Snæfellsjökull National Park
Of Iceland’s three national parks, Snæfellsjökull National Park is the only one with a coastline. It's also mostly made up of an active volcano, giving it a wide variety of terrains, including black volcanic rock beaches, mysterious caves, and green grassland. Then there's the glacier atop the volcano, offering a patch of brilliant white among the green and black — although in 2012, the area was recorded as snow free for the first time.
Landmarks in Snæfellsnes
Snæfellsjökull National Park is named after the glacier atop Snæfellsnes’s volcano. Despite being Iceland’s smallest glacier, its petite size packs in lots of beauty. Jules Verne’s classic novel "Journey to the Center of the Earth" is set there, and in real life, it does feel like something out of science fiction. This white expanse is surrounded by black beaches and waterfalls, making it feel like an alien world.
Those who want to journey to the center of the earth should head for the Vatnshellir Cave. Accessed via an ancient lava tube with the word "undirheimar" (underworld) written on it, visitors are led by guides 115 feet underground, then down a spiral staircase to an even deeper underground cave. Among the sights in this lava cave are impressive stalactites, metal deposits in various bright colors, plus the skeletons of animals that had the misfortune of getting trapped in the cave over the years!
Beaches in Snæfellsnes
As well as the abovementioned black beaches, Skarðsvík is unique for the Snæfellsnes Peninsula because of its golden-sand beach. Those looking for an authentic Icelandic experience may want to visit this beach first, as these white sands are much preferred by the locals, who can be seen eating, swimming, and even sunbathing on the hottest Icelandic days, when temperatures can reach 77°F.
That said, the black volcanic beaches are an absolute must-see for any tourist, so don’t go home without feeling the black sand between your toes!
Local activities in Snæfellsnes
Obviously, with so much magnificent nature to see, hiking and walking are hugely popular pastimes in the area, as is climbing the various mountains and glacial peaks. All these exercises, however, are tiring work, and there’s nothing better after a long day than a long, hot soak. Luckily, the peninsula will deliver, thanks to the natural hot spring at Landbrotalaug. Despite being rather small — at best accommodating two to three people — and relatively difficult to find, it is a hidden delight that will provide the perfect end to a long day of sightseeing at the peninsula.
For those looking for more during those long walks, the area is also fantastic for bird watching and amateur archaeology. The cliffs are a great place to see nesting birds, and the area is home to a number of relics that represent a thousand years of Icelandic history.