Some things just feel like they were meant to be.
Places, rugged and wild, that are so gorgeous, they just have to be seen. Iceland was that for us.
Likewise, some people seem like they were born into their jobs, a perfect fit for what they’re doing. Bessi of Moonwalker tours is the epitome of someone who’s found their calling – it’s practically impossible to imagine him doing anything else.
So you can imagine our excitement at getting to spend two whole days with him exploring the Land of Fire and Ice, my dream destination, Iceland!
We didn’t initially know much about the Snæfellsnes Peninsula but, putting our faith in an Icelandic expert, we set off on what was to be one of our very best days on the island. The following is our review of the day…
Meeting Bessi and Hitting the Road with Moonwalker
Incase you hadn’t already figured it out, the second we met Bessi we clicked. I’d been speaking with him over email for a number of months where it was clear that his passion for Iceland and personable nature was to be a real highlight of our tour but somehow he exceeded our already high expectations.
The writing was on the wall when a few days before our tour Bessi flicked us an email – the northern lights were out over Reykjavik and knowing that we were in town and desperate to spot them, he took the time to let us know. At that stage we’d not even met him in person but when he went out of his way to help us live out our northern-light-spotting dreams, we knew that Bessi was far more than your average tour guide.
With Moonwalker, nothing is ever a problem. Bessi’s got an amazing sense of humour, is kind, patient and incredibly knowledgable about practically everything (music, history, folklore – I challenge you to ask him something about Iceland that he doesn’t know!). There’s a reason he consistently pulls perfect Trip Advisor ratings out of the hat and trust me, he deserves every one of those stars. Every single one.
Our Snæfellsnes Itinerary
As promised, Bessi arrived on time ready to show us the best of the west coast of Iceland and with the sun still well below the horizon, we set off on the Ring Road. We stopped briefly on what Bessi assured us was normally a road – mountains of snow covered the tarseal and we bounded around in it, enjoying the slowly forming sunrise. Before long it was onto the first of our many gorgeous stops for the day!
One of the few remaining black churches in Iceland, the Búðir church was built in 1703 and after a checkered past, was finally reconstructed for the last time in 1987. Covered in tar to protect its wooden cladding, this black church provides striking photos against the snow and cotton candy skies that Iceland is so well known for in winter.
Arnarstapi: Bárðar saga Snæfellsáss
Not far from the Búðir church, we found ourselves standing in front of an intentionally placed pile of rocks. A little unsure at just what we were looking at, Bessi shared with us the first of many Icelandic tales. Legend says that Bárðar Snæfellsáss (deity of Mt. Snæfell), the guardian spirit of the area, was born half-man, half-giant. As he grew, so did his giant-nature until he disappeared into the Snæfell Glacier, his spirit forever guarding the local people and surrounding area.
The sculpture was commissioned and later created by Ragnar Kjartansson, representing Bárðar’s spirit, an important part of local folklore.
From Bárðar’s sculpture we headed over to the coast, at times knee deep in snow, to admire the rugged beach below. Centuries of waves crashing on the lava fields have left a collection of swirling basalt columns, unique to Iceland – I could have stayed there all day, watching the waves crash against the cliffside.
Our favourite basalt columns made another appearance further around the peninsular, only this time they were even more impressive. Rising up from the ocean, their resilience against the harsh ocean was a sight to behold.
Londrangar and the adjoining hill, Svalthufa, form the remains of a volcanic crater, much of which has been eroded away over the years. With the addition of younger lava fields, the topography of the area is amazing and if you take a second look, you’ll be able to spot what looks like an old ship in the silhouette of the pillars.
Continuing our journey, we stopped at Dritvik Djúpalónssandur, a beautiful, secluded black pebble beach.
After climbing down to the shoreline, weaving our way between basalt boulders and pillars in a setting that absolutely belongs to the Icelandic elves we came across a series of ‘lifting stones’. These perfectly formed little boulders were used for testing the strength of local fishermen in years gone by – starting with the monster Fullsterkur (full strength) weighing 154kg, to Hálfsterkur (half strength) at 100kg, Hálfdrættingur (weakling) at 54kg and working down to Amlóði (useless) at 23kg, would pit their strength against mother nature.
To qualify for work aboard the ships, potential fishermen had to lift at least the ‘weakling’ stone to hip height – how on earth they did it is anyone’s guess though! Bessi warned us that we wouldn’t be able to lift even the lightest of the stones and though we tried, unsurprisingly he was spot on!
Once we realised we couldn’t manage much more than rolling the stones around (trust me, they weren’t normal 23kg stones!) we ambled through knee deep snow, marvelling at the valley we found ourselves in.
Upon reaching the shoreline we spotted countless pieces of debris from the Grimsby fishing trawler, a local boat that wrecked on Dritvik Djúpalónssandur back in March of 1948. It was hard to believe how far inland the wreck had travelled, making it clear just how strong the waves could be at times.
Enjoy Iceland’s beaches but be mindful of their incredible power at the same time. A safe visit is a good one.
A Black-Sand Beach Detour
It was the small touches on our tour with Bessi that we loved most. If there was ever an opportunity for an extra photo stop or touch of fun, you could be sure that Bessi was already onto it.
Not quite sure of what to expect, he pulled over to the side of the road, urged me to turn on the GoPro and raced off onto one of Iceland’s many black-sand beaches. Without another soul in sight – that’s what Iceland’s all about!
Stopping to Visit our Furry Friends – The Icelandic Horses
Fluffy, hardy, iconic. Iceland is synonymous with its gorgeous horses! To the rest of the world, they generally only get to pony height but in Iceland they’re definitely considered horses and boy are they cute.
I knew I wanted to get up close and personal with some Icelandic horses at some point in our trip and luckily for us, Bessi knows just the place! A few times a week he pops along to a farm owned by a lovely elderly couple and, with a loaf of fresh bread in hand, helps ensure they maintain their ‘winter coat’. With a few honks of the horn, these three characters come charging over – there’s no doubt they know what’s coming and that it’s the absolute highlight of their day!
With the sun starting to sneak closer to the horizon, it was time to move on from our furry friends. Our next stop was one that we could see clearly from the paddocks – the most photographed mountain in all of Iceland – Kirkjufell.
Kirkjufell & Kirkjufellsfoss
With its distinctive peak and cascading waterfalls in the foreground, Kirkjufell (Church Mountain) is a firm favourite with photographers and for good reason. It’s absolutely breath-taking.
Towering over the landscape at 463m high, there’s a perfect photography spot tucked in just behind Kirkjufellsfoss (Church Mountain Falls) where, with a wide angle lens, you can snap the picture-perfect image that has become infamous.
With the sun setting on a gorgeous, fun-filled day of Icelandic sight-seeing, we begrudgingly began the trek back to Reykjavik over a mountain pass. Bessi’s truck made short work of the deep snow but without his truck and driving experience, we wouldn’t have stood a chance on the road (if you could even call it that without any real sign of it!)
We had the most amazing day exploring the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and though we loved the Golden Circle, if we could only have done one of the trips with Moonwalker, I’m going to make a controversial call and say that it’s the Snæfellsnes Peninsula that we’d recommend. The scenery was beyond beautiful, the landscape diverse (it is after all known locally as offering everything you could want to see in a day trip) and the drive comfortable. With the added benefit of being comparatively off the tourist trail, we often had stops entirely to ourselves which is exactly what you dream of when you think of Iceland’s great outdoors.
What are you waiting for? The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is waiting for you!
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Thank you to Bessi at Moonwalker for so generously showing us the sites of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. After two days on the road he felt more like a friend than a tour guide and we could not recommend him enough! As always, all thoughts are our own.