2 Day Snæfellsnes Tour | Lava Caving, Seals, Waterfalls and the Northern Lights
Enjoy ‘Iceland in Miniature’ on this incredible 2-day winter tour to witness the diverse wonders of West Iceland and the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. On this excursion, you will see volcanoes, glaciers, geothermal areas, cultural sites, beautiful stretches of coast and geological marvels. You will also get to cave in a 7000-year-old lava tube and to hunt for the elusive and magical Northern Lights.
You will be picked up from your Reykjavík accommodation on the first morning and begin your journey north. This day will be dominated by the sites of West Iceland en route to the peninsula; you can expect to see the highest-flowing hot-spring in Europe, the charming village of Reykholt, two stunning waterfalls and dramatic geological formations in the valley of Hnappadalur.
This day will finish at your accommodation on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, from which you will be able to see the mighty Snæfellsjökull glacier and volcano. This iconic landmark has inspired art for centuries, most notably being where Jules Verne set his novel, ‘A Journey to the Centre of the Earth’. Before turning in, you will have your opportunity to hunt for the aurora borealis and to walk along the nearby beach to spot some seals.
The glacier will be within sight for the majority of the next day, as you learn first hand why people call Snæfellsjökull ‘Iceland in Miniature’. You will see even more diversity of landscapes, as you head from black sand beaches to endless lava fields, tiny villages to vast mountains. Prepare to witness marvel after marvel both above the surface of the ground and, if you add a caving tour when booking, beneath it.
You will return to Reykjavík that evening after two days packed with sightseeing and adventure.
Many of those visiting Iceland do not get an opportunity to see all the fascinating places on this tour, so do not let yourself miss out. Jump aboard to see the sites of West Iceland and the Snæfellnes peninsula and for your chance to witness the Northern Lights. Check availability by choosing a date.
- Available: Nov. - Apr.
- Duration: 2 days
- Activities: Caving, Sightseeing
- Difficulty: Easy
- Minimum age: 8 years.
- Languages: English
Hraunfossar in Borgarfjordur district is a series of beautiful waterfalls formed by rivulets streaming from a short distance out of the Hallmundarhraun lava field.
The lava field flowed from an eruption of one of the volcanoes lying under the glacier Langjokull. The waterfalls pour into the Hvita river from ledges of less porous rock in the lava. These are some of the most magnificent falls found in Iceland and not to be missed.Deildartunguhver,
Deildartunguhver, by Reykholt, in Borgarfjordur district, has the highest flow rate for a hot spring in Europe.
The flow rate of Deildartunguhver is 180 liters/second and water emerges at 97 °C. The place is also unique for being the only place in the country where the hard fern grows.Snæfellsnes,
Snaefellsnes is a large peninsula extending to the west from West Iceland ending with a national park, Snaefellsjokull National Park, where the glacier towers over the scenery, as can sometimes be seen from Reykjavik, lending its beauty to the area.
The peninsula stretches over 100 km to the west as a mountain ridge that includes active volcanoes and is unique in the variety of mountains found.
A few small and beautiful villages are located on the south side and a few fishing villages are on the north side: Rif, Hellissandur, Olafsvik, Grundarfjordur and Stykkisholmur. The last one is highly popular for travelers, featuring a volcano museum and a ferry that takes you across the fascinating Breidafjordur bay to Brjanslaekur on the south border of the Westfjords.
Other museums you might want to check out are the Maritime Museum at Hellissandur, the regional museum Pakkhusid at Olafsvik, and, last but not least, the shark museum at Bjarnarhofn, indeed listed as the nr. 1 Snafellsnes attraction by Lonely Planet Travelers. Also, many of the Icelandic sagas take place at Snaefellsnes.
Snaefellsnes has an abundance of interesting sights. At the national park, you can witness the impressive lava formations of Djupalonssandur creek and test your strength on its four stones, see the two massive lava formations that compries Londrangar, explore the Saxholl volcanic crater and enjoy the echo of 'The Singing Cave', Songhellir. You may also hike on the majestic Snaefellsjokull glacier. The glacier has strong ties with folklore and was the setting for Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth.
Other sights we can recommend at Snaefellsnes recommend include Raudfeldsgja canyon, east of the national park and the rugged and colourful Berserkjahraun lava field, near Bjarnarhofn, on the north side of the peninsula.
Last, but not least, Snaefellsnes is one of the main setting for Laxdaela saga. Chieftain Snorri godi, Gudrun Osvifursdottir, Bolli Thorlakssson all lived there as well as his namesake Bolli Bollason, the first West Norse member of the Varangian guard, an elite unit of the Byzantine army. Iceland's most famous mass murderer, Axlar-Bjorn, also lived at Snaefellsnes.Stykkishólmur,
Stykkisholmur is a town of about 1100 people in Snaefellsnes. It is a center of service and commerce in the area and the ferry Baldur sails from there over to Brjanslaekur in the Westfjords.
The main industries of Stykkisholmur are fishing and tourism and the town has an excellent natural harbour. Breidafjordur, from which the Baldur ferry sails, is riddled with islands and has fascinating flora, bird- and sealife, such as whales, and sailing through the fjord is highly popular for travelers. Tasting shellfish straight from the sea is also a great treat. The regional museum in Stykkisholmur is worth a visit, positioned in a beautiful old house built in 1828, as well as the country's oldest weather station,dating from 1845.Hellnar,
Hellnar is an old fishing village on the westernmost part of the Snaefellsnes peninsula. It used to be one of the largest fishing stations of the peninsula, the oldest record of seafaring there being from 1560.
At the shore are spectacular rock formations. Among them is a protruding cliff called Valasnos. Tunneling into the cliff is a cave renowned for its changing colourful hues, according to the light and sea movement. Large colonies of birds also nest in the area.
At Gvendarbrunnar a.k.a. Mariulind you can taste excellent spring water which is said to have healing powers.
Hellnar hosts the guesthouse for Snaefellsnes National Park and has a very interesting exhibition about the economy of former times and on the geology, flora and fauna of the national park.Barnafoss,
Barnafoss ('Children's Waterfall') is a waterfall in Hvita river in Borgarfjordur.
The waterfall runs through a narrow rocky gorge and legend has it that there once was a natural stone arc over the river, that was demolished after two children fell from it to their death. Not far away is the stunning series of waterfalls Hraunfossar, flowing out of a lava field into Hvita.Gerðuberg,
Gerduberg is a particularly beautiful and regular belt of basalt columns on the Snaefellsnes peninsula.
Gerduberg's lava flowed in the Tertier era. The columns are 14 meters at their highest and around 1-1,5 meters wide. Gerduberg is listed as a natural heritage.Arnarstapi,
Arnarstapi is a village in the southern part of the Snaefellsnes peninsula. The area has several old and charming houses with interesting stories to them and is furthermore renowned for its beautiful nature.
The beach holds a particular attraction. It has an eroded circular stone arch, called Gatklettur, and three rifts, Hundagja,Midgja and Musagja. The interplay of spectacular waves and the light of the sun creates a fascinating spectacle. Large colonies of the arctic tern also nest in the area.
An old horse trail through the lava field Hellnahraun is highly popular for hiking, due to the impressiveness of the surrounding landscape.Kirkjufell,
Kirkjufell (“Church Mountain”) is a distinctly shaped mountain found on the north coast of Iceland’s Snæfellsnes Peninsula, only a short distance away from the town of Grundarfjörður.
Kirkjufell takes it’s name from its resemblance to a church steeple, sharpened at the top with long curved sides. From other angles, the mountain can resemble a witch’s hat or even a freshly scooped ice cream.
Photography at Kirkjufell
Peaking at 463 m, Kirkjufell holds the honour of being Iceland’s most photographed mountain. Throughout the centuries, Kirkjufell’s striking slopes have acted as a visual landmark for seafarers and travellers.
Walking distance from Kirkjufell, one can find the photogenic waterfall Kirkjufellsfoss (“Church Mountain Falls”), an excellent subject for photographers who can easily frame the mountain in the background. Despite its relatively diminutive height, Kirkjufellsfoss’ three-pronged falls make the waterfall particularly stunning, even for Iceland.
At the base of the mountain, visitors will also be able to find a lake; on calm and clear days, this lake reflects a perfect mirror image of Kirkjufell, only adding to the fantastic photo opportunities around this area. On top of that, the colours of Kirkjufell change with the passing seasons; the summer see it a lush green, full of life, whilst the winter months scar the mountain’s face with a mask of barren brown and white.
Fans of the HBO series Game of Thrones will recognise Kirkjufell as a shooting location from Season 7 of Game of Thrones. The mountain is showcased from the scenes ‘beyond the wall’ when Jon Snow, The Hound and Jorah Mormont, among others, brave the wilderness in hopes of catching an undead wight. Having seen it in a vision, The Hound acknowledges Kirkjufell as “[...] the mountain like an arrowhead.” Even the Games of Thrones producers can’t resist capturing the mountain on celluloid!
There is a fairly steep trail to the top of Kirkjufell, from where there are magnificent panoramas of the surrounding fields, coastlines and rivers. The mountain takes roughly an hour and a half to ascend, and one and a half hours back to the bottom.
Alongside this mountain-track is a steeper route to the peak which involves two points where one needs to rope-climb. This route should never be attempted in the winter, and never without a certified guide. Given the steep elevation, it is highly recommended that you bring a sturdy pair of hiking boots, snacks and water to the trail.
Getting to Kirkjufell
Kirkjufell is extremely close to Grundarfjörður, a small town on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, approximately two hours drive from Iceland's capital city, Reykjavik. From Grundarfjörður, one travels ten minutes west down Route Snaefellsnesvegur 54 to the base of Kirkjufell. Visitors have plenty of parking space to choose from, all free of charge.Búðir,
Búðir is a small hamlet in the municipality of Snæfellsbær on the westernmost tip of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
The hamlet is located in the lava fields of Búðahraun in the region of Staðarsveit in west Iceland. Búðir consists of a church and a country hotel but is otherwise uninhabited.
Búðir was once a prosperous fishing village and one of Snæfellsnes' most active trading posts. Medieval sources describe Búðir as one of Iceland's major ports and archaeological evidence suggests portal activity dating back to the earliest settlement of Iceland.
In the beginning of the 19th Century, the trading post was abandoned but today, the area prospers economically because of tourism.
Búðir boasts the vast lava field Búðahraun that reaches east from the hamlet towards the sea by Faxaflói Bay, and west to the reef of Hraunlandarif. The lava's source can be traced to the 88-metre tall volcanic crater Búðaklettur which is located in the middle of the lava field. The crater has an opening on its south-west side, where one can enter the 382-metre long Búðahellir Cave.
Búðahraun is acclaimed for its rich flora, boasting approximately 130 different plant species. These include rare and protected species such as four leafed clovers. The eastern part of the lava field has been an official nature reservoir since 1977.
Búðir also consists of a field of tall, windswept grass, and a beach of fair-coloured sand dotted with jet black lava rocks. Hótel Búðir is a charming country hotel where visitors can enjoy the reclusiveness of the surrounding area.
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All that remains of Búðir’s former community is the black wooden church Búðakirkja. A man named Bent Lauridtsen got a bishop’s permit in 1701 to build a church in the area. When it came to deciding the location, an old woman reportedly suggested making a man spin in circles until he became dazed and then have him shoot three arrows into the air. Where the third arrow landed, the church should be built.
A small turf chapel was built two years later, where it stood until it was dismissed by orders of the Danish King Christian VIII in 1819. Several residents fought for the reclamation of the church until in 1849 the priest’s council allowed for the construction of a new house of worship—as long as the residents of Búðir would fully finance the project and see to its maintenance.
A woman named Steinunn had meticulously cared for the artefacts from the old chapel, which resulted in the church still donning some of its original items, such a door latch engraved by Bent in 1703. Renovations were made in 1951, and again in the 1980s when it got slightly relocated and reconstructed according to its original Danish design.Grundarfjörður,
Grundarfjörður is a small town found on the north coast of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in the west of Iceland.
The town has an approximate population of 872 people and has been twinned with the French town Paimpol since 2004. The town’s main industries lie in fishing and fish processing. Grundarfjörður also bears host to substantial ship traffic, a consequence of’ the settlement’s natural harbour.
Grundarfjörður boasts a public library, a historical centre, a resident’s café and a photography exhibition, Bæringsstofa, a collection of pictures by the late Icelandic photographer and honorary citizen of Grundarfjörður, Bærings Cecilsson. Asides from accommodation and amenities, Grundarfjörður offers the opportunity to partake in numerous outdoor activities, ranging from horseback riding and camping to ice-climbing. One can also find a nine-hole golf course beside the town.
Visitors to Grundarfjörður will likely visit the town’s main landmark, the photogenic Kirkjufell (“Church Mountain”). Clearly distinguishable from its dramatic slopes, steeple-like peak and surrounding shorelines, Kirkjufell is both one of the most beautiful and photographed mountains found in Iceland. Besides the mountain itself, one can find Kirkjufellsfoss (“Church Mountain Falls”), a beautiful three-pronged waterfall.
Folklore & History
Nearby, one can find the town and municipality of Stykkishólmur (population: 1195), a centre of commerce and services for the region. The road from Grundarfjörður to Stykkishólmur crosses a wide lava field known as Berserkjahraun. The name of this lava field is derived from the Eyrbyggja saga, in which it said two berserkers (Viking Warriors) were slaughtered by their master because one of them fell madly in love with own daughter.
Grundarfjörður is an important historical town in Iceland, having been a centre of trade for the Snæfellsnes Peninsula since at least the 15th century. The town was certified official as one the country’s six designated marketplaces in the year 1786. There are a number of antiquity sites around the town, however, that point to the region being well-inhabited as far back as the Viking era.
Header Photo: Wikimedia. Creative Commons. ChensiyuanEldborg,
Photo by Regína Hrönn Ragnarsdóttir.
Eldborg is a 60 m (197 ft) high volcanic crater, located north of Borgarnes in West Iceland.
Eldborg is the largest crater on a 200 m (650 ft) long volcanic rift. It last erupted between 5000 and 6000 years ago, but according to medieval manuscripts, it also erupted during the time of Iceland's settlement, 1000 years ago.
The easiest way to approach Eldborg is from its southern side, by walking 2.5 km (1.5. mi) from Snorrastaðir, across the lava field.Djúpalónssandur,
Photo by Regína Hrönn Ragnarsdóttir
Djúpalónssandur is an arched-shaped bay of dark cliffs and black sand, located on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in western Iceland.
History & Monuments
The location was once home to a prosperous fishing village, along with other abandoned hamlets and ports of the area such as Búðir and Hellnar, from back when the Snæfellsnes Peninsula functioned as one of the most active trading posts of the island.
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Fascinating remnants of this period are for instance found in the form of four ancient lifting stones that still occupy the beach. The stones range in weight from 23 kg (50 lbs) to 155 kg (342 lbs) and were used to test the strength of fishermen. Their names are Amlóði (useless), Hálfdrættingur (weakling), Hálfsterkur (half-strong) and Fullsterkur (full-strong).
In 1948, the English trawler Epine GY 7 from Grimsby shipwrecked on the shore, with fourteen dead and five survivors. The rusty iron remains of the vessel remain scattered on the beach, now protected as a monument to those who perished.
Environment & Surroundings
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula boasts countless natural wonders, where locals and travellers both flock on a daily basis to enjoy the unique landscape and stunning coastlines. Djúpalónssandur’s black pebble beach is particularly stunning amidst rocky coastal lava formations, including the elusive Gatklettur, a large lava rock with a hole in the middle through which you can directly spot the Snæfellsjökull Glacier Volcano.
Behind the rock are two freshwater lagoons called Djúpulón and Svörtulón, with the former serving as the namesake of the bay. Believed in olden times to be bottomless, the water bodies were later revealed to reach the depth of five metres. Lagoons such as these are held in high regard amongst the Icelandic people, and Svörtulón is thought to possess healing properties, especially after having been blessed by Bishop Guðmundur góði ('the good') in the late 1100s.
A natural monument of the area is Söngklettur, or “singing rock”, a large lava rock with a reddish hue that resembles an elfish church. Other rock formations of folklorish appeal rest close by, including the alleged trolls-turned-to-stone Kerling and Lóndrangur.
When visiting Djúpalónssandur, take heed that these are treacherous waters and the Atlantic Ocean’s powerful suction can easily carry you out to sea. This beach is not one for wading, but enjoying from a safe distance, especially if the weather is stormy.
The glistening pebbles that make up the beach known as Djúpalónsperlur, or “pearls of the deep lagoon”, are gorgeous to look at and might seem appealing to stone collectors, but they are protected by law and should not be removed from the area by visitors.Ytri Tunga Beach
Credit: Wikimedia, Creative Commons. Photo by pjt56.
Ytri Tunga is a beach by a farm of the same name on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
Alongside Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and the Vatnsnes Peninsula, Ytri Tunga is the most reliable place in Iceland to see seals. Just offshore, on some rocks protruding from the water, at least a few individuals from the local colony can be seen hauling out year round. The best time to see them, however, is in the summer months.
Unlike many of the beaches in Iceland, Ytri Tunga has golden sand, rather than black.
Pickup time : 08:00
Pick up / Drop off
Professional and fun English speaking guide.
Lava cave & canyon
Small group in a minibus
Wifi in minibus
One night of accommodation on Snaefellsnes peninsular, breakfast included
Lunch & Dinner
What to bring:
Dresss according to weather and season
Day 1 - To Snæfellsnes
You will be picked up from your Reykjavík accommodation on the first morning, and begin your journey north. The route to Snæfellsnes takes you around the beautiful Hvalfjörður, otherwise known as ‘Whale Fjord’, which is renowned for its tall peaks, many waterfalls, and serene waters.
The first place you will stop at will be the dramatic valley of Skorradalur, the site of a peaceful lake said to hold a terrible monster. Following your time here, you head to Europe’s highest-flowing hot-spring, Deildartunguhver, which pumps up 180 litres of near boiling water every second.
You will make another stop in the historical village of Reykholt, which was once home to legendary medieval writer Snorri Sturluson. This chieftain, poet and historian recorded the ‘Prose Edda’, considered the bible of Old Norse Mythology, amongst hundreds of other works.
Just a few minutes from Reykholt, you will find two waterfalls, which in spite of being right beside each other, are dramatically different. Barnafoss is narrow and violent, racing down a winding valley. Hraunfossar, meanwhile, is serene, with a series of little falls trickling out of an ancient lava field.
The penultimate site of the day will be Gerduberg, by the valley of Hnappadalur. Here, you will see a large wall of strange basalt columns, which form beautiful geometric patterns in the cliff. After admiring this, you will head to the mineral spring of Rauðamelsölkelda.
You will reach your accommodation on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula by evening. In clear weather, you will be able to see the glacier Snæfellsjökull from here, and if the conditions are right, you have a chance to see the magical Northern Lights.
Day 2 - Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Your second day will be spent exploring the marvels of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. You will tour both its sides, ever in the shadow of the mighty Snæfellsjökull sub-glacial volcano.
The first site of today is a dramatic ravine called Rauðfeldsgjá, which is an enormous cleft in a mountain wall with a brook running through it. If conditions allow, you will be able to have a short hike through here.
You will then have an opportunity to walk along the beautiful coastline of the peninsula, famed for its caves, basalt columns and geological formations. You will first do this from the charming village of Arnarstapi, then from the equally pleasant Hellnar. After enjoying these sites, you will head to the black sand beach of Djúpalónssandur.
This area is steeped in local fishing history and surrounded by beautiful geology. You may see the ‘lifting stones’, which were used by fishermen in years gone by to test their strength and suitability to the rough seas.
You will next head to the 7000-year-old Vatnshellir cave. There, you will descend into the cave and explore its beautiful lava features. Unlike many other caves, this one is relatively easy to traverse, so those who worry about tight spaces, crawling and climbing should be able to put their fears to bed.
After the caving tour, you will move around to the north side of the peninsula, to admire the little fishing villages, before continuing to Kirkjufell mountain. This is the most photographed mountain in Iceland, and it is surrounded by beautiful scenery, complete with a trickling waterfall.
From here, you will begin your journey back to Reykjavík, but not without seeing two stunning fjords, Hraunsfjörður and Kolgrafafjörður. On the way to the capital, you will also drive through the haunting Berserkjahraun lava field, where you guide will tell you about its macabre history.
You will return to Reykjavík in the evening, no doubt still enraptured with memories of ‘Iceland in Miniature’.