Mt. Kirkjufell is a 463-meter high mountain on the Snæfellsnesnes peninsula in the Western part of Iceland. It stands tall above the fishing village of Grundarfjörður where the population is about 900. Kirkjufell has been listed as one of the top 10 most beautiful mountains in the world and when you come across it you will understand why.
Its posture and narrow top make it look completely unique and mesmerizing. The mountain itself actually creates a small peninsula which frames in the village and makes the view over the town of Grundarfjörður amazing.
Kirkjufell is without a doubt the most photographed mountain in Iceland both by professionals and amateurs. Its isolated location and the way it seems to rise from the ocean makes this landmark an exquisite photo opp and the trails around it are very easily accessible. It’s the walk to the top that is a challenge and only for the extremely brave-hearted! If you are looking to hike the mountain you should always have an experienced guide with you.
How did Kirkjufell form?
Mount Kirkjufell is a made up of layers of sedimentary rocks from both glacial and interglacial stages. At the base of the mountain is a type of lava, known as Tertiary Lava, about 5 to 10 million years old but the higher you go you will find different layers of rock and lava which are about 700 thousand years old.
The upper layers are both Sandstone and Quaternary lava and at the very top there is tuff which is very common in Iceland, translates to Móberg in Icelandic. The tuff layer at the top of Kirkjufell is the same as in a nearby mountain, Klakki, but when glaciers erode the terrain they carved out the fjord Grundarfjörður and Kirkjufell with it, separating what once was concentrated.
Fun Facts about Kirkjufell
- Was once nicknamed Sukkertoppen or the Sugar Top by Danish sailors as the sugar that was being imported to Iceland was packed in the packaging in similar shape to the mountain.
- Is believed to have been called Firðafjall in the time of settlement, a name that later changed to Kirkjufell.
- Kirkjufell is surrounded by mountains including Hálsvaðall, Stöðin, and Mýrarhyrna.
- Kirkjufell is one of the steepest mountains in Iceland.
- Kirkjufell is made up of a few different types of lava and rock.
- Fossils can be found at the top of the mountain.
When driving from Grundarfjörður toward Kirkjufell mountain you will soon spot the intensely beautiful waterfall Kirkjufellsfoss. Actually, the waterfalls are three, all running in the same river but for some reason, all share the same name.
They form in the river Kirkjufellsá, you can tell by this name that as the other attractions, almost everything has to do with the local’s favorite mountain. In the summertime when the weather gets warmed local kids, teens and brave adults cool off by jumping into the waterfall. When visiting in winter this is definitely not advised!
The waterfall is very easy to get to, there are a small parking lot and a path you can walk to get closer. We recommend this additional stop.
Where is Kirkjufell Located?
GPS 64.9417° N, 23.3069° W
Kirkjufell is located at the North Coast of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, West Iceland. It is about 183 km (113 mi) away from the capital Reykjavík and about 107 km (66,4 mi) away from Borgarnes on the Ring Road. Kirkjufell is then 379 km (235,5 mi) away from Akureyri.
How to get to Kirkjufell?
Kirkjufell is easily reachable, you can always join one of our many tours visiting the attraction both day tours and multi-day but you can also do a self-drive adventure to this western location if that is more up your alley.
Driving from Reykjavík to Kirkjufell will take about 2 hours and 30 minutes in one go and is well doable as a day trip from the capital. The path will take you along Ring Road 1 heading North through the undersea tunnel, Hvalfjarðargöng and onwards along the road 1 until you reach Borgarnes.
When you are almost out of the town there is a roundabout and there you turn on to road number 54. You will stay on that road until you reach Grundarfjörður, there is no way of missing the mountains once in the town.
If you are looking to take a public bus to Grundarfjörður you will need to take three separate ones. One from Reykjavík to Borgarnes (nr. 57), one from Borgarnes to Stykkishólmur (nr. 58) and the other one from Stykkishólmur to Grundarfjörður (nr. 82).
Hiking at Kirkjufell
If you are looking to hike the vigorous Kirkjufell you will need to do a whole lot of research and preferably get someone to guide you. The hike is not recommended for inexperienced hikers. There have been serious accidents in recent years and even some deadly ones so hiking the hike should always be done with great care and consideration!
The trail is extremely steep and exposed. There is a marked path with ropes and chains here and there, one of the most important things when hiking the mountain is to stay within the trail. That being said: The hike should take about 1,5 hours each way but the time spent on top is unmeasurable as the panoramic view is sure to capture your heart and soul, making many lose track of time in their admiration oblivion.
The best place to take a photo of Mt. Kirkjufell
- From the left side of the nearby Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall. From there you can easily frame in the mountain and the waterfall together.
- At the base of the mountain, getting a towering shot or even sometimes a double Kirkjufell with the reflection in the frequently tranquil waters below.
- From the hills above the waterfall, you can get a shot of the town and the fjord surrounding the mountain.
- From the beach below the gas station as you are driving into the town getting the colorful and authentic houses of Grundarfjörður with.
- From the bench by the road between the town and Kirkjufell’s nearby farm.
Plus: A pro tip for Kirkjufell Photography – go wide!
What does the name Kirkjufell mean?
Kirkja means church in Icelandic but like with most Icelandic words we tend to change them depending on how they are being used at each time. So the Kirkja mountain became Kirkjufell – Kirkjufell is the Church Mountain
Accommodation or Hotels near Kirkjufell
There are plenty of accommodation options in the town Grundarfjordur, here we have listed those with the best rating.
- Grundarfjordur HI Hostel
Guesthouses, B&B and Farmstays
- Hellnafell Farmstay
- The Old Post Office Guesthouse
- Guesthouse 43
- Hamrahlíð 9 Guesthouse
- H5 Apartments
- Jf Comfy Stay
- Grund í Grundarfirði
Camping near Kirkjufell
Camping in Grundafjörður will give you an excellent opportunity to view the mountain day and night. The site is located right next to the swimming pool and has wheelchair accessibility, and electricity for campers. All information for the camping site is provided at the swimming pool reception.
Open: 1st of June to the 7th of October.
Address: Borgarbraut 10, Grundarfjörður.
GPS COORDINATES: N64° 55′ 17.494″ W23° 15′ 31.988″
Kirkjufell in Winter
Kirkjufell mountain shouldn’t be hiked in winter but should definitely be admired. The mountain looks incredibly beautiful in its winter coat and when the snow starts to decorate the hill slopes there is nothing quite like it. The mountain is often quite striped with snow and layers of rock.
Just be careful when driving, the road can be slippery. You will also need to layer up when dressing. Dress smart, go for layers and layers. It is better to be able to take off clothing than to have none to put on.
Kirkjufell and the Northern Lights
Kirkjufell is one of the most photogenic places in Iceland, there is no doubt about it and now imagine adding to the equation some dancing Northern Lights and your jaw will drop to Australia. Kirkjufell bathing in the Northern Lights isn’t an uncommon thing to witness if you stay in the area over some cloudless winter nights and when visiting a restaurant in Grundarfjörður you will see photos of the phenomenon hanging on the walls all over the town.
The location of Kirkjufell is also further North than for example Reykjavík and surrounding areas which up’s your chances of some Aurora Borealis action. If you are staying in Grundarfjörður you will not have to travel far to witness Northern lights above Kirkjufell as the mountain stands tall above the whole town and you can see it at almost any angle if the lights are out. Well worth a few nights in Grundarfjörður or a winter tours to Snæfellsnes.
What not to do at Kirkjufell?
- Don’t go hiking to Kirkjufell top without a guide if you aren’t an experienced hiker/mountain climber.
- Going off the track has proven to be lethal, so stay on the trail.
- Don’t attempt to hike the mountain in winter.
- Don’t miss the waterfall next to the mountain.
- Don’t litter
- Don’t stay overnight outside of the designated campsite
Filming at Kirkjufell, Hollywood Films, and TV Shows
Kirkjufell and Game of Thrones – The Arrowhead Mountain
Kirkjufell mountain was one of the filming locations for the season 6 and 7 of the popular series Game of Thrones where it was featured as the “arrowhead mountain” that the Hound and the company North of the Wall saw when capturing a wight.
Kirkjufell and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Grundarfjörður the town that Kirkjufell rises above is also on the screen in the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty which stars many places on the Snæfellsnes and the Fjallsárlón glacier lagoon in the South.
Snæfellsjökull glacier is a 700.000-year-old stratovolcano on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Snæfellsjökull rises high from the ocean a staggering 1446 meters and can be seen all the way from Reykavík on cloudless days even though located 115 km away. In the midnight sun Snæfellsjökull is known to bath in the mesmerizing pinkish colors, a view you will never forget.
The glacier is a landmark you can’t miss while exploring the Snæfellsnes peninsula, particularly since it stands so tall but also because no one should, Arctic Adventures offers hiking tours to the summit in summer but locals have in recent years started to explore it on both using snowmobiles and skis.
The Snæfellsjökull glacier was for long the most famous sites in Iceland as it was introduced in the Jules Verne’s book Journey to the Center of the Earth (1964) as the entrance to the center of the earth. The glacier has also been chosen as the most scenic destination in Europe so there is a great reason to plan a visit!
Other Interesting Places near Kirkjufell
- Grundarfjörður village
- Lýsuhólslaug Swimming Pool
- Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum
- Hraunfossar Waterfall
- Djúpalónssandur Black Pebble Beach
- Búðakirkja Black Church
- Eldborg Crater
- Stykkishólmur Town
- Ólafsvík Village
- Snæfellsjökull Glacier
- Ytri-Tunga Seal Beach
- Lóndrangar Stacks
- Berserkjahraun Lava Field
- Vatnshellir Cave
- Söngvellir Cave
- Gerðuberg Basalt Cliffs