A relatively large parking lot is the starting point for a short, harmless hike up into the mountains. There you will find the bizarre crevice Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge . The water has planned its way through caves, crevasses and underground passages for thousands of years. If you want to penetrate further into the mountains here, you should have rubber boots or similar equipment with you.
We look around the front part of the crevice and then drive on to Arnarstapi.
The village is just 5 kilometers from the Rauðfeldsgjá crevice and so we are standing in a larger parking lot in Arnarstapi just a moment later. Originally we wanted to visit the place mainly because of the popular Gatklettur rock gate . But here on site we find that the entire coastline is characterized by caves, reefs and bizarre rocks. A marked hiking trail leads over the cliffs on the outskirts and offers an unforgettable view of this landscape.
We decide to pack up the camera equipment and follow the path along the coast. From the fishing port we keep going above the Atlantic until we reach the Gatklettur rock gate. We have summarized the pictures of this short, approximately 20-minute hike in the following mini gallery.
Mini gallery cliff hike Arnarstapi
The Gatklettur rock gate can be photographed from a platform on the cliffs. If you like, you can follow the path along the coast a bit in one direction or the other. We therefore consider for a moment whether we should spend the next night at the campsite in the village. However, this will be converted for the coming season and can therefore not be used. So we go a little further, because the next attraction is not far away ...
After all, that's the way it is. After just a few kilometers, a sign on the roadside points to the parking lot at the Lóndrangar rock pillars . A paved path leads from the parking lot to a platform over the cliffs by the sea. The view over the sea and over to the rocks is definitely one of the other highlights on Snæfellsnes. Unfortunately, the light is not quite as optimal for our photos, so this time it stays with a souvenir picture:
From the parking lot at the rocks of Lóndrangar you also have a wonderful view over the volcanic crater of Snæfellsjökull. Its white, snow-covered cap dominates the landscape in this part of the peninsula that belongs to the Snæfellsjökull National Park.
The sun is already lower after a day full of unforgettable experiences and we are also considering which campsite we want to spend the night. According to our research, there are some offers on the north side in different locations. So we continue to circle the peninsula clockwise and continue to follow road 574 northwards.
The next time we stop in Hellissandur village to see the local campsite. This is well maintained, already in operation and in a pretty perfect location. But before we look for a parking space, we want to use the evening light for two highlights in the immediate vicinity. This also includes the Ingjaldshóll Church , the oldest stone church in Iceland. It was built in its current form in 1903. However, on the hill on which it now sits majestically, there has been a settlement and an older church since 1317.
Although we are now hungry, we want to use the wonderful evening even longer. It is surprisingly windless and still sunny. So we really don't want to be on the campsite yet, because there is just too much to discover in this region below the glacier. So we drive to the Svöðufoss waterfall . On the way there we pass a small lake on the right side of the road, on the bank of which a parking lot with a small shelter has been set up. Here you can watch hundreds of the indigenous arctic terns (“Kria” in Icelandic).
The mountain range of Snæfellsjökull is reflected on the smooth water surface of the lake, which is still the most striking point in the landscape.
When you look over the lake, you can already see the Svöðufoss waterfall in the background. On the way there, we turn right from the main road and follow the dirt road to the parking lot. From there you only walk a few minutes to the waterfall, which is completely deserted in this grandiose landscape at this time of day and day.
The compulsory photo session is the perfect end to the day for an unforgettable day in western Iceland. Now we are quickly driving back to the campsite in Hellissandur to toast Conny's birthday at least in the late evening. You can find all the details about the campsite in our Iceland pitches:
The next day, unfortunately, the weather forecast comes true and a bad weather front moves from the Atlantic to the west coast. We have recently learned in Iceland that the weather changes often and in the shortest possible time. We are therefore optimistic and in a way even delighted. We only want to take pictures of one of Iceland's most popular photo opportunities, Kirkjufell , in the evening. A dramatic weather situation is welcome and usually ensures more dynamic images.
So first we drive a little closer to Kirkjufell, follow road 574 and then stop in Olafsvik, the next larger town after Hellissandur. Olafsvik is something like the center of the municipality of Snæfellsbær and is quite central to do something in the surrounding area. In addition, Olafsvik also offers an attractive campsite, which is run by the municipality together with the pitch in Hellissandur.
We decide to use it as a base camp to set off from here for the evening photo session at Kirkjufell and then to spend the night here. All further details and information about this place can be found in the parking spaces in Iceland:
To make a long story short: it doesn't move up that day anymore, we stay at the campsite, work a little longer and agree that we won't continue our circumnavigation of Iceland until our photo session at the imposing Kirkjufell has worked.
The next morning there is actually a change of weather and obviously we are already lucky with the planned photo tour to Kirkjufell. There is still a kind of high fog above the mountains, which gives us one of the beautiful "halo suns". This natural spectacle can be experienced under certain conditions when the sunlight breaks on ice crystals in the upper layers of the air.
We take it as a good omen for the day and first explore the surrounding area. Day tourists are already bustling in the parking lot at Kirkjufell, as we find out as we drive past. No matter. We only want to take photos here in the evening anyway. So we drive along the coast to the shark museum Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum . Here you can learn a lot about the Icelandic specialty "Hákarl" (fermented shark, also known as shaggy shark).
The Greenland shark from which this Icelandic specialty is made is only edible because it fermented for months becomes. This can remove the toxins contained in the fish. However, the meat then tastes very intensely of ammonia and smells strongly rotten. To be honest: we couldn't bring ourselves to taste it ...
In the meantime it is coming up more and more, deep clouds move over the already dramatic landscape and the sun enchants nature with the most beautiful light. Perfect!
We have some time left and drive in this incredible light along this unique coastal road in the north of the Snæfellsnes peninsula to really enjoy this moment. We would like to stop the time or just let ourselves drift for hours. So we are almost back in Olafsvik when it is time to drive to Kirkjufell.
Around 8:00 p.m. we are in the parking lot at Iceland's most popular mountain, the Kirkjufell. As expected, the day tourists and buses are long gone and only a few photographers and individual travelers use the wonderful evening in this incredible setting. First of all we walk a bit through the opposite, also on the other side of the street, and in this way we also discover some perspectives of the cone-shaped mountain that are not yet so common.
Our most beautiful pictures of this day in the north of Snæfellsnes - around the Kirkjufell - we show you in the following mini gallery:
It is already late when we pack up and say goodbye to this scene with a heavy heart. Although there is supposed to be a campsite in Grundarfjörður, the village next to Kirkjufell, we play it safe and drive back to Olafsvik. The place was absolutely fine and it is also a dream to drive along the coastal road again in the twilight after the sunset.
Still impressed by the unforgettable experiences of the previous day, we sleep in, have a very relaxed breakfast and after a short chat with the campsite guard we travel on. We have a long way ahead of us on road 54 along the north coast of Snæfellsnes before we will eventually come to road 60. We want to follow this in a northerly direction in order to explore the legendary and often lonely Westfjords of Iceland in the next few days.
But first we stop in Stykkishólmur, a larger city - by Icelandic standards. There is a striking basalt cliff that offers a beautiful view of the town. After a good hour's drive, we also reach this rock, park underneath our panel van and walk a bit along the designated paths on the Súgandisey Cliff rock plateau. After a small snack in the village and some grocery shopping, we are already moving on.
We now have about 90 kilometers to our next destination, the Búðardalur campsite. There we plan another overnight stay before we follow our planned route into the Westfjords. We have already read a lot about it and are now very excited to see what awaits us there, in this secluded and partly still untouched environment. But first the route to Búðardalur lies in front of us and gives us a foretaste of what we can obviously expect in the near future: Mostly unpaved roads in a unique environment…. But more on that in the next part.