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Snæfellsnes Peninsula – Better Than Iceland’s Golden Circle!

March 9, 2017

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!

Upon Bessi’s recommendation, we booked in to spend our first day at Snæfellsnes Peninsula and decided to rejoin him for the Golden Circle, Iceland’s most iconic day trip.

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!

Búðir Church

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.

Snæfellsnes Peninsula Moonwalker Tours Iceland Nathan, Sarah and Bessi

Snaefellsjoekull National Park

Svalpufa-Pufubjarg: Londrangar

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.

Dritvik Djúpalónssandur

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.

Snæfellsnes Peninsula Moonwalker Tours Iceland 4wd vehicle Kirkjufell & Kirkjufellsfoss

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.

Snæfellsnes Peninsula Moonwalker Tours Iceland Kirkjufell & Kirkjufellsfoss

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!


Headed to Iceland?  Pin this post to help with future planning and to share it with other travellers!

Leave Iceland's Golden Circle behind and head out to Snæfellsnes Peninsula.  Everything you could want in an Icelandic itinerary all in the one place!  We recommend touring with Bessi of Moonwalker - he was absolute magic! Snaefellsnes Peninsula - One of our favourite day trips from Reykjavik (it beats the Golden Circle, hands down!) Leave Iceland's Golden Circle behind and head out to Snæfellsnes Peninsula.  Everything you could want in an Icelandic itinerary all in the one place!  We recommend touring with Bessi of Moonwalker - he was absolute magic!

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.

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28 Comments

  • Reply GirlAstray March 11, 2017 at 4:12 am

    Those are some stunning views! I´d be particularly interested in seeing the black church. Can you also enter there or is it closed when it´s not a mass?

    • Reply Sarah - Exploring Kiwis March 11, 2017 at 6:41 pm

      They do still use it as a functioning church – when we were there on Christmas Eve day it was to be used later that night. It was closed when we were there though.

  • Reply kad8585 March 11, 2017 at 4:25 am

    Thanks so much for such an informative post. I haven’t been to Iceland but when I get there, I will use Moonwalkers and ask for Bessi. He seems amazing. I cannot believe that he told you where the Northern alights were before you met him. So great!!!

    • Reply Sarah - Exploring Kiwis March 11, 2017 at 6:42 pm

      My pleasure – we really had the best time! Bessi’s a special character (and yep, great at spotting the northern lights which were surprisingly difficult to spot!)

  • Reply Jean March 11, 2017 at 4:30 am

    Wow this looks like you have an amazing time. I love the little Icelandic ponies too. Is be feeding them all the bread

    • Reply Sarah - Exploring Kiwis March 11, 2017 at 6:43 pm

      Aren’t they gorgeous! Indeed, he gives them bread a couple of times a week to help them bulk up over the winter.

  • Reply Kristine Li March 11, 2017 at 8:17 am

    This post is amazing! I didn’t know the church was covered in tar – simply thought it was black paint! Iceland really looks out of this world and it’s a country I hope to visit by next year! The ponies are SO CUTEEEEE omg.

    • Reply Sarah - Exploring Kiwis March 11, 2017 at 8:21 pm

      You’ll have to let us know if you head that way Kristine – we’d certainly recommend jumping in with Bessi! The South-East coast is amazing too 😀

  • Reply Brooke Thio March 11, 2017 at 9:02 am

    Looks like a great tour to do in winter – thank you for the recommendation!

    • Reply Sarah - Exploring Kiwis March 11, 2017 at 6:44 pm

      Pleased we could help! We’re keen to head back in the summer to compare but I can’t help but think winter would be my favourite season in Iceland – it’s just so magical!

  • Reply Allison Wong March 11, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    Thanks for the tips! I’m adding this to my Iceland wish list!

  • Reply Morgan March 11, 2017 at 4:38 pm

    I totally agree!!! Also one of my favorite days in Iceland. The best part was the lack of tourists. I would say it was the Iceland I was looking for. I’m so sad because I lost my pictures from this day. Thanks for sharing and letting me relive it through yours. xx Morgan

    • Reply Sarah - Exploring Kiwis March 13, 2017 at 7:40 am

      Spot on! Oh no though re. your photos!! You’ll definitely have to go back and snap some more 😉 We’re hoping to join Bessi again over the summer as I’d imagine the country looks totally different then.

  • Reply Anisa March 11, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    Wow. It does look amazing. I hope to make it to Iceland soon, so I pinned this for when I plan my trip.

  • Reply reflectiveponderer March 11, 2017 at 5:49 pm

    This is so breathtakingly beautiful!! I am so eager to visit Iceland , but of late, have seen hundreds of posts and updates about the capital city. Will definitely like to explore more of the country when I visit – although I don’t drive and will have to figure out something.

    • Reply Sarah - Exploring Kiwis March 11, 2017 at 6:47 pm

      The capital is very funky and a great place to base yourself for the most part but we really appreciated getting out of the city on these day trips (+ we spent 2 nights staying out on the South-East coast). Bessi can take you out in his Moonwalker truck so no need to drive! We also had a rental car but felt much more comfortable driving with the guys that know what they’re doing in those conditions.

  • Reply Kendal March 11, 2017 at 6:31 pm

    What a great find! I’m heading to Iceland soon and will definitely add this to my preliminary itinerary.

  • Reply Kiara Gallop March 11, 2017 at 10:50 pm

    This post is really making me want to return to Iceland! We only had 3 days there, so we chose a day in Reykjavik, a day at the Blue Lagoon, and a day on the Golden Circle tour, which we loved. So I can only imagine how amazing the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is 🙂

  • Reply Stef Henne March 14, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    My husband and I are going to Iceland on a stopover for 2 days in December…I will have to look into this tour! It looks awesome!

  • Reply Dariel March 18, 2017 at 9:52 am

    It is also my favourite part of Iceland! Pity we didn’t go to the church, it looks gorgeous.

  • Reply How to See Iceland's Golden Circle Without the Crowds - Exploring Kiwis April 23, 2017 at 10:48 pm

    […] more time up your sleeve?  Check out Snæfellsnes Peninsula or the South-East Coast of […]

  • Reply Kamie Berry August 12, 2017 at 4:12 am

    This really makes me want to go to Iceland, especially to see those adorable ponies. Your pictures are amazing!

  • Reply tabithoughts August 12, 2017 at 9:55 am

    Such beautiful views! Iceland wasn’t on my list of places to visit before I die, but it is now. It’s stunning!

  • Reply 10k Challenge Top 10 #travel Posts | everyworldheritage.site August 13, 2017 at 11:02 am

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