Snæfellsnes Peninsula is one of the best things to see in Iceland and for good reason. The peninsula is full of gorgeous sights all easily located together. Plus, the road is easy to travel with it being full paved most ways.
This in-depth guide will give you tons of information on driving Snæfellsnes Peninsula. From route directions so you don't get lost, to Instagram tips and tricks that will get you tons of likes I have your back.
Did you know I have an a guide like this for the ENTIRE ring road? Inside the guide are budgeting tips, where to take the best Instagram photos, maps to hidden hot pots, and so much more. I wouldn't go to Iceland without it!
PLANNING TIPs FOR SNÆFELLSNES PENINSULA
I only suggest you do Snæfellsnes Peninsula if you are driving the ring road for more than 7 days. If you aren't you simply don't have enough time to make a complete circle around the Island.
Most guides I read beforehand suggested breaking up Snæfellsnes Peninsula into two days.
I did it in one day, but it was a 16 hour day. Keep that in mind.
Don't forget all of the locations are tagged on google maps in the headings.
Best things to see on SNÆFELLSNES PENINSULA
Where to camp before exploring SNÆFELLSNES PENINSULA
Eldborg campsite was one of the worst campsites I encountered the whole trip. I hate recommending it as your first stop but if you buy the Iceland camping card and are driving Snæfellsnes Peninsula on day two it is pretty much your only option. The site is pretty much a large field behind a slightly creepy hotel. The outside bathrooms were not working when I visited so we had to walk a long way to use the bathrooms inside the hotel. The hotel/campsite is 3 km off of route 54 on a road called Kolviðarnesvegur. There will be a huge sign.
Quick note: Like I talking about in this article, camping elsewhere is technically against the law. That being said, everyone does it. Old, young, rebel, rule follower. People camp everywhere. I'm not saying do it, I'm just giving you all the options.
FIRST THINGS FIRST....
A FEW THINGS BEFORE YOU HIT THE ROAD
In the beginning of the trip you will be traveling around road 54. This is the "ring road" of Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Road 54 has great signs all along it directing you to points of interest but I did rely on my phone a lot today since there is SO much to see on the Snæfellsnes peninsula.
After you reach the first waterfall you will be driving on Route 574. This is all completely paved, so don't worry about the drive too much. BUT, once you reach the end - at Kirkjufellsfoss - DO NOT CONTINUE on road 54!! This turns into a gravel road for WAY too long. It is quicker to backtrack, but I will explain it more in-depth below.
One last thing...like I stated above, if you have the time, breaking the peninsula up into two days.I did the highlights in one, very, long day, but missed a lot of great hiking because I was pressed for time. The whole day for me was around 16 hours. I woke up as early as possible (7:30 AM) and was on the road by 8 AM.
STOP 1: YTRI TUNGA BEACH FOR FREE SEAL WATCHING
About 20 minutes down the road from the Eldborg campsite is Ytri Tunga Beach. It is located only a kilometer or so off the main road.
There is a great sign at the parking lot describing the seals that inhabit the beach. I chose to make breakfast here as well. The parking lot to the beach is a 5 minute walk at most.
When I was there (June 2017 - 8 AM) there were a couple of seals frolicking in the water. None were on the shore. The stop was worth it to see some wildlife up close while I ate breakfast.
STOP 2: BJARNARFOSS
An impressive waterfall that can be seen from the road. I took some time to fly my drone. There is also a hiking trail that leads up to the waterfall. If I had been breaking the peninsula into two days I would have probably done the hiking trail.
STOP 3: BÚÐAKIRKJA
An impressive church a couple of kilometers off the main road. There is a sign that will point you in the right direction but you can miss it if you aren't paying attention.
The black church is all over Instagram, especially in the winter since the contrast of the black paneling and white snow is spectacular. It was pretty to view in the summer but I wasn't here for more than 15 minutes total.
There are two long hikes from this point. This is another great addition if you are spending two days on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula
STOP 4: ARNARSTAPI
This was the longest stop during the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. In total I spent about 3 hours here.
Your first stop is going to be to grab some gas. I touched on this in the, very long, camper van article, but any time you see a gas station you should refuel. Running out of gas in the middle of nowhere Iceland can ruin your vacation. Seriously, fill up any time you can.
Before heading out hiking I stopped at Arnarstapi Center and Snjófell Restaurant. The cafe is a nice place to grab some coffee and use the wifi - which is open and great quality! I know I'm a broken record, but beware, the cafe is expensive! I got a coffee and carrot cake before we did some hiking and that cost around $15. I know. Crazy.
The hiking begins: Bárðar Saga Snæfellsáss Statue
There is a parking lot right in front of the statue but if you are parked at the coffee shop it is fine to leave your car there.
Right near the cafe (and parking lot) is a strange troll statue. The sculpture depicts one of the trolls that are apart of an Icelandic saga. The Be Iceland app tells the whole story and is interesting to read when you are in front of it. This is one of the top apps I recommend to download before traveling to Iceland. More apps I recommend for Iceland here LINK.
To the left, to the left...
The tourist friendly trail to the left will take you to a popular arch Gatklettur. This natural formation shows the immense power of the ocean. It is gorgeous to see, and I think more beautiful than the other well known arch; Dyrhólaey in the south near Vik Beach.
The trail that leads to the arch is very well maintained and easy to navigate. It is no more than a kilometer from the starting statue. This arch, and trail, is the more populated side. I timed going to the arch as one tour bus was leaving and another was still at the statue. Then I had it all to myself! I spent between 30-45 minutes at the arch.
Right this way...
The walking trail to the right is much less touristy.
I am not sure how far the trail goes but I walked a good kilometer away from the statue starting point. I spent about an hour and a half total walking the it pretty slowly. It is hard to keep going when everything is so beautiful! I was stopping every couple of meters to take pictures.
What you can expect: Giant cliffs that tumble down to crystal clear blue water and a rocky shoreline. There are many areas to sit and enjoy the view. Quite a spectacular and easy hike. Plus, it is full of great picture/Instagram opportunities.
Also, at one point you will go through a gate - this is fine and not trespassing - or so a local told me.
STOP 5: HELLNAR BEACH
Although very similar to Arnarstapi, and only a 5-minute drive down the road, don't miss out on Hellnar beach.
The trails at Arnarstapi let you explore the cliffs above the shore, Hellnar beach is one of the only places to easily explore the peninsulas rocky beach.
Valasnos: A freestanding rock, extending east of the bay
Badstofa: a cave right near the rock
This is where I chose to have lunch for the day. I made food out of the back of my Go Camper van. In Hellnar, there is another cafe overlooking the beach. The menu is to the right. I couldn't afford it...but if you try it let me know how the food was!
STOP 6: SAXHÓLAR CRATER
An extremely quick stop for me, I only stayed a total of 15 minutes.
The crater has stairs built into the side making it easy to climb. Beware, it is about 375 stairs total for an elevation gain of around 120 meters.
Why do I say maybe skip this? The views from the top were just OK. Honestly, I was a bit unimpressed. If you are running low on time don't be afraid to skip it.
STOP 7: INGJALDSHÓLL CHURCH
This place I actually found because of Instagram! Here is my secret planning tip...Before I go on a trip I search big accounts for pictures of my destination. Think accounts like: Dametraveler, and Beautiful Destinations. If I see a great shot I then go straight to the original posters account and search their gallery for more pictures of my destination. Every trip I have found something using this technique! This is a great way of discovering some real impressive lesser known gems.
Anyway....back to the guide....Ingjaldsholl is a gorgeous church that sits on top of a hill. If you come in the right season there will be wildflowers everywhere! The sign to the church is pretty small so having the church starred in google maps ahead of time is a must! If you hit Rif (a decent size town) before you turn inland for the church you have gone too far!
This is one of the best churches in Iceland to photograph because the flowers and steep hill climb to Ingjaldsholl church compose a beautiful shot.
STOP 8: RIF - BIRDWATCHING SPOT FOR ARTIC TERN
A small village where a large colony of Arctic Tern can be spotted in the summer.
Definitely stop here if you are a bird lover, or a bird photographer.
There is a large sign for a viewing point once you reach the town.
STOP 9: KIRKJUFELLSFOSS
The most famous waterfall in Iceland and a top spot for nature photographers. The waterfall is actually on private property but is open to the public.
If you have only seen this place in pictures you may be pretty confused, like I was, as you arrive. The framing of the iconic shot is a forced perspective. I was expecting the mountain to be behind the waterfall and literally sat in the car for 10 minutes trying to figure out where I went wrong. Rest assured you are at the right waterfall. Walk the short paths around the waterfall and the iconic shot will appear.
INSTAGRAM TIPS FOR KIRKJUFELLSFOSS
This waterfall is actually my biggest regret of the trip. Since it was just the beginning I wasn't sure about camping in a non-designated camping area. Like I talking about in this article, camping elsewhere is technically against the law. That being said, everyone does it. Old, young, rebel, rule follower. People camp everywhere. I wish I would have camped near here to get some epic shots of Kirkjufellsfoss. If you are here at sunset (which if you followed the guide and did the peninsula in one day like I did you will be) you get some harsh shadows on the waterfall (see above photo). Sunrise would be perfect timing to photograph it. A fail on my end - who wants to go back to Iceland with me???
LEAVING SNÆFELLSNES PENINSULA
Getting off of Snæfellsnes Peninsula is a bit trickier. Because the road was so easy, aka paved, on the first half of the peninsula I assumed the rest of road 54 would be the same. I was wrong and thankfully only ended up backtracking a small amount after some kind travelers told me how long the gravel portion was.
The easiest way off the peninsula is by taking Road 56 across the peninsula and then backtracking to Borgarnes. This may look like an extremely long roundabout way but if you don't back track after Kirkjufellsfoss the road quickly turns to gravel the reminder of the way to road one (aka the main ring road). Depending on how fast you are going this will take anywhere between 2-4 hours. Refer to the picture below if my directions are confusing.
CAMPSITE after SNÆFELLSNES PENINSULA: HVAMMSTANGI
By far, this was the best campsite of the trip! Only a couple of kilometers off the ring road and in the small town of Hvammstangi. The campsite is located near the swimming pool up the hill from the main town. There are signs to follow as you drive in to the town. The campsite has GREAT wifi and best of all an indoor hot plate and eating area. Having a room to spread out in was a real luxury. Definitely stay at this campsite.
Enjoy the peninsula! It was one of the highlights of my trip! Check out my other guides for Iceland and make sure you get my in-depth ring road guide. It is even more detailed than this guide and full of tips on where to stay, how to get the best pictures and so much more.
One last thing... even though researching ahead of time is great, I definitely recommend bringing a travel guide for Iceland along with you. Here are some of the best travel guide books I recommend...
One of the most common questions I get: What is the best camera for travel photography? I personally love my Nikon D5600. I use the kit lens and a Sigma wide-angle lens (for Nikon) which I am genuinely obsessed with.
And of course, if you have any questions DO NOT hesitate to reach out to me via Instagram, Twitter, or just shoot me an email (tessajuliette at gmail dot com).