Snæfellsjökull National Park Iceland is the only protected area that stands from the sea up to the mountains in this country.
Without any doubt, the main attraction from the park is Snæfellsjökull Glacier, an impressive 1445 meters height glacier located in the western part of the Peninsula.
This part of Iceland inspired the famous writer Jules Vernes in writing his novel “Journey to the center of the Earth”.
It is believed that this place has mystical powers and it is considered one of the seven great energy centers in the world.
The area was declared a national park in 2001 and covers more than 450 square kilometers that extend from the glacier down to the seacoast.
The glacier you can see today hides under its ice layer a dormant volcano that erupted for the last time in 250 AD.
The best example of an extinct volcanic crater from the peninsula is the Saxhóll volcano crater, a must-see attraction and one of the most popular places from the peninsula.
Location of the park
Snaefellsjokull Park is located in Snæfellsnes Peninsula, in the western part of the country, and is named after the highest glacier and volcano from the area.
The park was established in 2001 and is full of natural wonders, picturesque fisherman villages where culture and traditions are very well preserved.
It is considered by many as the jewel of Western Iceland and because of its proximity to Reykjavik is one of the most visited parks in the country.
During clear days the glacier can be seen from more than 100 kilometers away, including from Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland.
Getting to Snæfellsjökull National Park Iceland
The national park is about 3 hours away by car from Reykjavik following Route 1 or Ring Road until you reach the Snaefellness Peninsula and then Route 54.
The road is in good condition and you don’t need a 4×4 vehicle so renting a car is quite simple, easy and not that expensive.
A gives you the mobility and freedom to move around without depending on a fixed schedule of public transportation for example, and you can stop wherever you want and stay for how long you want to enjoy the beauty of this country.
Get the best price for your car rental today
Driving in Iceland might be challenging because of the weather conditions, so if you don’t feel comfortable driving along with the country you can choose one of the many tours across the peninsula.
From Reykjavik: Snæfellsnes Peninsula Full-Day Tour is one of the best tours you can book with pick up and drop off at your hotel from Reykjavik.
The tour lasts for about 10 or 11 hours and you will stop at Vatnaleið for some amazing shots, at the famous Kirkjufell, as well as Djúpalónssandur beach, and Arnarstapi and Hellnar fishing villages.
How much time do you need to explore the park?
To get a good understanding of the national park and explore most of it you will probably need about 2 or 3 days.
I know that your time spent in Iceland is limited and you most probably don’t have so much time only for this part of the country, but one day is not enough.
Try to plan at least 1.5 days in the area as there are so many beautiful attractions around and the time flies so quickly and you will rush from one spot to another from morning to evening.
Geology of the park
This place is extremely interesting for geologists from all over the world containing rock formations from almost all periods.
The volcanoes from the park had erupted several times over the years and the volcanic system has more than 30 kilometers long and more than 20 lava fields spread across the park.
The centerpiece of the park is a huge magma chamber that is located right under the glacier and it can erupt at any moment.
The mountains from the park are formed from a volcanic eruption and are covered with more than 100 meters of ice.
Some of the mountains are past craters of volcanoes that erupted under the sea, while others are crater plugs.
There are lava caves the most famous one is Búðahellir, craters and lava fields spread all across the area some of them go directly into the sea.
Fauna and flora
The vegetation from the area is quite diverse, with many beautiful ponds full of seaweed and cupus.
Most of the lava fields are covered with moss and you can spot flowers and small birch but not trees.
Inside the park, you can spot herb paris and wood millet, two protected plants that are quite rare and hard to see.
What I like most about this area is that during summertime you can find many wild berries, extremely tasty and healthy for your body.
The humidity from the air creates the perfect conditions for many plants besides musk; more than 130 species of plants and ferns can be found in the park.
Turnstone, robin, goose, and large colonies of arctic tern that nest in Arnarstapi can be found in the area.
Grey seals, harbor seals, killer whales, and mink whales are most commonly seen in the waters around the national park, while foxes and minks hide in the lava fields.
What to do and see in Snæfellsjökull National Park
You can drive across the park if you follow Route 54 as there are plenty of interesting attractions in the area.
The most important things to do and see in this national park are listed below:
1. Stop at Gerðuberg basalt cliffs
Located 30 minutes away from Borganes, these incredible basalt cliffs are located within minutes away from Route 54.
The columns formed by lava flows many years ago are as spectacular as the Giant’s Causeway located in Northern Ireland.
If you look at them from distance you will think that it is just solid rock, but when you come closer you will see some very interesting geometric figures.
2. Soak into the Ölkelda Mineral Spring
Ölkelda Mineral Spring is located within minutes from the main road, Route 54, and is one of the most beautiful mineral springs in the area with waters that have healing properties for your body.
3. Observe seals in Ytri Tunga beach
Famous for its golden sand, something quite rare in Iceland, Ytri Tunga beach is located on the southern coast of the peninsula, extremely accessible from Route 54.
This beach is also home to a large colony of seals and if you really want to see them plan your visit in June and July as these are the months considered to be the best time for spotting these animals laying in the sun.
4. Take a bath at the Lýsuhólslaug swimming pool
After a morning full of activities or after a glacier hiking inside the national park, a relaxing afternoon at the Lýsuhólslaug swimming pool is exactly what you need.
The water is green because of the algae that live inside the water and it is extremely rich in minerals that have healing properties for your skin.
This natural swimming pool is open between June and mid-August from 11 in the morning till 8.30 in the evening and is an extremely popular place among locals and those who want to relax and take a bath in the middle of nature.
5. Explore Arnarstapi and the surrounding area
One of the most beautiful and picturesque fisherman villages from the area is definitely Arnarstapi, just a few steps away from Route 54.
This picturesque village was once a very important trade center and remains a hotspot for tourists from all over the world.
In the nearby area are located two emblematic attractions from the area, Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge and Sönghellir cave.
Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge is a deep ravine that has strong connections with key figures that can be found in the Icelandic sagas.
The most popular character is Bardar Snaefellsass, a half-man, half-troll that still lives in the area and its spirit protects the national park.
Within a few minutes’ walk from the gorge is a hidden cave, Sönghellir Cave or Singing cave, a great place to step into Icelandic history.
The place has extraordinary acoustics and has a great echo and inside the cave, you can find very old graffiti.
The cave is believed to be the place where the legendary character Bardar Snaefellsass was sheltered once.
6. Hike a glacier at Snaefellsjokull National Park
This huge park encompassed the whole western peninsula of west Iceland including lava formations fields, black sand beaches, caves, basalt cliffs, and of course Snæfellsjökull volcano and glacier.
This beautiful glacier was described in Jules Verne’s book called Journey to the center of the Earth.
The best way to explore this area is with a guided tour and make sure you have included in your itinerary Londrangar viewpoint and Djúpalónssandur, a beautiful black sand beach.
If you are looking for some adrenaline, then consider descending into Vatnshellir Cave a very old lava tube that was formed about 8,000 years ago.
7. Take photos of Kirkjufell Mountain
Right near the park, you can find one of the most photographed places from the whole country, Kirkjufell Mountain, one of the most significant geological sites.
There is a beautiful trail that goes around the mountain, a great place to admire the view and spot some wildlife.
Must see places in Snaefellsjokull National Park Iceland
- Snæfellsjökull Glacier
- Djúpalónssandur beach
- Vatnshellir Lava Cave
Sleeping near Snæfellsjökull Park
- luxury: Arnarstapi Cottages Iceland featuring individual cottages with private bathroom and patio with amazing views of the mountain
- mid-level: Helgrindur Guesthouse Iceland is a family-owned hotel with clean and spacious rooms, a private bathroom, and a great view of the surrounding mountains
- Budget: Vidh Hafidh Guesthouse Iceland offers rooms with private or shared bathroom and a shared kitchen where you can prepare your meals
Useful tips when visiting Snaefellsjokull park
- the park is open all year round, no matter if its winter or summer
- the entrance to the park is free of charge
- driving in Iceland might be quite challenging especially outside the summer season so if you feel a little uncomfortable with that ask locals about the best route to take considering the type of car you are driving.
- summer is the warmest season and the glaciers start to melt so some of the trails might be a little insecure so for your own safety stop at the visitors center to ask about the conditions of the hiking trail you want to follow
- winter might be cold and dark but it is the best time of the year to see the glacier and the Northern Lights dancing on the Icelandic sky, so consider also winter when planning your trip to this country.
Within an hour’s drive from Reykjavik, Snaefellsjokull park is the most visited site from Iceland.
Its unique geology and the increased number of attractions packed on such a small area makes from this park a top destination among tourist.
The most crowded time of the year is definitely during summertime when it is also the most expensive, but we recommend you to explore the area in the shoulder season, May, June, and September, October when the weather is still good and the prices are lower.
Logistical tips and tricks for your trip
Book your accommodation
We always use Booking.com as they have the best price-quality ratio and they offer a wide range of hotels, guesthouses, apartments, and villas to choose from.
You will find here all types of accommodations, from the cheapest ones to the most luxurious.
Don't forget travel insurance
We never leave home without HeyMondo Insurance or Safety Wings Insurance as they offer the best services and a good value for money, plus COVID coverage.
Travel insurance will always protect you against unexpected events and cost like illness, COVID, injury, theft, or travel cancellation.
We never go on any trip without travel insurance and there were many cases when we had to use it.
Renting a car
We like to explore a country on our own and a car gives us the mobility and freedom to do that.
We always rent our car from Discovercars as they have free cancellation 48 hours prior to starting date and a wide range of car rental companies and options to choose from all over the world.
Tours and attractions
When we are looking for some adventure or we simply want to break up the monotony and discover new places, we always use GetYourGuide.
We love it because we always find the most amazing experiences, with free cancellation and a large variety of activities and tours to choose from.
Airplane tickets and holiday packages
Expedia is our ally when searching for the best price for airplane tickets as it works as an aggregator for a huge number of airlines and we always find the best price for our flights.
Travel tip: use Expedia when you are searching for holiday packages as they have many last-minute offers and great discounts for hotels, flights, and even the whole holiday packages.