Snæfellsnes Peninsula road trip drive from Reykjavík
Updated: Apr 7
Suppose you are looking for an exciting drive, a short road trip, or a tour in Iceland where you can comfortably drive and see the magnificent landscapes and beautiful natural wonders, astonishing small villages, and places with entertaining stories. In that case, the Snæfellsnes Peninsula Drive is an excellent option. Especially if you have your own car, a camper, or a rental car, before you start, make sure you read my extensive article about choosing the right car in Iceland. It is quite possible to take the Snæfellsnes Peninsula drive in a day, but you have to ask yourself, "am I really in a hurry when traveling?" We cannot suggest or advise such a rush as we encourage people to enjoy the landscapes and the various natural wonders and appreciate the stories that have developed for centuries. If you are staying in Reykjavík, the whole drive is approximately 500 kilometers or 310 miles. The area you cover has a good cell phone cover and is never specifically remote. It is a scenic drive by the shoreline with a spectacular view of mountains and a beautiful glacier.
Enjoy the drive and inhale the natural wonders
To get the most out of your drive, we recommend three days and two nights to enjoy the awesome Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The drive is both scenic and a place where you can find many impressive natural wonders. The Snæfellsnes Peninsula, located in the West Region of Iceland, also has interesting and beautiful small towns and villages with excellent accommodations, camping sites, cafés, and restaurants. Some also offer interesting tours and activities. Our tour begins and ends in Borgarnes in the West Region, a town that is only 70 kilometers, 45 miles, from Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland. It is a road by the intersection of Road nr 1 (the Ring Road) and Road nr. 54. What I have in mind here is that you don't take the same way back when you finish the drive and can see new things all through your drive.
What you will see
Driving on this tour around the Snæfellsnes Peninsula on Road Nr. 54, you will see a large crater, fields of lava, waterfalls, basalt columns, stacks and pillars by the shoreline, ravines with strange stories attached to them, and places from stories in the Sagas that happened over a thousand years ago. You will also see the Snæfellsnes glacier. It is a remarkable journey through landscape and history. In addition, you will visit some beautiful towns and villages and experience a scenic drive with spectacular mountains.
The roads, your car, and the best time of the year to take this tour drive
This is a trip that you can take at any time during the year, although the most exciting and straightforward time is from the middle of May until the end of September. Here you can fill in some valuable information by reading my article about the best time to visit Iceland. The colors of summer also make the lava moss and vegetation very beautiful, giving you a much more enjoyable experience. But experiencing Iceland in the autumn and winter is also quite interesting. Any car, small or large, can be used for this drive as the roads are almost all excellent asphalt roads except for a part on the Northeast part of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula that only has a gravel road. In winter, it is always better and more secure to have a car with a front-wheel drive or preferably a four-wheel drive since they are more stable when the roads are icy and slippery.
First day: Borgarnes - Arnarstapi
When you drive through the town of Borgarnes heading north, you turn to your left on a roundabout at the edge of this small town to Road Nr. 54 Snæfellsnesvegur or The Snæfellsnes Road. At first, you drive on a lowland area called Mýrar with the whole Snæfellsnes peninsula in front of you with its many mountains and the glacier Snæfellsjökull quite visible at the far end. After a 20 kilometers drive, 13 miles, you will start to notice a large crater in front of you, standing alone on the lowland and dominating the view. This is Eldborg crater and your first stop. To access the walking trail to Eldborg, you turn left approximately 35 kilometers, 22 miles, to Road Nr. 5610 to a farm called Snorrastaðir. From the parking lot, you take the 3-kilometer hike, 2 miles.
When you continue on Road Nr. 54, after the hiking tour to Eldborg, you only drive a few kilometers when you reach the short path to Gerðuberg; this is a spectacular cliff with a fascinating geological formation of basalt columns. The basalt columns are so regular and so even that you would almost think this is man-made instead of made by mother nature. This should be your second stop; you can drive to a parking lot by the cliffs.
From Gerðuberg cliffs to your next and third recommended stop, Bjarnarfoss waterfall is approximately 55 kilometers, 35 miles. This is an incredibly scenic drive on a clear day since there are beautiful mountains on your right side and the glacier Snæfellsjökull at the end of the peninsula in front of you. Bjarnarfoss is an impressive waterfall with a spectacular layer of basalt column formation in the cliff. There is a good parking lot beside the road and an easy and enjoyable path to the waterfall by the small spring-fed river.
From Bjarnarfoss, you turn towards Road Nr. 574 and take another turn to your left to Road Nr. 5723 to Búðir. From the parking lot at Búðir, there is a beautiful hike by the shoreline. You only need to walk about 500 meters -1.5 kilometers or a mile to enjoy this part of Snæfellsnes. It is a delightful walk where the rush is not required -- but leave the sandals in the car as this is mostly walking in sand. You should wear your hiking shoes, like in most places in Iceland.
If you prefer to dine at a restaurant, you should consider the excellent restaurant at the Hotel Búðir. From Búðir, you drive approximately 20 kilometers, 12 miles, to the west on Road Nr.574 to Arnarstapi. Arnarstapi and the nearby village or hamlet Hellnar are excellent places to stay in addition to the Hotel at Búðir. For accommodations, many places in the neighborhood offer affordable stays, and there is also a beautiful and convenient camping area at Arnarstapi. This should wrap up your first day at the Snæfellsnes Peninsula drive.
Second day - Arnarstapi - Grundarfjörður
You should begin your day by taking the spectacular 2.5-kilometer hiking trail from Arnarstapi to Hellnar. It is an excellent marked trail by the shoreline, filled with unusual geological formations and lovely birdlife. In contrast to the coastline, you have the excellent Snæfellsjökull glacier and the mountain Stapafell on your right or north. If you take this track, you probably have to walk the same way back to Arnarstapi, but it is entirely worth it. At Arnarstapi, you should salute the statue of Bárður Snæfellsás. Bárður is a historical person who had quite an impact on the surrounding area. His story is hilarious and kind of sad and part of the Icelandic Sagas.
After the hike, we recommend a visit to Rauðfeldsgjá, a ravine with a fantastic story, where Bárður Snæfellsás plays a prominent role written more than one thousand years ago. If you are coming from Arnarstapi, you must drive a few kilometers back on Road Nr. 574. You should read the fascinating story here about Rauðfeldsgjá and also the information about Bárður Snæfellsás.
From Rauðfeldsgjá, you continue west on Road Nr. 574 to Lóndrangar. Although the stacks are pretty impressive and visible from the road viewing panel, we recommend driving a bit farther than the viewing panel; take the left turn to Malarrif and walk the one-kilometer walk by the shore to the stacks. It is a more impressive view and also more interesting for photographing.
From Lóndrangar, you continue on Road Nr. 574 for a few kilometers, then you take a left turn on Road Nr. 575 to the parking lot by Djúpalónssandur and Dritvík. Both are beautiful places to visit with fascinating histories. Although the walk or short hike to Dritvík is about an hour and a half, it is an enjoyable scenic walk with stunning formations of stacks along the way. Both places are ideal for photography, especially on a bright day when the glacier Snæfellsjökull is visible in the background.
After Djúpalónssandur and Dritvík, you continue on Road Nr. 574. After a few minute's drive, you will find a small cabin on your right side selling tours down to the deep cave Vatnshellir (Water Cave). You can take a guided tour deep under the dark lava with stunning formations. At this point, there is an exciting turn to Öndverðarnes, the westernmost point at Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The road is a bit difficult and worse than a regular gravel road, but along the way, you can visit Skarðsvík beach and Svörtuloft cliffs, an excellent addition to the tour but a bit of a loop that takes about one and a half hours with all the stops. The cliffs at Svörtuloft display fantastic lava structures shaped by the Atlantic ocean's mighty force.
When you approach the northern side of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, your journey is more like a scenic drive, and you'll visit small towns and villages rather than view natural wonders. The first stop is in the two small villages of Hellisandur and Rif. At Hellisandur, there is an excellent opportunity to visit the Maritime Museum in the Fishermen's Garden. It is an excellent opportunity to understand the hardship it took to live in Iceland only a few centuries ago. It is also a good idea to walk the village of Hellisandur by the shore from the parking lot at the Maritime Museum.
When you drive towards Rif, the twin village, you should take a turn on Road Nr. 5738 to the church Inngjaldhólsskirkja. Here you have a good view of the magnificent surroundings in a place called “Under the Glacier.” At Hellissandur, you should stop at Gilbakki Café and taste their fabulous fish soup. The owner is a dear friend of Gunna, my wife, and we have known her since childhood. Her husband built the house a few years ago and provides fresh fish for the fish soup. Here is an interview with Lúlli about their life at Snæfellsnes peninsula.
From Rif, you continue on Road Nr. 574, and your drive takes you to the small town of Ólafsvík, less than 10 kilometers away. Before leaving this part of Snæfellsnes Peninsula, you might want to take the short hike to the beautiful waterfall Svöðufoss and the basalt column cliffs nearby. The small and friendly town of Ólafsvík is also quite beautiful, with old houses and a small harbor. It is worth walking from the town up to the slopes and having a good view over the shoreline. After that stop, you continue to Grundarfjörður town, where you should find accommodation or stay at the campsite. Since there is only about 20 kilometers drive from the town of Grundarfjörður to the town of Ólafsvík, you can also find suitable accommodation at Ólafsvík, and the Camp Site in Ólafsvík is relatively new and among the best in Iceland.
Third day: Grundarfjörður - Borgarnes
A great beginning on your third day is to walk from Grundarfjörður, a parking lot at the center, or from the camping site to Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall and photograph and view the waterfall and the mountain, Kirkjufell. There is a limited opportunity to park by the waterfall because of traffic on the main Road, Nr. 574, the walk from the town is highly recommended. The mountain is probably one of the most renowned mountains in Iceland, and few mountains in Iceland are photographed more than Kirkjufell not surprising as it is one of the most beautiful mountains in Iceland.
From Grundarfjörður village, you continue on Road Nr. 54 Snæfellsvegur to the east. After you pass the bridge over the fjord Hraunsfjörður (Lavafjord), you take a turn after a two-and-a-half-kilometer drive to a gravel road, Berserkjahraunsvegur Road Nr. 558, to view Berserkjahraun. You continue on that road for about 1.7 kilometers, a mile, and take a left turn that takes you to the edge and over the lava back to Road Nr. 54, this unusual loop gives you a great view of the lava. The name comes from the Sagas, and you should also read Berserkirnir in Berserkjahraun. When you have returned to Road Nr. 54, you continue west to one of Iceland's most beautiful and exciting towns, Stykkishólmur.
You should begin your arrival to Stykkishólmur with a tour with Sæferðir to sail around the many islands in the large fjord, Breiðafjörður. The Vikingsushi Adventure is highly recommended. Sometimes on the boat tour, you can spot the white-tailed eagle. After the boat tour, you should take a walk around the town, preferably up to the little lighthouse on the island beside the harbor that is now attached to the land. The views from the lighthouse and the top of the island are spectacular in all directions.
From Stykkishólmur, we recommend that you continue on Road Nr. 54 to the west. Mind you that this part of the road is gravel and harder to drive for those not used to gravel roads. You have to drive a bit slower and take care. On the other hand, this is quite a scenic drive with an excellent view of the large fjord Breiðafjörður and all the islands.
When you reach the intersection of Road Nr. 60 that takes you back to Road Nr. 1, where your drive began; you should continue for the moment, then take a right turn after a few hundred meters on Road Nr. 586 to Eiríksstaðir. At Eiríksstaðir is a small museum on the farm where the Viking Erik the Red lived before heading to the west, eventually making it possible for his son, the Viking Leif the Lucky, to find America. You should visit the museum and learn the story of the Viking Erik the Red and Leif the Lucky.
After learning about this story from the days of settlement in Iceland, you drive back to Road Nr. 60 and head south. You will eventually come to Road Nr. 1, which will take you to Borgarfjörður and Reykjavík. On your way to Borgarfjörður, you should take the opportunity and walk on top of the small mountain Grábrók and also visit the waterfall Glanni.
We are confident this is an excellent plan to see and explore the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. This plan will give you a good insight into life in Iceland throughout the centuries and a good view of some of the spectacular natural wonders in Snæfellsnes.