PT. 3 - West towards the Snaefellsnes peninsula
This is part 3 of my Iceland series, you can find the others below:
In this post I’ll be heading West from Akureyri towards the Snaefellsnes peninsula, and back towards Reykjavik to end my trip.
If you have any questions then drop me a line on Instagram: @colinnichollsphotography
With recharged batteries [literally and figuratively] I set off in the early hours on the long road to the West, my first stop was to explore the Vatnsnes peninsula, setting with the seal sanctuary in Hvammstangi then circling the road to do a loop and then carry on West.
Seal Sanctuary at Hvammstangi
A worthwhile and very informative stop, this museum has all sorts of seal history, from the hunting to the conservation and a really good film to watch. They will also be happy to help with a map and mark the best places and times to see the seals around the peninsula.
TIP, you wont get that close to the seals, bring some binoculars.
This mighty sea stack rises 15m out of the sea and has the look fo a drinking dragon about it, you can park at the top and walk down and at low tide you can walk out to the rock.
TIP. The road around the Vatnsnes peninsula [road 711] is really really rough, even in a 4x4 its bad and slow going, not ideal for a regular car. The road is so bad they sell T-Shirts at the seal sanctuary saying ‘I survived road 711’.
A thermal spring and Europe’s most powerful. The steam from this area can be seen from some distance away and the hot water [100 degrees] here supplies the nearby town of Akranes. If you take a shower within 65km of the spring you will be bathing in the water from this area.
TIP, don’t touch the water because it’s boiling water and that would make you an idiot.
Hraunfossar + Barnafoss
A short drive up the road and you get to Hraunfossar and Barnafoss, the first know was the “lava Falls” is a series of waterfalls spread out along the river and fall into the blight blue flow below. The second flows through lava flows and legend has it that two boys for a nearby farm left their home one day and crossed a natural stone bridge over the river, they felt dizzy, fell off and drowned. The mother put a curse on the bridge and a little while later the bridge was demolished by an earthquake.
I was planning to end this day in the town of Borgarnes, but after arriving at the campsite and realising is was TERRIBLE, I pressed on towards Stykkishólmur. Tired I picked up a hitchhiker for a couple of hours before getting some much needed rest at the campsite after a 360 mile day.
I booked two nights at this campsite so the following day I could do the peninsula and just head back here to an already setup tent.
TIP, the Borganes campsite really is crap, no showers, no waking facilities, no power outlets, keep going as the one at Stykkishólmur was fantastic.
Fast becoming one of the most photographed places in Iceland this was my first stop in the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Translated to “ Church Mountain” 463m high with an impressive peak this mountain is framed by Kirkjufellfoss, a waterfall that sits at the base, this is another of the filming locations for Game of Thrones.
TIP, there is only a very small car park here so best to arrive early.
TIP 2, this is first thing in the morning the the light will move around the left side of this photo as the day goes on.
Svödufoss or Kerlingarfoss
A little-known waterfall on the North of the peninsula, this fall has two names and is another rather nice example of a waterfall over basalt columns, this on falls about 50 meters and has the Snæfellsjökull in the background.
TIP, this a quiet spot with decent parking.
Skarðsvík + Djúpalónssandur Beaches
Following the road around the peninsula and you come to Skarðsvík this golden sand beach, which is a rare sight in Iceland. Djúpalónssandur Beach on the other hand is back to black and features impressive rock formations, washed up flotsam from wrecked ships and four stones which Icelandic fishermen used to test their strength on.
Gatklettur or “Arch Rock” has been worn away by the sea, leaving swirling patterns and of course the arch itself. The whole coastline is a mass of strange rock formations, Arnarstapi also has what is probably the most photographed house in Iceland.
A secret path through a mountain fissure into a hidden grotto, this place is slightly off the road with a short hike, but well worth it.
FOLK TALE; Bárður Snaefellsas, who was said to be half man and half troll, lived with his beautiful daughters near Laugabrekka (in Hellnar) and his brother, Porkell, lived nearby in Arnarstapi with his two sons, Sölvi and Rauðfeldur. One day when the cousins were playing by the shore, Rauðfeldur pushed Bárður’s eldest daughter, Helga, onto an iceberg, and it is said that she drifted all the way to Greenland. While she survived, unharmed, Bárður became so angry with the brothers that he pushed Sölvi off the nearby Sölvahamar Cliff and pushed Rauðfeldur into this canyon, now called “Rauðfeldur Canyon.” After the incident, Bárður was said to have gone into the glacier and never seen again. If you are lucky, on your visit you may see Bárður up in the canyon since it is believed that he is still watching over the area to this day.
Ölkelduvatn Mineral Spring
A quick stop along the road, this natural spring drivers rather odd tasting [but perfectly safe] sparkling mineral water.
The taste comes from the high iron concentration in the water, about 2000 times more than normal.
TIP, there is a box to pay for your water near the site.
Iceland’s highest waterfall [Technically the second highest due to a new waterfall emerging in the Vatnajokull Glacier] at 198m this waterfall is massive. It takes a couple of hours to hike there with caves along the way and a test of balance [and nerve] on a pole across the river, at the top it’s shoes off for a wade across the river, only a short distance from the drop.
TIP. <This is the ONLY way to this waterfall, it gets busy which means a lot of waiting for people to cross.
It’s not an easy crossing, and while the cable is taught it moves a lot.
You can dive into the water filled fissures in the national park and that’s what I did! Drysuit on and snorkel ready to go you can swim in this ultra crystal clear water with visibly up to 80m. It really is a stunning experience and well worth doing.
TIP, book your tour, it gets very busy here, it’s also very cold.
The most popular and the first national park in Iceland, featuring huge Lake and the site of the first parliament of Iceland [a rock wall] this place is right in the middle of two tectonic plates and is being pulled apart by about 2cm per year.
You can view the fissures filled with water and some with coins, a waterfall at the cliff edge and road to the Eyrie from Game of Thrones.
TIP, there are a few spaced our car parks in the park, all of which charge.
I ended my day here at a stunning campsite [view wise] in the national park.
My last day in Iceland and I headed into Reykjavik to enjoy the city.
Reykjavik has many great sights and is a wonderful city to visit, I headed to the coast to see Sólfarið, a viking ship sculpture, to the top of the town and to catch the view from Hallgrimskirkja.
I wrapped up my day here with a few well earned beers and a chilled evening before getting all my gear packed up and ready for my flight early the next day.
And so ends my Iceland adventure, it was an all around fantastic trip, I got to do so many wonderful things.
If you have never been then go, it is a beautiful place that you will never forget visiting.
Thank you for reading, there is one more shorter post to come with the video that I shot whilst over there,