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Iceland’s Wild West: Highlights from the Snaefellsnes Peninsula

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, a golden beach, an old lighthouse, or magnificent views of glaciers in Iceland all to myself, especially in places not on the South Coast such as the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in West Iceland.

Sugandisey Lighthouse: West Iceland Highlights- Snaefellsnes Peninsula: Remote and dramatic landscapes minus the crowds of the South Coast of Iceland, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula should be a must-do on your Iceland itinerary.
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 daytrip 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: Remote and dramatic landscapes minus the crowds of the South Coast of Iceland, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula should be a must-do on your Iceland itinerary. #snaefellsnes #snaefellsnespeninsula #iceland #icelandtravel

 

Highlights of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in West Iceland

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 which happens to be one of my favorite travel movies.

Stykkisholmur Harbour-West Iceland Highlights- Snaefellsnes Peninsula: Remote and dramatic landscapes minus the crowds of the South Coast of Iceland, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula should be a must-do on your Iceland itinerary.
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 -West Iceland Highlights- Snaefellsnes Peninsula: Remote and dramatic landscapes minus the crowds of the South Coast of Iceland, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula should be a must-do on your Iceland itinerary.
Sugandisey Lighthouse

Visiting Iceland for a week? Here’s a 6-day South Coast Iceland Self-drive Itinerary to help plan your trip.

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.

West Iceland Highlights- Snaefellsnes Peninsula: Remote and dramatic landscapes minus the crowds of the South Coast of Iceland, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula should be a must-do on your Iceland itinerary. 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 West Iceland Highlights- Snaefellsnes Peninsula: Remote and dramatic landscapes minus the crowds of the South Coast of Iceland, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula should be a must-do on your Iceland itinerary.
Ondverdarnes
Skardsvik Golden Beach- West Iceland Highlights- Snaefellsnes Peninsula: Remote and dramatic landscapes minus the crowds of the South Coast of Iceland, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula should be a must-do on your Iceland itinerary.
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- West Iceland Highlights- Snaefellsnes Peninsula: Remote and dramatic landscapes minus the crowds of the South Coast of Iceland, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula should be a must-do on your Iceland itinerary.
Djupalonssandur
Djupalonssandur- West Iceland Highlights- Snaefellsnes Peninsula: Remote and dramatic landscapes minus the crowds of the South Coast of Iceland, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula should be a must-do on your Iceland itinerary.
Djupalonssandur- Black sand beach
Djupalonssandur- West Iceland Highlights- Snaefellsnes Peninsula: Remote and dramatic landscapes minus the crowds of the South Coast of Iceland, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula should be a must-do on your Iceland itinerary.
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- West Iceland Highlights- Snaefellsnes Peninsula: Remote and dramatic landscapes minus the crowds of the South Coast of Iceland, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula should be a must-do on your Iceland itinerary.
Londrangar
West Iceland Highlights- Snaefellsnes Peninsula: Remote and dramatic landscapes minus the crowds of the South Coast of Iceland, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula should be a must-do on your Iceland itinerary. #snaefellsnes #snaefellsnespeninsula #iceland #icelandtravel
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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.

West Iceland Highlights- Snaefellsnes Peninsula: Remote and dramatic landscapes minus the crowds of the South Coast of Iceland, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula should be a must-do on your Iceland itinerary.
Black sand beach in the Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Want local tips and personalized advice for your trip to Iceland? Connect with Halldór from Go Ask A Local!  He’s an Iceland-based travel agent who specializes in self-drive trips and also offers trip planning consultations on Zoom.

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Ann

Sunday 17th of April 2016

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

www.itsbeyondimaginations.blogspot.com

Erica

Tuesday 29th of March 2016

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!

Natasha Amar

Tuesday 29th of March 2016

Thanks Erica!

Criz

Monday 28th of March 2016

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

Monday 28th of March 2016

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

Liesbeth

Monday 28th of March 2016

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

Natasha Amar

Monday 28th of March 2016

It was pretty incredible :)

Heather Cole

Friday 25th of March 2016

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

Friday 25th of March 2016

Yes it's funny how much sense it makes when you're actually in Iceland listening to the stories :)