A journey around Iceland: 5)Snaefellsnes Peninsula

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Flag of Iceland  , West,
Friday, September 17, 2010

The last full day of our Icelandic trip was spent off the Ring Road in West Iceland on the charming Snaefellsnes Peninsula.  Anyone who is a fan of SciFi will remember this as the place Jules Verne's Professor begins his Journey to the Center of the Earth (which was reached from the volcano via a series of lava tubes).  The lovely conical Snaefellsjokull volcano, located on the western end of this peninsula, was the center point of Verne's story. 

A visit to the Snaefellsnes peninsula has been described as a way to see Iceland in miniature. This finger-like appendage to the island is only 43 miles long and only a few hours drive from Reykjavik.  Yet within a day's journey here you have a chance to see features typical of the Icelandic countryside; fjords, black sand beaches, a stunning coastline, thermal hot springs, volcanic mountains, rugged lava plains, lava tubes and a glacier on the iconic Snaefellsjokull volcano (4800').  This mountain is quite captivating as it has a wonderful shape; spiritualists consider it to be a center of special powers (something I don't buy but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy the mountain).  The area on the western end of the peninsula, encompassing Snæfellsjökull, is part of Snaefellsjokull National Park.

Our drive around the peninsula began in the northeast as we turned west off the Ring Road.  The day was crystal clear, the weather mild and the winds minimal -- in other words, a near perfect Icelandic fall day!  We enjoyed our drive around the peninsula (in a counterclockwise fashion), stopped often to take in the views, enjoyed some fresh pastries and a few short hikes. The northern shore has several beautiful fjords and small fishing villages -- extremely picturesque and quite remote feeling, their harbors sheltered by basalt cliffs and mountains .  The best hikes are on the western side of the peninsula.  The southern part is relatively flat and only sparsely populated.The famous Hotel Budir is located on the south shore.   If you are looking for an isolated place to linger, consider spending some time here.  

By far the highlight of the day was the the ever changing view of Snaefellsjokull.  While it is not a particularly large volcano, Snaefellsjokull is one of the prettiest you'll see anywhere crowned by a glacier whose appearance is different with every bend in the road.

There are lots of opportunities for outdoor activities on the Peninsula.  These include plentiful hiking trails and beach walks, especially in the National Park, mountain climbing and glacier touring, camping, bird watching, whale watching tours, horseback riding on a beach, and fishing.

At the end of the day we returned to Reykjavik where we enjoyed a pleasant evening and prepared for our departure the following day.  As the sun was setting I was pleased to look out of our hotel window.  The sky was clear and there, some 80 miles away, sat the perfect conical silhouette of the Snaefellsjokull (see the last photo in this slideshow).  It seemed like a perfect ending to a great day and to one of my most memorable road trips. 

If you would like to see high resolution views of the following photos, please click on this link: http://drfumblefinger.com/wrdprs/?p=294 .  For full screen magnifications click on the right sided icon of the slideshow's toolbar.
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Lisa on

I am planning a trip in mid-May to Iceland and was hoping for some advice. My husband and I are renting a "happy camper" which is essentially a van with a sleeping area and cooking facilities, this way we do not have to worry about a strict schedule and accommodations. We will be there for a total of 9 days (2 days of traveling to and from and 7 days of driving the Ring Road). I was just wondering how rushed your trip was, if at all. We were planning on almost the same exact route as yours except spending a little bit more time in the North and skipping the Peninsula. We would start off at the airport, Blue Lagoon, Golden Circle, Vik, Jokulsaron/Nat'l Park area, Lake Myvatn, Husavik, Akeuryi and back to the airport hitting the major natural attractions along the way. We want to do a few hikes at different stops and maybe a half day or so of white water rafting, whale watching or a glacier hike. Do you think this will be enough time or will we need to narrow down our list of must-sees? Also, approximately how many hours did you drive each day? Any advice would be greatly appreciated, it is difficult to find anything except on tour websites.

drfumblefinger on

Hi Lisa, Thanks for your comments. A few general thoughts about your trip in May. One of the good things about your travel at that time is that there will be lots of sun light. Days will be very long so this will give you more time to enjoy being outside and the camp environment. Also, have a clear idea about where campgrounds are located and where you will be camping. Iceland is sparsely populated so there are limited supplies available in many areas, especially in the far east and northern parts of the country. So make sure your gas tank is filled when you leave large towns and that you have adequate food supplies to last you until you come to your next town. Also make sure you have warm clothes. It won't be cold in May but it also won't be very warm.

Your itinerary sounds very doable to me. We spent around 6 hours a day driving, and did a number of hikes and a few beach walks. We visited glaciers but I live in the Pacific Northwest so exploring glaciers is something I can do in BC or Alberta. Still, Iceland has spectacular icefields that are worth seeing. We had hoped to do a whale watching trip in Husavik but the morning we planned on doing it the weather was miserable and cold and we would not have enjoyed it (it was at the end of the season). Make sure you plan enough time to set up your camp and cook meals, and then still have time to relax.

Make sure you have a good guide book. It's worth the investment for the useful information it will provide. I used the Frommers Iceland guide which I thought was excellent. Lonely Planet also has a good guidebook

Let me know if you have specific questions. Contact me by email which you can do by a link on this page if you do.

I loved my visit to Iceland and think you will, too. It's a very beautiful and rugged country.

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