Iceland is pretty much a perfect oval shape, cracked and scarred with fjords.
Or at least it would be if it weren't for the three peninsulas (peninsuli?) sticking out from its west coast. The bottom one is the smallest and is called Reykjanes. It's where WOW air flights land at Keflavík. Reykjavík can also, just about, claim to be on Reykjanes, and the Blue Lagoon certainly can.
But this article is about the middle one: Snæfellsnes. Being so long and thin, it does not always occur to people to go there and driving past it takes all of a few minutes. But make that turn and you could spend many days exploring one of the most beautiful spots in Iceland.
Perhaps the most notable thing about Snæfellsnes is Snæfellsjökull itself. Confused? Well, Snæfellsnes means Snow Mountain Peninsula; so named because it has Snæfellsjökull (Snow Mountain Glacier) on its westward tip. See, simple!
Snæfellsjökull is Iceland's smallest glacier, covering only one single mountaintop. But as some men keep on insisting, size really isn't everything and Snæfellsjökull is famous for its swirly ice cream summit and for being the gateway to the centre of the earth (according to the famous Jules Verne novel at least). It is said to be a site of great natural energy by believers in ley lines; and others hold that it will be the chosen landing site when the aliens finally show up.
The glacier and surrounding areas are a national park – the only one in Iceland which extends right to the seashore. And talking of seashore, Snæfellsnes has plenty. Nationally and internationally significant cliffs, rock formations, beaches, sand dunes and boat harbours abound – and each harbour naturally has a town or a village attached for you to explore.
Stykkishólmur and Ólafsvík are in a close race to be the biggest town on the peninsula, but Stykkishólmur is ever-so slightly in the lead with its 1,100 residents. It is also a neck ahead in the aesthetics department – thanks to its pleasant old wooden houses. Stykkishólmur is also the place to catch the car ferry to Flatey island and onwards to the Westfjords.
A couple of interesting Snæfellsnes facts for you:
- The peninsula is home to the tallest structure in Europe: the Hellissandur long-wave radio mast is 0.412 kilometres tall (that's the extra-dramatic way of writing 412 metres)!
- The combined communities of Snæfellsnes succeeded in gaining EarthCheck environmental certification for the first time in 2008 – which is the first such recognition in Europe and only the fourth in the world.