Iceland day 3: Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Snaefellsnes ExpressThe day started gloriously with the view of Kirkjufell, the iconic mountain dominating the bay. After a healthy breakfast in the well arranged kitchen of the Old Post guesthouse and we drove to the gas station, to personally witness the cost of grocery. Some items are quite acceptably priced: a big bottle of juice was just 400ISK – but the milk costs double than in the UK and the cheese costs like sirloin at my local butcher. It’s gonna be a difficult fortnight.
Adhering to Magnus’s instructions we started driving along the coast, westbound, following the road south through the National Park and around Snæfellsjökull to the glacier, to finish the day off in an outdoor warm pool.

Lonely Lighthouse in Iceland

 

Ágætis byrjun, a good start

Golden sand IcelandMagnus was right, from the first miles of our drive west of Grundarfjordur we immediately recognized the classic Iceland of the documentaries, its breathtaking beauty surrounding us, without the filter of a camera. The squeaky radio played Svefn-g-Englar, which was been probably written as a soundtrack for driving through exactly that scenery.
The first stop was Öndverdarnes, to admire the two orange lighthouses and the vertiginous cliffs, home to hundreds of noisy birds. On the way there there are a few beaches patterned with yellow and black sand, one is big and signalled with a parking space, but before that we found another one. Only accessible via a relatively easy climb down big rocks, this beach was little and pristine, not one footprint on the sand and secluded by black rocks which are also quite fun to climb on.

Geology rocks!

Volcanic rocks IcelandBack on the 574 we aimed at Saxholar, which we just managed to spot because it’s a huge volcano in a vast green flatland. Don’t expect signs to clearly indicate you every point of interest: be always on the look and be ready to u-turn and drive back.
It’s possible to climb the volcano, a modest ascent of 5 minutes, and from the top you can see both the bowl where once was the crater, and the land around for miles and miles. We also spent the better part of a hour browsing through the astonishing variety of stones: some spongy, some like hardened blobs, some black, some brown with green and purple reflections. We could have spent hours there but we had so many things to do, so we took a couple of rocky souvenirs and left.

The glacier disappeared

Our frequent stops made us run behind schedule so we decided to skip the Vatnshellir caves and the Djupalonssandur – we’ve seen enough sand for a day – and head to the glacier.
Past the Arnarstapi lighthouse the roads split, and the F570 climbs the side of the mountains to the thick clouds and Snæfellsjökull. We kept going for 6/7 kms and our Jimmy was struggling to cope with the bumpy road and the challenge with other bigger, newer 4WDs. On the map it looked easy: drive around the mountain until you reach the glacier; but the clouds were down low and we weren’t quite sure whether we reached the glacier and, if we did, we probably wouldn’t have noticed.

Snæfellsjökull glacier Iceland

Muddy waters

After a brief but vicious snowball fight we were back in the car, hurling it down the same bumpy road at top speed. Destination: the warm waters of Lysuholl pool.
It’s barely signalled and the sign can only be seen 20 meters before the turn, which is a bit too late. To avoid slamming on brakes, or u-turning after the missed junction, follow the signs to Kast Guesthouse.
Lysuholl doesn’t really account as a village to our standards, is more like a few houses scattered within 100m from each other. For this we easily found the pool, spotted by the unusual amount of cars (four) in the parking lot. The building is a simple wooden hut, with a strong DIY feel; the facility is basic but very clean. Nothing fancy: one small pool where to swim and two circular tubs for relaxing, and it was only populated by local families. The water is warm and smelly: the unmistakable sign that it’s geo-thermally heated, and it’s a great way to end a day, taking the fatigue off, the muscles melting in the warm embrace of nature.
The entrance is quite cheap (650ISK), and remember to shower thoroughly, without swimsuit, before entering the pool.

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After being in Rome a few times without even looking at the Coliseum I realised that there's more to travel than sightseeing: meeting the local culture is what, 10 years later, determined the birth of this blog.

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