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Off the Beaten Path: A Quick Road Trip to Snæfellsnes, Iceland

03.21.18

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Off the Beaten Path: A Quick Road Trip to Snæfellsnes, Iceland

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  • Enjoying the view. A tractor providing a unique contrast with the landscape.- Off the Beaten Path: A Quick Road Trip to Snæfellsnes, Iceland
  • Sunset at Londrangar, Wast Snaefellsnes.- Off the Beaten Path: A Quick Road Trip to Snæfellsnes, Iceland
  • Gerdurberg basalt columns in southeast Sneafeesnes.- Off the Beaten Path: A Quick Road Trip to Snæfellsnes, Iceland
  • Gerdurberg basalt columns in southeast Sneafeesnes.- Off the Beaten Path: A Quick Road Trip to Snæfellsnes, Iceland
  • Heading west toward Budir on Road 54.- Off the Beaten Path: A Quick Road Trip to Snæfellsnes, Iceland
  • Navigating the snowy roads of southern Snaefellsnes.- Off the Beaten Path: A Quick Road Trip to Snæfellsnes, Iceland
  • Heading back east after a snowy night.- Off the Beaten Path: A Quick Road Trip to Snæfellsnes, Iceland
  • Snaefellsnes mountains covered in mist.- Off the Beaten Path: A Quick Road Trip to Snæfellsnes, Iceland
  • Turning off Road 54 toward Budir.- Off the Beaten Path: A Quick Road Trip to Snæfellsnes, Iceland
  • One of the many unique rock formations in the Arnarstapi area.- Off the Beaten Path: A Quick Road Trip to Snæfellsnes, Iceland
  • Mountains in the southeastern part of Snaefellsnes.- Off the Beaten Path: A Quick Road Trip to Snæfellsnes, Iceland
  • The beautiful Snaefellsnes coastline by Arnarstapi.- Off the Beaten Path: A Quick Road Trip to Snæfellsnes, Iceland
  • Pit stop by Londrangar.- Off the Beaten Path: A Quick Road Trip to Snæfellsnes, Iceland
  • My Happy Camper posing in front of the magnificent mountains in southern Snaefellsnes.- Off the Beaten Path: A Quick Road Trip to Snæfellsnes, Iceland
  • Half man, half troll - Bardur Snaefellsnas was the protector of the Sneafellsnes Peninsula.- Off the Beaten Path: A Quick Road Trip to Snæfellsnes, Iceland
  • Bardur Snaefellsas, the protector of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.- Off the Beaten Path: A Quick Road Trip to Snæfellsnes, Iceland
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“What is your favorite part of Iceland?”

As someone who works for a campervan rental in Iceland, I hear this question every day, and to be completely honest, I hate it. That’s because it’s almost impossible to choose one favorite spot in Iceland, since each part of the country has its own charm. On top of that, the experience also depends on lots of different things like the weather, the time of year, or even your mood and expectations. But I recently forced myself to think about this question a little harder, and I’m happy to say that I can now answer this question more convincingly and enthusiastically than ever before. My favorite is the West.

The west might not match up with the south when it comes to the number of waterfalls and major attractions. But don’t let that fool you. There is something special about the west that’s quite difficult to explain in words. This is especially true when it comes to Snæfellsnes Peninsula and the Westfjords. Maybe it’s the diverse and majestic landscape or simply the fact that there are not as many people there, neither tourists or locals. The only real way to understand what I am talking about is to go there yourself, but hopefully this post will give you a tiny taste.

One of the greatest perks of working at a campervan rental (Happy Campers) is that I get to take a camper out every once in a while. Sometimes I’ll only have a day or two to spare, so I have the option of going west or south. Being the introvert that I am, my choice is quite simple: I go where it is quieter and where there are fewer people.

Snæfellsnes during winter

I love to travel in Iceland in winter. It’s a bit more complicated than exploring the country in the summer, but it also has its advantages. The country is so beautiful and dramatic when covered in snow, and if I’m lucky, I can catch a private show of the Aurora Borealis. Most importantly, for my personal preference, I can avoid the crowds of tourists that are common in Iceland during the summer. You can check out this post for more information about winter traveling in Iceland.

But exploring Snæfellsnes, and Iceland in general, during winter has its flaws. The service and facilities available during the low season are limited. There are no all-year campsites in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, so you need to drive back to Búðardalur or Snorrastaðir to camp for the night unless you get permission from a landowner to sleep at his property, which I did. This can be annoying, but it’s also one of the reasons why I like it so much. It often keeps people away, so I have the place almost all to myself. It’s amazing how many unforgettable moments you can create if you’re just willing to go through a little bit of discomfort and put in some extra effort.

For this trip I decided to spend my limited time in the south part of the peninsula, since I’ve explored the northern side many times before. The north might be a bit more popular because of popular attractions like Kirkjufell mountain and the lovely town of Stykkishólmur. But the south has quite a few gems as well. I packed my camper, made some sandwiches, and off I went.

Gerðuberg Cliffs

I started my trip checking out the awesome Gerðuberg cliffs. These basalt columns were formed from flowing lava and then cooled by the sea, forming these cool-looking columns. They are located on the right side of road 54 and are pretty easily accessible. I really love how “Icelandic” they look, and how they contrast with the white snow. I had a lot of fun photographing them.

Bjarnarfoss and Búðir

Next stop along the road was at Bjarnarfoss. Bjarnarfoss is a pretty impressive and tall waterfall. However, I’ll admit that it’s a bit more recognizable in the summer (it was simply frozen when I got there). After a quick stop, I continued on to Búðir. Búðir is a very small and old hamlet, and today there is not much there except for the unique-looking Búðakirkja (Búðir church) and Hotel Búðir. The church is very pretty and is a great photography subject with its beautiful, classic design and surroundings. If you take a walk on one of the paths in Búðir you will find yourself among vast lava fields and a pretty coastline. There is something magical about this small and peaceful place.

Lóndrangar

Now I realized the sun was about to set and the light was starting to turn golden, which is another beautiful aspect of traveling during winter in Iceland. I drove for about 25 minutes and stopped at Lóndrangar Cliffs. Lóndrangar are located next to Snæfellsjökull glacier and are remnants of a bigger crater that has slowly eroded away. You’ll find the Malarrif lighthouse in the background, which makes it even more scenic.

When I got there the sun was setting and only a few people were there, mostly photographers with the same intentions as me. The cliffs looked pretty awesome, and after snapping a few pictures I felt the need to put down the camera and just take in the beauty I was witnessing. Once the sun had set, I made my way to the car and drove back to Arnarstapi.

Arnarstapi and Hellnar

About 20 minutes away from Búðir is the small village of Arnarstapi. Arnarstapi used to be a much more vibrant and populated community. It was known as a fishing village that served as an important trading center in Snæfellsnes. Today the village is much smaller, and most people visiting are there to view the beautiful basalt cliff formations and the natural harbor. The pyramid-shaped volcano called Stapafell towers over the village as well as the large statue of Bárður Snæfellsás, which gives this place quite the magical feeling.

I spent a good hour here walking around, taking photographs, and reading the stories of Bárður Snæfellsás, the protector of Snæfellsnes.

Next to Arnarstapi is the small village of Hellnar. It is quite similar to Arnarstapi in many ways, but it is a bit smaller. It also used to be a larger fishing village, but today it mainly serves tourists. Its main attraction is the beautiful coastline, with its awesome rock formations and caves. The always-popular café Fjöruhúsið is located there as well. I got my permission to stay the night at Arnarstapi and enjoyed my evening eating hot dogs, listening to music, and browsing through my pictures from the day.

The following morning I woke up and saw that everything was covered in fresh snow. What a nice surprise! I needed to be back to Reykjavik that afternoon, but I had the morning to explore a bit more. I continued driving the south coast of Snæfellsnes, stopping here and there for some short hikes or photography and to enjoy my beautiful surroundings.

If there is anything I want you to take away from this post, it’s that you shouldn’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and explore some of Iceland’s less popular attractions. The amazing landscapes of Snæfellsnes offer unique experiences and memories. It is only 90 minutes outside Reykjavik, and there are countless other places to explore around Iceland. No matter how little time you have, and no matter the season, find your own adventure!

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