The West of Iceland is highly recommended, and even if you are only staying in Reykjavík, you can explore this region as well the western peninsula of Snæfellsnes.
As you head towards the town of Borgarnes, you have the choice of taking the tunnel underneath the sea, or we recommend taking a one-hour detour into Hvalfjörður (whale fjord). At the fjord’s deepest part, you will find the trail to Glymur, one of Iceland‘s tallest waterfalls. This trail opens in the summer and is one of the trails we recommend that is within a short driving distance from Reykjavík.
Whether you take the tunnel or drive in and out of Hvalfjörður, you can then choose to visit Akranes. This is a small fishing town with a nice beach and its old lighthouse offering a perfect photo opportunity. You can then continue to Borgarnes, the home and final resting place of Egill Skallagrímson. Egill was a warrior and poet, and one of the first settlers to Iceland. If you are interested in Iceland’s most famous historical figures, then we recommend you take the trip to Búðardalur and the Leif Eiriksson Center to learn about how Greenland was first discovered as well as the shores of America, long before Christopher Columbus.
If you decide to travel more inland, then you can head to the Borgarfjörður region, and its two most famous waterfalls, Hraunfossar (Lava Falls) and Barnafoss (Children’s Falls). Hraunfossar is very unique, because the meltwater from Langjökull glacier filters through the porous lava rock. This oxidizes the water and turns it into a beautiful, electric blue. Next to Hraunfossar is Barnafoss, a dramatic waterfall with a tragic legend behind it.
Deildartunguhver is the largest hot spring region in Europe, and the baths at Krauma are a popular place to enjoy a warm, relaxing soak in water directly from the source. You can also take a short walk to the Canyon Baths at Húsafell, a bathing experience recently constructed in the nearby nature using old methods that constructed Snorralaug, the small pool at the center Snorrastofa in Reykholt. Snorri Sturluson was an Icelandic chieftain, historian, politician, and poet, and Reykholt is his resting place.
Húsafell is where you can access the glacier of Langjökull, the second-largest glacier in Europe. It is possible to take a trip into the glacier itself, and the crafted ice tunnels below, to learn all about how glaciers form.
To the west is the Snæfellsnes peninsula. You will travel around the stratovolcano, Snæfellsjökull, which was first made world-famous in literature in the 1864 classic Jules Verne novel, Journey to the Center of the Earth.
Here, you can also visit Ytri-tunga, a popular place to go seal spotting. They frequently gather here and don’t seem particularly bothered by visitors, as long as you keep a safe distance. You can continue to Arnarstapi, where you will be greeted by a monument to Barðar Snæfellsás, a half-man, half-giant, and the protector of the Snæfellsnes peninsula.
Vatnshellir cave is a recommended stop on your journey. This is an 8000-year-old lava tube. Lava tubes are created during a volcanic eruption and subsequent lava flow. As the top layer of lava hardens, the lava in the center continues to flow and eventually drains away. What you are left with is a subterranean labyrinth of lava rock chambers.
Djúpalónssandur is another of Iceland’s black beaches, where you will also find the stones of Dritvík. Here, you can test your strength by attempting to lift them. Many have tried, few have succeeded.
Kirkjufell is known as “the most photographed mountain in Iceland”, for reasons that become obvious when you arrive. Recently, it has gained more popularity as the “Arrowhead Mountain” in the HBO series, “Game of Thrones” The mountain stands proud, and with the beautiful Kirkjufellsfoss nearby, it makes for an irresistible photo opportunity.
Snæfellsnes is referred to as “Iceland in Miniature” because it contains all the things that make Iceland so special in one location. If you are looking for an alternative day tour to add to your schedule, you really cannot go wrong with this incredible region of Iceland.
Rotten Shark and Black Death
There are many charming towns in this peninsula, for example, Ólafsjörður, Grundarfjörður, and Stykkishólmur. You can also visit the Bjarnarhöfn shark museum.
This is the best place to try hákarl, the infamous fermented shark. The shark itself is normally Greenland shark, which must be specially processed and dried before it can be consumed. Otherwise, its meat is poisonous. After this process, it can then be safely consumed, but the question is, do you want to? It has an extremely powerful taste and aroma of ammonia. It is traditionally eaten with a shot of the local aquavit, Brennivín or “Black Death”.
Rotten shark and Black Death may sound ominous, but we do recommend trying it for the bragging rights alone!