Updated: Apr 19
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is a favorite when it comes to road-tripping Iceland. Especially for those with limited time, since the Snæfellsnes can be explored in a day. Although, it’s highly recommended that you take at least a couple of days to properly take in everything the region has to offer.
If you have an upcoming trip to the island and have been playing around with the idea of exploring Snæfellsnes, then you can use this article as a guide. We discuss everything from where it is to Snæfellsnes attractions and places to stay. So, without further ado, let’s dive in.
Where is the Snæfellsnes Peninsula?
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula can be found in West Iceland. When looking at a map of the island, focus on the western part. You will see that the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is a long and narrow peninsula that is sticking out into the North-Atlantic ocean.
It is quite conveniently located in terms of the top tourist attractions in Iceland and a few favorite places to visit. It is just north of the capital city of Reykjavík, from where most kick off their Iceland adventure. Likewise, it is also south of the Westfjords, where many go in search of remote adventures and spotting some Puffins. Driving to Snæfellsnes on your 4x4 camper from Reykjavík will take you less than 2 hours.
And the Westfjords is merely 125 km away when using the ferry to get there. The name Snæfellsnes Peninsula directly translates to “snow mountain peninsula”. And, although you are almost guaranteed to see a few of those, the Snæfellsnes has much, much more to offer visitors.
The Snæfellsnes National Park
Snæfellsnes is commonly called Iceland in miniature. The Peninsula quite literally offers a taste of the different terrains, landscapes, and attractions the Land of Fire and Ice has to dish up. From lava fields and waterfalls to black sand beaches and glaciers – you name it, Snæfellsnes has got it.
That’s why it should come as no surprise that the Peninsula is also home to one of the three national parks of Iceland. The park is considered to be the mid-sized one of the three, but runs all the way down to the coast (the only national park in Iceland to do so). The park is 170 square kilometers and surrounds the Snæfellsjökull Glacier/Volcano.
For obvious reasons, the park’s claim to fame is Snæfellsjökull itself. It’s an incredibly impressive sight – a glacier of roughly 12km2 topping a 700.000-year-old stratovolcano like icing on a cake. But time is ticking on seeing this natural marvel since the glacier is slowly reducing in size till one day it will simply cease to exist.
The Snæfellsnes National Park also has a few other exciting things to do and see up its sleeve. And if you’re someone who enjoys Norse folklore, there are plenty of Snæfellsnes tales to keep you busy for hours.
When is the Best Time to Explore the Snæfellsnes Peninsula?
As we’ve already mentioned, exploring the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in just one day can be done, although it’s not recommended. You’ll need at least 2–3 days to properly explore the area and all its attractions. The best time to explore the Snæfellsnes Peninsula will depend on how much time you have available and what you’d like to do and see.
If you would like to visit the ice caves in Iceland and see the Northern Lights we’d recommend a winter visit. But if you want to do a proper Snæfellsnes road trip and have just one day available to do it, you will need to visit the island during the warmer months. The biggest reason is that mid-winter only gives you about 4 hours of daylight each day. It will be absolutely impossible to jam driving as well as all the attractions and activities of Snæfellsnes into those few hours.
The Best Things to do in Snæfellsnes
Having a jam-packed Snæfellsnes itinerary is easy since there is so much to do and see in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The following are a few of the must-see and must-do Snæfellsnes highlights:
Kirkjufell Mountain can be found on the north shore of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. This pyramid-like shaped mountain is a favorite when it comes to both amateur and professional photography. The name itself means ‘church mountain’ and reaches 463 meters into the sky. Although you can summit the mountain, it is an incredibly challenging climb best left to the pros and should never be taken on without a guide.
The Arnarstapi Cliffs can be found near the village of Arnarstapi. They consist of dramatic black basalt rock cliffs that almost look as if they are still running into the ocean with their long vertical streaks. The cliffs are a bird lover’s paradise and not far off you will find Gatklettur aka Hellnar Arch. This is an absolute must-visit spot in Iceland. It's an amazing rock formation that looks like someone punched a perfect hole in a gigantic rock wall just randomly protruding from the ocean.
Djupalonssandur Black Sand Beach
Iceland is well-known for its black sand beaches, and Djupalonssandur is probably one of the most beautiful. This beach is actually an arch-shaped bay boasting an outstretched black sand beach. But that's not it, there are also some incredible black cliffs dropping onto the black sand. This is the perfect photo opp if you’ve been looking for one.
Snæfellsnes has quite a number of lighthouses that you can visit. What makes them even more interesting is that most of them appear to be a little stubby and are characterized by an almost shocking orange color. So, if you want to see one of these for yourself, add Skalasnagaviti and Svörtuloft lighthouse to your Snæfellsnes itinerary.
Ytri Tunga Beach
This is one of the few beaches in Iceland that has golden sand. But this is not Ytri Tunga’s claim to fame. It is the local seal population that makes this beach a popular stop on a Snæfellsnes road trip. The seals can often be spotted playing in the water or even tanning on the sand.
Budakirkja will forever remind us of an M. Night Shyamalan movie – especially on overcast days. This beautiful, small wooden church is completely black. Having it situated in an open and almost desolate lava field simply adds to its sense of mystery. Budakirkja is yet another favorite spot among photographers.
Bjarnarnhöfn Shark Museum
Iceland has a rich history when it comes to sharks. At the Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum, you’ll learn everything about sharks and their usage throughout the generations on the island. That includes the processes used to make a few favorite local dishes and why these processes take a minimum of six months. A very interesting visit if you consider yourself a bit of a foodie and enjoy learning about other cultures.
Stykkisholmur Fishing Village
Stykkisholmur is one of the largest settlements in Snæfellsnes. This (what once was a small) fishing village has interesting shops, and places to eat, and allows visitors to take a stroll along its harbor. It’s a nice stop if you want to explore a town and maybe have a chat with a few locals.
The Best Places to Stay in Snæfellsnes
Whether you want to live in luxury or go camping in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula – you’ll find all sorts of accommodation options that suit all types of budgets. Here are a few places to stay in Snæfellsnes that come highly recommended:
Helgafell 2 in Stykkisholmur
Vatnsas 10 in Stykkisholmur
Apartment in Hellnafell, Grundarfjördur
Kirkjufell Guesthouse in Grundarfjördur
Hotel Budir on the South Coast
Fosshotel Hellnar on the South Coast
Arnarstapi Hotel (walking distance to the cliffs!)
Hotel Rjukandi in Vegmot
Taking a Snæfellsnes Peninsula Tour
We believe that the best (and most affordable) way for you to explore the island and the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is by road-tripping it yourself. But if you prefer having a knowledgeable guide and have some money to burn, you can consider taking one of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula Guided Tours. Most of them depart from the capital city of Reykjavík.
It’s also important to note that certain attractions and activities in Snæfellsnes can only be seen and done via a guided tour. The majority of them depart and start at the attraction itself. So, if you have any of these on your Iceland bucket list, you’ll need to book your spot.
This is especially important to remember when you’re planning on visiting the island during the busy summer months. You’ll need to book your spot on one of the tours well in advance to avoid disappointment. These are a few of the guided tours you can consider:
Snæfellsnes Peninsula Guided Day Tours
These work great for those with extremely limited time on their hands and who need to cram in as much of the peninsula as possible in just one day. A few bestsellers include:
Whale Watching Boat Tours in Snæfellsnes
Whale watching is a favorite activity in Iceland, especially during the whale season. That's when migratory whale species also make the island their home. By going on one of the boat cruises you can get treated to sightings of sperm whales, Orcas, Minke whales, and more. These are a few whale watching boat tours in Snæfellsnes:
Hiking the Snæfellsjökull Glacier
A Snæfellsjökull Glacier Tour is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience that can’t be done without an experienced guide leading the way. You don’t need to have any prior experience or gear to participate. You can book your spot on one of the following tours:
Horse Riding in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Horseback riding tours in Iceland are an incredibly unique experience, since the island boasts its own breed of horse. They are, unimaginatively, called the Icelandic Horse. These horses are known for their wonderful temperament, unique aesthetics, and extra gait. The following are some of the popular horse riding tours in Snæfellsnes:
Snæfellsnes; Definitely Worth the Visit
If you can explore Snæfellsnes, you’ll be able to see and experience many of its natural wonders, majestic landscapes, and exciting activities. But even if your time is limited, “miniature Iceland” is the best way to still experience most of what the island has to offer visitors without having to trek all over the country.
If you only have a day, opt for one of the guided tours mentioned above. If you have a couple of days available, rent a campervan in Reykjavík. Then, head to sleep over at campsites for a super affordable and comfortable Snæfellsnes road trip adventure.