Friday, July 10, 2015

Day 3 - Snæfellsnes Peninsula - Beaches, Churches, and Mountains

I don't think I have an "official favorite" part of Iceland, but I do know that if I had to pick, the Snæfellsnes Peninsula would be up there as a contender.  Sea cliffs, seabirds, quaint churches, and mountains made exploration of this area one of the most breathtaking and beautiful days of our trip.  Here is how to recreate this adventure....

Snæfellsnes Peninsula - Beaches, Churches, and Mountains

Búðir Church

Our day on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula began with a detour off the Ring Road (Rt 1) onto Rt 54.  The road winds along the shore with views of farms, fields, and mountains shadowing the coast.  As you near the end of the peninsula you get glimpses of a glacier covered peak - 
Snæfellsjokull.  Our first stop was to see the church and beach at Búðir.  We photographed the picturesque dark church and explored the black rock beach and tide pools nearby.  Grazing sheep wandered by, and it was an idealic Iceland setting.  

Continuing along Rt. 54, we stopped next at the town of Hellnar.  It was lunch time, and our travel agent, Linda, had suggested we eat at the "cute cafe" in town.  We discovered the Primus cafe and had a nice lunch in their open and friendly cafe.  After lunch, we hiked a short walk down to the caves only to discover an even cuter cafe nestled into the sea sprayed rocks.  Whoops!  Either way, we enjoyed our Icelandic lunch and beach exploration.  
Icelandic Lunch at Primus Cafe

Back on the road, we drove to Djúpalónssandur beach.  A short walk through lava rock monoliths and we were on a wide beach made of black basalt pebbles.  Metal ruins of a 1948 shipwreck, left untouched for many years, sprinkled the area above the high tide zone.  In the distance, the tall Snæfellsjokull peak rose up behind the dark lava rock.  It was a spectacular scene.  We strolled the beach, protected from the wind by the tall rock formations.
Black Beach with ship wreckage and Snæfellsjokull mountain.

Kirkjufell Waterfalls
We continued around the peninsula, enjoying the magnificent ocean views.  Our next stop was one I had been looking forward to since researching Iceland photography. Kirkjufell mountain is one of the most common photographs of Iceland.  (In fact, if I google "Iceland" - this is the first image to appear.) This scene is located on the Northern portion of the peninsula.  Mountains rise up near the shore and at this point you can get a photograph with the Kirkjufell waterfalls in the foreground.  It's a gorgeous spot and easy to miss the small pullout on the inland side of the road.  We took our time, admiring the view and walking the short hike around the falls.

Our room at Kast Guesthouse
Kirkjufell is located near the town of Grundarfjörður.  We headed into town to search for a dinner spot.  Leanne and I split a delicious meal of fish and chips and salad at RuBen and Ali enjoyed pizza and beer (It was here we started to discover Iceland's affinity for pizza.)

From Grundarfjörður, we cut down Rt 56 back to the southern portion of the peninsula to Guesthouse Kast  (in Kast).  These accomodations provided clean, modern rooms with a shared bath.  The location was stunning - located at the base of wind swept fjords.  They also provided a nice continental breakfast spread.

READ ABOUT THE NEXT DAY HERE: Day 4 - Westfjords - Winding Roads, Mountains, Puffins, and a Ferry

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Snæfellsjokull and wildflowers