May 6, 2017: Snæfellsnes Peninsula: Vatnshellir Cave, Londrangar, Kirkjufellsfoss, and a failed attempt at visiting Snæfellsjökull Glacier
Day 3 Planned (Image credit: Google)
Day 3 Actual (Image credit: Google)
Since we were forced to abandon much of our day 2 plans due to the extreme fog, we pushed some of those activities to day 3, which was still awesome but meant a LOT of driving that day.
Snæfellsness Peninsula has so much to see! If you don't have time to do the entire ring road, I highly recommend checking out this peninsula. It's about a 2.5-3 hour drive from Reykjavik to the tip of the peninsula (including a toll road/tunnel). I wish we had stayed there at least one more day because we didn't have time to get to everything that we wanted to see here, but we still managed to fit in a lot of amazing places in the short time that we had!
1st stop? Vatnshellir Cave! What better way to experience the land of fire and ice than to climb down inside a lava tube??
Price (at June 2017): 3250 ISK per adult (discounts for teenagers/students/seniors). Includes helmet & flashlight. Appx $31 USD / $41 CAD
FYI there are toilets (portapotties anyways) at Vatnshellir - BUT they are NOT maintained during the off season, so they were not open when we were here in May. There are bathrooms about a 5 minute drive back towards Londrangar (near the lighthouse).
Photo credit: Elijah Martinez
There is a small(ish) parking lot next to the entrance to the cave, but it looks like it can get very crowded with tour buses. We had *fun* backing out of the parking lot onto the main road. If the lot is full there appeared to be a secondary parking lot back towards Londrangar a hundred meters or so.
We had not pre-booked this, and we were a bit concerned that we might not be able to get in, so we made it our first stop - just in case it was sold out at that time but maybe we could book for a tour later in the day (you can NOT book online the day of, we tried). We needn't have worried - although if you go during high season I'm guessing it would be a completely different story! It was busy, but they split us into two groups for the time slot we had, and each group went a separate way once inside the lava tube.
Our tour guide was very entertaining, telling us silly stories about drunken trolls and even nicknaming this crazy looking 'face' in the rock the 'mother-in-law'.
This pile of rocks was fondly referred to by our tour guide as a trolls Christmas tree!
In actuality it is an 'ancient GPS system' - and they are all over Iceland, and were used as navigation markers back in the day
(although I'm still not really sure why they needed a navigation marker inside a cave heh)
It was about 2 degrees Celsius inside the cave, worth having at least a thin coat on while you're down there. The groundwater filters through the lava and you will get dripped on.
Londrangar was next on the list, plus it's only about 5 minutes back from Vatnshellir. We hiked from the lighthouse parking lot area up to the rock formations, and spent just under two hours here (it didn't take nearly that long to hike there, but we stopped for lots of pictures along the way!).
Price: Free :-)
We parked at the parking lot between the Londrangar parking lot and Vatnshellir. The main Londrangar parking lot had a ton more people, and looked like you could get some pretty sweet pictures, but I'm not sure if you can hike to the rock formations from there. If you leave from the lighthouse parking lot you can get right up to them.
Photo credit: Elijah Martinez
We found this random little place in between the lighthouse and the rock formations, it was lots of fun! There was a zipline type swing-thing, a balancing beam, even a small 'viking ship' to balance on!
Amazing rock formations!
This one kind of reminds me of the Sphynx in Egypt, sitting there all regally, staring wistfully out to sea
Snæfellsjökull in the background, Londrangar in the foreground
We even found ourselves a troll ;)
And some crazy looking fish heads
And these fun little faces!
After leaving Londrangar, we made a failed attempt at the drive up to Snæfellsjökull Glacier - the road was pretty sketchy and getting progressively worse the further up the side of the mountain we went, plus there was a sign partway up warning against driving out onto the glacier, and it was getting late in the season so we weren't sure how safe it would be to be driving or climbing on a potentially melting glacier.. Soooo,
After giving up on Snæfellsjökull, we wound up on a few more sketchy roads that afternoon, including one that rather confused us - it was a soaking wet gravel road surrounded by extremely dry land. Beyond soaking, there was water splashing up under the car and spraying out beside us everywhere. We couldn't figure out why the road was so freakin wet when everything around it was bone dry! Just in case you think I'm crazy (don't worry, you're not the only one lol), I'm providing picture proof ;-P
(Photo credit, including diagram: Elijah Martinez)
We finally made it to Kirkjufellsfoss & Kirkjufellsa & Kirkjufell Mountain - I could have spent hours here! It is absolutely gorgeous. The scenery is beyond amazing!
There is a very sad folktale behind the waterfall:
Kirkjufellsfoss and Kirkjufell Mountain
I did find quite the contrast between how close you could get to things in Iceland vs in many other countries. Most places have guardrails or other barriers to prevent people from getting too close to the edge, not Iceland - no guardrails, nothing to ruin the natural beauty of the place!
I don't like using repetitive pictures but this place was just so bloody amazing!
We finally managed to tear ourselves away from Kirkjufell, mostly because it was starting to get quite late in the day and we still had to make it to Akureyri (a well over 5 hour drive). Leaving at close to 7 pm would put us in around midnight. Or so we thought. This is the part of the trip where Google Maps horribly failed us heh. Since she's not updated for road closures, there was no warning that we were embarking on a crazy adventure that included some super sketchy roads (but gorgeous, right beside a lovely river) and finally, we arrived at a VERY closed F-road. At this point we're so far in that we've lost cellphone reception, and therefore also Google Maps. Luckily we also had the GPS that the rental company had provided (although when we tried to plug in Akureyri it kept trying to take us counterclockwise around the ringroad - a MUCH longer drive. We had to plug in a nearby town that was a bit North of our current location, at which point we filled up on gas because there wasn't a chance we were going to make it the rest of the way, and from there we were able to plug Akureyri back in). We finally strolled in to our AirBnB at about 2 in the morning - luckily we had a super gracious and very friendly host who didn't mind the late arrival too much (and at least it wasn't on a weeknight heh).
Check out Day 4 here! Akureyri, Goðafoss Waterfall, Grjótagjá cave, Myvatn Nature Baths, and Hverir Hverarönd (*super stinky!*) geothermal area