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What to Do in Stykkishólmur Iceland: A Complete Guide

Explore the Biggest Town on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula

|October 1, 2023
Loves writing, food, runes, Reykjavík life, traveling in Iceland and being out in nature. Born in England but fell in love with Iceland in 2010 and moved here, been here since.

Discover the wonders of Stykkishólmur, the gem of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. In this guide, we'll share insider tips to help you make the most of your visit, ensuring you experience the beauty and charm of this picturesque town to the fullest.


IS STYKKISHÓLMUR WORTH VISITING?

Boats during sunset in harbor of Stykkisholmur

The harbor of Stykkisholmur, from where you can take boat tours around the islands of Breiðafjörður.

Stykkisholmur is the largest town on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula and a must-visit on your Icelandic itinerary. Why? Let us tell you. 

Long ago, Stykkisholmur was known for its harbor. People traded goods here since the 1500s. Many people in the town were fishermen. But now, many visitors see its beauty and learn about its history.

Despite being located on the northernmost tip of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Stykkisholmur is no longer an off-the-beaten-path destination. Many travelers are finding out about it: some come to take the ferry to other beautiful places like Westfjords and Flatey Island. Others come to enjoy the quiet, take pictures, and see the old wooden houses.

The Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West Iceland, where Stykkisholmur is located, has been picked as the best winter destination in Europe by the American magazine “Travel + Leisure”, and as the most scenic destination in Europe by “The Luxury Travel Guide”, so you know it’s insanely beautiful!

Planning to explore beyond Stykkishólmur? Our 1-day itinerary of the Snæfellsnes peninsula is a must-read.

Waterfalls with a backdrop of a majestic Kirkjufell mountain during golden hour

Kirkjufellsfossar waterfalls, locals jump into the waterfall on warm days, and amazing adventures can be found there.

And there's one more outstanding thing about Stykkisholmur. The town cares about the earth. Stykkishólmur was the first European community to obtain EarthCheck Certification for being eco-friendly. Stykkishólmur raised its eco-consciousness even higher when it got a Blue Flag Award for its harbor and became a plastic bag-free town.

So, if you're looking for a beautiful, friendly, green place in Iceland, come to Stykkisholmur!

GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT STYKKISHÓLMUR

  • Stykkishólmur is located on the northern side of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West Iceland.

  • The town became an important trading post early in Iceland's history. 

  • Unlike many other coastal towns, Stykkishólmur has preserved several old houses from its history, giving it a unique charm.

  • As of the latest data, Stykkishólmur has a population of around 1,100.

  • Stykkishólmur is approximately 172 km from Reykjavik, Iceland's capital city. The drive takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes.

  • It's a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty, birdlife, and historical significance.

  • There are several museums, including the Library of Water and the Norwegian House, the oldest house in the town.

  • The harbor is a significant attraction, and boat tours are available that take visitors around the islands of Breiðafjörður.

WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN STYKKISHÓLMUR

1. TRY KAYAKING FROM THE OLD HARBOR

The old harbor is the heart of Stykkishólmur. Its colorful boats and historic buildings make it a perfect place to take a stroll. If you want to see more, you can also hop on a boat tour to explore the nearby islands and witness the diverse marine life. 

One of the most popular activities here is the Stykkisholmur Sea Kayaking Tour. Paddling through Breiðafjörður (fjord), you will see a different perspective and get to know the abundant wildlife, seabirds, puffins, seals, and sometimes even whales.

Kayaker on calm waters near rugged cliffs under a vast blue sky

Photo from Kristján Sveinsson master kayak guide in Stykkishólmur

2. STOP AT THE NORWEGIAN HOUSE

Icelandic black wooden house with an Icelandic flag and three individuals outside by stone wall

The Norwegian House museum in Stykkishólmur.

In the heart of Stykkishólmur stands the Norwegian House, a remarkable structure built in 1832. Not only is it Iceland's first two-story wood-frame residence, but its timber also holds a tale, having been imported directly from Norway. This historic building once housed Árni Ó. Thorlacius and Anna M. Steenback, and today, it's been beautifully restored to its former glory.

As the regional museum for Snæfellsnes, the Norwegian House offers a rich display of the area's history. On the museum's top floor, you can find artifacts that tell stories from the past. The ground floor features exhibitions that change regularly. If you want to take a piece of the region with you, the museum shop has a variety of local handicrafts, sweets, and other treasures available for purchase.

3. DISCOVER THE ICONIC STYKKISHÓLMSKIRKJA CHURCH

Church with bell tower featuring dual arches rising against muted sky

Stykkishólmskirkja Church. Photo by Framepool.

Built and inaugurated on May 6, 1990, the Stykkishólmskirkja Church displays Iceland's rich architectural legacy. Designed by the renowned Icelandic architect Jón Haraldsson, this church, perched by the sea, beautifully joins modern design with the timeless charm of the Icelandic landscape. As you explore its interiors, the altarpiece by Kristín Gunnlaugsdóttir, showcasing Mary and the child Jesus, promises to leave an unforgettable impression.

For those seeking a bird's-eye view of Stykkishólmur, the church tower offers a mesmerizing 360-degree panorama of the town and the expansive Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The church is well known for its fine acoustics, and musical events are hosted regularly. Summer recitals are conducted by The Friends of the Arts Society Stykkishólmrkirkja every summer.

4. HIKE UP TO HELGAFELL MOUNTAIN

Stykkisholmur town sea view panorama

Helgafell Mountain. Photo by Framepool.

Helgafell or the "Holy Mountain," stands tall at 73 meters and is deeply rooted in Icelandic folklore and history. If you're in the mood for a short yet rewarding hike, a mere 10-minute ascent will lead you to the mountain's peak. From there, you'll be treated to a sweeping 360-degree view of the surrounding landscapes, a sight that truly captures the essence of Iceland's natural beauty. 

The mountain's significance goes beyond its views; it's referenced in the ancient Eyrbyggja Saga. Legend has it that the settler Þórólfs Mostrarskeggs and his descendants erected a temple in honor of the Norse God, Þór, on this very mountain. As centuries passed and Christianity spread, a monastery was established on its grounds. For those seeking a touch of magic, it's said that if you make the climb without looking back or speaking, you'll be granted three honorable wishes. So, if you're up for a blend of adventure, history, and legend, Helgafell awaits.

5. TASTE LOCAL FLAVORS OF STYKKISHÓLMUR

Delicious Icelandic dishes.

In Stykkishólmur, not only are the landscapes charming, but the local eateries also serve authentic Icelandic dishes that are worth exploring. Sjávarpakkhúsið was once a warehouse for fishing gear, which later was transformed into a seafood haven located right by the harbor. Here, you can enjoy panoramic views of boats while savoring dishes made from fresh, locally sourced seafood like cod, mussels, and scallops. The restaurant's ambiance is enhanced with old photos of local fishermen adorning its walls.

Narfeyrarstofa is a gourmet restaurant situated next to the old church near the harbor, boasting nearly two decades of history. Known for using top-quality local ingredients, especially seafood from Breiðafjörður Bay, it has hosted celebrities like the Crown Prince of Denmark. The century-old green building offers a candlelit, intimate dining experience, with the second floor providing a romantic setting with harbor views. 

For those seeking a more casual dining experience, Skúrinn offers delicious burgers, fries, salads, and sandwiches. Housed in a vibrant yellow building, it promises a fun atmosphere and tasty food.

If you plan to spend a few days in this area, check out more places to eat on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.

6. EXPLORE THE LOCAL MODERN ART MUSEUM

The Library of Water museum, also called “Vatnasafn” in Icelandic.

In the heart of Stykkishólmur you will find a captivating art museum that seamlessly blends art with nature: the Library of Water, also called “Vatnasafn” in Icelandic. Conceived by artist Roni Horn, this space houses towering clear columns filled with melted ice from 24 Icelandic glaciers. Each column represents a unique glacier, narrating the tale of Iceland's shifting landscapes and the undeniable impacts of climate change.

But the experience doesn't end there. The floor beneath your feet is engraved with words in Icelandic and English, capturing the essence of Iceland's ever-changing weather patterns. This installation bridges art and environment, urging visitors to ponder the delicate balance of nature and our role within it. In Stykkishólmur, the Library of Water offers a profound journey into the essence of Iceland, its rich history, and the challenges it faces in the modern world.

7. TAKE A DIP IN THE STYKKISHÓLMUR SWIMMING POOL

When visiting Stykkishólmur, make sure to relax in the outdoor swimming pool equipped with hot tubs and slides for kids!

If you're in Stykkisholmur and looking for a genuine Icelandic experience, consider visiting the town's swimming pool. Unlike the more touristy spots, this pool offers a glimpse into the daily life of locals. Fed by geothermal waters, the pool is naturally warm and rich in minerals, providing relaxation and therapeutic benefits. The facility boasts indoor and outdoor pools, a waterslide for the adventurous, and several hot tubs with varying temperatures. 

According to local sources, the outdoor hot tub offers a panoramic view of the town, making it a favorite spot for residents and visitors. So, after a day of sightseeing, why not immerse yourself in this local gem and experience Icelandic wellness firsthand?

8. EXPERIENCE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN STYKKISHÓLMUR

Everyone rushing out for the Northern Lights show / Photo by Bryan Ledgard

Planning a winter trip to Stykkishólmur? You're perfectly positioned to witness the captivating Northern Lights. Located on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, the town is surrounded by vast landscapes of mountains, lava fields, and open spaces. This natural setting, combined with minimal light pollution, makes Stykkishólmur an ideal spot to view the aurora borealis. 

You don't need to venture far. A short drive or even a leisurely walk just outside the town's boundaries can lead you to a perfect viewing spot. If you want to maximise your chances, embark on a Northern Lights tour with an expert guide. As the night deepens and the sky darkens, the Northern Lights often begin their mesmerizing dance, casting vibrant hues of green, pink, and purple across the sky. It's a natural spectacle that many dream of witnessing, and in Stykkishólmur, it's almost at your doorstep. So, grab a warm blanket a flask of hot cocoa, and immerse yourself in this celestial display that the Icelandic winter nights generously offer.

9. SHOP FOR SOUVENIRS AT LOCAL ARTISAN SHOPS

Carved wooden items on display at artisan shop

While wandering the quaint streets, you'll find shops showcasing handcrafted jewelry, often inspired by Iceland's rugged landscapes and folklore.

Stykkishólmur boasts a variety of artisan shops that offer a range of unique items, reflecting the region's rich cultural heritage and natural beauty.

While wandering the quaint streets, you'll find shops showcasing handcrafted jewelry, often inspired by Iceland's rugged landscapes and folklore. These pieces make for a perfect keepsake or gift, capturing the essence of the island in a tangible form. Additionally, the town's artisans take pride in their traditional knitwear, honouring Iceland's long-standing knitting tradition. These cozy garments, often made from Icelandic wool, are functional and stylish, perfect for braving the cold or simply making a fashion statement.

But it's not just about jewelry and knitwear. Dive deeper into the local shops, and you might find other unique souvenirs, from hand-painted ceramics inspired by Icelandic nature to artisanal food products that let you taste Iceland home with you. So, when in Stykkishólmur, take the time to explore these artisan shops. Each purchase supports local craftsmen and ensures you have a genuine piece of Iceland to remember your trip by.

10. VISIT THE LIGHTHOUSE ON SÚGANDISEY ISLAND

 Red lighthouse overlooking calm waters under a cloudy sky autumn view

Your trip to Stykkisholmur cannot be complete without a visit to Sugandisey Island lighthouse.

Súgandisey Island, a basalt formation, stands as a protective barrier by the harbor of Stykkishólmur, shielding the town from the northern winds. Conveniently connected to the mainland by a road near the harbor, it's easy for visitors to either walk or drive up to the island. Once there, a series of stairs will guide you to the top of this picturesque cliff, offering a unique vantage point to gaze upon Stykkishólmur from an elevated perspective.

But the true gem of Súgandisey is its lighthouse. Interestingly, this lighthouse originally stood at Grótta in Seltjarnarnes, a part of the Greater Reykjavík area, before being relocated to its current position on Súgandisey. From its peak, you're treated to an even more expansive view, making it a must-visit spot for those seeking history and scenic beauty in Stykkishólmur.

While exploring the island, you'll be struck by the stunning scenery and the community's commitment to preserving Iceland's unique beauty. The surrounding Snaefellsnes Peninsula, where Súgandisey is located, was awarded the honorable EarthCheck environmental certification. This recognition speaks volumes about the region's commitment to sustainable tourism and conservation.

11. TAKE A FERRY TO WESTFJORDS

Sunlit coastal cliff overlooking a vast ocean, with golden grasslands atop and a deepening blue sky above

The Westfjords stand out with their dramatic fjords, cliffs, and quaint villages.

Stykkishólmur is the primary starting point for travelers journeying to the Westfjords by ferry. Many adventurers specifically choose Stykkishólmur for this unique maritime experience. The ferry route includes a memorable stopover at Flatey Island, where visitors can step off and wander through a historic village, visit an age-old library, and admire a church renowned for its intricate artwork.

Continuing the journey, the ferry sails towards the Westfjords, a region of Iceland less trodden by the usual tourist crowds. The Westfjords stand out with their dramatic fjords, cliffs, and quaint villages, offering a glimpse into Iceland's remote corners. If you plan a voyage in Iceland, reviewing the ferry schedule, which varies with the seasons, is essential. Taking this ferry journey will provide you with a unique perspective of Iceland.

12. VISIT KIRKJUFELL MOUNTAIN AND KIRKJUFELLSFOSSAR WATERFALLS

Kirkjufell, translated as "Church Mountain," stands impressively at 473 meters, distinguished by its unique cone-like shape. Adjacent to this iconic mountain is the Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall, cascading gracefully and complementing the landscape. Together, they form one of Iceland's most photographed natural landmarks.

Situated near the town of Grundarfjörður, Kirkjufell is a mere 40-minute drive from Stykkishólmur. The area offers hiking trails that provide different perspectives of the mountain and waterfall, making it a favorite spot for both amateur and professional photographers. Given its prominence and beauty, it's no wonder that Kirkjufell has been featured in various TV shows and has become a must-visit for travelers to Iceland.

Kirkjufell mountain and waterfall view

The stunning Kirkjufell mountain has been listed as one of the world's top 10 most beautiful mountains.

13. ENJOY WINTER IN STYKKISHÓLMUR

Winter in Stykkishólmur is nothing short of enchanting. Imagine strolling through snow-draped streets, the colorful houses blanketed in white, and the harbor shimmering under the delicate winter sun. It's the kind of place where you'll find yourself pausing just to soak in the serene beauty. Cozy cafés beckon with the promise of hot chocolate and hearty soups, making it an ideal spot for those winter days.

However, while the town's winter charm is undeniable, reaching Stykkishólmur during this season can pose some challenges. Icy roads and unfamiliar winter driving conditions might deter some travelers. But don't let that stop you! We've got you covered with two expertly-curated tours that ensure a safe journey to Stykkishólmur and showcase the best of the surrounding Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Dive into the heart of Icelandic winter with these tours:

Join us and experience the winter wonderland that locals cherish.

Aerial view of coastal town during winter with snow covered roads and colorful buildings

Stykkishólmur in winter.

FUN FACTS ABOUT STYKKISHÓLMUR

  • The whole town offers free Wi-Fi.

  • Plastic bags are banned, and the locals of Stykkishólmur like to keep it green and clean.

  • The town has an excellent basketball team called Snæfell, one of the best in Iceland.

  • Stykkishólmur was featured in the Hollywood movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

  • Stykkishólmur has the longest record-keeping on weather in Iceland, dating back to 1845.

  • The islands in Breiðarfjörður near Stykkishólmur are countless, and no one knows the exact number of them.

  • Along with other municipalities on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, the town has been a frontrunner in environmental consciousness in Iceland.

WRAPPING UP YOUR STYKKISHÓLMUR ADVENTURE

There you have it – a deep dive into the heart of Stykkishólmur and its many wonders. From the mesmerizing Northern Lights to the rich history in its streets, this town is a treasure trove to be explored. 

Whether you're sipping hot chocolate in a cozy café, marveling at the view from Súgandisey Island Lighthouse, or embarking on a tour to witness the pristine beauty of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Stykkishólmur promises experiences that remain.

So, pack your bags, set your sights on this Icelandic coastal town, and let Stykkishólmur weave its spell on you. And hey, if you ever find yourself reminiscing about your Icelandic adventure, just revisit this guide.

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