Arnarstapi is often displayed in photos from the Snæfellsnes peninsula, commonly framed with a small white house along under a spiky black mountain. Another famed shot is of the basalt stone arch of Gatklettur which stands strong in the beating ocean waves. Today the small village becomes quite busy in the summertime with tourists coming to experience an authentic small fishing village vibe, as it is so conveniently located only about 2 hours away from the capital. Foodies show up for the fresh fish dishes and photographers for incredible photo opportunities.
There is a popular hiking path between Arnarstapi and Hellnar, about an hour long hike along an old trail across a lava field, Hellnahraun, and next to the beach with awesome views.
The area still serves private fishing companies and recreational vessels and has maintenance docks for boats and ships which has recently been renovated. For other villages on the Snæfellsnes peninsula are also very active fishing and trade common over Iceland
The history of Arnarstapi | Folklore and Reality
The names of places and things around Arnarstapi and the nearby village of Hellnar are very inspired by the legend of the half-human half-ogre Bárður who is believed to have lived in the area.
The area has a fantastic natural harbor, one of the few places like this in Iceland, so Arnarstapi was ideal for a shipping port and from this convenience the small fishing village grew. It became an active fishing port and a center for commercial services for West Iceland. This business was ran under the Danish Crown, which had controlled the merchant monopoly since 1565. From that time and through the 18th-century commissioners of the Danish Crown ruled over the harbor and had sole commercial rights over the nearby land. This Danish influence is very evident in the architecture and building of the area, the most noticeable being the Amtmannshús, a two-story-high black and white timber house.
Fun Facts about Arnarstapi
- Bárður, half-giant and half-man, is believed to the guardian of the Arnarstapi area
- Arnarstapi is often nicknamed Stapi
- In the early 18th century about 150 people had a permanent residence at Arnarstapi
- In Jules Verne’s book A Journey to the Center of the Earth Arnarstapi is the last stop on the protagonist’s journey before they climb the mighty Snaefellsjokull glacier volcano to enter the earth’s core.
Where is Arnarstapi located?
GPS POINTS N64° 46′ 12.731″ W23° 37′ 16.028″
How to get to Arnarstapi?
Arnarstapi is easy to reach, as well as finding it and there are plenty of other interesting sight and attractions to visit on the way.
Driving from Reykjavik to Arnarstapi should take about 2 hours and 30 minutes if driven without stopping. The drive first, take you along the Ring Road one into Borgarfjordur and later the town of Borgarnes. There you will take a left turn, West, at the roundabout onto the Snaefellsnes peninsula. From there you will follow the road nr. 54 along the southern part of the peninsula past Búðir and Lýsuhólslaug swimming pool before reaching Arnarstapi.
What to do at Arnarstapi?
- Hike from Arnarstapi to Hellnar – the hike takes about an hour and offers heavenly views ranging from sharp lava formations to soft ocean waves. It is a multi-colored, and genuine Icelandic nature experience. After the hike, you can enjoy a nice cup at the Hellnar café with a stellar view!
- Visit the big statue of Bárður the ogre – or half-man half-ogre. To pay a tribute to the legend the locals had an enormous stone statue raised at the nature reserve which places quite a strong character in the scene.
- Walk down to Gatklettur Stone Arch – get up close with the strong natural forms that have been created in the lively Icelandic nature – this place is definitely worth taking out your camera!
- Walk down to the beach to see the basalt columns – the basalt cave, the gateway arch and the strong stone built edge is something you will want to see!
- Explore the vibrant bird life in summer – there is a wide range of bird species in the area in the summertime which can be entertaining to see. The birds include the Arctic Tern, the kittiwakes, gulls and fulmars.
- Visit the Lóndrangar Basalt Rock Formations – once again, be amazed by nature! The hard-to-understand-how-this-formed feeling you often get in Iceland is well sculpted on the rock formations at Lóndrangar.
- Take a tour in the nearby Lava Caves – Whether it is Lofthellir or Vatnshellir these natural lava caves are sure to leave you astonished!
- Take a step inside the Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge – feel like a character in the Game of Thrones with a visit to the Rauðfeldsgjá. Less than 10 min driving.
- Visit Bjarnarfoss waterfall – only about 15 minutes driving you will find the stunning Bjarnarfoss waterfall!
Where to eat at Arnarstapi?
- Restaurant Snjofell – offers quality food from local ingredients in a splendid setting.
- Fosshotel Hellnar – the fancy option, offers great quality cuisine with breathtaking views!
- Mönsvagninn (open April to October) – the “munch wagon” offers simple but yummy and fresh fish and chips.
- Fjöruhúsið (open April to October) – an intimate café and restaurant with a splendid view at Hellnar. Excellent fish stew and freshly baked bread, pastries and cakes!
- Samkomuhusid at Arnarstapi – home-cooked meals in an old community house. Also serves as an info center with friendly staff. Open from noon to 6 pm. Closed on Sundays.
Read our detailed article about where to eat on the Snaefellsnes peninsula!
Arnarstapi | Hotels and Accommodation
- Arnarstapi Hotel
- Fosshotel Hellnar
- Hotel Búðir
- Hotel Hellissandur
- Hotel Olafsvik
- Bodvarsholt HI Hostel
- The Freezer Hostel & Culture Centre
Guesthouses, B&Bs, Farmstays and Apartments
- Guesthouse Snjofell
- Öxl Guesthouse
- Kast Guesthouse
- West Park Guesthouse
- North Star Apartments
- Welcome Apartments Olafsvik
- Nattskjol Homestay
- Gisting og Galleri
- Við Hafið Guesthouse
- Bikers Paradise
Cabins and Cottages
- Arnarstapi Cottages
Camping near Arnarstapi
The campsite at Arnarstapi is more commonly known as the Snjofell campsite. It has quite a large field and excellent views stretching over the coast and ocean. The facilities are standard.
Other campsites nearby include the campsite at Lýsuhólslaug and á Eyrunum, Tradir.
Arnarstapi in winter
Arnarstapi is relatively quiet in winter, in summer the place is buzzing with birds and people but winter is a bit more relaxed. When the snow settles in the hills and over the grounds the place turns peaceful, still and beautiful in a whole different way than it is in summer.
Still, the restaurants and hotels are open and the place is definitely worth having on your Snaefellsnes bucket list any season!
Note: the camping grounds are closed in winter!
Interesting Places near Arnarstapi
- Bjarnarfoss Waterfall
- Rauðarfeldsgjá Gorge
- Lóndrangar Basalt Columns
- Lýsuhólslaug Geothermal Pool
- Snaefellsjokull Glacier
- Snaefellsjokull National Park
- Hellissandur Village
- Ólafsvík Village
- Ytri Tunga Seal Beach
- Kirkjufell Mountain
- Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall
- Búðakirkja Black Church
- Rauðfelsgjá Gully