Day 6: Driving the Ring Road in Iceland | Akureyri to Grundarfjörður
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Our longest driving day took us from Akureyri to Grundarfjörður, across the north of the country. Most of the day consisted of gawking out the car's windows at the beautiful scenery we drove through. We took the occasional stop to fly the drone when the surroundings were just too captivating to ignore. This day was the start of our detour from the Ring Road to Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Snæfellsnes Peninsula has some of the most alluring views in all of Iceland. After our long drive, we visited two great spots on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula: the city of Stykkishólmur and Kirkjufell. We spent the night in the most amazing Airbnb overlooking Kirkjufell and the ocean.
Drive to Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Most days we only spent 3-4 hours in the car, with only an hour max between major sights. This was about a 4 and a half hour drive without any planned stops to break it up. The drive ended up taking a little over 5 hours with a couple stops for a picnic lunch and flying the drone. We had planned to visit one place, Hvitserkur, on our way, but we nixed it the night before as it would have been an hour detour.
The panoramic views made up for the time we were stuck in the car. We just listened to podcasts and drove on through.
We stayed on Route 1 for the first 2 and half hours and then went on Route 68 to Route 59 to Route 54.
TIME SPENT: 5 hours
The super charming town of Stykkishólmur is the largest town on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. It was built up around the harbor, which includes many boats for fishing, trade, ferrying people across to the West Fjords, and tourist tours of the area. The town is made of many lovely colorful homes and a unique church that sits atop a hill overlooking the harbor.
If you drive through the harbor, you will find a place to park to walk up to the Súgandisey Island Lighthouse. It only takes a few minutes to walk around this little island to get great views of the village, harbor and the ocean dotted with little islands. There is also an incredibly photogenic red lighthouse.
The church, Stykkishólmskirkja, is quite the architectural statement. The doors are often open to the public to have a quick look in to see the beautiful organ, statues, and art inside.
TIME SPENT: 1 hour
Kirkjufell and the nearby waterfall Kirkjufellsfoss has become one of the most photographed spots in all of Iceland. For good reason, in my opinion. The mountain juts up from the ground right on the edge of the water. If you get the angle right, you can capture the (relatively) small waterfall with the stunning Kirkjufell mountain in the distance. This breathtaking location was not ready for the rise in tourists visiting it. There is a small parking lot for <10 cars that was packed every time we drove past it. We were staying less than a minute up the road and occasionally drove by to try to explore it when it was least busy. We finally settled on visiting Kirkjufellsfoss at midnight, right before sunset, but there was still a crowd of people.
The view at sunset was unmatched. If you can, try staying nearby in the town of Grundarfjordur or the Airbnb we stayed in so you can easily visit it at sunset.
My favorite photos we took of Kirkjufell actually were not at the waterfall. Just down from the farm we were staying at, we crossed the road and got beautiful photos of Kirkjufell and the sky reflecting on the water. There was an undisturbed group of sheep grazing right in front of the mountain.
TIME SPENT: 40 minutes
So now that you know what we saw, why don't you watch it:
What we skipped:
As mentioned above, we skipped Hvitserkur because the extra driving time did not seem worth it. Hvitserkur is a Rhino shaped rock a bit off the shore and a popular spot to take pictures. Likely over an hour detour and extra driving did not seem worth it to get a few photos. When making the decision the night before, we read through google reviews. Most were remarking that it has become a busy spot and the tide may not be in your favor to take the perfect picture. Knowing that the people-free beautiful reflective photo that I was seeking was probably impossible, we decided to skip it. If you are splitting this day into two or have more time, I might consider this a worthwhile place to visit.
HOW CAN YOU EXPLORE Snæfellsnes Peninsula WITHOUT A RENTAL CAR?
Snæfellsnes Peninsula has some of the most beautiful scenery in all of Iceland. It is also an easy area to visit as a day trip from Reykjavik. We saw several bus tours along our drive that allowed visitors to see the sights without worrying about a car. One of the best tour companies in Iceland is Iceland Travel. They have many tours or special excursions all around Iceland. You can also get a private tour of Snæfellsnes Peninsula or with a small group with pickup from Reykjavik.