From the moment we started planning our trip to Iceland I knew I wanted to visit the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and see the beautiful Kirkjufell mountain and Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall. The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is known for its urged beauty, black beaches, lava fields, volcanoes, waterfalls, fjords, hot springs and colourful fishing villages! The region is less visited than the popular Golden Circle route meaning you may have a lot of it to yourself, depending on the time on the year you visit. While our stay didn’t quite go to plan due to the weather, we still had an invigorating stay in Grundarfjörður and were able to briefly see Kirkjufell. It was our first real insight and experience of Iceland’s infamous weather conditions and I honestly don’t know if we have ever visited anywhere as rugged and windy, yet remarkably beautiful! There’s also nothing like sitting in an outdoor hot tub in this kind of weather as you’ll soon see more of!
We left the Blue Lagoon by midday, having soaked for almost four hours and headed North-West bound for Grundarfjörður. We’d read that there was only one small supermarket in the town, so stopped at a larger one half way through our drive to get some lunch and supplies for the next few days. Groceries in Iceland were surprisingly affordable (still shockingly expensive for some items) but much more affordable than eating out and we were so glad that we had booked self-catered accommodation for part of our trip.
We drove through lava fields, past volcanoes, along the coastline and up through the snowy mountains. Steam rose from hot springs at the side of the road as sleet hit our windscreen, we’d never visited anywhere quite like it before. We drove through the Hvalfjörður Tunnel which is 5,770 metres long and goes 165 metres below sea level! Apparently it used to take an hour to drive around the fjord, but now only takes 7 minutes – and it was free! It honestly felt like the longest tunnel I’ve ever driven in (except maybe catching the Eurostar across the English channel, however that isn’t driving)!
Once we crossed onto the Peninsula, we were hit by the wind and it took a lot of effort for Dan to keep the car straight on the road and crossing over some of the bridges was the worst, it was insanely windy. I wish we’d had an app on our phone to tell us just how windy it was because it felt like hurricane force winds!
It is 2 hours 45 minutes (approx. 220km) on google maps from the Blue Lagoon to Grundarfjörður, however it took us just under four hours including a few photo stops and a stop at the supermarket. Driving into Grundarfjörður we could see Kirkjufell in the distance across the sea!
Grundarfjörður was a quaint little fishing village with colourful houses that is popular in summer for deep sea fishing and wildlife tourism. Because there is minimal light pollution it is apparently also a great place to see the Northern Lights, however it was too cloudy on our visit.
We stayed in an AirBnB called Lárperla / Ocean Pearl where the owner, Greta made us feel very welcome! It was a two bedroom apartment with a well-stocked kitchen and amazing location, right on the waterfront with views of Kirkjufell.
We jumped straight in the hot tub outdoors as soon as we arrived so that we could savour it while it was still light, and of course we bought our bottles of duty free alcohol with us (definitely a must do if you’re on a budget in Iceland, which I am guessing 99.9% of travellers to this country are)! We had an uninterrupted view of Kirkjufell across the Fjord for about half an hour, until the clouds came across and it got dark around 4:45pm. It was blowing a gale but we were toasty warm in the hot tub with our beanies on!
The wind roared all night but we were lovely and cosy inside! The next morning we had a slower start as it was pouring with rain, windy and also didn’t start to get light until about 10:30am. We had more daylight on the East Coast than we did the West during our time in Iceland. We set off to see Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellfoss which were only a 5 minute drive down the road. Unfortunately we couldn’t see them at all from the car because of the rain and clouds, so we waited for a little while before deciding to cut our losses and head off towards our next destination, Þingvellir National Park. Initially I was a little disappointed because we had travelled all this way and I wasn’t able to see the mountain and waterfall and get that famous photo, however we were so lucky that we were able to see the mountain from our hot tub the afternoon before and it was a good reminder that you cannot control the weather, so I was happy with that!
By 11am we were back on the road, braving the wind and when it stopped raining for a while, we jumped out to pet some friendly Icelandic horses! Icelandic horses could (and probably do) have whole books written about their uniqueness! These guys were super friendly and were happy getting lots of pats!
Kirkjufell often described as one of the most beautiful mountains in Iceland and I can definitely see why. Grundarfjörður is a great place to stay when visiting Snæfellsnes and we’d also highly recommend the AirBnB that we stayed in. Our one night stay was AUD $351 and when you take into account that this was split between two couples and we could cook for ourselves, it was very reasonably priced!
If we ever make it back to Iceland I would definitely return to the Snæfellsnes and Grundarfjörður and take at least a few days to explore the region. In our short time, we were able to witness Iceland’s extreme elements, see a glimpse into the beauty of the region, and gain an appreciation into the incredibly unique and harsh, yet beautiful lifestyle that the locals live.
Would you visit Iceland in winter?
Read more: Our Iceland Bucket List // 10 Reasons to go on Honeymoon to Iceland (in winter)