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10 Must See Places in West Iceland

 West Iceland has been a hot topic in the Iceland news lately. Lonely Planet just ranked it #2 in the world for top regions to visit in 2016, and with good reason! West Iceland is sometimes referred to as “little Iceland” because it combines the most diverse landscapes that Iceland has to offer: stunning glaciers, lava rock with the famous pillowy green moss, towering mountains, adorable fishing harbors, iconic lighthouses, volcanic craters, jagged cliffs, a black sand and a white sand beach…all on a tiny peninsula in the northern Atlantic! Let’s just say a trip to Snaefellsnes would not leave you disappointed.

I have been lucky enough to visit West Iceland twice – the first time was on our honeymoon trip last September, and the second time was with my sister last month. These were very different trips – the first trip was gray and raining, the second trip we had near perfect weather (for Iceland, that is). What a difference sunshine and a blue sky can make! It was like seeing everything for the first time, it looked completely different.  While you can’t predict the weather in Iceland, having good weather is ideal because there is SO much to look at. However, if you end up in Snaefellsness on a cloudy day, don’t fear, you will still see beautiful things! (obviously, we fell in love and moved here even though it was raining the whole time.)

So while West Iceland definitely lives up to the hype,  it’s hard to narrow down a list. However, these are my favorites, including the usual and a couple of hidden gems.

1. Gerðuberg Basalt Columns

This would be the first stop when driving to Snaefellsnes from Reykjavik. The Gerðuberg basalt columns are huge hexagonal rock structures that fun to climb around on and a unique sight to see! When traveling on Route 54, you will pass road 571. Drive about 7km/4mi and you will see a turn for Ytri-Tunga Farm (almost directly opposite Route 567 to Hótel Eldborg.) Turn onto the farm road and you will see the basalt columns on the left.

2. Stykkisholmur
Stykkisholmur is a tiny little town on the north coast of the peninsula. The town is adorable, the fishing harbor is adorable, even the lighthouse is adorable! Fun fact, a scene from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was filmed in the yellow building next to the harbor!

Don’t miss:

  • A walk up Súgandisey cliff for unbeatable views of the harbor and the North Atlantic (and the West Fjords if its a clear day!)
  • Dinner at Narfeyrarstofa for a delicious meal prepared with fresh and local food (closed after October)
  • Nesbrauð Bakari for coffee and a kleina, the famous Icelandic donut.
3. Hellnar – Arnarstapi walking trail

Both Hellnar and Arnarstapi are small little towns on the south coast of the peninsula. There is a walking trail that runs through a lava field between the glacier and jagged cliffs into the ocean. (No, I’m not kidding. I know, it sounds too good to be true. Yes, it is wonderful.)

I suggest parking in Arnastapi and walking towards Hellnar and fueling up at the Fjöruhúsið café (it’s so small and adorable that it doesn’t even have a website!) I recommend the chicken quiche, Bobby always gets the homemade waffle. You can’t go wrong.

4. Horseback Riding

There are many places in Snaefellness to do horseback riding, but both times I have gone with Lysuhóll and both times have been wonderful. You can choose the duration of the ride – one trip goes down for a ride along the beach, one trip goes walking through a lava field at the base of the mountains. Either way, the scenery is unbelievable!

READ MORE:   Diving in Iceland: Silfra Fissure

Note: It is advised to book in advance, especially during peak tourist season.

5. Skardsvik

Iceland is definitely known for it’s unique and stunning black sand beaches, thanks to years of volcanic activity. Skardsvik is a white sand beach at the tip of the peninsula. We caught the sunset here last month and it was amazingly beautiful.

6. Djupalonssandur

Djupalonssandur is a classic Iceland black sand beach.  On the walk to the beach are four lifting stones of various weights. These were used many years ago by fishermen to test their strength to qualify men to work on the fishing boats. Years ago the beach was a harbor for many fishing ships, but now only ruins of an old fishing vessel remain.

Bonus: Great views of my favorite glacier!

7. Berserkjahraun Lava Field

 

This place literally looks like the Land Before Time was filmed here! This huge lava field is one of the best in Iceland and with those red mountains in the background?! Don’t just drive by, pull off for a proper look!

8. Kirkjufell 

The infamous Mount Kirkjufell. Kirkjufell means “pyramid mountain” which is obviously fitting considering its perfectly pyramid-y shaped. On the south side of the mountain is Kirkjufellsfoss – two perfectly placed and amazingly picturesque waterfalls. Kirkjufell is the most photographed mountain in all of Iceland, and it’s easy to see why!
Funny story: our first trip through Snaefellsness we actually missed the waterfalls because it was so cloudy and raining that we just wanted to keep driving. So we just stopped at the side of the road to take a few photos of the mountain. That tells you how different it can be when its raining!

Don’t forget:
Drive through Seljafjordur and Kolgrafafjordur for some incredible views. There is a bridge that runs through the fjord with mountains surrounding you that is so beautiful it might make you cry with happiness.

9. Londrangar

Londrangar is another iconic landmark in West Iceland. These uniquely shaped structures sticking out of the sea are actually the remains of a volcanic crater, which has been eroded by the sea. Even though you can see this from the road, its worth the time to walk down by the sea to get a better look!

Tip: You can also drive down to Malarrif and take a short hike from there to the rock formations and back. Takes about an hour.

10. Budir

Another iconic part of West Iceland is the black church in Budir. When we were here last month I got to see a wedding set up in the Hotel and it looked so pretty. Wedding photos would be incredible here!

Tip: this area also offers beautiful opportunities for photos of Snæfellsjökull.

Bonus: Snaefellsjokull Glacier Tour
If you have extra time and are super adventurous, you can book a tour to go up to the glacier. It’s definitely on my bucket list!

Question: What is your favorite in West Iceland?

Happy planning,

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  • Aubrey
    November 3, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    Everything looks so amazing!!
    Still – every time I read and icelandic name or word you write it sounds like shlushmerger or buhjord in my head… hehe
    Keep posting!!

    • Dad
      November 4, 2015 at 3:09 am

      Love the pictures. Everything looks amazing.
      Dad

      • Jeannie
        November 5, 2015 at 12:06 pm

        I think you and mom would really love the West Iceland trip!

    • Jeannie
      November 5, 2015 at 12:05 pm

      I still have to brush over some as well. Or if I do try to pronounce them it takes like five minutes 😉

  • Kelley
    November 12, 2015 at 3:46 am

    “This place literally looks like land before time was filmed here.” Omg I just about died! You are the best, that picture is the best, and I can’t wait to go to these places! Is there anything ugly in Iceland?

  • Jeannie
    November 12, 2015 at 12:21 pm

    Haha, for real! It was out of control. I haven´t come across anything that is ugly in Iceland, but I will let you know if I do 😉

  • Catherine Whelan
    March 4, 2016 at 11:30 pm

    Good morning Jeanie
    I am travelling up to Iceland for a week via London with three friends.
    I have enjoyed reading about your travels in Iceland, and good on you, moving your home base to Rekjyavik.
    My home base is NSW Australia, and I came here on a working holiday from Amsterdam.
    I was born & raised in Leeds, Yorkshire.
    Thank you again for your writing and information.
    I am looking forward to our seven days up there, and have a feeling it’s a ‘reccy’ for next time already!
    Good sharing:)
    Best
    Catherine

    • Jeannie
      March 5, 2016 at 9:16 am

      Thank you for your kind words, Catherine! I hope you enjoy your trip to Iceland, it is so beautiful you will love it! Where are you planning to go during the week?

  • Keegan White
    April 5, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    Hello Jeannie,
    I’m planning an 8 day July honeymoon (a surprise!) for my fiancee and I think I’m going to do 1 night at the Blue Lagoon (a respit after the wedding and plenty of time to sleep off the jet-lag), 3 nights in Reykjavik (with some day trips to SW sights), and 3 nights in West Island on the Snaefells peninsula. What do you think? Also, can you recommend a home base in Snaefells? I was thinking having one home base for all 3 nights because that’s more relaxing, but we are not usually ones who like to “commute,” either. Things seem pretty far apart and remote outside the fishing towns. Will we tire of driving to/from sights? This may be a stupid question, as I’m sure every road has spectacular scenery around each corner! If you have any suggestions for how to arrange our 7 nights, I’d greatly appreciate it! I was thinking AirBnBs, maybe Stori Kambur on the Breidavik for the 3 nights in Snaefells. But it’s pretty remote, so I was wondering if Stykkishólmur would be better. That just seems too far from all these must-see sights you have me drooling over! Decisions, decisions…

    Things are booking up quickly for July so I guess I better decide!

    Thanks,
    Keegan

    • Jeannie
      April 24, 2017 at 7:41 am

      Hey Keegan, sounds like an awesome honeymoon you have so far! I just released my planning services so I would be happy to take a look at your itinerary for review, or offer custom suggestions if you prefer to take that route. There’s a LOT to consider when planning all of the moving parts in Iceland, I know it can get overwhelming! Let me know if you’re interested!