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Snæfellsnes peninsula picked as the best winter destination in Europe

By Staff

  • Lóndrangar One of the stunning rock formations along the coast of the western tip of Snæfellsnes peninsula. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

One of the best kept secrets of Iceland is also the best winter getaway in Europe, according tot he US travel magazine Travel & Leisure. Snæfellsnes peninsula in West Iceland is described by the magazine as "Iceland at its most stunning"

"...moss-blanketed lava fields, misty fjords surrounded by craggy cliffs, and a towering volcano crowned with a glacier that dates back to the Ice Age."

You can easily visit Snæfellsnes in a day-trip from Reykjavík, but to truly explore the peninsula and its wonders you should try to take at least two days. In summer you have the option of staying at one of the great campsites on the peninsula, but winter visitors should probably find a hotel or guesthouse in one of the picturesque towns or villages along its coast.

Hótel Búðir, Arnarstapi and Hellnar

Gatklettur_Arnarstapi.jpg

Gatklettur A rock formation at Arnarstapi village. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

The writer for the magazine recommends several hotels, including Hotel Egilsen in the town of Stykkisholmur and Hótel Búðir, at the location of an old trading post at the edge of the Búðir lava field on the south coast of the peninsula: 

"The 17th-century trading post turned 28-room lodge is a destination in itself, with views of the Snæfell glacier or bay from every window, sitting areas with deep leather sofas and scores of old National Geographics to flip through, and a lobby bar with one of the country’s largest whiskey collections. If you’re looking to knock the northern lights off your bucket list, you’re in luck: an overnight concierge will wake you up for the show."

This isn't the first time Snæfellsnes finds its way to the top of lists of top destinations. Hellnar, a tiny village just west of Búðir, was named as one of "25 secret European villages you should visit in your lifetime" by Business Insider. The nearby Arnarstapi, another tiny fishing village is equally stunning. The two villages and the surrounding cliffs, beaches and lava fields make for a full day of exploring and wonder.

Snæfellsnes also pops up frequently as one of the main reasons travel magazines and news outlets pick West Iceland as the top destination in Iceland. Luxury Travel Guide picked West Iceland as the "most scenic destination in Europe in 2017":

"West Iceland’s strength lies in its natural wonders. Highlights include the Snæfellsjökull National Park, which has black sand beaches and diverse rock formations..."

An area rich in myth and legend

Búðir, Snæfellsnes
Majestic views The specatacular mountains around Búðir on the south coast of Snæfellsnes. Photo/cjuneau, Wikimedia, Creative Commons license.

Snæfellsnes is perhaps best known for its crowning landmark, Snæfellsjökull glacier. The glacier, which is one of the most beautiful mountains on the horizon north of Reykjavík, has long been believed to be a center of supernatural energy. It shows up in Jules Verne's Center to the Center of the Earth, when the protagonists of the story find the passage leading to the Earth's center on the glacier.

Read more: New sign to help guards keep confused travellers from trespassing on prison grounds

Kirkjufell mountain, on the northern coast of the peninsula also shows up in the Game of Thrones as the best known landmark in the world North of the Wall. It is easy to see why the mountain has been rated as one of the world's most majestic mountains. But if you want to visit Kirkjufell please don't trespass on the grounds of Kvíabryggja prison, home to Icelandic bankers and Corporate Vikings who have been jailed for their role in the 2008 financial crash. 

Read more: Bankers Behind Bars: A guided walking tour through the collapse of Iceland's banking system in 2008

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Kirkjufell A majestic mountain by Grundarfjörður fjord on the northern coast of Snæfellsnes, Photo/Damian Black

The peninsula, with its mountains, cliffs and ghostly lava fields, is also believed to be home to countless hidden people and elves. 

But it is also the site of some truly macabre historical episodes. The only serial killer in Icelandic history operated on Snæfellsnes, not far from Hótel Búðir. In the sixteenth century Axlar-Björn terrorized travellers, killing at least 18 people, before his murderous spree was stopped by the authorities.

Read more: Axlar-Björn, The only Icelandic serial killer, terrorized travellers on Snæfellsnes peninsula

If you are looking for a destination in Iceland that "has it all", adventure and mystery and is also a little off the beaten path you should definitely head for Snæfellsnes!

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