It’s hard to believe that our time in Iceland has come to an end. We couldn’t have picked a better place to spend our last few days — the Snæfellsnes peninsula is the perfect place to enjoy all that Iceland has to offer, in a small, welcoming, homey place.
For our last day on the southern side of the peninsula, we explored some of Iceland’s third national park –Snæfellsjökull — which, of course, centers around the glacier for which it is named, and which you can see jutting out from almost anywhere along the peninsula.
We went on a lovely hike back at Hellnar, through more lava fields right along the coast. The hike begins at a small bird cliff and stone archway, which is worth spending some time at before setting off on the forty minute walk, which ends up at another small town, called Anarstapi.
For our last two days on the peninsula, we drove through the Kerlingarskard mountain pass to Stykkisholmur, the most “bustling” town in the area, with a whopping 1050 inhabitants (in comparison, Hellnar has 8). . On our way, we stopped briefly to see Kirkjufell, a 463m mountain that looks more like an enormous, grassy hill, with tiny pathways cut all the way through. The mountain itself is apparently one of the most photographed in all of Iceland, but even more lovely were the many short but powerful waterfalls across the way, that were easy to access, climb in, and walk behind.
We drove around the rest of the peninsula and into Stykkisholmur, which is a truly lovely place to visit — lots of small houses with colorful roofs, and full of little kids who appear to have the run of the town, swinging on the public zip-line, biking through the winding streets (all seven of them), and playing in the lovely geothermal public pools.
Our first stop was to walk across the small causeway at the northernmost tip of the town to the climb up the “island” called Sugandisey (it’s really just a tiny peninsula). The view from the little red lighthouse were breathtaking, and it was the perfect place for a picnic (despite the high winds…).
We spent the evening at the local pool again — one of the best we’ve been to, and a relief after the very algae-filled one on the southern peninsula.
For our final day, we explored the town’s three wonderful museums (it was worth it buy the pass — 1500 Ikr, compared to 2200 Ikr to buy separate tickets for each). We started at the Norwegian House, which has some good information about the trade in Stykkisholmur, a lovely little gift shop, and a fully restored second and third floor which recreate the home of the family that used to live in the house before it was converted into a museum, including some of their original furniture, decorations, and odds and ends stored in the attic.
We then followed the gravel path up to the top of the hill to see the Library of Water — an actual archive of Icelandic water gathered from all 24 of the country’s glaciers. The building originally was the town’s public library (which has since moved to behind the Norwegian House), and was designed and constructed by an American artist named Roni Horn. The installation brings attention to the fact that these glaciers are constantly melting and changing, and particularly with the effects of climate change, risk disappearing forever. In fact, one of the columns contains water from a glacier that has completed melted away — the one covering the Ok volcano in the Highlands.
Our final stop was to the Volcano museum, which contains volcanic art and artifacts by famous volcanologist Haraldur Sigurðsson.
One of the best parts of the museum is the 52-minute documentary about the famous 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull. We also saw some of the geological evidence collected by Sigurðsson during his impressive career, including samples that he used to help prove the meteor impact at Chicxulub 65 million years ago.
On our way out of Stykkisholmur, before heading back for our last night in Keflavik, we stopped to climb Helgafell, the tiny (73m) but sacred mountain that sits right outside of the town boundaries. Legend tells that if you climb the mountain silently, without turning back once, and face east from the church ruins at the top, you will be granted three wishes.
It was a memorable end to a wonderful trip, which only left us wanting to come back again someday.