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The Snaefellsnes Peninsula

The 90-kilometer long Snaefellsnes Peninsula sits just to the northwest of Reykjavik. Often called “Iceland in miniature,” the peninsula is home to many of the beautiful landscapes found elsewhere in the country. If you don’t have time to drive around the entire island, a visit to the  Snaefellsnes Peninsula will give you an idea of what you would have seen if you had – moss-covered lava rocks, craggy seaside cliffs, strange rock formations made by the sea, a giant glacier, majestic fjords, windswept beaches, tiny fishing villages and even some rolling farmlands dotted with sheet and horses to boot.

What to do:

In terms of attractions, there’s not a whole lot to do here other than just take it all in and enjoy the area’s natural beauty. You can go cave exploring, go ride horses at  Lysuholl, climb on the Snaefellsnes glacier, go snowmobiling or hiking, golf, go fly-fishing, take a boat from Stykkisholmur into the bay to see the islands and the bird life, go or go whale watching from Olafsvik. SeaTours specializes in tours of the area.

Depending on how many activities you’ll want to participate in, plan to stay at least one night or up to two or three nights. If you’re just coming for a day trip, you can drive around the peninsula in 1-3 hours, depending on how many stops you make, but you won’t have time to do many activities. My suggested itinerary: one day to arrive, drive around and get settled in; one day to go horseback riding in the morning and hiking or glacier walking in the afternoon, and (in summer  only) one more day to go whale watching or hop on the ferry.

Getting there and around:
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Getting from Reykjavik to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula is pretty straightforward and will take about three hours. Most small towns on the peninsula have a petrol station, but it’s a good idea to keep your gas tank full at all times; many of the stations aren’t manned and if you don’t have a pre-paid gas card, you’ll be out of luck. Your best best for stocking up for self-catering is to head to the grocery store in Grundarfjordur or Stykkisholmur, two of the larger towns.

The bus from Reykjavik makes four stops on the Snaefellsness Peninsula – Vatnaleid, Grundarfjordur, Olafsvik, and Hellissandur. If you are traveling without a car, you’ll need to time your journey carefully as the bus only runs once  per day in each direction; hitch-hiking can help you supplement the bus schedule, as can booking tours and activities than include transportation.

Where to stay:

In addition to offering riding tours, Lysuholl also offers accommodation in several self-catering cottages. There are two types of accommodation – the summer cottages, open from May to September, sleep two-four people and cost 16,500 per night (about $150) with discounts for longer stays. Guests who stay in one of the four-room houses (open year-round) will share cooking and bathroom facilities and the living room, deck and Jacuzzi with other guests (if there are any) but can stay in private single or double rooms. Doubles are 16,500; singles are 10,000 (about $90). Each cottage provides spectacular views of the Snaefellsnes glacier.

Hotel Hellnar is open in summer only (May to September) and offers single and double rooms for 116-140 euros per night. All rooms have private bathrooms and free wi-fi and breakfast. The hotel is located in the countryside, and staff will arrange activities for you at no charge.

Hotel Framnes, in Grundarfjordur, is located down by the harbor and features a popular restaurant on site. Singles and doubles with private bathrooms  range from 60-90 euros, with triple and family rooms available at an extra cost. Breakfast and wi-fi are included.

Those hoping for the perfect romantic luxury escape on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula can do no better than Hotel Budir, if they’re prepared to pay a steep fee. Single rooms start at 187 euros, doubles range from 197-275 euros. Rooms feature comfortable beds, free-wif, clawfoot tubs, leather couches, and spectacular views of the mountains and sea. Breakfast is included and there is an on-site restaurant. If the price is too high for you, consider stopping by just for a drink and the view.

Grundarfjodur Hostel is the best bet for travelers on a smaller budget. The hostel is divided into two sections – the main house where the dorms (with common room, shared bathrooms and kitchen) are located, and a separate apartment that offers four single and double private rooms, two bathrooms, and a common room, deck, and full kitchen. Wi-fi is free and sheets are available for an extra fee, though note that you’ll need to bring your own towels. Dorm beds are 3300 ISK (about $30) and private doubles are 8700 (just under $80). The hotel is also the best place to stay if you want to be able to easily walk around town, to the grocery store and to the pub or restaurant.

Where to eat:

Aside from the hotel restaurants at Budir, Hellnar and Framnes, there are only a handful of options on the peninsula. Check out Fimm Siskar in Stykkisholmu for fresh-from-the sea fish and lobster (average entree costs 3300 ISK), or Kaffi 59 for more moderately-priced pizza and burgers in Grundarfjordur. Other than that, your best option is to dine at your hotel, snack on some hot dogs from the local N1 gas station, or book a self-catering stay and cook your own meals.

Other practicalities:

There’ are only two Vinbudin stores on the peninsula, so if you plan on drinking, stock up or plan ahead. You can only buy alcohol in Grundarfjordur Monday through Thursday from 5pm – 6pm and Saturday from 4pm – 6pm. The store in Stykkisholmur has longer hours (11am-6pm Monday – Thursday; open one hour longer on Friday).