Iceland’s Wild West: Highlights from the Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Ondverdarnes
Ondverdarnes

Don’t forget to watch my video of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula at the end of this post. 

As Iceland, deservedly, enjoys its special moment in the tourism spotlight, visiting in summer means at some point you will be trying to arrive in certain places to beat the crowds. But my decision to travel to Iceland in winter meant there were days when I was lucky enough to have an arresting vista, golden beach or an old lighthouse all to myself, especially in places not on the South Coast such as the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in West Iceland.

Sugandisey Lighthouse Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Sugandisey Lighthouse

While I didn’t arrive with a set-in-stone checklist of places I wanted to see in Iceland (because that’s not my style), I did know that I wanted to explore the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. It’s an easy day-trip from Reykjavík and my friend Ingo of Tröllaferðir – Troll Expeditions was kind enough to show me around his favorite spots and explore some new lesser-known ones. Here are the highlights from one fantastic day that involved exploring the wildly beautiful landscapes of West Iceland, visiting the town featured in the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and getting Ingo’s car stuck in the snow. After all, what’s an adventure without a little mishap or two?

West Iceland Highlights- Snaefellsnes Peninsula

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Stykkishólmur

The largest town in the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Stykkishólmur, with its beautiful old chocolate-colored houses and a picturesque harbor, to me, felt more like a village (as did most towns in Iceland). This town featured in the Ben Stiller movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty that happens to be one of my favorite travel movies.

Stykkisholmur Harbour-Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Stykkisholmur Harbour

Stykkishólmskirkja

A very unconventional looking church with a modern white exterior, Stykkishólmskirkja was designed by architect Jon Haraldsson. Inside, hundreds of bulbs hang suspended from the ceiling- a detail that I imagine must create a stunning effect after sunset. The altarpiece is a painting of the Madonna and child created by artist Kristín Gunnlaugsdóttir.

Stykkisholmurkirkja- Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Stykkisholmurkirkja- The church in Stykkisholmur

 

Inside Stykkisholmurkirkja- Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Inside Stykkisholmurkirkja

Sugandisey

We climbed up to this lighthouse for remarkable views over the bay of Breiðafjörður, with the Westfjords faintly visible in the distance.

Sugandisey Lighthouse -Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Sugandisey Lighthouse

Kirkjufell

Kirkjufell, or ‘Church Mountain’, is one of the most highly photographed spots in Iceland and if you’ve ever spent time researching travel in Iceland, you’ve probably seen a photo of it. This perfectly conical shaped mountain is backed by Kirkjufellsfoss, a small waterfall that plunges into a lake. I’ll have to return in the summer to be able to claim this- but I think a snow-white frozen waterfall looks even more spectacular than one that’s gushing with intensity. It’s almost like looking at time that has stood still, at least in my strange way of thinking about it.

Kirkjufell in winter- Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Kirkjufell in winter

 

Kirkjufellsfoss in winter- Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Kirkjufellsfoss

Öndverðarnes

The Snæfellsjökull National Park, home to the glacier Snæfellsjökull, is spread out over the westernmost tip of the Snaefellsnes peninsula and exploring this area takes one through rugged coastlines, volcanic landscapes and beautiful wild beaches.

At Öndverðarnes, gigantic waves crash into craggy charcoal cliffs and the golden beach of Skarðsvík. It was one of those places (and there were so many in Iceland) where I felt truly connected to nature. I could have easily spent another few hours just watching the waves break into the coastline, as if in a proud display of their full strength.

Ondverdarnes Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Ondverdarnes

Skardsvik Golden Beach Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Skardsvik Golden Beach

Djúpalónssandur

Djúpalónssandur is a black sand beach with oddly shaped rock formations, a craggy coastline and rusted metal remains from a wrecked fishing trawler in the late1940s. The drama is only heightened by white-fringed waves that leave behind feathery patterns on the shiny black sand and the lack of tourist crowds, at least in winter. A vertical column of rocks that rises up from the ocean is believed to be an elf church. On the beach are four lifting stones weighing from 23 to 154kgs that were used to test the strength of young men eager to join fishing crews.

No, I did not try to lift the lightest one.

Djupalonssandur Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Djupalonssandur

Djupalonssandur Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Djupalonssandur- Black sand beach

Djupalonssandur Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Djupalonssandur Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Lóndrangar

At Lóndrangar, jagged pinnacle-like basalt cliffs, remains of a volcanic crater almost entirely eroded by the sea, rise up along the coast to greet crashing waves. The hill is said to belong to elves and the two formations, 75 meters and 60 meters in height, are believed to be used by them as a church and library. Another piece of folklore associated with the area is that the two geological formations are actually the troll Bárðr and a shipwreck. Lóndrangar is also a nesting spot for a few different bird species.

Londrangar Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Londrangar

Notes:

Lóndrangar was our last stop for the day before we made our way back to Reykjavík. We visited these places in winter over an entire day (about 8 hours), not rushing and taking our time to explore and enjoy every stop. If you’re planning a trip to Iceland, check out my post on why I think it’s a good idea to visit Iceland in winter.

Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Black sand beach in the Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Watch the Video

 

Have you visited West Iceland? If yes, what was your favorite spot?

If you’re planning a trip to Iceland, read my posts about packing for Iceland, day trip to Landmannalaugar,  why you should visit in winter, what to in Reykjavik, how to do the South Coast in 2 days, and my adventure in a lava tube. For general info, visit my Iceland travel blog.

33 Comments

  • Ann says:

    The place is so beautiful, its so cold in the eyes especially when i feel the summer here in Thailand. hehe. I wonder how cold the beaches there, they look like freezing

    http://www.itsbeyondimaginations.blogspot.com

  • Erica says:

    Oh Iceland, I can’t wait to fall in love with you. I’m ready to be captivated by its otherworldly charm. Love the photos you got!

  • Criz says:

    I haven’t visited Iceland yet, but I live in the neighboring country (Norway). I would love to visit there someday both in the winter time and summer. This guide will come in handy for sure! 😉

    • Natasha Amar says:

      Thanks for the comment Criz! I would love to visit Norway someday soon myself, another fascinating country.

  • Liesbeth says:

    I’ve never been to Iceland but it’s higher and higher on my list! It just looks so stunning!

  • Heather Cole says:

    Yes I’ve visited, but it was in winter like you though the weather wasn’t so good and it was pretty much a white out! So thanks for showing me what I missed actually seeing 🙂 Love the elvish folklore that surrounds so much of the Icelandic landscape, it would be bonkers anywhere else in the world but just feels so right here!

    • Natasha Amar says:

      Yes it’s funny how much sense it makes when you’re actually in Iceland listening to the stories 🙂

  • Jem says:

    Never been to Iceland but your stories and photos are too tempting. I especially like the frozen falls.
    Jem recently posted…He asked for direction and became my tour guideMy Profile

  • Megan says:

    Okay, everyone has been posting about Iceland lately but your photos are one of the first things that have actually made me want to go. I’m not a big cold person but seeing something like the frozen waterfall is probably worth braving the cold. Thanks for sharing.

  • Eloise says:

    Wow this is so beautiful. Great photos, thanks for sharing. Iceland has been on my must-do list since I’ve been old enough to have a must-do list. Now that I’ve moved to the Sunshine State of Australia, it’s very far away and I get cold just by watching the photos. Still, I’d love to go sooooooo badly!

  • Iceland is one of my dream destinations that I hope I do make it to in the next couple of years but whenever I see anything on Iceland it’s always Reykjavík. Thanks for showing a different side to Iceland 🙂
    (ps. love the photos!)
    Curious Claire recently posted…What I’ve Learned from 1 Year of BloggingMy Profile

    • Natasha Amar says:

      There is so much more to Iceland than Reykjavik (which is a cool city btw), thanks for watching Claire!

  • Mansoureh says:

    what a great adventure trip. Visiting Iceland in Winter. I might prefer to go during spring, as you said summer is full of tourists. I would definitely visit the church, so modern!

  • Kevin Wagar says:

    We visited Iceland during the summer and even then we rarely had to deal with any crowds. It’s a beautiful country and the winter definitely casts a certain magic over it!

  • Renuka says:

    Though I’m not a winter person, I’d love to visit Iceland some day. Your photos are inspiring.
    Renuka recently posted…Bringing You ITALY!My Profile

  • Renuka says:

    Though I’m not really a winter person, I’d love to visit Iceland. Your photos are really inspiring!

  • Mar Pages says:

    These photos are so different to the ones I’ve been seeing of people traveling in Summer, its great that you chose a different time! The photos are stunning, I can see the cold in the sea- almost feeling it. The church design is so beautiful too, like a part of the natural landscape.

  • MariaAbroad says:

    Iceland is on my travel-short list and I can’t wait to see it. I have been thinking about going in winter, to get a chance at seeing the northern lights. I’ve been dreaming of seeing them since I was a little kid. And your pictures show such stunning landscapes. The bright red light tower looks so cool in the wintery landscape.

  • Iceland has been high on my wish list of destinations and your photos just reaffirmed it. I will be taking your advice and will visit in the winter. The day trip you highlighted from Reykjavík looks perfect, especially for travelers that may only have a day our two as a stopover. Bookmarking for future travel planning, thanks!

    ~ Love the location you highlighted from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, one of my favorite travel movies too 🙂

  • Stunning photos! You were so lucky to get such blue skies

  • Nice post! I didn’t see any of these places when I was in Iceland. Guess I’ll have to go back!
    Stephen Garone recently posted…Five Things You’ll Love to Do in Dublin, IrelandMy Profile

  • Carol Colborn says:

    Wow, you visited all these places in just 8 hours? That wasn’t bad…about 37 Fahrenheit. Except if it was windy. Did you get to see the Northern Lights?

  • Iceland has such dramatic scenery. I want to visit so much that I have bookmarked this post. Stykkisholmur Harbour looks so beautiful 🙂 How cold was it?
    Mellissa Williams recently posted…Why You Must Fly Virgin Upper ClassMy Profile

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