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Best Things to Do in Snaefellsnes

What to do in Snaefellsnes Peninsula: 16 locations + map & tips

|August 6, 2023
Anhelina is a travel writer with over five years of experience specializing in Iceland. With a background in foreign languages and translation, she conducts in-depth research to provide readers with detailed insights into Iceland's landscapes, culture, and hidden gems.

The Snæfellsnes peninsula, often called Iceland in Miniature, is filled with dramatic landscapes and stunning natural wonders. Your visit to Iceland is never complete without having some time to explore the best of the Snæfellsnes peninsula.


Are you planning your trip to Iceland? Don't miss out on exploring the most gorgeous spot on Iceland’s western coast - the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Also known as Iceland in Miniature, the mesmerizing natural beauty of this place will create the best travel experiences for you. From spotting the stunning volcanic craters to enjoying a scenic walk by the black and golden sand beaches, there's much to do and see here. 

For a detailed guide on how to make the most of your time in this stunning region, check out our comprehensive Snæfellsnes Peninsula Itinerary.

If you are looking for ideas on the best things to do at Snaefellsnes, we've got you covered. Here's a list that we have specially curated for you. But before we do that, let's get a popular question answered.

Is It Worth Visiting the Snaefellsnes Peninsula?

Kirkjufell Mountain and Waterfall in Iceland

Kirkjufell mountain near Grundarfjordur, Iceland

Yes, yes, and yes! This magical place must be on your travel bucket list, especially if you love nature and are an adventure junkie. There are many things to do and see, most of which are lifetime experiences.

Located on the western coast of Iceland, Snaefellsnes Peninsula is north of the capital Reykjavik and is only 120 km from the airport. One of the most popular tourist spots is the Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall. For a complete trip at a relaxing pace, we recommend you plan at least 2 days of just Snaefellsnes Peninsula.

Best Time to Visit the Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Now, you might wonder, "When is the best time to explore the Snæfellsnes Peninsula?" and "What is the peak season?" These are crucial questions, especially when considering the ever-changing weather in Iceland. 

In truth, the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is a year-round destination. However, the summer months are the busiest, from June to August. This is when the weather is milder, and most attractions are easily accessible. Plus, visiting during the summer allows you to experience the enchanting phenomenon of the midnight sun, where the sun barely sets and the nights are bright. 

So, while you can enjoy the peninsula's beauty anytime, summer is often the most vibrant and bustling season.

Interesting Facts About Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Snæfellsnes is a treasure trove of unique features, from its mystical glaciers to charming coastal villages. Here are some fascinating facts about this remarkable peninsula:

 

  • Kirkjufell in Snaefellsnes Peninsula is Iceland's most photographed mountain

  • Snæfellsjökull glacier is considered a global energy center

  • Snæfellsjökull inspired Jules Verne's "Journey to the Center of the Earth."

  • Snæfellsnes is a wildlife haven for seals, whales, and puffins

  • The peninsula is home to extensive lava fields and the 8,000-year-old Vatnshellir Cave

  • Snæfellsnes has diverse beaches, from golden Skarðsvík to black-pebbled Djúpalónssandur

  • Preserved fishing villages like Arnarstapi and Hellnar showcase traditional Icelandic life

  • Ölkelda Spring is famous for its naturally carbonated water

  • Snæfellsnes’ dramatic landscape was shaped by ancient volcanic activity

  • Peninsula is rich in folklore, with sites like Berserkjahraun Lava Field named after Icelandic sagas

Top Sights & Things to Do in Snaefellsnes Peninsula

What to do in the Snaefellsnes peninsula should be the least of your travel planning worries. There are so many places to explore and plenty of things to do. We are sure you will have a splendid time creating first-hand experiences as no other destination can!

1. Ytri Tunga Beach

Seals at Ytri Tunga Beach in Iceland

Seals at Ytri Tunga Beach in Iceland

During summer, it's seal season at the Ytri Tunga Seal Beach. The best time to visit is between May and July, but seals, including harbor and grey species, are present year-round. Being the most famous observation spot on the Snaefellsnes peninsula, it is one of the few accessible seal colonies. Remember to keep a respectful distance of at least 50 meters from the seals for safety. 

Before you leave, take a moment to enjoy the stunning sunset at Ytri Tunga. Witness the serene ocean reflecting the golden rays of the setting sun while seals playfully swim in the waves  —  a truly magical to end your day.

2. Snæfellsjökull National Park

Snaefellsjokull Glacier Summit in Iceland

Snaefellsjokull glacier summit in Iceland

In the heart of Snæfellsnes Peninsula of Iceland, just about 120 kilometers from Reykjavik, lies Snaefellsjokull national park. This park is a rare blend of a glacier and a volcano, covering an area of 170 square kilometers. Snæfellsjökull, the park's crown jewel, is a glacier that caps a 700,000-year-old stratovolcano. It reaches a height of 1,446 meters, making it one of the most prominent sights on the peninsula. This striking landscape was the real-life setting that inspired Jules Verne's adventure novel, "Journey to the Center of the Earth."

As you explore Snaefellsjokull national park, you’ll walk through lava fields stretching miles and across waterfalls like the 20-meter-tall Bæjarfoss. Whether you’re an avid hiker or just looking for an unforgettable view, Snæfellsjökull National Park is the perfect example of Iceland’s diverse terrain. It’s a place where you can stand on a glacier, touch ancient lava rock, and enjoy the pure air of the North Atlantic Ocean, all in one visit.

3. Vatnshellir Lava Cave

Vatnshellir Cave in Iceland

Vatnshellir cave, Iceland

Embark on a subterranean adventure into Vatnshellir Cave, an 8000-year-old lava tube that invites you to step back in time. Unlike any other cave on the peninsula, Vatnshellir is a mesmerizing underworld. Descend 35 meters below the earth's surface and journey through a 200-meter-long vibrant underworld, a highlight among Iceland's touristic gems. 

Marvel at the stunning colors of unique lava formations painted by minerals such as iron, sulfur, and copper. Observe stalactites hanging from the ceiling and stalagmites rising from the ground, creating a living gallery of geological art. Vatnshellir is your gateway to the heart of Iceland's volcanic legacy.

4. Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge

Couple Hiking to Raudfeldsgja Gorge

Hiking at Raudfeldsgja Gorge in Iceland

Another one of the top things to do in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is to visit the beautiful gorge in Botnsfjall Mountain. Rauðfeldsgjá is a deep, narrow gorge in the cliffs south of Arnarstapi. For those who enjoy hiking and want to experience something unique, Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge must be on your list. Venture into the gorge for a short hike, surrounded by cliffs. 

The dramatic rock formations and the stream that runs through the gorge make it a mystical place to visit. Also, remember to pack waterproof shoes for the hike up to the canyon.

5. Stykkishólmur

Stykkisholmur town harbour, Iceland

Stykkishólmur, perched on the northern edge of Iceland's Snæfellsnes Peninsula, is a charming town that serves as the gateway to the islands of Breiðafjörður. With just over 1,100 people, this vibrant town is a welcoming blend of history and contemporary life. Here, colorful 19th-century houses stand alongside modern architecture, creating a unique atmosphere that’s both quaint and lively.

From the town's well-equipped harbor, you can embark on a boat tour to explore the 3,000 islands of Breiðafjörður Bay, known for their rich birdlife and stunning seascapes. If you’re keen to delve into Iceland’s fiery side, the Volcano Museum is a must-visit.

In Stykkishólmur, you’re also close to the iconic Helgafell, a 73-meter-high mountain with a special place in Icelandic folklore. It’s a short hike with a rewarding panoramic view, making Stykkishólmur a scenic stop and a good start for your Icelandic adventure. 

For a more profound experience, book a Stykkisholmur sea kayak day tour to set out on a scenic journey exploring the rugged landscape of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. This tour must be at the top of the list for adventure seekers.

6. Kirkjufell Mountain and Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall

Kirkjufell mountain and waterfall

Outside the quaint town of Grundarfjörður, the iconic Kirkjufell mountain stands as a sentinel on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. With its distinct arrowhead shape, Kirkjufell is a magnet for photographers and has earned its title as the most photographed mountain in Iceland. It's not just a visual marvel; this 463-meter high peak is a hiker's dream, offering a moderately challenging ascent that rewards adventurers with panoramic views of the surrounding seascape and rugged terrain.

As a bonus, the nearby Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall adds more magic to this location. Whether you're framing the perfect photograph with the mountain and waterfall in harmony or making the rewarding hike to Kirkjufell’s summit, this spot is a highlight that encapsulates the raw, natural beauty of Iceland. Get ready to wear your hiking boots and grab your camera because Kirkjufell is a sight you won't want to miss out on. For an unforgettable experience, consider joining a small group tour of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula or embarking on a kayaking adventure near Kirkjufell to explore this iconic location from a unique perspective.

7. Djúpalónssandur Beach

Waves splashing on the cliff on Djupalonssandur beach

Djúpalónssandur Beach, nestled on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, is a dramatic and captivating destination. This isn't your typical sandy shore; it's a stretch of black pebbles and stones polished smooth by the relentless North Atlantic waves. As you stroll along this unique beach, you'll encounter otherworldly rock formations that seem to rise from the earth like sculptures.

But Djúpalónssandur holds more than just natural beauty—it's a place saturated in history and stories. As you explore, you'll discover the rusting remains of a shipwreck (British trawler Epine GY7), a stirring reminder of the power of Iceland’s seas. The stark contrast of the dark pebbles against the white waves creates a photographer's dream, capturing the raw and untamed essence of Iceland’s coast in every frame.

You can visit Djupalonssandur and other famous attractions on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula with this 2-day Snaefellsnes Peninsula & Borgarfjörður tour.

8. Arnarstapi and Hellnar

Arnarstapi and Hellnar on Snaefellsnes peninsula

Nestled along the rugged coastline of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Arnarstapi and Hellnar are picturesque villages with Iceland's rich maritime history. With their quaint cottages and old fishing ports, these charming hamlets are set against a backdrop of dramatic Arnarstapi cliffs that plunge into the churning North Atlantic below. Picture quaint cottages, old fishing ports, and cliffs — it’s raw and real.

Go on a scenic walk between Arnarstapi and Hellnar, a journey that weaves along a stunning coastal path. As you stroll, keep your eyes on various seabirds, including kittiwakes and fulmars, making their homes on the cliff faces. This walk is your chance to step into a quieter, slower rhythm, where you can feel the deep roots of Iceland’s maritime past with every step you take.

9. Búðir and Búðakirkja Church

Budakirkja black church in Snaefellsnes

Búðir is a small, picturesque hamlet on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. It's home to Búðakirkja, the iconic black church that was originally built in 1703. Reconstructed in 1987 after falling into ruin, this wooden church, with its pitch-black cladding and stark white windows, is one of only six black churches in the entire country. It's a serene spot, often surrounded by fields of bright purple lupine flowers in the summer or a blanket of snow in the winter.

Just a short walk from the church, you'll find expansive lava fields, remnants of eruptions from the nearby Snæfellsjökull volcano. As you explore, you might spot some of the 88 plant species that have been identified here, making these lava fields not just a geological wonder but a thriving ecosystem.

10. Svörtuloft Lighthouse

Svortuloft lighthouse in Snefellsnes

The Svörtuloft Lighthouse, situated on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula's westernmost point, is both a navigational aid for ships and a stunning sight. Its location only adds to its charm. This bright orange structure, built in 1931, starkly contrasts the dark, jagged lava cliffs it is set upon. It's a photographer’s dream, where the vibrant hue of the lighthouse creates a vivid focal point against the raw, natural backdrop of the cliffs and the expansive blue sea.

As you stand on these cliffs, which rise dramatically from the churning waters of the North Atlantic, you're in a prime spot for whale watching. The waters below are a known habitat for orcas, humpbacks, and minke whales, especially during the summer months.

11. Gerðuberg Cliffs

Gerduberg basalt cliffs

Gerðuberg Cliffs is an imposing series of basalt columns, standing like a natural fortress along a cliff that stretches over 500 meters. As you approach, you'll notice the remarkable symmetry of these columns, which can reach up to 14 meters in height. These columns, formed from cooling lava, are a testament to Iceland's fiery past. Bring your camera; this is a pattern you'll want to remember.

If you're into geology, you'll love this hands-on lesson about Iceland's volcanic activity. You'll witness one of the country's best examples of columnar basalt, which is not only a breathtaking sight but also a fascinating phenomenon to learn about.

12. Ölkelda Mineral Spring

Olkelda Mineral Spring

Ölkelda is not your average spring; it's a natural source of carbonated water, rich in minerals like iron. Here, you can fill your bottle with water that's been naturally enriched with minerals. It’s a taste of Iceland’s underground resources right from the tap.

Ölkelda's water has been known by locals for its health benefits, making it a must-visit spot while exploring the peninsula. It's a one-of-a-kind and revitalizing experience, as the spring's carbonation happens naturally, providing a tangible taste of Iceland's geothermal activity.

13. Lóndrangar Basalt Cliffs

Londrangar Basalt Cliffs, Iceland

The Lóndrangar Basalt Cliffs are two towering rock pinnacles, remains of a larger crater, standing at 75 and 61 meters tall. A coastal walk brings you closer to these formations and the birds that nest here, including puffins during the summer months. The cliffs are a haven for birdwatchers and a prime spot for photography.

As you stand in front of these towering cliffs, you are witnessing the lasting imprints left by Iceland's volcanic history. Natural forces have shaped these formations over thousands of years, and the land's story of fire and ice has been written over many millennia.

14. Berserkjahraun Lava Field

Berserkjahraun lava field, Iceland

Berserkjahraun is more than a lava field; it's a walk through an ancient story, covering an area of about 88 square kilometers. As you explore, you’re stepping into a landscape deeply woven into Icelandic sagas and folklore, where every rock seems to have a legend.

The field, with its rugged, frozen-in-time terrain, is a vivid chapter of Iceland’s geological story, formed over 3,000 to 4,000 years ago. Walking here is like stepping back into a world shaped by fire and myths.

15. Skarðsvík Beach

Skardsvik Beach, Iceland

Skarðsvík Beach offers a rare sight in Iceland: golden sands. Encircled by stark black lava formations, this beach is a vibrant exception to Iceland’s typically rocky coastline. It’s a place where the land, sea, and sky meet in a harmonious display.

If you're feeling daring, the waves of the North Atlantic are calling for a refreshing swim. It’s a small, secluded beach, providing a peaceful contrast to the more turbulent black-sand beaches of Iceland and a perfect spot for a quiet afternoon.

16. Saxhóll Crater

Saxholl Crater, Iceland

Saxhóll Crater invites you to literally climb a piece of Iceland’s volcanic history. A well-maintained staircase of 369 steps leads you to the top, where panoramic views stretch out in every direction. You can see the vast lava fields and the blue sea, a view worth every step from here.

Informational signs along the way recount the story of this crater, offering a glimpse into the powerful eruptions that once shaped this land, which is estimated to have formed around 3,000 years ago. It’s a journey to the top and through time, offering insight into the raw, geothermal energy that pulses beneath Iceland.

Things to Do on Snaefellsnes Peninsula: Map

Unique Experiences in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula

If you're wondering, “Are there any off-the-beaten-path attractions?” the Snæfellsnes Peninsula has plenty to offer. For a touch of solitude and unspoiled nature, consider visiting the secluded beaches of Skarðsvík or Dritvík. Rauðsfeldja Gorge is another hidden gem, a lush and enchanting canyon adorned with vibrant green moss and stunning formations. These spots are less frequented by tourists and offer a peaceful escape.

Curious about the local culture? You might ask, "What are some local festivals or events?" You might be amid vibrant celebrations if your visit coincides with one of the area's local festivals or events. For more unique experiences and hidden gems, consider exploring with a local guide who can share the peninsula's secrets and stories that bring this captivating region to life: Book a tour.

Practical Tips for Visiting the Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Kirkjufell mountain in Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

Wondering about the logistics of your trip to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula? First, you might ask, "Do I need to rent a car?"

While having a car provides the freedom to explore at your own pace, it's not a necessity. There are various guided tours available that cover the major sights and offer expert insights into the area. These tours are a fantastic option for those who prefer a structured itinerary and want to avoid the stress of driving, especially in winter conditions. The 5-day Snaefellsnes & the North of Iceland tour includes the top attractions and activities in the area as well as much much more.

If you rent a car, be prepared for Iceland's unique driving conditions. The roads can be narrow and winding, and weather conditions can change rapidly, so driving with caution is essential.

No matter how you choose to explore, the Snæfellsnes Peninsula will leave you with lasting memories of its stunning landscapes and rich history.

Where to Stay In Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Grundarfjörður fishing village, Iceland

Where are the best areas to stay? Are there budget-friendly options? Well, suppose you’re looking for a place to stay while exploring the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. In that case, we have a curated list of hotels, hostels, and guesthouses to suit different budgets and preferences below.

Hotels

  • Hótel Snaefellsnes (Formally Hotel Rjúkandi)
  • Hotel Búðir
  • Arnarstapi Hotel
  • Fosshotel Hellnar
  • Adventure Hotel Hellissandur
  • Hotel Framnes
  • Hotel Olafsvik
  • Hotel Stundarfriður
  • Helgafell 2
  • Fosshótel Stykkishólmur
  • Hotel Egilsen
  • Fransiskus Hotel
  • Hotel Langaholt & Restaurant

Hotel Budir on Sneafellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

Hostels

  • The Freezer Hostel and Culture Center
  • Grundarfjordur HI Hostel

Guesthouses, B&B and Farmstays

  • Snorrastaðir Farm Holidays
  • Hömluholt Holiday Homes
  • Kast Guesthouse
  • Lýsuhóll
  • North Star Apartments Rif
  • Lava Water Accommodation
  • Guesthouse Hof
  • Welcome Apartments Ólafsvík
  • Við Hafið Guesthouse
  • Bikers Paradise Ólafsvík
  • Hellnafell
  • Grund I Grundarfirði Guesthouse
  • Snæfellsnes Farmhouse
  • Helgafell 2
  • Bænir og Brauð
  • Guesthouse Langey
  • Drangar Country Guesthouse

Cabins and Cottages

  • Langafjaran Cottages (Hjardarfell)
  • Sodulsholt Cottages (Sodulsholt)
  • Arnarstapi Center (Arnarstapi)
  • Dis Cottages (Grundarfjörður)

Camping on Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Aerial view over the campsite on Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

Camping at Hellnar

The campsite Snjofell at Arnarstapi is a beautiful experience. It is quite a large camping site known for its exquisite marine views.

Camping at Hellissandur

Camping at Hellissandur is an opportunity for a scenic sleeping location. The site is relatively new, made in 2011, and all the basic service is found there, a gas station, a museum, a supermarket, and a swimming pool. Facilities include running water, toilets, showers, and electricity.

Open: 15th of June – 15th of October

Camping in Grundafjörður 

Camping at Hellissandur is an opportunity for a scenic sleeping location. The site is relatively new, made in 2011, and all the basic service is found there, a gas station, a museum, a supermarket, and a swimming pool. Facilities include running water, toilets, showers, and electricity.

Open: 15th of June – 15th of October

Camping in Ólafsvík 

There's a campsite located at the charming Ólafsvík municipal boundary. The facilities include showers, toilets, electricity, running water, and a playground; nearby, you can find walking paths, a swimming pool, a golf course, and restaurants.

Open: May – September

Camping in Stykkishólmur 

The campsite in Stykkishólmur is one of the best-equipped campsites in Iceland. Facilities include running hot and cold water, toilets, showers, electricity, washing machines, tumble dryers, WIFI, a playground, a dining tent, waste disposal, a sports area, and nearby a swimming pool and a golf course.

Open: All year round

Sunny summer day in Stykkishólmur

Dining and Cuisine in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula

While exploring the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, you might be wondering, 'What are some traditional Icelandic dishes to try?' Be sure to try traditional Icelandic dishes such as  Plokkfiskur (fish stew), Hangikjöt (smoked lamb), and Skyr (a creamy dairy product similar to yogurt).

And if you're asking, 'Can you recommend any restaurants or cafes?' we have you covered. For a detailed guide on where to dine, including local favorites and hidden gems, check out: Where to Eat on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.

Conclusion

If you are short on time in Iceland but want to see the best of it, the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is your golden ticket. What people say about it is true — it’s like all the best parts of Iceland are squeezed into one area! Glaciers, volcanic craters, iconic beaches, and world-famous mountains are at your feet.

And if you want to explore this gem with experts who know their way around, consider joining one of our tours. We promise an adventure you'll be talking about for years to come. Ready to make some memories? Let's go!

Snaefellsnes Peninsula Iceland - FAQs

Why the Snaefellsnes Peninsula is called “Iceland in Miniature”?

The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is like a mini tour of Iceland all in one spot. Think of it as the country’s greatest hits album: it’s got dramatic lava fields, glaciers, picturesque fjords, and beaches. Plus, it’s home to the mystical Snæfellsjökull glacier, which inspired Jules Verne's famous novel "Journey to the Center of the Earth." In short, Snæfellsnes lets you experience the essence of Iceland’s vast beauty without traveling all over the country. Yes, it’s Iceland in a nutshell!

When is the best time to visit the Snaefellsnes Peninsula Iceland?

The best time to visit is during the summer (June to August) when the weather is milder, and most attractions are accessible. However, if you want to see the Northern Lights, consider visiting in the winter.

How much time do you need at Snaefellsnes Peninsula Iceland?

You can see the main highlights in one long day, but spending at least two days fully exploring the area is recommended. If you have more time to spare, our 5 day Snæfellsnes Peninsula tour gives you the opportunity to experience the best attractions from West to East.

Is it easy to drive around the Snaefellsnes Peninsula Iceland?

Yes, the roads are well-maintained, and the main attractions are easily accessible by car. However, always check road conditions, especially in winter.

What to do in Snæfellsjökull Peninsula Iceland?

To name a few, you can hike to the Snæfellsjökull glacier, explore the Vatnshellir lava tube cave, visit the black sand beaches of Djúpalónssandur and Dritvík, see the iconic Kirkjufell mountain, and indulge in bird watching at the cliffs of Arnarstapi and Hellnar. Additionally, there are several museums, fishing villages, and hot springs to explore.

What is there to see between Snaefellsnes and Reykjavik?

The journey between Snaefellsnes and Reykjavik is scenic and offers several attractions. You can stop at the Eldborg crater, visit the town of Borgarnes and its Settlement Center museum, explore the Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls, and relax in the Deildartunguhver hot spring. The route also offers stunning views of the Icelandic landscape, including mountains, lava fields, and coastal areas.

Is it safe to drive Snaefellsnes in winter?

Yes, it is generally safe to drive in winter, but it requires extra caution. The Icelandic roads can be slippery and covered with snow or ice. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is essential, checking the weather and road conditions before heading out and driving according to the conditions. Ensure your car is winter-ready, with snow tires and all necessary equipment. Read on in our full guide: Complete Guide to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in Winter.

What should I pack for my trip?

For a trip to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, pack warm and waterproof clothing, including thermal layers, a waterproof jacket, and sturdy hiking boots. Don't forget a swimsuit for the hot springs, a camera for the stunning scenery, and binoculars for bird and whale watching. Add snow boots, gloves, a hat, and possibly crampons for icy paths in winter.

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