Winter road trip in Iceland: the Snaefellsnes peninsula

Winter road trip in Iceland: the Snaefellsnes peninsula

After a catastrophic takeoff and many years of waiting, I finally fly over the Icelandic lands covered with their white coat. As the co-hiker couldn’t join me, I decided to make my dream come true on my own. A 10-day road trip around Iceland, discovering all the winter wonders of this magnificent country. From the Snæfellsnes peninsula to the fjords of the north coast, through the fishing villages still trapped in the ice at this season and everything that makes the reputation of this land of fire and ice, namely its many geothermal sites, its volcanoes, glaciers and much more.

I had dreamed of this trip for many years, since my first encounter with this little piece of land in the middle of the Atlantic. The 15 days spent in South Iceland in the height of summer had revealed to me sumptuous landscapes and an elusive and incomparable atmosphere that I never thought possible here on earth. From then on, a single desire tormented my mind.

To go back there.

Take advantage.

To breathe.

Get drunk.

Photograph.

Unsurprisingly, the result was beyond my wildest expectations. This trip was magical.

Because I was able to see indecently beautiful landscapes, and because I was alone to enjoy them.

Selfishly, it took a very long time to sort my photos and talk about them here. I wanted to keep this enchanting parenthesis just for myself.

But now, after more than two years, I am ready to give you a little bit of this escapade. Yes you will see the photos, yes you will read my emotions, but no you will not feel them. For that, no choice, it is there, in Iceland that you will discover them.

The cliffs of Arnastapi

It’s barely 5 p.m. when I get off the plane. The gray sky is already darkening. A feeling of familiarity sets in as soon as I arrive at the airport. There are places in this world that we know little about but which never seem to have left us. I am alone, with just my backpack for luggage, and happy.

I wait quietly at the counter to pick up my rental car while listening with one ear to the conversations around me. French couples who, at the sight of the partially snow-covered road, worry about not having opted for a 4 × 4. One less problem for me, I had anticipated. Iceland can be visited with a 4 × 4 in winter, otherwise nothing.

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The formalities completed and a very brief explanation of the 4 × 4 mode, and the adventure began!

Snaefellsness peninsula in Iceland

As I already knew the south of Iceland, I had planned my program in such a way as to carry out my road trip in a clockwise direction. Having already visited Reykjavik, so I was going to devote my first day to discovering the Snæfellsnes peninsula, which became famous thanks to a certain Jules Vernes and his novel “Voyage au center de la terre”.

An enticing program!

But in the meantime, tired of my trip, it was in the bed of my youth hostel that I spent my first evening, not without first checking the probability of the Northern Lights almost zero that night.

The next day I wake up as the sun is just rising. I take this opportunity to go for a walk around the accommodation located in the countryside a few kilometers north of Reykjavik. Despite the cold that pinches my hands, I can’t resist the urge to photograph everything that passes under my eyes because the light is so beautiful. These wild geese were lucky enough to pass my lens right then.

wild geese in iceland

After the time normally allowed to defrost my windshield, I take the road to happiness in the direction of Snæfellsnes. This peninsula, described as a miniature vision of Iceland, promises stunning scenery. I look forward.

About 2 hours later, the plain begins to give way to the mountains. The road is approaching the coast where I can already see the rough sea crashing into the beaches. It’s too beautiful, I can’t help but stop quickly for a few photos.

Snaefellsness peninsula in Iceland
Snaefellsness peninsula in Iceland
Búðakirkja church in Iceland
Snaefellsness peninsula in Iceland

A few kilometers further, another break for this pretty church which catches my eye with its pretty black wooden facade and its small cemetery facing the sea. It’s the first day, I am ecstatic in front of everything. And it will continue like this for the whole week.

I finally arrive at the first goal of my visit to Snæfellsnes, the village of Arnarstapi located at the foot of the Snaefellsjökull glacier. Besides its secret passage leading to the center of the earth (yes, yes!) This site is famous for its superb cliffs facing the Atlantic Ocean.

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Several small loops allow you to follow the coastline while passing at the level of the different points of view of the area. Among the sites present here, you will be able to see a pretty natural arch on the sea, sheltering the nests of hundreds of sea birds as well as basalt columns carved on the cliffs.

Considering what time it was when I left, I undoubtedly stayed much longer than I had imagined. When it’s beautiful, we don’t count 🙂

wave crashing on arnastapi cliff in iceland
arnastapi cliff in iceland
icelandic landscape in winter

Kirkjufell the beautiful

You have to believe that luck does things well, since, while I was thinking of taking the small road that runs along the coast, it turned out to be closed during the winter. Too bad for me, I take the normal route to reach one of the must-see sites of Snæfellsnes. I name Kirkjufell mountain and its famous frozen waterfalls at this time of year.

The snowy landscapes along the road are all more beautiful than the others. Yes, I am running out of adjective to describe the indescribable. I can only marvel and be grateful for my cheeky luck to be able to travel to these amazing places. Because yes, I am one of those who thinks that traveling is a chance before being a choice.

Lost in the white immensity that surrounds me, Kirkjufell mountain suddenly looms in front of me. And the icing on the cake, that day, a thin film of ice on the sea created an almost perfect reflection of this white dome.

Kirkjufell mountain and its reflection

Right next door, the parking lot leading to the waterfalls is already full. Although… many cars are parked outside the parking lot while there are still spaces. Why is that ? As I park and get out of my car, my beautiful slide on the giant ice sheet explains the why and how! The parking lot is completely frozen, as well as the whole trail that leads to the waterfalls. I have planned my mini crampons, which are rather practical on the way up even if they do not solve all the problems on the way down …

As I have a taste for risk, I momentarily let go of the current hand in order to take out my tripod and my SLR. The exercise is not the simplest, but I manage to take some pictures of these frozen waterfalls with the Kirkjufell in the background. The most impressive being the color of the water, crystal blue!

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Kirkjufell mountain and its frozen waterfalls in winter
Kirkjufell mountain and its frozen waterfalls in winter
Kirkjufell mountain

The snowy slopes of Snæfellsnes

The afternoon is already well advanced when I leave the Kirkjufell site. Night falls early enough in Iceland in March, and my taste for risk has proven itself, I decide to take a track (and to test the 4 × 4 mode at the same time) in order to reach my accommodation located 3 hours by road from there.

What a good idea !

snowy road iceland

Well, if you are not used to driving on snow it is very likely that you will not find this idea as brilliant as that, knowing that I did not meet any living soul for nearly 100km … If you have a problem, you have to know how to fend for yourself!

But if you like adventure and you have a 4 × 4, this is the opportunity to have fun and enjoy pristine snow-covered landscapes and the many Icelandic horses. A nostalgic taste of the west coast of Australia, winter version.

Snaefellsness peninsula in Iceland

I finally arrived a little early at my accommodation, the opportunity to go for a walk in the canyon located not far from there.

The Kolugljúfur canyon

This site was not at all in my schedule, but I came across a sign and being curious, I did not resist the temptation. Again, even though the track was “clean”, it was still a track. This kind of path is therefore perfect for 4 × 4 but I admit that I might not have tried it with a low car.

Still, I got there just in time to enjoy the sunset over the canyon and its frozen waterfall. The site is really beautiful, and from what I saw, not very touristy (at least at the late hour when I was there).

And as it was really beautiful and not far from my accommodation, I told myself that I was going to go back there to watch for the dawn. The idyllic spot. Except that dawn has not arrived. At past midnight, I finally dropped the case to go to bed and be in good shape to continue the road along the beautiful northern fjords the next day !

Do you know the Snæfellsnes peninsula? Would you like to take a road trip in Iceland in winter? Share your tips with me in the comments!

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