This is post #4 on our trip to Iceland. Find the others here.
Day 5: The Snaefellsnes Peninsula
At this point we had explored the city reasonably well, so we took a tour run by Iceland Excursions to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, a long piece of land that juts out north and west of Reykjavik. Our guide was DeeDee who was excellent and extremely energetic. She drove our small bus (holding 7 tourists) and gave us historical and cultural tidbits about the sights we passed. Our first stop was at Gerduberg, a long wall of basalt columns.
From there we headed on to a beach with distant views of the SnaefellsjÃ¶kull glacier (resting on top a dormant volcano). Apparently if we’d walked the other direction on the beach we would have seen seals. Oops! Instead we focused our attention on the gleaming white glacier rising over the mountains in the distance.
One of the most beautiful places we visited in Iceland was the coast along Arnarstapi. Tall black stone cliffs rise up from the water here, making beautiful narrow inlets, arches, and outcroppings.
My only disappointment was to not find any viking long boats parked beneath the rock archways.
We stopped for lunch at Primus Kaffi, a cafe near the ocean. Megan had the traditional fish stew while I had their meatballs. Outside was one of the many small churches scattered around Iceland. From the steeple dotted landscape, one would expect Icelanders to be a religious bunch, but instead it is quite the opposite–the vast majority of the churches are never used. However, there was a period in the country’s history where building a church meant that a land owner could charge more taxes to tenants, leading to a sudden surge in piety…
We continued on to another beach, this one made of black sand and covered in small smooth stones. This was the site where wannabe-vikings lined up to show off their strength. There were three boulders of increasing weight, and recruits had to try to pick them up to determine what type of job they would get on the boat. At right you can see me lifting the largest stone; unfortunately due to a brief camera malfunction we failed to capture the moment where I tossed in the air and juggled it with the other two rocks.
The bus tour was an excellent way to see Snaefellsnes. In addition to the above, we also descended into a cave, saw troll-like rock formations, and heard many Icelandic folk tales (which generally involve vikings killing each other). While the trip description prominently speaks of the National Park, the focus is really on the coast, not climbing up the mountains on the interior of the peninsula. The whole trip was about eleven hours long, and while much of that was spent in the van, the views and stories still made it enjoyable. The small group size definitely made the trip far more personal than the Golden Circle Tour we went on, which was in a packed full length bus. Highly recommended!