Day 6: Snaefellnes Peninsula
We had the biggest drive ahead of us this day, 5.5 hours to the Snaefellnes Peninsula. Some of the biggest draws to the peninsula are the black sand beaches, diverse bird and sea life, and the Budir Black Church. If you are here in winter, be prepared with food and water ahead of time, the peninsula suffers from a lack of available services. You might have to settle for gas station food!
PRO TIP: Due to time constraints, we decided to skip the West Fjords portion of the Ring Road. If we had another 1 or 2 days, we would totally make the trip up there!
Stop 1: Godafoss Waterfall
Our first stop on the way to the peninsula was Godafoss Waterfall, or “Waterfall of the Gods”. It’s a 45 minute drive from Myvatn and easily accessible from the road.
Stop 2: Akureyri
Akureyri is an urban city 45 minutes from Godafoss. There isn’t a lot there beyond its own natural beauty, but it’s worth a quick stop. The city vibe definitely provided us with some relief from the barren landscapes we had been experiencing for a few days now. You can walk along the waterfront and view some special landmarks and sculptures, such as the Sigling (Sailing) Plaque, sister to the better known Solfar (Sun Voyager) Monument in Reykjavik.
PRO TIP: If we had time, I would have liked to have experienced the Beer Spa!
Stop 3: Hvammstangi
Hvammstangi is a 2.5 hour drive from from Akureyri. The fishing town is known for its seal population! I wanted to see a seal so badly on this trip, I think I kept “believing” I saw them in the water. I’m not sure if I actually saw one, but we did visit the seal center where we learned more about this town and seals!
PRO TIP: Snaefellsnes Peninsula would be a 4.5 hour drive straight from Akureyri. Stopping in Hvammstangi is a great way to break up the trip!
Stop 4: Stykkisholmur
The next stop is in Stykkisholmur, a 2.5 hour drive from Hvammstangi. It is the biggest town on the peninsula with a lighthouse, fishing harbor, and the Sugandisey lookout point.
The Sugandisey lookout point has an easy walking path up to the top and it offers a great view over Stykkisholmur and Breidafjordur bay. Don’t miss this walk with unbeatable views of the harbor, North Atlantic, and if it’s a clear day, the West Fjords, which we were lucky enough to experience!
Driving on the peninsula was quite different than the rest of the island. We encountered the bumpiest dirt roads; it felt like we were off-roading the whole time. Again, we were thankful for our 4×4! By the time we got to the peninsula, the snow on our car was quickly replaced by dirt!
At this point, we were ready for some local food! We stopped at the well-known bakery, Nesbraud Bakari for coffee and a kleina, the famous Icelandic donut.
You will cross several black sand beaches on the peninsula. The sand is so soft, like powdered sugar!
Stop 5: Hellissandur
We finally made it to the town of Hellissandur, where we would be staying for two nights in a 2 bedroom apartment: Freezer Apartment (now called Bookstore Family Apartments). The funniest thing about this place was the note in the entrance that read: “This is small town Iceland. We usually leave our doors open and it is perfectly safe for you to do the same. The crime rate here is 0%”. We had no key for the apartment or anyway to lock/unlock the entrance. This truly sums up the friendly, welcoming feeling you get when traveling through Iceland!
Day 7: Snaefellnes Peninsula
Stop 1: Arnarstapi – Hellnar Hike
Hellnar and Arnarstapi are both small fishing villages on the south coast of the peninsula. There is a 2.6 mile hiking trail, lightly trafficked, that runs through a lava field between the glacier and jagged cliffs into the ocean. It’s accessible year-round and has some gorgeous photo opportunities!
Don’t miss the Bardur Snaefellsas statue in Arnarstapi! Actually, it’s really hard to miss because it’s an enormous troll-like stone statue. It’s the mythical protector of the Snaefellnes Peninsula!
Stop 2: Budir Black Church
Once we finished our hike, we drove about 20 minutes to see the Budir black church in the town of Budir. This iconic church lies on the southern edge of the peninsula. It is one of 3 black churches in Iceland!
Pro Tip: this area also offers beautiful opportunities for photos of Snaefellsjokull National Park.
We then made our way back to our apartment to cook our final dinner together, and to plan our route back to Reykjavik.
Day 8: Drive Back to Reykjavik
We had an early wake up call with a 4 hour drive ahead of us back to Reykjavik. We had 6:15pm flights to catch back to the USA and wanted to leave some time in case we wanted to make any stops along the way…
We had one unplanned stop just about an hour from the city, The Iceland police pulled us over for speeding – oops! This was a very bizarre experience, they approached our car, asked me to get out of the vehicle and to sit in their car. I told them that I didn’t feel comfortable doing so as it is not customary in the USA (I think because of the winter weather and high winds, this is their typical procedure). Nevertheless, I got out of the car and received about a $375 speeding ticket for going maybe 20 mph over the speed limit (I did not receive points on my license because that is an American policy).
PRO TIP: The police take speeding very seriously! The general speed limit is 30-50 km/hour in populated areas, 80 km/hour on gravel roads in rural areas and 90 km/hour on paved roads. Car headlights must be turned on at all times of day or night.
Once we arrived back in town, we had our last meal at the Kaffivagninn – Iceland’s oldest restaurant! The food was so good and the vibe was very much like an American diner on the water.
We followed our meal with some delicious ice cream. Did I mention Iceland is known for having some of the best ice cream?! We got ours at Valdis, near the restaurant.
After eating, we still had some time left before our flight, so we visited the Perlan Museum. The museum is an architecture marvel and has amazing panoramic views of Reykjavik. There is a rotating glass-domed restaurant inside too!
This concluded our trip around Iceland’s Ring Road. This trip was more magical than I ever expected. I would love to come back and visit during their summer months; I would have a whole new set of photos and experiences to share! Until next time Iceland…
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I think visiting in September is worth it just for the aurora lights.
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