2 Day Snaefellsnes Tour | Lava Cave, Waterfalls, Seals, Hot Spring
Explore the unique landscapes of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula on this two-day adventure and get acquainted with the incredible nature of the West. If you’d like to get to know the culture of Iceland and witness a vast array of its natural wonders, this tour is made for you.
The star of the tour is the beautiful peninsula often dubbed ‘Iceland in miniature’, due to the myriad of the country’s different landscapes all located there. Prepare yourself for stunning coastal cliffs bombarded by the merciless waves of the Atlantic Ocean, rugged fields of lava rocks, cascading waterfalls, black beaches, majestic mountains, rural fishing villages and a magnificent glacier, just to name a few.
Your tour begins with a pickup from Reykjavík City, after which you will head up west along Route One to the town of Borgarnes. After a quick stop in this friendly municipality, the journey continues to Snæfellsnes, located less than three hours from the capital.
You’ll take in many of the fantastic sights of the peninsula on your first day, such as Saxholl crater, the black pearl beach Djúpalónssandur, the sea stacks Lóndrangar and the historic fishing villages Arnarstapi and Hellnar. One of the many highlights of the tour is a caving expedition in the Vatnshellir Lava Cave with admission fee included.
All the while, the grand glacier Snæfellsjökull looms within sight, watching over your circumference of the peninsula. Your first day ends in the village Stykkishólmur where your accommodation in the charming and historic Hotel Fransiskus awaits. If you embark on this trip during the winter season, and if luck and conditions allow, the Northern Lights might grace the night sky before the day is over.
The exploration continues on the second day, as you will visit the fascinating Shark Museum at Bjarnarhöfn, followed by the most photographed mountain in Iceland, Mt. Kirkjufell, with its unique shape and eternal appeal.
Before heading back to the capital, you will get to explore the area of Borgarfjörður to see the waterfalls Hraunfossar and Barnafoss, as well as Deildartunguhver, the hot spring with the highest flow in all of Europe.
Don’t hesitate in booking your Snæfellsnes Peninsula adventure now, to enjoy much of which Iceland has to offer in two, adventure-packed days. Check availability by choosing a date.
- Available: Jul. - May.
- Duration: 2 days
- Activities: Caving, Hiking, Sightseeing, Cultural Activity, Bird watching
- Difficulty: Easy
- Minimum age: 5 years.
- Languages: English
- Highlights: Snæfellsjökull,
Snæfellsjökull (1446 m) is an ice-capped volcano found on the tip of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West Iceland.
Though many consider Snæfellsjökull to simply be a particularly impressive ice cap, it is, in fact, a 700,000-year-old glacier-capped stratovolcano. The mountain is actually called "Snæfell" (Snowy Mountain), though the “jökull” (Glacier) is often added to help distinguish it from other mountains of the same name. For the first time in recorded history, Snæfellsjökull had no snow or ice at its peak in August 2012, causing concern amongst locals that climate change is threatening the nature of the mountain.
On clear days, one can see Snæfellsjökull from Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik, approximately 120 kilometres away over Faxa Bay, making for an impressive sight—and a tick off the bucket list if you can’t make it to travelling across the Peninsula itself. The volcano makes up just a small part of the larger Snæfellsjökull National Park.
Nearby villages include Hellissandur, Rif and Ólafsvík, all of which were commercial and fishing hubs throughout the peninsula’s long history of human inhabitance. Fishing took off primarily in the 13th-Century, with fishing stations being built in all areas with easy access to the open ocean.
One notable example would be the settlement of Dritvík, one of the largest fishing stations in Iceland at the time, utilising around 40–60 boats and employing between 200–600 people. Fishing in the region declined during the 19th century due to a change in Iceland’s fishing practises, though it is still an important source of livelihood for those living on the Peninsula.
Snæfellsjökull has, for centuries, been considered to be one of the world’s ancient power sites, a source of mysticism, energy and mystery for the peninsula’s superstitious population. This likely has something to do with the stratovolcanoes place in the Icelandic sagas; the feature takes a prominent role in Bárðar saga Snæfellsáss, a late 14th-century saga that tells the story of Bárður, half-human-half-troll, who became the “guardian spirit of Snæfellsjökull.”
Snæfellsjökull serves as the entrance to a fantastical subterranean world in Jules Verne’s classic 1864 novel “Journey to The Centre of The Earth.” Given its central place in the novel, Snæfellsjökull has become one of the most popular spots for visitors in Iceland and has inspired a wealth of writers, poets and artists.
Since “Journey to The Centre of The Earth”, Snæfellsjökull has appeared in the Blind Birds trilogy by Czech SF writer Ludvík Souček (partially based on Jules’ work) and in Under The Glacier, a novel by Iceland’s only Nobel laureate, Halldor Laxness.
Along with the glacier, attractions include the two nearby basalt cliffs called Lóndrangar and the many fascinating lava formations at the beautiful Djúpalonssandur beach, such as the arch rock Gatklettur. At Djúpalonssandur, one can also test their strength just as the ancient sailors once did with the four "strength" stones, Amlóði ('Useless'), Hálfdrættingur ('Weakling'), Hálfsterkur ('Half Strength') and Fullsterkur ('Full Strength'). In the area, one can also explore the Saxhóll volcano crater and 'the singing cave' Sönghellir, which is named after the loud echoes inside.
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.Snæfellsjökull National Park,
Snæfellsjökull National Park is found on the tip of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and is one of three National Parks in Iceland. It is named after its crowning glacier and volcano.
Established in 2001, it is neither the oldest nor the largest National Park; those honours go to Þingvellir and Vatnajökull respectively. Within its borders, however, it has a wealth of sites for visitors to enjoy.
Features in Snæfellsjökull National Park
Snæfellsjökull National Park’s main feature is obviously the sub-glacial volcano Snæfellsjökull. This twin-peaked phenomenon is at the tip of the peninsula, and visible across Faxaflói Bay from Reykjavík on clear days.
It has inspired artists and writers for centuries. Most famously, it was the primary setting for the Jules Verne novel ‘A Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ and the Halldór Laxness novel ‘Christianity Beneath the Glacier’. Beyond its inspiration to artists, the site also provides adventure to thrill-seekers; it is a popular place for both glacier hiking and super jeep tours.
Another feature within the National Park is the Buðahraun lava field, which encircles the glacier. This moss-coated terrain gives the area a haunting, otherworldly air, especially when grey or snow-coated in the winter months.
The coastline is also worthy of some time sightseeing; the beaches of Djúpalónssandur and Skarðsvík have fascinating geology, beautiful seascapes, and interesting histories. The Lóndrangar basalt fortress, however, is perhaps the most dramatic and picturesque example.
A final feature of the National Park is its lava caves. While most of these are inaccessible, you can take tours into Vatnshellir throughout summer.
Features Around Snæfellsjökull National Park
Snæfellsjökull National Park is adjacent to Arnarstapi and Hellnar on its south, and Hellissandur and Ríf on its north, all historic fishing villages that have managed to preserve the old culture of the peninsula when it was Iceland’s trading hub. All four of these settlements have options for accommodation.
Within an hour of driving, it is possible to reach many other sites of Snæfellsnes. These include the second most defining mountain on the peninsula, Mount Kirkjufell; Ytri Tunga, a seal-watching beach; and Rauðfeldsgjá, a mightily impressive gorge that slices into a mountainside.Vatnshellir Cave,
Vatnshellir is an 8,000-year-old lava tube on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and a popular site for caving tours.
At 200 meters (656 ft) long and 35 metres (114 ft) deep at its lowest point, it is a perfect place to observe the geological forces that have helped shape Iceland; the rocks within are differently coloured by their mineral deposits, and of different textures depending on how they cooled during the cave’s formation period. Caves also tell of Iceland’s folklore, as it is said that they were the homes of the trolls.
Traversing the cave is relatively easy for those who can walk unaided without trouble. It should only be entered on a sanctioned tour, however, due to the dangers associated with caving alone and without experience.
Vatnshellir is a protected site, as it is within the Snæfellsjökull National Park.Lóndrangar,
The Lóndrangar basalt cliffs are amongst the many geological wonders of the Snæfellnes peninsula. Once a volcanic crater, all that remains after aeons of ocean battering are two great pillars upon a cliff, one 75 metres (246 ft) high and the other 61 metres (200 ft). Their dramatic scale earning this incredible formation the nickname ‘the rocky castle’.
The cliffs can be accessed easily from the Visitor’s Centre, through fields of mossy lava, but they can also be seen from the sea. Surfing is relatively popular in the area and doing so in the shadows of these great peaks only adds to the experience.
The surrounding lands are steeped in folklore; farmers have never made use of the fields around the Lóndrangar basalt cliffs due to the elves that are rumoured to live there. Nearby, at Þúfubjarg cliff, it was said that the poet Kolbeinn Jöklaskáld met the devil and struck a deal with him.Djúpalónssandur,
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.
- See a selection of exciting Snæfellsnes Tours
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.Saxhóll,
Wikimedia. Creative Commons. Credit: Diego Delso.
Saxhóll is one of the most popular craters on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, found 9 km (5.5 mi) south of Hellissandur on the peninsula's western-most tip.
Saxhóll is an excellent sightseeing attraction for those who do not want to hike too far. The crater is approximately 100 m (100 ft) high with a useful walking path and steps in order to make the ascent as easy as possible for guests. This makes for a simple alternative to visiting Eldborg crater on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula which requires a two and a half hour hike to visit.
Saxhóll is, in fact, two craters, though most guests will only summit the first due to its close proximity to the road, Útnesvegur (Nr. 574). From the top of the crater, one is blessed with incredible views over the Atlantic Ocean and the expansive, dried lava fields of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Saxhóll is one of the best examples of seeing a crater in Iceland that once shot hot magma from the earth, sculpting the landscape around it.Ytri Tunga Beach,
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.
Photo above from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by pjt56Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum
The Bjarnahöfn Shark Museum is a fascinating exhibition on the processing of traditional Icelandic fermented shark.
Located on the northern shores of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, this site gives you the opportunity to learn all about how the sharks have always been caught, buried, hung and prepared, an operation that takes months of work and results in something that seems just revolting.
Here, you are more than welcome to try this foul-smelling delicacy, and wash it down with a shot of Icelandic Brevinin.
The museum also ancient fishing boats and tools on display, as well as a wealth of entertaining shark memorabilia.
It is located between the towns of Grundafjörður and Stykkishólmur, two popular sites on the Peninsula. The former is home to Kirkjufell Mountain, while the latter is steeped in fishing culture and folklore.
Photo above from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Xfigpower
Pickup time : 08:30
Pick up and drop off within Reykjavik
Accommodation in a double or a twin room with private bathroom
Minibus (maximum 17 passengers)
Admission fee to the Vatnshellir Lave Cave with all safety equipment provided
Entry to Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum
Free Wi-Fi on bus
Professional English speaking guide
Lunch and Dinner - we make scheduled stops so that guests can buy lunch and dinner during the tour
What to bring:
Warm, wind & waterproof clothes
Good hiking shoes are recommended
Good to know:
This tour typically returns to Reykjavik on Day 2 around 18:30 / 06:30 pm
If you are a single traveller, then a Single Room Supplement of 7.500 ISK is mandatory.
Only small carry-on luggage such as backpacks are possible.
Please check with your hotel if they can store your luggage during the tour if you are staying again at the same hotel after the tour.
We can also offer you to store your luggage for free at NiceTravel office, located in Fiskislóð 45, Space M.
To avoid any delays on departure luggage must be in storage before pick-up time.
Day 1 - The Magic of Snaefellsjokull National Park
After getting picked up from Reykjavík City, you will get to know your expert and friendly tour guide and head along the west coast to the town of Borgarnes.
From there, your journey continues to the beach at Ytri Tunga, a famous seal colony. You never know if you might spot a couple of these adorable and curious creatures lounging on the shore.
Next up are the ancient fishing hamlets Arnarstapi and Hellnar, where you’ll embark on a scenic hike boasting breathtaking views of the seaside.
Then, get ready to discover the unique rock formations at Djúpalónssandur, a beach of black pearls, and hike up to the 70-metre tall rock pinnacles Lóndrangar.
After enjoying the many amazing sites above ground level it is now time to journey towards the Center of the Earth! You will go caving in the Vatnshellir lave cave where you can see the tumult of the volcanic landscape up close. This cave was created by volcanic eruption 7.000 ago.
You will also be stopping in Saxhóll, a 100-metre high volcanic crater with a pathway leading to its top. The scenery on hand will include the glacier Snæfellsjökull in all its glory-Jules Verne’s very entrance to the centre of the earth.
Before the day is through, you will pass through three more fishing villages until reaching Stykkishólmur, your destination and accommodation for the night in the unique Hotel Fransiskus. Look up in the sky for the Northern Lights before calling it a day, and get some rest for the adventures ahead.
Day 2 - Mt. Kirkjufell, Shark Museum & Waterfalls
After your complimentary breakfast, your first adventure of the day will be an excursion to the mountain Kirkjufell, every photographer’s dream come true.
Afterwards, you’ll get acquainted with the area’s history and culture with a visit to the Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum. Have a taste of traditional, fermented shark, washed down with local schnapps, if you dare.
Then, it is time to get back on the road and continue through the peninsula to visit Gerðuberg, a natural marvel of stunning basalt pillar formations which stretch across 500 metres.
Then it is time to leave the peninsula behind, but the sightseeing is far from over. On your way back to the capital, you’ll visit Borgarfjörður, an area rich in settlement history. You’ll visit the fantastically different waterfalls located right next to each other, Hraunfossar and Barnafoss.
Finally, you will pay a visit to the one and only Deildartunguhver, a hot spring that spouts 180 litres of boiling water every second—making it the highest-flowing hot spring in all of Europe. Tread the path here carefully and heed the warning signs.
Then, it is time to head back to Reykjavík City; you’ll arrive in due time to enjoy a night in the capital and reminisce about your unforgettable, two-day Snæfellsnes adventure. Don’t wait any longer to secure your spot on this trip of a lifetime.