West Iceland attractions: Best Things to Do in Snaefellsnes Peninsula

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Most first time visitors limit their Iceland itinerary to Reykjavik, the popular Golden Circle attractions and to the Iceland South Coast highlights. If you have more than 5 days to visit Iceland, I would highly recommend to include a day or two for West Iceland attractions.

Snaefellsnes Peninsula is on the western coast of Iceland and is perfect for a road trip. Lovely scenery with beautiful mountains and sea-side villages, volcanoes and waterfalls, beaches and lava fields, Snaefellsnes Peninsula sure is postcard worthy. This West Iceland itinerary is spread over 2 days and gives you some of the best things to do in the area.

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You would find stunning views all along Snaefellsnes Peninsula in West Iceland.

The proximity of the western most peninsula in main Iceland to Reyjavik or Keflavik airport makes it an easier destination to add to your Iceland road trip itinerary than say, the Diamond Circle route in North Iceland or the fjords in East Iceland.

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West Iceland Attractions in Snaefellsnes Peninsula

We covered most of the West Iceland attractions over a 2-day itinerary driving the coastal roads in Snaefellsnes Peninsula. We did a moderately challenging hike at Glymur waterfall on Day 1 of our West Iceland itinerary. This took the better part of the day and made us miss some of the West Iceland attractions we had planned to visit on Day 1.

You can easily cover the best things to do in West Iceland over 2 days. If you are into hiking, I would recommend to plan for 3 days in Snaefellsnes Peninsula. I have put them in the order in which the West Iceland attractions would come as you drive from Reykjavik.

But if you are not into self-drive option and want to be based ini Reykjavik, check out these tours to explore Snaefellsnes Peninsula:

West Iceland waterfalls: Glymur

Glymur is the second-tallest waterfall in Iceland. It is the tallest one at 198 metres if you consider accessibility by foot. The only way to see Glymur waterfall is to hike to it. And that’s what we did on our Iceland 12 day itinerary.

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The first view of Glymur waterfall tumbling down is epic!

Glymur waterfall finds its origin from the river Botnsa, which itself is sourced from Iceland’s glaciers. The hike to it is moderately challenging in parts especially for those who have fear of heights. You have to cross a river on a log holding a rope for assistance (this log is put only from spring to autumn). And further climb a narrow path hugging the cliffs. Then you come upon the Glymur waterfall nestled in a narrow canyon. So worth the hike! You can come back the same way or hike via a different route to go back to the Glymur car park. Read the full account of our hike to Glymur waterfall.

Ytri Tunga Seal beach

One popular thing to do in Snaefellsnes Peninsula is to visit the seal colony at Ytri Tunga beach. We went to this beach on Day 1 of our West Iceland itinerary post the Glymur waterfall hike. While the kids had a good time playing with the golden sand here, the wind was too gusty and cold for the adults in the group to enjoy this beach.

There are high chances of spotting seals sitting on rocks protruding from the water during summer months. But we were not amongst the lucky!

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No seal sighting for us. Source:Pixabay


This is a small wooden church on the south part of Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Post our Glymur waterfall hike to Glymur waterfall, our plan was to make a quick stop at Budir. The solo structure of Budakirkja amidst a vast lava field makes for a pretty picture. Alas, we were exhausted after our hike and gave this West Iceland attraction a miss.

The black church at Budir.

West Iceland waterfalls: Bjarnarfoss

If you visit Budakirkja black church, Bjarnarfoss is very close to it. You should make time for this popular stop in the Snaefellsnes peninsula itinerary. This waterfall is located behind the small hamlet of Budir and can be seen from the Road 54.

We just had a roadside view of Bjarnarfoss on Day 1 of our West Iceland itinerary. But there is a car park and a trailhead leading to a closer view of this 80 metres fall.

Arnarstapi Cliffs

Arnarstapi is a village in Snaefellsnes Peninsula, that travellers stop at for its interesting cliffs plunging into the blue ocean. There is a circular stone arch that is hugely popular for photography. We drove to Arnarstapi cliffs at the end of first day of our West Iceland itinerary, just before reaching our hotel in Hellnar.

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The coastline at Arnarstapi is stunning.

Snaefellsjokull Glacier

When you drive through Snaefellsnes Peninsula in West Iceland, chances are that you would see Snaefellsjokull, a glacier-capped volcano from many different spots. This volcano is over 4500 feet tall and is visible from most parts of west Iceland on clear days. I remember waking up to a beautiful view of it on Day 2 of our West Iceland itinerary.

You gets views of Snaefellsjokull glacier from many parts of the road drive.

Glaciers are quite a natural marvel. And Snaefellsjokull is no different. We got a chance to hike on Vatnajokull, the largest glacier in Iceland later in our trip. But for now, every time I chanced upon sighting Snaefellsjokull, it reminded me of glacier captions, some epic and a few funny ones.

Vatnashellir Lava Cave

This is one of Iceland’s old lave tubes to be explored and is part of Snaefellsnes National Park. Vatnashellir was created during a volcanic eruption. It is an 8000-year-old wonder. The rocks and the minerals therein can be seen at this Lava Cave. We had booked a 45 minute tour with Arctic Adventures on the morning of Day 2 of our West Iceland itinerary, which we quite enjoyed.

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Staircase to go down Vatnashellir.

Our guide explained to us how the lava cave was formed post the volcanic eruption, about the lava fields at Snaefellsnes Peninsula, the different coloured rock formations within the cave. Do note that this tour may be uncomfortable in parts for those who have severe claustrophobia.

If you are looking for a lava cave tour near Reykjavik, check out Raufarhólshellir lava tunnel.

Londrangar Basalt Cliffs

These baslat cliffs have a dramatic setting and are visible from the sea. We could see the Londrangar basalt cliffs from the main road after finishing the Vatnashellir lava cave tour. But we had a long drive ahead to Akureyri and wanted to make time for some other West Iceland attractions, so gave this a miss.

We caught a sight of the basalt twin pillars from the road.

You can access Londrangar easily from the visitor’s centre. You will see the 2 giant pillars – nicknamed ‘the rocky castle’ – sitting on a cliff.


What is Iceland without a lava wonderland? That is Djupalonssandur for you! One of the cool things to do in Snaefellsnes Peninsula is to visit this Black Lava Pearl Beach. This is a major attraction in West Iceland.

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Lava field.

After you park your car, take the path down to Djupalonssandur and you would come upon large lava rock formations. There is a large rock formation named Gatklettur with a hole in it. You can see the Snaefellsjokull Glacier though this hole. Isn’t that wonderful?

The walking path will take further down to more interesting rock formations, fresh water lagoons and further down to the beach.

Saxholar crater

One fun thing to do in West Iceland is to climb the steps at Saxholar crater. And that is what we did post the lava cave tour at Vatnashellir. Saxholl or Saxholar is a popular volcanic crater in Snaefellsnes Peninsula.

One of the craters at Saxholar.

The crater is approximately 100 metres high and there are easy steps built to climb to it. You will not regret climbing to the top. From the top of the crater, there are picturesque views of the Atlantic Ocean and the lava fields at Snaefellsnes National Park. Of course, this is quite different from an epic adventure hiking to an active volcano like the Litli-Hrutur Volcano on the Reykjanes Peninsula. But the dormant crater is quite beautiful and tells a story from the past.

We climbed the Hverfjall crater in Myvatn later in our trip which was far bigger than Saxholar. However, the views from Saxholar crater that you get are unique.

West Iceland waterfalls: Svodufoss

Svodufoss has a beautiful setting with the icy Snaefellsjokull in the background. It takes about half an hour from the car park to hike up to this waterfall. Svodufoss tumbles down 10 metres from a basalt column cliff before merging into the Laxa river.

Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss

Even if your West Iceland itinerary is for a day, you are sure to stop at Kirkjufell. It is easily accessible being on the side of the main road. It is also the ‘most photographed mountain in Iceland’.

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The iconic image of Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellfoss.

While driving from Hellnar, this mountain was to our left. There is a paid car park on the right side of the road. And if you walk a bit rom the car park, you come upon Kirkjufellsfoss, the 2 waterfalls in this area. I wouldn’t say these are the most scenic waterfalls in West Iceland, but photographed together with Kirkjufell, it makes for a pretty postcard.

If you have some time in this area, do check out this kayaking tour to make the most of Kirkjufell views:

Food and Stay recommendation

The view of Snaefellsjokull just outside our room at Fosshotel.

We spent a night at Fosshotel Hellnar. This charming country hotel has views of Snaefellsjokull on one end and the ocean from the other end. The location makes it a good choice to explore West Iceland attractions. Both the dinner at the hotel and the next day’s breakfast were good.

On Day 1 of our West Iceland itinerary, we had a late lunch post our Glymur waterfall hike. Grillhusio (The Grill House) in Borgarnes was en route to the Ytri Tunga seal beach and right next to a petrol station. It serves hearty hamburgers, sandwiches, pizzas, pasta, all great for hungry hikers!

Our street food find in West Iceland!

After viewing Kirkjufell on Day 2 of the West Iceland itinerary, we needed to drive further to Akureyri. We looked for a restaurant en route and found the cutest food truck in a spectacular location. Well, all of Snaefellsnes Peninsula offers dramatic landscapes so finding a good location is easy. But this one had flavourful food to match the ambience! A fantastic ending to our 2 days exploring some of the West Iceland attractions.

Planning a trip to Iceland? Do check out these posts –

The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: 12 Days self-drive road trip

North Iceland Highlights: The Diamond Circle Route + Travel Tips

Hike the rim of Asbyrgi Canyon in North Iceland: A Photo Essay

Iceland South Coast Itinerary: The Best of South Iceland attractions

Fancy a Natural Ice Cave in Iceland that is open all year round?


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Author: Shweta Singhal

Hi! I am Shweta, the zest behind this blog . I play several roles – parent to a 6-year old, adventure enthusiast, travel blogger, generally open to trying out new things in life. Besides travel, I love books and theatre and art. I would love to hear from you; do drop a comment. Join me on Instagram / Twitter @zestinatote.

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