The Snaefellsnes (pronounced like: sn-EYE fells ness) peninsula of Iceland is arguably one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Mars-like red landscapes, lush green foothills, rushing streams and rivers, little waterfalls, snow-capped mountains, basalt cliffs jutting out like crystals from the sea; it has so much natural beauty. We checked it out ourselves with GoEcco Tours on a sunny June day last year.
Our tour guide, Yoe, scooped us up bright and early (although a little late) in a Toyota Highlander and our small group consisted of the three of us (me, husband and our friend) and three travelers from Singapore, including a radio DJ. The girls were nice and we all were into the same things, which was great. They were late because one of the Land Rovers that we were supposed to take had malfunctioned, so they had to arrange for and use a replacement vehicle. We were a little disappointed because I think the Highlander was a bit smaller than what the other vehicle would have been, and we are all over 5’8″tall.
That being said, Yoe was a great guide. He cracked jokes along the way to the first stop and let us use our Spotify (thanks, unlimited international data plan!) to play music in the car. We (okay, I) asked a ton of questions, ranging from the Icelandic culture to what people do for fun, to what we were going to see that day and other things he’d recommend for us to see while in the country. We got a ton of great information from him that we used later in our trip.
After a brief stop for some coffee and to load up on road snacks, we were off to our first real stop.
Stop #1: Postcard-Perfect Fishing
Our first stop was a secret stream where flyfishing enthusiasts can come and pay a hefty fee to be able to fish for salmon in its rushing waters. It was virtually hidden from the road, and we turned off, parked and walked down a bit and boom – a postcard scene!
We were surrounded by fields of a beautiful flower called lupine. However, the flowers are not native to Iceland and originate in Alaska, which were introduced to Iceland in 1945. In Iceland, they’ve become an invasive pest, growing and spreading uncontrollably throughout the countryside.
Stop #2: Are we on Mars? Or On The Snaefellsnes peninsula?
The next stop was kind of jarring visually, a complete departure from fields of lush flowers and running water. We were standing in the middle of a crater of bright red clay dirt. I felt like I was in the movie Red Planet or The Martian – it was something that I would expect to see on Mars. Unfortunately, Matt Damon was nowhere to be found.
Further afield from our little mini crater, there were vibrant green foothills which led abruptly up to craggy mountains with some residual snow (in late June). The three different landscapes in one place was really interesting to see.
We had gotten an early start, so there was hardly anyone around at either place we had been so far. Which was really nice! Yoe asked us if we had worn or packed our swimsuits. We hadn’t, and wish that someone or the website for the company would have said to do so. We were so bummed, because he said there was a secret swimming pool not too far from where we were, which was discovered in reading old Icelandic saga poems, and it would have been cool to go. Yes, yes it would have been cool to go. If anyone had their swimsuits. But all 6 of us did not. So, we were sufficiently disappointed. (Must note that the GoEcco website now characterizes the tour as Magical Snaefellsnes and Outdoor Bathing, so it sounds like this was definitely addressed!)
STOP #3: Lunch at Rjukandi Kaffi
Our next stop was for traditional Icelandic lamb soup or kjötsúpa at a rather large rest stop at Vegamót with a restaurant called Rjukandi Kaffi. According to Yoe, it has some of the best lamb soup in the country.
The soup was included in our tour lunch and is not something I’d normally eat. I don’t love lamb. But it was also full of root vegetables and the broth was great. I had some of the tender lamb chunks, too. We washed it all down with Viking beer (not included in the tour).
The stop itself was a really nicely done, modern, but simple restaurant. It filled up pretty quickly.
Stop #4: Arnarstapi
Bellies full of comforting, hot soup, we piled back into the Highlander and continued on to our fourth stop, a seaside “town” called Arnarstapi. Yoe explained that many Icelanders have summer homes here, and it wasn’t hard to see why.
Situated on beautiful cliffs overlooking the ocean, basalt columns rose from the waves and spray below. The rocks had been carved over time by the water into interesting formations – it reminded me a lot of the coast in Dorset, England or Sagres, Portugal.
It was incredibly windy, but sunny and warmer than usual, we learned.
We hiked down to a large stone sculpture/monument of Bárður Snæfellsás by Ragnar Kjartansson. He was a half-man, half- troll or half-giant according to the sagas, arrived to the Snaefellsnes peninsula after fleeing the king of Norway and is said to be haunting and watching over the area.
Stop #5: Horseback Riding In Snaefellsnes
Our last stop in the Snaefellsnes peninsula involved riding the majestic Icelandic horses along the coast to a lighthouse. Bucket list experience? Yes. Would I do it again? Hell no. My horse was aptly named Lazy Boy. Lazy Boy had 2 speeds: Stand still and try to sit down, and run like a bat out of hell. It was terrifying, but also kind of hilarious. He’d stop and then slowly start to try to sit down. Why was this scary? Because I’m not a horse person and I never ride – so he would have definitely broken one of my legs if he got his way.
But, the horse handlers were very nice and the head trainer rode alongside me, encouraging Lazy Boy to keep on going with a chipper “up up! up up!” every time he started to slow down. He would then sprint to the head of the pack and stop. Repeat.
I have never been so happy to get off of a horse in my life. When I wasn’t fearing for my life, we were taking in the beautiful scenery – a lighthouse on a cliff, rocky hillside, clumps of green grass, sea air, the sound of crashing waves. It was beautiful. And frightening.
The Way Back
We were cold and exhausted, but stopped in Olafsvik on the way back (another brief rest stop). We unfortunately didn’t stop at the little black church at Búðir (bummer). I wish we would have! But, in the end, we were so tired and ready to get some rest that I don’t think we minded too much. We ended up getting back and showered a little late so dinner options were few. However, we found a great tapas place to get dinner and try some Icelandic delicacies. More on that soon.
I didn’t receive anything for free in exchange for writing this review – we paid normal tour prices like everyone else. This is my honest review of the tour, which I’d definitely recommend. If you want to book a tour with GoEcco, please visit their website at http://goecco.com. Please note that these tours are pretty expensive, comparatively, but the extra expense is worth the personal attention that you receive!
What are you waiting for? Book a trip to Snaefellsnes now! But seriously, have you been? Tell me about your experience in the comments! Was skipping Búðir a huge mistake?