West, along the Snæfellsnes peninsula, we saw the finest scenery yet in Iceland, though if there’s anything our time in Iceland taught us, it’s that there is no bad scenery to see. It was a beautiful day, marked by blue skies and white puffy clouds, and, at the end, truly epic winds. Gusts at least to 60mph, coming down from the mountains, causing whitecaps on the small lakes inland.

But we’re here for the pictures:

Snæfellsnes Panorama

On the northern edge of the peninsula we were treated to great inlets and beautiful mountains. The texture of the landscape was amazing:

Snæfellsnes

Iceland is unique, in that sits at the joint of two tectonic plates. The west of the island sits on the North American plate; the east is on the European plate. There’s a rift through the island, especially visible at Þingvellir, where you can stand between the plates. The far eastern and western edges of the island represent the oldest formations of the otherwise (comparatively) young island. As we headed west on Snæfellsnes we were seeing the oldest sections of the island.

At the farthest edge of the peninsula, you’ll find Snæfellsjökull National Park, at times lush with tall grasses, at others a near moonscape of lava rock.

Icelandic Grasses
Tall grass in Snæfellsjökull National Park.

And, further south, Snæfellsjökull itself:

Snæfellsjökull
South of Snæfellsjökull. The lava flows are clearly visible.

Snæfellsjökull is one of the oldest glaciers/volcanoes on the island. It’s said to be a powerful place, full of magic. It’s probably most famous as the location of Jules Verne’s entrance to the center of the Earth. From the south, the lava flows and glacier were clearly visible.

Abandoned House
Abandoned house south of Snæfellsjökull.
Snæfellsjökull
Near the peak of Snæfellsjökull. Five second exposure to show wind speed. Portions of the glacier are visible, though the main mass of ice is just out of frame to the left.

As we drove along the southern edge of the peninsula, we found the turnoff for a mountain track (F570) that lead over Snæfellsjökull and back to the northern edge Snæfellsnes. It climbed, very quickly, from sea level to just over 3,000 ft in elevation. The wind increased dramatically near the top, where clouds seemed to form from nothing and roll down the edge of the mountain. Perhaps the most amazing thing was the bright green moss covering the ground. Alas, we didn’t find the entrance to the center of the Earth that Jules Verne wrote about.

But it all paled in comparison to one of the first sights we saw that day: Kirkjufell. It’s one of the most iconic sights in Iceland, a place I had only seen in pictures. It was relatively crowded, for Iceland. Near Kirkjufell is Kirkjufellsfoss, waterfalls and hiking trails with beautiful views of the mountain. At the base of the falls there was a small patch of muddy turf, just large enough to plant a tripod and wait for the shot:

Kirkjufell
Kirkjufell

In Part 4: The south coast, black sand beaches, and conversations with sheep.

 

 

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