Snæfellsnes peninsula is often called “Iceland in Miniature” for its rich diversity of natural features across its modest 90-km of coastline. Located in West Iceland, the peninsula is easily reachable from Reykjavík and it’s a great destination for a day tour although it’s preferable to take at least two days to explore all Snæfellsnes has to offer.
What follows is a list of 5 of the most curious facts about the Snæfellnes peninsula that many travellers to the region may not be aware of:
1. Djúpalónssandur Beach is Haunted.
This black pebble beach lies within Snæfellsnes National Park, and it can be found at the southern tip of the peninsula, close to the town of Arnarstapi.
Legend goes that the beach is haunted by the spirit of an elderly lady who was maliciously murdered and used a fish bait by some gruff and mean-spirited sailors.
She is said to have taken her revenge and drowned all three at sea. Later, when their bodies washed ashore, those that came to collect their remains could hear her eerily singing from a nearby cave.
2. Gateway to the Centre of the Earth?
In Jules Verne’s 1871 Journey to the Centre of the Earth, the protagonists enter Snæfellsjökull volcano to begin their journey into the depths of the earth.
The main characters, Professor Otto Lidenbrock and his nephew Alex, take an Icelandic guide with them on the expedition; the wise and stoic character Hans.
Hans is not a particularly common Icelandic first name; however, the actor who played the character in 1959 movie adaptation of the book, Peter Ronson, was born in Iceland. Later on, he went on to compete for Iceland in the 110 metres hurdles at the 1960 Summer Olympics.
In the 2008 remake, the Icelandic guide, Hannah Ásgeirsson, is also played by an Icelander – Aníta Briem. Although if her character had been truly Icelandic, she would be called Hanna Ásgeirsdóttir.
So if you’ve ever seen these movies, you can be sure that the character Hans and Hannah are genuinely speaking Icelandic.
3. Water Library?
There is a water library in Stykkishólmur! You are forgiven for wondering what on earth a water library is. It is, in fact, more of a peculiar art project than a place you can physically borrow water.
At the library are 24 glass columns which hold melted glacial water from Iceland’s main ice caps. You can also find weather reports and words in both Icelandic and English about this country’s climate.
It is the creative vision of artist and writer Roni Horn who wanted to devote this space to Iceland’s unique geology, climate and culture through the nation’s relationship with water.
The library sits on a hill with a great view out to sea, and on sunny days, the sunlight reflects and refracts through the glass and water to create mesmerising patterns on the rubber flooring.
4. Game of Thrones Stardom
On the North side of the peninsula is Iceland’s ‘most photographed’ mountain, Kirkjufell.
The name translates to Church Mountain as its peak is reminiscent of a church steeple. Although, from alternative angles, it has been likened to many things including a witch’s hat or freshly scooped ice cream!
This feature has become even more famous in recent years for its role in Game of Thrones as the ‘Mountain Shaped like an Arrowhead’. Some fans have postulated that the landmark might be significant in defeating the White Walkers as they were created in its shadow. We will have to wait for the final season to find out!
No acting was actually done at this location, but shots of the mountain were filmed in both summer and winter, and later added to the show through the magic of CGI.
5. Shark Museum
You might have heard of the rather bizarre and unappetizing Icelandic delicacy, rotten shark. But have you ever wanted to learn how to make it yourself?
On the northern side Snæfellsnes Peninsula is the small farm of Bjarnarhöfn. There you’ll find a Shark Museum which also happens to be Iceland’s leading producer of ‘hákarl’ or fermented shark meat.
Here you can learn about the history of the dish as well as it’s preparation. The Greenland shark from which hákarl is produced can live up to an astonishing 500-years, making it one of the longest-living vertebrates in the world.
If you visit the museum, you can try some hákarl as well as shark liver oil which is said to cure a variety of maladies! Just try not to smell it first!
Find Snæfellnes Tours here.