Iceland – Day 11 & 12 – From Snæfellsjökull National Park to Reykjavík – The Best Sites

Here is a link for our full 12-day itinerary from Reykjavík.

We are on the eleventh day of our journey and today we are going to explore the peninsula of Snæfellsjökull.

If you are curious to know the beginning of our journey, here are the links:

  • Day 1 and 2, the Golden Circle, click here 😊
  • Day 3 and 4, from Hella to Höfn, South Iceland, click here 😊
  • Day 5, De Höfn à Egilsstaði, click here 😊
  • Day 6 and 7, from Egilsstaðir to Húsavík click here 😊
  • Day 8 and 9, from Húsavík to Ísafjörður click here 😊
  • Day 10, from Ísafjörður to Stykkishólmur click here 😊

Best things to do in Snæfellsjökull National Park

Several small fishing villages surround Snæfellsjökull National Park. Tourism, which has developed since the park’s creation in 2001, and fishing are its primary sources of income.
The peninsula is sometimes called “Iceland in miniature” because walking through it feels like crossing this land of fire and ice. All the different landscapes of the island are represented here.
The main attraction is the Snæfellsjokull glacier, which the locals say has mysterious powers and whose power attracts people.

Day 11: Snæfellsjökull National Park – 209 km

The stops we planned for the day

  • Snæfellnessjokull glacier
  • Rauðfeldsgjá gorge
  • The village of Arnarstapi
  • The coast of Lóndrangar
  • Vatnshellir cave
  • Skarðsvik beach
  • Kirkjufell mountain

For centuries, the superstitious people of Snæfellsjökull have seen their peninsula as a place filled with energy and mystery.
Legends also attributed to it trolls petrified by sunlight or houses of hidden people, those little invisible beings who live a parallel life to ours.

There is indeed a belief, Huldufólk, that fairies, elves, and other mystical creatures live alongside us. If you are curious to learn more about this subject, click here.

This piece of land also has its saga, that of Bárðar Snæfellsáss, written at the end of the 14th Century. It tells the story of Bárður, half-human, half-troll, who became “the guardian spirit of Snæfellsjökull.”

The saga in a nutshell

Bárður‘s mother was human, but his father was half-giant, half-troll. He was raised by Dofri, the mountain troll of Dovrefjell, whose daughter, Flaumgerðr, he later married. She was as well half-human and half-troll.

Together they had three daughters: Helga, Þordís, and Guðrún.
He had six other daughters with his second wife, a human, Herþrúðr.

The entire family immigrated to Iceland and landed south of Snæfellsnes; they named it Djúpalón. It is where he built his farm, Laugarbrekka.

His half-brother Þorkell lived nearby, in Arnarstapi, and had two sons, Rauðfeldr and Sölvi.

The children loved to play together. But one day, as an iceberg passed along the shore, Rauðfeldr pushed his cousin Helga onto it. She drifted safely to Greenland and found a lover.

In revenge, thinking his daughter was dead, Bárður killed his two nephews. He threw Rauðfeldr into the ravine of Rauðfeldsgjá and Sölvi off Sölvahamar, a high cliff on the coast east of Arnarstapi.  Then he fought his brother, who broke his leg in the fight and left the area.

Bárður then ceded his lands and disappeared into the Snæfellsjökull ice cap. He became known as Bárður Snæfellsáss, the guardian spirit of Snæfell. Everyone worshiped him on the peninsula and invoked him in difficult times.
Since then, he wanders around, wearing a cape with a gray hood, a belt made of walrus skin, and a split stick with a long, thick gaff that he uses to walk on glaciers.

Surprising fact about Snæfellsjökull

Here is an anecdote that proves how these superstitions have remained rooted in Icelandic culture.
On November 5, 1993, thousands of people came to Snæfellsjökull because paranormal enthusiasts had announced an alien landing.
No invasion took place, but this illustrates the power that Snæfellsjökull has over many people.

We arrived at the same time as this incredible sunrise and then had the impression of being transported to different universes.

The road, daylight, and weather changed so quickly! We tasted our first snow at the beginning of the day, and then the sun soon returned to be finally covered by large dark clouds.

😍 Snæfellnessjökull glacier

Snæfellnessjökull is a stratovolcano capped by a 700,000-year-old glacier.

We didn’t get a chance to see its summit

This mountain is one of the most famous sights in Iceland, mainly due to Jules Verne’s novel, Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864). The entrance to the passage that leads to the center of the Earth is here indeed.

It wasn’t easy to see the road that we must take

We weren’t surprised when we started our ascent to the volcano to find ourselves propelled back into the night on a snowy road. The snowdrifts forming rapidly in the middle of the passage discouraged us from going any further and so we parked quickly.

Our goal was to walk on the slopes of the mountain, to brag about having touched the ice of the famous Snæfellnessjökull!

So we left on foot for this little excursion, knowing that we were parked quite close to its base. It was a bit difficult to go straight, the gusts making us deviate from the already very slippery path. But we made it!

It was magical, and the view from here was truly spectacular.

We felt even further from the real world and more lost than ever.

Mount Stapafell is a pyramid-shaped tuff mountain that overlooks Stapi

After a quick look around, we u-turned and headed back the same way. Descending towards the coast, we saw a sign indicating a cave.

Sönghellir cave

Sönghellir, the Song Cave, is a cave known for its echo quality. The acoustics inside is magical, and visitors can admire the sound of their voices.

I knew it before coming, and now I have no more doubts: I don’t like my voice!

The entrance of the cave

According to legend, Sönghellir was home to the family of the legendary Bárður Snæfellsás.

The vault

We left happy to greet the sun again and rejoin a safer road.

😍 Rauðfeldsgjá gorge

Rauðfeldsgjá means the “Red Cloak Rift.”

Here we are at the foot of the immense gorge into which Bárður threw Rauðfeldr.

The entrance is cramped, but one can walk a few tens of meters inside. Then the ascent becomes a little more complicated.

But already from there, we realize the narrowness and the depth of the canyon. Daylight sometimes manages to illuminate the bottom of the ravine, but the atmosphere there is cold and gloomy.

One realizes the size of the fault when one manages to spot my husband at his feet
The start of exploration

The atmosphere is all the more sinister when we know its terrible story and that one can, at any time, come across Bárður, who is prowling around to watch over his nephew’s grave.

But otherwise, it was super cool!

😍 The village of Arnarstapi or Stapi

Stapi is a small fishing village, which, in Jules Verne’s book, turns out to be the heroes’ last stop before they climb the Snæfellnessjökull glacier and discover the entrance to the tunnel that will take them to the center of the Earth.
But most remarkable here are the creeks and cliffs formed by the multiple eruptions of Snæfellnessjökull.

The beautiful arch of Gatklettur
The extraordinary basalt column formations and a petrified troll

Bárður Snæfellsás — the mythical protector of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. This stone statue is the work of sculptor Ragnar Kjartansson.

We continued around the peninsula, following the coastal road.

😍 The coast of Lóndrangar

A different coast, less jagged than the one we just left. But still, these basalt columns.

The basalt cliffs of Lóndrangar are among the park’s many geological wonders.
Here the land along the ridge has remained wild, and there is an explanation for this. As we noted throughout our trip, Icelandic culture is steeped in folklore.
Elves lived here and thus, wanting to not bother them, the region’s farmers never cultivated the fields around the cliffs.

We left the coast to go inland to the Vatnshellir cave and began our descent towards the center of the Earth.
According to Jules Verne, the entrance to the tunnel that leads to it is right here. There was even a sign directing us to the path!

 😍 Vatnshellir cave

We took a guided tour of about 45 min to discover the cave. It is one of the most accessible in Iceland and, therefore, the most visited. We readied ourselves with a lamp, a helmet and courage for me.
That said, there was only the two of us, and we could fully enjoy the “underground” atmosphere.

The entrance of the cave

The cave is not lit, and we progressed with torches. As we were a tiny group, we could feel the darkness of the depths. We turned off our lamps to find ourselves in complete darkness. It’s strange to try to discern a gleam, a shadow, a movement, and to see nothing at all. It’s a little scary, but it was a unique experience.

The spiral staircase to the cave
The designs formed by the lava are original, and the textures are pretty surprising.
We realize the night surrounding the lamp’s beam as we projected light on the walls to take these photos.

The cave is an 8,000-year-old lava tube created by a volcanic explosion from a nearby crater. As the lava flow rolled down the hill, its surface began to cool, forming a crust.

The cave is an 8,000-year-old lava tube created by a volcanic explosion from a nearby crater. As the lava flow rolled down the hill, its surface began to cool, forming a crust.
When the eruption stopped, the remaining magma continued to flow under the cooling crust, forming a hollow pipe. Hundreds of similar caves exist around, which makes the area very special.
We ascended back into the daylight, realizing the stark contrast between the sounds of nature and the soft echoes of the water droplets falling in the cave.

Our next destination was a must-see beach, very different from others in the area. I was pretty curious to find out why.

😍 Skarðsvík Beach

Before coming, I read that this beach differed from the others because of the turquoise color of these waters which contrasted with the dark rocks of the coastline. And that it was a fantastic show.

I imagine that one can admire it on sunny days. For us, it was instead a gray ocean, in the same tones as the basalt columns, these black formations of hardened lava.

Their positioning perpendicular to the casting and their significant size result from the fact that they cooled very slowly and continued to move during the process.

At the beach’s northern end, one can find a small cave, easily reachable.

During the summer of 1962, a burial mound was discovered in its vicinity, a twenty-ish man’s remains were exhumed. Also in the grave were a sword, a spearhead, a broken knife, an elaborate shield, and pieces of steel. The skeleton and artifacts, dated to the 10th Century, are now housed in the National Museum of Iceland.

A small car park with a few information boards and a picnic area is at the beach’s edge. It is where we stopped to eat.
We were well-covered, and only our faces were visible. The air that whipped our cheeks was pure and refreshing and gave us the feeling that modern society and pollution are as far away as can be from this wild haven.
The calm, the beauty of the landscape, the sound of the waves, and that refreshing air that chills you to the bones are great ways to feel alive.

And our trip continued to the most photographed mountain in the country. 

😍 Kirkjufell Mountain

Kirkjufell, the mountain of the church, is a small pointed hill that culminates at 463 m and has its feet in the ocean. It is located near the town of Grundarfjörður.
It is an ancient “nunatak,” an Inuit word for visible rocky peaks surrounded by pack ice or a glacier.

Why is it the most-photographed mountain in the country?

Because Kirkjufell is one of the filming locations for Seasons 6 and 7 of “Game of Thrones.” For experts, this is the “arrowhead mountain” that the dog and company north of the wall see when capturing a white walker. I hope the fans will understand because I don’t know what I just wrote!
Organized tours take tourists to the Icelandic sets of this series. I think there are a few. To be noted!

Now, it’s time to return to our base in Stykkishólmur and enjoy our last moments in these wild plains.

Tomorrow, we leave for Reykjavik and the frenzy of the city. But as we noticed when we arrived, even though it is the capital and the largest city of Iceland, it has remained close to an average town. 

Day 12: From Stykkishólmur to Reykjavík – 172 km

The stop we planned for the day

  • Reykjavík
    • Distance from Stykkishólmur 172 km – 2h20
    • Visiting time 1 day

It’s almost the end of our journey. We saved the Reykjavik tour for our last day. We left early in the morning to arrive around 9 a.m. at our destination and make the most out of our stay in the capital.

I dedicated a whole article to it because there are many things to see in Reykjavik. For a peek, it’s here.

Final word

We were, of course, a little sad that our vacation was over, which is often the case for many people. But that feeling quickly disappeared when we scrolled through the pictures of those 12 days we spent touring Iceland. We discovered so many beautiful things.

We are so happy to have embarked on this adventure. We know that we got the most out of our stay, despite the restrictions of COVID-19.

As much as I would like to come back to Iceland, I doubt we will be able to. But if so, it would be in the summer to admire the different flora and fauna during the warm season — especially the puffins and other seabirds that come to nest in the cliffs. I think it’s an impossible sight to accurately imagine without having seen it.

This trip will remain a wonderful memory. This island is so unique and full of surprises. All the people we met who found their paradise here told us that the calm and wild nature attracted them most. However, I do not believe that I will choose to live here.

For me, it’s just a little too quiet. I love when things move!

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