The beautiful Snaefellsnes peninsula in West Iceland is one of Reykjavik’s most popular day trips. This is for a good reason. The large concentration of many different, typically Icelandic natural attractions in one area has earned this zone the nickname “Iceland in miniature” or “Iceland in a nutshell”. From the mighty Kirkjufell mountain with the beautiful, flowing Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall to the Snaefellsjökull glacier, you can see a little bit of everything here. If you decide to only visit the highlights of the area, it’s possible to visit the Snaefellsnes peninsula in one day. But if you choose to explore this fascinating area a bit more in depth, we recommend a two-day visit. We’ve created a self-drive itinerary of the Snaefellsnes peninsula for you to follow. Feel free to take a look and decide which stops most pique your interest and fit best with your schedule.
How to Get to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula
In order to reach the Snaefellsnes peninsula from Reykjavik, you’ll need to head north on Route 1 (Iceland’s Ring Road). After about 76 km (47 miles), you’ll reach the small town of Borgarnes. From here you’ll turn onto Route 54 which is the Snaefellsnesvegur or Snaefellsnes road. This small highway takes you around the peninsula. Along with F-570 (the mountain road that takes you to Snaefellsjokull glacier), this is the road you will use to circumnavigate the peninsula.
First Stop: Eldborg Volcanic Crater
Iceland is a volcanic island. As a result, many of its natural wonders relate back to its geological activity. There are 30 active volcano systems scattered throughout the country. One of its formerly active volcanoes is the Eldborg crater. Surrounded by lava fields, this natural wonder rises 200 feet (60 meters) from the ground. Trekkers can walk right up to the rim of the volcano and peer into its sunken base. Another cool thing about this former volcano is that the opening is almost perfectly round. The explosion that caused this crater 5,000 to 6,000 years ago was so powerful that it blew the top off in a nearly circular fashion.
How to Get There: You’ll need to drive for about 25 minutes after you’ve reached Borgarnes. Your destination is Snorrastaðir farm. Park here and then walk 30 minutes to the crater.
Landbrotalaug Geothermal Pool
This is one of those secret little geothermal pools in Iceland that you always hear about. It’s pretty hard to find as it is located in a remote area behind an abandoned old farm about five minutes up the road from Eldborg crater. You’ll have to go on a bit of a hot pot hunt to find this tiny treasure, but if you can find it, you’ll find an intimate space that fits two to three people. Pack your bathing suit and dip your toes in the 35 to 40 ºC (95 to 104 ºF) water.
The Basalt Columns at the Gerðuberg Cliffs
As you continue your journey around the Snæfellsnes peninsula on Route 54, you’ll see something quite surprising a little ways past Eldborg crater. Looking out your car window, you’ll probably notice a steep cliff face made entirely of hexagonal basalt columns of dark volcanic rock. These are similar to the ones you’ll find at Svartifoss waterfall in Skaftafell. These long, horizontal, geometric wonders are visible from the road, so just pull over (without blocking the road), get out of your car, and explore.
How to Get There: Continue on Route 54 after your visit to Eldborg crater or the Landbrotalaug geothermal pool. You’ll see signs just in case, but it’s also visible from the road, so it’s difficult to miss it altogether.
Rauðfeldargjá (Red-Fur Canyon)
This lovely, narrow canyon gets in name from one of the characters in the Icelandic saga Bárðar saga Snæfellsás. This was apparently the setting for one of the more gruesome stories of the saga. Bárður was an Icelander who lived long ago and two nephews who loved to misbehave. The boys were named Rauðfeldur (Red-fur) and Sölvi and did something terrible to their cousin (Bárður’s daughter). They put her on an iceberg and sent her floating out to sea. Naturally, her father was not too happy about this, so as revenge he threw Rauðfeldur into the canyon (and now the ravine bears his name). Sölvi met a similar fate: he was thrown off of a cliff. Although the story behind the canyon is morbid, it’s actually a quiet, peaceful place. Try to find the hidden waterfall at the end of the stream.
How to Get There: You’ll need to take Route 574 and head towards the small fishing village of Arnarstapi. Just before you get to the town, you’ll see signs for where to turn to reach Rauðfeldargjá.
Arnarstapi – One of Iceland’s Cutest Little Fishing Villages
I know it sounds quaint to call a place one of the cutest little fishing villages anywhere, but Arnastapi really is charming. This makes a good stop off point for overnight visitors looking to extend their Snaefellsnes visit by an additional day. Go for a stroll by the harbor, check out contemporary artist Ragnar Kjartansson’s sculpture of a half-troll, view the unusual rock formations and lava fields close by, spot some Arctic terns nesting, or hike to the nearby village of Hellnar. You are at the foot of Snaefellsnesjökull, so this is the perfect starting point for a day full of new and exciting experiences tomorrow.
How to Get There: Head back onto Route 574 after Rauðfeldargjá and you’ll get to Arnarstapi.
A 2-Day Self-Drive Itinerary of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula
You’ve had a long and adventure-filled day. Get a good night’s sleep, because tomorrow will take you to the two most famous attractions of Snaefellsnes peninsula: Snaefellsjökull National Park and Kirkjufell mountain. Hope you’re enjoying your trip!