Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Iceland - Snaefellsjokull National Park - Arnarstapi

August 6, 2013

Distance: 9.5 miles
Time: 5 hours 47 minutes
Year to date miles: 197.6

Driving directions: From Stykkisholmur (not the most efficient route). Take 58 south. Turn right (west) onto 54. Drive through Grundarfjodur (has a Samkauf grocery store very geared towards travelers). Turn left on route 54 which starts off as a gravel road (yuck!) and eventually turns into a paved road. The gravel road wasn't too bad. When it ends, turn right on 574. Turn left at sign for Arnarstapi. Pass a restaurant on your left, and turn right towards the ocean. There is a moderate size parking area.

There were sheep in the road - which is pretty normal around here. When driving around Iceland, you always have to be on the lookout for sheep! They were always good about running off the road, but you do have to pay attention.

We also saw a couple of loose ponies on the road.

We got to see a working Icelandic sheepdog - two farmers were moving a herd of cattle right next to the road. The cattle were well behaved, and the sheepdog didn't have to do a thing.
For driving purposes - it is good to know - the north side of the peninsula has more services than the south side. In case you are looking for gas/restaurants. In general, it is good to have plenty of gas in your car. And to buy pre-paid gas cards to use at unmanned stations. Unmanned stations don't take US credit cards, because our credit cards don't have pin numbers. You can drive a long ways without seeing a gas station.

Map: Mal og menning, Map 10, Snaefellsnes (purchased from Omni Maps), also Trails in Snaefellsjokull

Parking: N64 45.976 W23 37.675

More info: Snaefellsjokull National Park

Restrooms: Didn't look for any, there might have been ones at both Arnarstapi and Hellnar.
The trail between Arnarstapi and Hellnar is pretty busy, so not a good place to go outside.
Past Hellnar, there is really no privacy, but there are no people too....

Hike directions: Coastal hike.
This hike was "inspired" by a one way 12.5 mile hike in the Cicerone Iceland hiking book, but we wanted to do an out and back. We didn't carry the Cicerone book with us, which was a mistake.
We used just our map.

There is a stone statue just past the parking area.
Head towards the statue, and then when you hit the trail that parallels the ocean, turn right.
The trail is marked by red topped sticks all of the way to Hellnar.
The trail passes a restaurant in Hellnar.
At this point we reached the road, and studied our map. And got confused.
We followed the road to the left, where it dead ended at a farm to the left, and an expensive home to the right (with a gate across the road).
We asked the farmer how to get to the trail, and he basically pointed down his driveway.
We just kept hugging the ocean. The trail wasn't marked.
At times we were able to find a trail (6" wide flattened grass), and at other times we lost it.
There was sheep fencing that was perpendicular to the ocean, but there was always a way through, right at the ocean.
The trail passes a few ponds.
We tried finding a trail that was supposed to intersect our trail, but didn't have luck.
Getting off the trail the terrain was difficult.
Fields with moss/grass covered lava rocks - I fell down often!
We eventually headed back to the ocean, following the small trail back to our starting point.

 Lodging after: Hotel Egilsen, Stykkisholmur

Hike notes:
The trail between Arnarstapi and Hellnar has lots of hikers on it. Both towns have places to stay & restaurants.
Once we continued past Hellnar, we met no other hikers.
We hoped we weren't hiking on private land, but our map showed a trail in the area.
There are a few small ponds past Hellnar. We got swarmed by arctic terns that were in one of the ponds. Yikes. We ran as fast as we could out of there. They dive bomb humans in order to protect nests. It was like a Hitchcock movie. Google artic tern attack for videos if you don't believe me. I'm now scared of artic terns!
Ummm....ponies in the road. The roads are very frequently lined with fencing -
but there were always sheep especially on the wrong side of the fence!

The Icelandic horses have the coolest, wildest manes!

Parking area for the trail

Head towards the stone statue

Since Icelandic pronunciation is difficult, we came up with "alternate" names for towns.
We called this town "Arne's pasta" rather than Arnarstapi. So, if you look at the sculpture,
doesn't it sort of look like a man with pasta hanging out of his mouth?

Cliffs with basalt columns

What a view this house has!

Approaching Hellnar

This was a popular tourist spot for people eating/visiting Hellnar

The trail ended at a road in Hellnar. This is where we got confused.
We turned left, following the road.

This is right before the farm where we asked for help with directions.

Where is the trail?

So, we hiked along sheep farms, with a beautiful view of the glacier.

View of the basalt columns we hiked to yesterday.

One of the ponds we passed. Beware of arctic terns!

Sometimes we could sort of find a trail. No posts to lead us though.

We walked along the beach a bit, and saw buoy art.

Love this family!

Wandering around - looking for our cross trail. Ack. Hiking is difficult.
Those mounds are moss covered lava rocks. I kept falling here.

Foundation for a sheepfold or remains of a farm?



  1. Reading your posts on FB, I thought that your Icelandic vacation was my worst nightmare; cold, wind, rain, eating soup in your car that you heated up on your small camping stove, not being able to get gas for your car, and the list goes on. BUT ... your photos ... Oh My!!! Beautiful. Simply beautiful. My opinion has totally changed. I had always thought that going to Iceland would be an adventure that I'd like to take. These photos have restored my original thoughts. It's now back on my "wish list". Thanks for posting.

  2. Hahaha...it wasn't a nightmare at all! Just an adventure. If the trip was easy, it wouldn't have been an adventure! You definitely need raingear though. The temperature was in the low 50's/upper 40's. Regarding the food - only a problem for vegetarians/vegans there. Most people love eating out there. Just not for us. It is really a stunning place that will blow you away. There are also easier ways to travel there than what we did. There are some things we would have done differently too if we had done it again. One would be to definitely book lodging very early. We booked 3 months before, and there were fewer options than we would have liked.