Day 3 – The western peninsula of Snaefellsness was definitely our most active day of the trip. We visited a variety of sights in the almost 6 hours of pure drive time to get up to the peninsula and back to Reykjavik. Snaefellsness is full of seaside fishing towns, volcanoes, craters, caves, beaches, cliffs and waterfalls, with a glacier that sits right in the center.
Our first stop was Eldborg (fire castle) volcanic crater… active about 5000-8000 years ago can be seen up close and personal if chosen to do so. Rather than just get a glance from the road, we decided to take the nearly 7 km hike. After 45 minutes and a 200 m vertical rise, it was a pretty awesome climax to what seemed to be a never-ending ‘I can see it, aren’t we there yet’ kind of hike. The path took us from a small farm at the bottom, all the way to its peak where you could peer down into the crater.
What’s eyeopening about this photo is the colors coming from such an unkind exterior.. it’s actually pretty remarkable how volcanic rock after so many thousands of years can actually gross moss, which then breaks down the rock into fertile soil. While this crater isn’t even close to that point, you can still see nature’s circle of life taking place in real time.
Another crater, about an hour or so further across the peninsula is Saxholl crater. It’s a tourist attraction (and in my opinion, not nearly as exciting as Eldborg), but it’s an easy pull-off with steel stairs which wind up to its peak.
From Eldborg, we hit the Gerðuberg Basalt Columns for a closer look at what makes up 90% of Iceland’s rocks, in cliff form. These were pretty cool to see and it was an easy stop off the highway.
A bit further down the road, we came across Rauðfeldsgjá, a deep ravine that cuts into a mountain. It didn’t look like much from the road, but we took the path up into the mountain to check it out. Here’s what we found.
Note: If you are taller than 5’6″, or have confidence in your rock climbing skills, you have a good chance of getting back to see the waterfall. I, myself at 5’3″, decided to only go back part of the way, for fear of falling down a small cliff and smacking my head after attempting to make the jump from a ledge to a slippery platform. Kyle however made it back to this:
Snaefellsness was full of hidden gems like this. Despite the long day trip drive, it was 110% worth the time spent to explore this less traveled part of the country. I have a whole new appreciation for Iceland after our experience on Day 3. As beautiful as Seljalandsfoss was, ** see photo, I can’t help but think that people that just do ‘Ring Road’ to see Iceland, aren’t really seeing the country for what it really is.. a natural ‘off the beaten path’ wonder. They have no idea what they’re missing.
Following the waterfall, we grabbed lunch in Hellnar at Primus Kaffi where I had one of the best tomato based seafood soups I’ve ever had called Fiskisúpa. Naturally, I found a mock recipe of this very dish which I plan to replicate when I get home. Additionally, just because it was on their menu, and because it’s our honeymoon, we had to try the Happy Marriage Cake. It was more like a dry crumble cake with jam, but legend has it that it’s the secret to a happy marriage 🙂
Just a few miles down the road was another black sand beach with a bit of a darker past. It’s a tourist stop, but it was pretty cool despite it’s ‘dark’ history. Via a staired pathway, we found lifting stones that were used to test the strength of potential fisherman, and the remains of a 1948 shipwrecked fishing trawler scattered on the beach.
From there, we made our way to the top of the peninsula to visit the ‘most photographed mountain in Iceland’ called Kirkjufell.
Our last stop before our 2+ hour drive back to Reykjavik was the Berserk lava fields. If you’ve ever heard the term ‘going Berserk’, it comes from an Icelandic saga that references these lava fields. I can attest that after miles and miles.. (and miles) on this back road full of lava fields you may want to go Berserk yourself.. but it’s a site to see given the monstrosity.