Drive it yourself: The Snæfellsnes peninsula

Snæfellsjökull1

Snæfellsnes peninsula is one of my favorite places in Iceland although I can’t really put my finger on it what it is exactly that I like so much about it. The nature is breathtakingly beautiful but I think I’ve also just always been very lucky with the weather when traveling there so in mind it’s this magical place bathed in beautiful golden light that makes the whole peninsula glow. I’m sure it’s not always like that though, this is Iceland after all.

Because of this it made sense that my third Drive-It-Yourself guide would feature this gorgeous area. If you haven’t booked a car yet you can check out this awesome car rental offer or if you’d rather do this as a part of a tour you can also check out The Wonder’s of Snæfellsnes tour (just keep in mind though that you won’t get to stop at all the places mentioned in the guide on the tour).

snæfellsnes

Although all my Drive-It-Yourself guides are set up as day tours from Reykjavík you can of course either expand them into multi-day trips or use them as a part of a longer trip around Iceland. Just because you can do something in a day doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the best way to do it. However, when you are pressed for time and you just want to see as much as possible, using Reykjavík as your hub, it’s good to know that this is at least possible.

Gerðuberg

According to Google Maps the drive from Reykjavík around the peninsula and back is about 475 km and they estimate that you need just over 6 hours for the driving without stops. This day trip could easily take 12 hours or more with all the things to see and do on the way but if the weather is nice I would say it’s well worth it.

Snæfellsjökull

Visiting Snæfellsnes Peninsula in winter

Although Snæfellsnes is no less beautiful in winter it suffers from lack of available service. If you don’t pack a lunch and your schedule gets messed up for some reason you might have to drive a long distance for something to eat and then it might only be a gas station hot dog. There are also a lot of day tours and other activity that is only available in the summer so if there’s anything you’ve got your heart set on doing, make sure it’s available before you make the drive up here.

Búðir

One major draw in Snæfellsnes in winter is the diverse bird and sea life on the north side of the peninsula, in particular in January, February and March. Grundarfjörður has for example become famous in recent years  for the killer whales that hang around just outside the town but you don’t see so much of them in other parts of Iceland.

Djúpalónssandur 1

Like always when you are traveling around Iceland in winter you have to make sure you keep an eye on the weather and road conditions before you head out. There are areas in Snæfellsnes that are known for being really windy and some of the roads are mountain roads that can be  icy.

Instructions on how to use this map (viewing it larger is advised):

There are three layers on this map. To see all the layers click on the button in the top left corner. The first layers contains points of interest in the area. The second layer contains places, restaurants, pools and such that might be worth visiting in the area. The third and last layer contains rough driving instructions from Reykjavík. To hide and show different layers click on the boxes next to the names of the layers (if they are visible there’s a little check mark in the box).

To make the map bigger click the bracket (next to your profile photo) in the top right corner of the map. 

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71 thoughts on “Drive it yourself: The Snæfellsnes peninsula”

  1. Lisa says:

    Bringing back such good memories of our day drive around the peninsula last summer! (Though we did have crummy weather all through the morning drive along the south coast, sadly!) We had an excellent fish soup, coffee and coconut-topped carrot cake at Gamla Rif, at the end of the main road in Rif, in case anyone needs a stop at the northern edge of Snaefellsjokull park. Also, we were surprised to find that the shark museum at Bjarnarhofn, though sort of a goofy touristy thing to do, turned out to have a lot of neat 19th century artifacts of everyday life that were fun to browse. And reading the bit about the berserkers from Eyrbyggja saga while driving the Berserkjahraun was intense!

  2. obelie says:

    thanks so much for this article, I’m preparing a summer self-drive holiday around Iceland and this is one of our step, hugely helpful!! and the photos …ahhh I want to be there already!!

  3. Chloe says:

    YAY! I was SO hoping one of these would come out before I leave for Iceland next Tuesday!

    1. Amy says:

      Chloe, we’re going next April. How was it that time of year?
      Thanks,
      Amy

  4. Patrick says:

    Staring our trip to Iceland on May 8th!!!! Definitely want to do this!!

  5. Ashlyn says:

    Hi,

    My bf and I will be visiting Iceland in August and we have been constantly using your blog to plan our trip and seek for advices. Great content you have!

    I do have a question. It may seem silly but we are wondering if it’s needed to get a pair of hiking boots? We are generally driving around the Ring Road with stops to see some attractions. And it may be pricey to buy a pair here in Singapore so we were thinking of just sticking to a good old pair of Nike running shoes. Would you advise that?

    Would like to send a big thank you for such an innovative and helpful blog too!

    Best,
    Ashlyn

    1. mm Auður says:

      I’ve got through most of my adult life without owning a pair of proper hiking shoes. I have them now though and am always happy when I go out of the city. Before I got them I mostly wore light trekking shoes but I’ve also been out of town in my converse every now and again. Just keep in mind that if you want to do a glacier hike for example your nikes will not be enough.

      1. Ashlyn says:

        Thanks a lot! That’s helpful. (:

  6. Connie says:

    This is absolutely fabulous! Thank you so much for taking the time to create the map and provide this great Blog. I am arriving there in two days and this will really help me to make the most of my time there as a first-time visitor!

  7. Vera says:

    This is so great! I’ll be in Iceland in a couple days and will be using this guide for my daily itinerary. I will be renting a car but is it necessary to rent a 4 wheel drive or can I get away with just a 2 wheel drive car.

    Thanks!

    1. mm Auður says:

      You don’t need a 4wd now, 2wd is quite sufficient.

  8. Steve Houlihan (@EKHRLtd) says:

    Great review and we are planning on driving around the Peninsula in late July. My only nerves are the quality of the roads in that area, could you provide any guidance on that, do you for example need a 4wd for the route shown.

    Kind regards

    1. mm Auður says:

      You don’t need a 4×4 for this area in July. All most all of this is paved, the only portions that are unpaved are some smaller roads if you wander off the main roads. You don’t need a 4×4 for the gravel roads, just drive carefully.

  9. Joy says:

    Love this!! We are planning a day trip to Snaefellsnes and your suggestions are GREAT! At the risk of sounding like a crazy old lady, is there any way i can print the info associated with each of your stops?

    1. mm Auður says:

      At the moment it’s not available but I am contemplating ways to make it available.

  10. Alex says:

    We are heading to Reykjavik for our honeymoon in late October and are planning 2.5 days for a road trip. Out of the 3 trips you have here, which is your favorite? Also, do you think a 4×4 car is required for late October? We love the blog btw, we are going to be so much more prepared because of you!

    1. mm Auður says:

      I don’t really have a favorite – these are all very good.

      You don’t need a 4×4 and there probably won’t be a lot of snow at that time.

  11. Morgane says:

    Amazing map ! So much useful information, I am leaving on Monday and it is such a great help 🙂

  12. Hi

    Your website is great. I have been using it from last few days to plan my first northern Island trip in Nov, specifically Nov 15- Nov 20th. I have put up a rough itineary and wanted your suggestions on that.

    Day 1- Arriving in Iceland, heading to Blue Lagoon and then to our bnb in Reykjavik.
    Day 2- Self Drive to Stykkishólmur, spend some time in the village and then head to Arnarstapi. Spend sometime here and then back to Reykjavik. We will be going for NL hunt tour that night.
    Day 3- Self Drive to Golden Circle and stay over night some place near to selfoss.
    Day 4- Self Drive to South shore, until Vik depending on weather, and return to Reykjavik.
    Day 5 – Spend sometime in Reyk and return to airport KEF.

    Does my plan sound reasonable? Or Am I pushing too much places in a short span?

    My other worry is driving in Iceland in November. Is it really that scary? Based on my itinerary do you think I should be more careful around some routes. If yes, could you please suggest me which are those.

    Also if you can give me a small idea on the roads that I should take each of the day, that will be useful.

    Any other recommendations for us, in terms of places I should not miss while on road each day.

    I know I am asking a whole lot of information and I am so sorry about that. But your suggestions will bring in some confidence.

    Cheers
    Aanchal

    1. mm Auður says:

      It sounds to me like you might benefit from contacting a travel agent to help you with your questions. Nordic Visitor for example has great self-drive packages.

  13. Aashish Gohil says:

    Dear Sir –

    Have WW rented for 6 days in Reykjavik from Dec. 24-Dec.30. Do you recommend driving in Iceland during our stay and also should we consider taking this route as a day trip.

    Thanks.
    Aashish

    1. mm Auður says:

      You can do this as a day trip but just keep in mind that the weather is really temperamental here and on the day you might want to do this it might be too windy, snowy etc. So make sure you just check the weather and the road conditions before you head out.

      Also, this is a long day trip and the light is very limited at this time of year.

  14. Arun says:

    Hi, I am visiting Iceland in early March and am planning to drive to Snæfellsnes from Reykjavik. Is a 2WD enough or would I need a 4WD? Also, I plan on staying for one night. Any nice and affordable places you would recommend?

    Thanks,
    Arun

  15. Andrew says:

    I absolutely love your blog – it has been an invaluable resource for planning our trip!

    We will be coming to Iceland for our first visit in late-May 2016 and plan on renting a non-4×4 car (probably a VW Golf or similar). Will something like that be suitable for day trips through the Golden Circle, the South Coast and the Snaefellsnas Peninsula? Or do we need a 4×4 in order to, for example, get out near the Snaefellsjokull Glacier? Put another way, do you think will we be missing out on a lot if we’re not able to use F-Roads on these day trips? Any guidance you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Andrew

  16. Carolina says:

    Just did this today following your guide and it was perfect!! Thanks a lot!
    The weather was beautiful and we had a wonderful time!

    1. mm Auður says:

      Glad to hear it helped you! 🙂

  17. Dana says:

    Hi Auður!

    My friend and I are spending a few days in Reykjavik in mid-May. I’d really love to take a one-day roadtrip to explore Snäfellsnes, but I’m wondering if it’s at all doable to rent a car first thing in the morning, do the trip without rushing too much to enjoy it, and still get the car back to the office before it closes at 5 or 6. Is it much too far? The way our trip is scheduled, we have to be back in Reykjavik by night, so unfortunately staying in Snæfellsnes overnight isn’t an option.

    Thanks!
    Dana

    1. mm Auður says:

      Hi Dana,

      I would say you need 10-12 hours for this day tour so you could definitely do it in a day but you would probably not be back before 5 or 6. Unless of course you skip parts of it.

      1. Dana says:

        That’s good to know. Thanks for your help! 🙂

  18. Paul says:

    Hi Auður

    Love your blog!

    My wife and I will be doing a 6 day 5 night self-drive tour in June. We are spending the 5th day in Akureyri and we are supposed to be heading for Borgarnes for the 6th and final day before heading back to Reykavik. However, we are thinking of heading to the Snaefellnes Peninsula instead on the 6th day. Is its feasible to do so coming from Akureyri? Or would there be too much driving and little time for anything else?

    Would really appreciate your thoughts. Thanks in advance!

    1. mm Auður says:

      It’s possible but I wouldn’t do it if you are leaving on the 6th day. It’s a bit of driving for sure.

  19. Darleen says:

    As many others have said, I echo as well–“THANK YOU for taking the time to put this together!!!” This is day five of our day tours (by car rental) from Reykjavik and we were looking to head towards the peninsula but didn’t know what was along the way. Your blog about this day trip was absolutely perfect and saved us a lot of Internet searching!! LOVED the interactive map!!

    1. mm Auður says:

      I’m glad to hear that you find it useful 🙂

  20. Renee says:

    Thank you for this. I just reserved my car and this peninsula is a place I want to visit. a friend told me about a great little place for seafood that was also a bakery that is on the way out of the town with the ferry. (stykkisholmur) Do you have any idea what place she might be referring to?

    anyway, thank you so much. I look forward to your walking tour July 15th!

    1. mm Auður says:

      I don’t know of a place that is both a bakery and a restaurant in Stykkihólmur, sorry. My sister is working at the fish and chips food truck by the harbor for the summer – you should go there and say hi 🙂

  21. Shruti Jindal says:

    Hi Auður,

    Absolutely informative blog I love it most of my answers were here.Me and my husband are planning to visit iceland in December, I have a few queries please help.

    1-Is it worth it in December hows the christmas there?
    2-Will I only see frozen waterfall or can I see some with water also we really want to see the Bruarfoss, Skogafoss,Gulfoss falls?
    3-I just don’t want to see snow I want a mix of both is it possible also we dont want to get stuck in our rooms because of chill?
    4-We would do  Golden Circle, the South Coast,the Snaefellsnas Peninsula
    5-Will I be able see famous horse and sheeps of iceland?
    6-And yes northern light?  

    Thanks in advance
    Shruti

    1. Arun says:

      Hi sruthi,

      December is a nice time to go, if you want to see the northern lights and Blue Ice caves at the vatnajokull glacier. Iceland is a country which offers completely different experiences during summer and winter. Most of the waterfalls could be frozen and there would be a lot of snow and storms etc. But the northern lights and blue ice caves make it totally worth . The. Blue ice cave is the single most beautiful sight I have ever seen in my life.

      Regards,
      Arun

  22. Jenn says:

    Is the road from Arnarstapi to Rif considered a F-road?

    1. mm Auður says:

      If you just follow the main road around the national park that is not an F road

  23. Matt says:

    Hey there. Great read. I was wondering if one day/night is enough on the peninsula or do you suggest two days and two nights? Thanks!

    1. mm Auður says:

      If you have the time you can easily spend 2 days/2 nights in the peninsula – just depends on what you are looking for and what else you are hoping to see and such.

  24. paul says:

    Hi. I will be driving from Akureyi to the Kirkjufell area the end of March. I believe it’s a close to 5 hour drive, without stops. Can you recommend a town or a couple of places to stay overnight to break up that drive? Great blog BTW.
    Thanks.
    Paul

    1. mm Auður says:

      The most logical place would maybe be Hvammstangi or somewhere around that. That way you could, if the conditions allow for it, visit Dalvík and Siglufjörður on your way there or check out Hvítserkur at Vatnsnes. Depends a little bit on the weather what I would do though.

  25. Ning Ji says:

    Hi, I am planning to take a drive to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in early March, and considering staying overnight. Can you recommend a place to spend the night? I am having difficulty finding accommodation around there. Thank you so much!

    1. mm Auður says:

      Your best options are probably either Stykkishólmur or Grundarfjörður

    2. Sam says:

      North Coast – Guesthouse Hof; Guesthouse Langaholt; Hotel Budir (priceier); Hotel Hellnar. North Coast – Hotel Framnes; Hotel Hellissandur; Vogur Country Lodge. These were recommended to us.

  26. Sam says:

    Anyone care to comment/advise – we were advised that driving the Snaefellsnes Peninsula can be treacherous, technically March will still be wintry….. That got us thinking. So, we would like to know of the possibility of very strong winds (dangerously strong….) and snow…. Are there many problems in March in Iceland? Here on the east coast of U.S., March is pretty much very close to Spring, so the chance is minimal to have blizzards, etc.

  27. Robert Lee says:

    We are spending a week in Westfjords, the last 3 days on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Staying 1 night in Stykkisholmur, after the ferry and stopover on Flatey Island. Then on to Grundarfjordur for 2 nights before heading back to Reykjavik. We are reading a lot, but after reading your wonderful blog, wonder if there are some spots/sights/hikes that we should definitely consider–some things that should not be missed.
    Loved reading all this and comments!
    Bob

    1. mm Auður says:

      Hi Robert, I thought that’s what I was doing with this map? 🙂 Have taken a look at it?

  28. caitlin says:

    Thank you for the article and helpful map! I have a question I’m hoping you can help with. Im driving the ring road and currently I’m going from my hostel in Hvammstangi to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula to my next hostel in Grabrok (check in before 9pm). Would you suggest keeping this route or going from Hvammstangi to a place in Hellnar and Grabrok the next night? I want to have ample time to explore but dont want to rearrange all my accommodations if it’s not needed.

    Love your blog!

    1. mm Auður says:

      I’m sorry Caitlin, we’re so busy that we often can’t answer the comments on here instantly. It’s usually best to send us an e-mail with time sensitive questions.

  29. Kate Neil says:

    Hi. I’m looking for the map on the Snaefellsnes peninsula drive it yourself tour. I can’t see it on the page.
    Thanks.
    Kate.

    1. mm Auður says:

      It’s there so maybe you need to try another browser.

    2. Sam Mak says:

      I had been researching on driving the Peninsula in March also. Most people WARNED that driving in winter can be hazardous, and perhaps dangerous, simply because of the snow and extremely strong-wind situation. So, we decided to just let someone else do the driving, join a local tour…..

      1. mm Auður says:

        It can be very tough driving up there if the weather is bad. But it can also be beautiful if the weather is nice. The problem is that you never know which side of the coin you’ll get 🙂

  30. Pat Thomas says:

    My sister and I are thinking of renting a car and driving from Reykavik to Snaefellsness Easter weekend this year. Are the roads open at this time so that we could drive there?

    1. mm Auður says:

      They are open all year – there are just some bad days in between where parts might close. But this has been an unusually mild winter and even roads in the Westfjords that never open until later in April have already been opened.

  31. Megan says:

    Thank you so much for the super helpful post! We just finished our day trip and it was so nice being able to use your map on my phone. Made the trip 10 times easier! Thanks!!

    1. mm Auður says:

      Glad to hear it! 🙂

  32. Ann says:

    Hello,
    Very helpful site…all 3 sightseeing areas you cover I have printed out!
    For S.P. specifically, I have not seen this question asked anywhere. Does it make a difference, i.e. is it “better” or “preferred” to drive it clockwise or c-c? We will be there in June, staying 2 nights in Borgarnes, so wondering if we should head to Stykk first or Hellnar direction first for our full day on the peninsula (& then maybe will decide if we have to backtrack a bit the next day before heading back to the capital, or we may want to see Hraunfossar & Banafossar…obviously so much to see!)? Either way I am also hoping there is time to take a Breidafjordur boat tour, or would that be taking too much time away from seeing the peninsula (including stops & short walks)?
    Thanks, Ann

    1. mm Hrannar - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Hi Ann

      For me, being from Borgarnes originally, I would do Borgarfjörður first in one day and then Snæfellsnes the next one. There are plenty of things to see on both places. My way is probably counter clockwise 🙂

  33. Jack Lang says:

    I will arrive at Reykjavic Harbour at 8:00 am on August 30 and leave at 5:00 pm on August 31. I can choose 2 from 3 best tours-Golden Circle, South Coast and the Peninsula. What would you suggest to me to give up. Many thanks

    1. mm Auður says:

      The Snæfellsnes peninsula is the longest of those three tours and just for that reason I would recommend the other two. I would do the south coast on day 1 (because it’s longer) and the golden circle on day 2.

  34. jeff says:

    Hi,
    Your info is fantastic! Thank you. Based on what you have said, I feel that this self-guided tour more than covers the vast majority of sights and things to do on the peninsula. In your opinion, do I really need to hire a guide? Sounds unnecessarily expensive, especially after spending so much money for lodging and food…

    1. mm Hrannar - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Hi Jeff

      The tours are great but if you have a rental car the guide shows you all the main spots on the peninsula. If you follow the guide, you will have a great day out there.

  35. thatcher simpson says:

    Auder,
    Your blog is great. My wife and I are in Iceland next month and we loath guided tours although we have been apprehensive about just going it on our own. We have not been to Iceland before and were very concerned about the info about the Froads. So nice to see a local giving great information to Tourons (tourist morons) about drive it your self tours. Much appreciated and a blessing. We plan to hike to the top of Kirkjufell and hope to visit glacier Snaefellsjokell. We don’t think we have time to go to the top, can you recommend a hike with a peak.

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      I believe you can buy a hiking map for Snæfellsnes but this page also has some good info: https://www.ust.is/default.aspx?PageID=e8e6110f-5185-4252-9244-bafccdf9859b#Tab0

      If you visit the tourist info in Borgarnes or in the National park itself they also have a lot of info.

  36. Lynn Lomibao says:

    I heart your site! I’ve read through so much of it in preparation for our trip in late August. We’ll only be in Iceland for 5 days, unfortunately, but I was wondering whether you’d recommend Snaefellsnes or a trip to the south coast (Vik and Jokulsarlon) for first-time visitors? Originally, we planned to base in Reykjavik for the first three nights and then drive to Vik, spend the night there, visit Jokulsarlon in the morning and spend some time in Skaftafell, and then drive to Fludir and spend our last night in Iceland soaking in the Secret Lagoon. Your post and other blogs have made me wonder if we should instead go to Snaefellsnes because of its can’t-put-your-finger-on-it magic and beauty. What do you think?

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      I wouldn’t recommend one over the other – it all depends on what you are looking for. Snæfellsnes is not quite as packed with tourists as the south coast it but on the other hand, the south coast has a lot more kind of “wow” moments. So both great – just different.

      Which one I’d recommend just depends on what you are looking for 🙂

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