Iceland // The west coast //

Hiking in western Snæfellsnes

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Hellissandur makes a good base for exploring the foot of the Snæfellsjökull and the surrounding lavafields. A recommended day hike of around 20km leads from the village to Eysteinsdalur valley; take the unmarked secondary road between the campsite and the maritime museum that leads towards the glacier. After around 1km the road becomes a hiking path which strikes out across the Prestahraun lavafield, joining up after 4km with the unnumbered road that runs up through the valley. Here, on the south side of the road, a signed path leads up to the hill, Rauðhóll, to a red scoria crater. An impressive rift in the lava can also been seen to the east of the hill. Continue another 1km along the road towards the glacier and you’ll come to a signposted path to the south of the road, which leads to the prominent basalt spur, Klukka, and a beautiful waterfall, Klukkufoss, where the Móðulækur river flows through a narrow canyon lined with basalt columns. Back on the main road and another 1km towards the glacier, a path to the north of the road leads to the Blágil ravine, where the Ljósulækir glacial river thunders through the narrow rugged gorge. To return to Hellissandur, retrace your steps along the main road, beyond the turn for the waterfall, to the hiking path that heads out to the north across the Væjuhraun lavafield for Rif. From here, simply head west along the coastal road to Hellissandur. Maps of these routes should be available from the tourist office in Ólafsvík and the hotel in Hellissandur.

Another recommended day hike (18km) leads first to the sandy bay of Skarðsvík, walled in by cliffs and crags on its northern and western edges. The lava above the cliffs is overgrown with moss and can be a good place to see rare plants. Excellent fishing can be had in the bay’s protected waters and it’s therefore a favourite spot for local boats. To get here, follow Route 574 west out of Hellissandur to its junction with the unnumbered road signed for Skarðsvík; it’s at this point that the main road swings inland, heading for the glacier and the turn for Eysteinsdalur valley. Just 2km west of Skarðsvík the road terminates at the peninsula’s westernmost point, Öndverðarnes, a dramatic and weatherbeaten spot marked only by a lonely lighthouse and a stone well which legend has it is linked to three springs: one of fresh water, one of sea water and one of wine. The promontory is a favourite destination for basking seals, which favour the pebbly beach here. South of the cape the Svörtuloft cliffs are worth a visit; swarming with seabirds in summer, the cliffs provided a major source of eggs and birds for the tables of local villagers until the 1950s, when living standards began to rise. The free-standing crag in the sea here, Skálasnagi, was once connected to the mainland by a natural stone bridge until it fell victim to the pounding of Atlantic breakers in 1973. From the cliffs, a path heads east, inland through the Neshraun lavafield to an area of small hillocks known as Neshólar before emerging at Skarðsvík.

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