About 700,000 years ago, the Snæfellsjökull glacier formed in Western Iceland. Massive and towering, Snæfellsjökull has been the focus of many stories and folklore, including Journey to the Center of the Earth. The stories don’t come without merit – the glacier is believed to be one of the earth’s seven energy spots. Various folklores believe that the glacier has mystical powers, inhabits magical creatures, and/or is regularly visited by UFOs.
So to investigate further, I headed North to Snæfellsnes National Park. With my Iceland Excursions tour, I visited Gerðuberg, Snæfellsnes National Park, Hnappadalur valley, natural spring Ölkelda, the village Arnarstapi, Snæfellsjökull glacier, and lastly, the Stykkishólmur fishing village.
The bus drive was scenic. The intimidating cliffs, brilliantly blue sea, cascading waterfalls and massive volcanoes seemed fitting for a place where the residents still believe in elves. Along the way, my tour guide told us various stories and tales of Iceland, where she spoke of “hidden people” or elves, that are still believed to be in the mountains.
The tour is their AH38 – Snæfellsnes National Park excursion, and it’s a 6-8 tour that circles the Western peninsula. After the hour or so ride, we started in the Hnappadalur valley to see the cliffs of dolerite, called Gerðuberg.
There was a time that the ocean went up to the cliffs, but now, it just overlooks the valley. It was fairly easy to climb up to look and take pictures, but since Mike wasn’t there to assist, I didn’t take a ton of video of this tour.
[Check Out Entire Gallery of Pictures from Gerðuberg]
The towers of basalt are intricate, despite their jaggedness. The columns each have their own unique pattern and shape, creating something that almost resembles a teetering wall of Jenga towers. With rock climbing equipment, you can climb the Gerðuberg cliffs.
After Gerðuberg, we headed on to Ölkelda Farm, where there’s a natural spring with carbonated spring water. Ölkelda is in a remote area of Iceland, and from the road, doesn’t look like much. All there is to the spring is a rusted old pump. It doesn’t seem like you should drink it, but since it’s Iceland, home of drinkable fresh water everywhere, you can. We sampled it – it tastes a lot like Perrier, but a bit tangy. I wasn’t a huge fan, but supposedly, it’s very good for you, rich with iron and calcium.
[Check Out Entire Gallery of Pictures from Ölkelda Farm]
Next was one of my favorite parts of this particular tour, the village of Arnarstapi. I find little fishing towns to be terribly cozy and romantic, and Arnarstapi did not disappoint. At the foot of Mt. Stapafell, Arnarstapi boasts an array of historical homes, a village harbor, and stunning views of the coastline and three blowholes (just learning now that you shouldn’t stand too close to them. Oops.)
Our tour guide told us about a kind of half man/half ogre that is supposed to inhabit Mt. Stapafell. Bárðr Snæfellsáss, as he’s called, protects the village and mountain from evil. His story sounded quite fascinating, although, proved a bit difficult to find a decent translated version. I found this wikipedia article that basically covers it.
We stopped in for a bit to have lunch, and I decided to visit a local restaurant, the Snjofell Guesthouse. It was quite picturesque with it’s turf roof and various Icelandic chickens running around the yard. I had their asparagus soup and homemade bread, which of course, was amazing. If we have time, I’d love to bring Mike back here.
[Check Out Entire Gallery of Pictures of Arnarstapi]
After we were finished at Arnarstapi, we arrived within the actual Snæfellsnes National Park. We visited a black sand beach, Djúpalónssandur. This was by far my favorite stop. We spent quite some time there and I had a lot of time to muse over the trip, along with various self revelations I wrote about in a separate post. It was raining, so I had to be careful about using my camera. It gave me more time to actually enjoy the beach, which was hands down, one of the most incredible places I’ve ever seen.
[Entire Gallery of Photos of Djúpalónssandur Beach]
Djúpalónssandur Beach is lined with rich, black sand (from volcanic ash) and smooth, small pebbles. Although it’s tempting, the beach is protected, which means you can’t remove anything from it. (Something tells me this isn’t really enforced, since I saw one tourist stuff a handful of stones in her pockets.)
After walking for a bit near the shoreline, we ventured up the beach a little, where there are pieces of an old British shipwreck from the 1940’s. It accurately portrays the struggle between Iceland and Great Britain when it came to fishing territory – a back and forth that went on for years. The Cod Wars began when Britain regularly fished off the Icelandic coast during the 1940s/50s, leading to the area being severely overfished. Iceland began cutting their nets, leading to disputes between Iceland’s Coast Guard and the British Navy. The Icelandic fishing zone now expands 200 nautical miles off the coast.
Djúpalónssandur Beach is also home to another bit of Icelandic Fishing history – heavy stones that represent the ones that used to test the strength of aspiring sailors. This really interested me, as my grandfather was a sailor in the U.S. Navy. The stones vary from – 154 kg/339 lbs. or Fully Strong, 100 kg/220 lbs. or Half-Strong, 54 kg/119 lbs. or Weakling and finally, 23 kg/50 lbs. or Bungler. While I bet my PopPop could have given Icelanders a run for their money, I’d probably fall within the category of Weakling.
I told Mike about this (first of course, I asked how much he could lift), and his eyes lit up – immediately expressing interest in going back to try his hand at it. Hopefully his strength prevails.
Anyway – Djúpalónssandur Beach was my favorite, but seeing the Snæfellsjökull Glacier is really the highlight of the trip – it’s a massive volcano with a glacier covering the summit at the most western point of Iceland.
We also stopped at Saxholl, an awesome volcano crater that we climbed. You can still see Snæfellsjökull from it, and also, the Westfjords, a region in North Iceland Time Magazine called, one of the world’s best kept secrets.
[All the Pictures of Snæfellsjökull & Surrounding Area]
After a long day around the peninsula, we made a brief stop in the Stykkishólmur village. My camera had long since died, but I fully intend on heading back there – it was absolutely gorgeous!
All in all, this was a fantastic way to spend a Sunday – my next adventure isn’t until the weekend, but you can stay posted with what I’m doing (and Mike) on gohardabroad.com, or via our Facebook page. Check out all the pics from this adventure on Flickr.