The Snæfellsnes (Icelandic pronunciation: ˈstn̥aiːfɛlsˌnɛːs) peninsula is often referred to as “Iceland in Miniature” or “Iceland in a Nutshell”. This well-deserved nickname was given to the peninsula because of the diversity of its landscapes. At its end, visitors find Snæfellsjökull glacier. On good days it is visible from Reykjavik even though it is about 120 kilometers away. This is not surprising as it is almost 1,5 kilometers high. This is the point Jules Verne picked for his protagonists to descend on their “Journey to the Center of the Earth”. The area surrounding Snæfellsjökull has been designated as one of the four National Parks by the government of Iceland.
Snaefellsnes is a small region in Western Iceland, located between Reykjavik and the Westfjords. The Peninsula is known for incredibly beautiful and dramatic landscapes making it the perfect place to explore Iceland although it is a lot less visited by tourists than other regions in South Iceland that are slightly closer to Reykjavik city. The peninsula is most known for it’s beautiful National Park with Snæfellsjökull glacier in its center, hiding a volcano underneath it. The capital of Snaefellsnes is the quaint fishing village of Stykkishólmur (population approx. 1.200).
Choose from Arnarstapi and Hellnar, tiny fishing villages with equal shots at the mountain, pebble beach, and ocean views. Or Lóndrangar, a windy, coastal overlook with sunset views of the Atlantic and some of Iceland’s famous “trolls”. Visitors can also visit Djúpalónssandur and Dritvík, black pebble beaches famous for the rusting skeleton of a shipwreck.
The peninsula is one of the main settings in the Laxdœla saga and it was, according to this saga, the birthplace of the first West Norse member of the Varangian Guard, Bolli Bollasson. Other historical people who lived in the area according to the saga include Guðrún Ósvífursdóttir, Bolli Þorleiksson, and Snorri Goði.
The combination of breathtaking scenery, the glistening ice cap of the volcano, Snæfellsjökull, lava fields, caves, waterfalls, volcanic features, and fishing villages, make Snæfellsnes, Iceland’s smallest National Park, the most wonderful place to visit. The 90-km long peninsula is a legendary area of magic and beauty, offering the best Iceland has to offer.
On the South/West corner of Snæfellsnes, visitors/travelers will find the truly amazing Vatnshellir cave. The whole peninsula is rich with hundreds of hidden caves but this one is sure to stand out! Vatnshellir cave is an 8.000-year-old lava tube that reaches 200 meters into the ground and goes 35 meters below the surface of the earth. To explore this extraordinary cave they will have to take a 50-minute tour that starts right from the opening of the cave and they will be equipped with all the necessary caving equipment.
Eldborg, a volcano crater rising 60 meters above the surrounding lava field, is a great first stop on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Eldborg is 50 meters deep, with a diameter of 200 m, its last eruption was about 5000 to 6000 years ago. This is a nice hiking area as visitors/travelers can walk all the way around the crater, as well as going right up to it. Eldborg, the name literally name means the ‘Fortress of Fire’, contrasts strongly with the surrounding nature because of its dark color. The round trip is about 6 km, so, it takes around 2 hours to hike both ways, depending on visitors/travelers walking speed.
Local fishing villages and small towns on the northern shore of Snæfellsnes include Arnarstapi, Hellnar, Rif, Ólafsvík, Grundarfjörður, and Stykkishólmur. Near Hellissandur is the tallest structure in Western Europe, the Longwave Radio Mast at Hellissandur.
In June 2008, the people of Snaefellsnes reached certification status as an EarthCheck community, becoming the first EarthCheck-certified area in Iceland and in Europe, and only the fourth in the world. Snaefellsnes has been committed to the EarthCheck program since 2003 and has been successfully benchmarked for the past five consecutive years.