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.