When Colby and I booked our plane tickets to Iceland, the west side of the country wasn’t even on our radar. We were planning our entire trip around hiking Fimmvörðuháls, and we knew we wanted to hit the Golden Circle and the south coast, but when we realized we had a couple extra days, we weren’t sure what to do with them. Of course, then I found out that Kirkjufell was on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, and our decision was made.
I’ll be mapping out our whole route, in which we spent a day driving around most of the peninsula (ending at Kirkjufell right at sunset) and then the next day we cut inland a bit to check out a couple other spots, which you could probably take or leave. You could definitely cut out a good portion of the second day and just head back to Reykjavik if you have other places you want to explore. Scroll to the end of this post for a customized Google Map that you can sync to your phone and have driving directions to every spot!
If you’re looking for the best company to rent a car from for your trip, I loved Geysir. They have awesome customer service and a drool-worthy Instagram account. We just got a basic 2WD car and it was perfect for this journey!
Gerðuberg Basalt Columns
We weren’t necessarily planning on stopping here but when we drove by and saw how cool it was, we had to pull over. It’s basically a huge rock wall made of natural columns. The sun was super bright and it made it hard to get good photos, but I was really glad we stopped since we didn’t get to see the basalt columns in Vik due to the weather.
This is the only stop on this list that requires a little bit of a hike, but it’s much shorter than you expect and the payoff is pretty worth it. Rauðfeldsgjá is a deep ravine in the side of a cliff that you can climb up into – think Oneonta Gorge in Oregon, but way skinnier and more technical. It was a chilly day and I had my camera, so I didn’t go much farther than the entrance, but Colby climbed up a bit. I love slot canyons like this, and seeing one so green and accented with lots of mini waterfalls was so dreamy.
There will be more people in here than the little area can really hold, so be patient if you try to set up a tripod or position yourself for photos. Come prepared if you want to explore in the slot, too, since you’ll most likely have to climb through more water the higher you go.
Just down the road from the gorge is the little town of Arnarstapi, which has one of the most scenic, incredible views I’ve ever seen in my entire life. This white and red house framed by the Snæfellsjökull volcano and set right on this green, gorgeous cliff takes my breath away every time I look at the photos. I could have stayed here forever – and we did stay for quite a while, taking pictures and wandering the streets of this peaceful little town.
Once you leave Arnarstapi, Hellnar is the next town that you’ll hit. You can walk down by the beach where you’ll find a natural arch with the waves rolling through it, along with a little waterfront cafe called Fjöruhúsið that’s famous for its fish soup and has the most beautiful views.
We stopped here for dinner and ate on the patio, listening to the waves. I got that famous fish soup and Colby had a delicious quiche.
This one was another that looked interesting as we drove by so we decided to make a quick stop. The rock formations along the beach were so cool – there’s actually a hike you can do down to the formations and to see more of them, but it takes around an hour so we didn’t do that one. This is also an amazing spot to get shots of the huge volcano looming in the background. Fun fact: it’s the one from the movie Journey to the Center of the Earth.
We arrived at Kirkjufell right as the sun was setting – perfect timing on our part – and a wispy fog was settling over the mountain. Kirkjufell was so different from how I imagined it to be. Of course, I expected there to be a lot of people, but I didn’t realize just how many. They’re not joking when they tell you it’s the most photographed mountain in Iceland. Colby had to park the car pretty far away, so he dropped me off to start taking photos (along with the 50 other photographers who were there) and a light rain began to fall.
That’s not to say it wasn’t rad though, because it was. It blows my mind that a place like this actually exists in real life. We stayed until it got too dark for any more pictures and then we splashed through the puddles on the way back to the car.
The spot we stayed on the peninsula was one of my favorites from the whole trip. It was tucked away at the end of a dirt road, and was one of three tiny, homey cabins with bunk beds. I was obsessed with it and wished we could have stayed there more than one night. You can find the Airbnb listing here if you want to stay there yourself!
The legend about this mountain says that if you climb it the right way you will receive three wishes. You have to climb in total silence, without looking back, and when you reach the prayer chapel at the top, you must look east and think of your wishes. As long as they are not wishes to hurt others and if you never tell anyone what you wish, they are supposed to come true! Colby and I of course did this, and then I took some pictures of the view from the top. Hiking in total silence in a place as beautiful as this is not as easy as you would think!
Súgandisey lookout point
This is the northern-most point of the peninsula and gives you a gorgeous view of the sea and the islands in the bay. It’s a short, paved walk to the top of the cliff and it even includes a tiny lighthouse! If you make it up here, definitely don’t leave without visiting this spot. The town is cute and colorful and also fun to explore. Another fun fact: this is the spot they film as Greenland in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
Landbrotalaug hot spring
You can’t go anywhere in Iceland without dipping into a hot spring, so we tracked this one down before we headed inland a bit. It was a little tricky to find, but most likely you’ll see some other cars in the distance and be able to find your way there.
Landbrotalaug has two or three separate springs, but we found that only one of them was the right temperature – aka not about to burn your skin off – and it’s the tiniest one with lots of people crammed into it. Luckily, the huge group of students left right after we arrived, and we only had to share with a little Icelandic family who we talked to about the tourism for a while. This place is so scenic, not super well known, and definitely worth a stop.
This was yet another place we saw from the road and decided to check out. You’ll see the steam rising from this spot long before you even know what it is, but it turns out that it’s the highest flow hot spring in all of Europe and the water emerges at 97ºC, so basically boiling. Combine that with Iceland’s cold air and you get so much steam. It gives the whole area a pretty eerie, cool vibe.
When we were driving along the west coast, we saw a sign with a map of different tourist locations in the area and when we saw Snorralaug, we knew we had to visit. This is a purely informational, curiosity-satisfying stop where you can learn a little bit about Iceland’s history and see some cool stuff associated with it.
Technically, just the pool is called Snorralaug, and it’s located in the historic village of Reykholt. This village was the home of Snorri Sturluson, one of Iceland’s most famous poets. He built a tunnel that connected his home to this little geothermic pool, which is one of the oldest handmade structures in the country – built in the 12th century! You can’t swim in the pool now but it’s pretty cool to see, as well as walking around the little town and reading up more on Snorri’s life and the beginnings of Iceland.
Right up the street from Reykholt is this series of waterfalls streaming out of a lava field and over this brilliant, contrasting black lava rock. There are boardwalks that go all around this phenomenon to give you many different views. I am a lover of turquoise blue water and with it set against this dark background, I couldn’t get enough. Connected with the same boardwalk is Barnafossar, which is another cool waterfall that flows in a squiggle through some cool rock formations. It started raining so I couldn’t get any cool photos of it, but if you’re there, make sure you check it out!
Map & Driving Instructions for Roadtripping the Snæfellsnes Peninsula
To use this map, click on any pin to see my information and photos on each location (the box in the top right corner will make it larger). View this page on your phone to import the map into your Google Maps app and make your roadtrip super easy!
Have you ever been to any of these places? What would you be most excited to see along this route?