Day 2,042 of Traveling the World | Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland | September 1, 2023

“Oh, are you leading the tour going to SNAY-fells (mutter mutter)?” – we said something like that, to make sure we were boarding the correct minivan, out of 50 or so that stop at each pickup point. The guide nodded affirmatively, then gave us a lesson: in Icelandic, an “ae” together sound like “eye,” so the word is pronounced SNI-fells-ness. We brightened up! “It ends like Loch Ness!” We got an amused look, but we didn’t again pronounce it incorrectly all day long.

Stopping at Kirkjufell Mountain was the highlight of the trip, as it is one of the iconic views in this part of the world. Crews had arrived there for two months over several years to film Game of Thrones, as this is known as Arrowhead Mountain in the series. But our tour of this beautiful, volcanic peninsula held many gorgeous views and other meaningful locations.

It was thrilling to see the volcano Snaefellsjokull on the peninsula, where Jules Verne set his novel, Journey to the Center of the Earth. When we were in France last summer, we visited Verne’s house and grave. Interested, we then read the novel Journey to the Center of the Earth, set in Iceland. Even though the volcano was covered in clouds and fog, it was a thrill to see the location where he set this sci-fi fantasy.

Another interesting place we saw was a black beach that was very long and wide and had lots of oxidized parts of a shipwreck from March 1948. It was a British trawler called the Epine GY 7, and five out of a crew of 19 were saved. We were puzzled by all the pieces of metal scattered on the beach. Elsewhere, we are certain that they would have been placed in a museum, or returned to their home country, or destroyed, or at least cleared from the beach. It would be a potential litigation issue in the US if somebody got hurt or cut from touching it. When we said this to our guide, he said that when he was younger, he and his friends would joke that if they lived in the US, they could sue over something for a lot of money and become rich!!

Kirkjufell Mountain (Arrowhead Mountain in Game of Thrones) as seen from the side of Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall. The North Atlantic Ocean forms the backdrop.
One of the great views as we drove along the Peninsula.
…and another!
There is lots of rain here, so it is very green. Streams run down from mountains everywhere.
You can see glaciers and year-around snow at the top of the mountain.
There are so many views of distant mountains – very serene, very beautiful.
The day we traveled here, it was this exact contrast seen in this photo: gray clouds, sometimes with rain, yet blue sky peeking through.
The clouds!
Djupalonssandur, a very, VERY long and wide black beach at the edge of the North Atlantic. The path we climbed down was a bit farther to the right, then we slogged through the black sand – it was very thick, so the walk was slow going.
Signs talked about the remains of shipwrecks, and warned not to disturb “the remains,” which were everywhere.
There were also quite a lot of rocks on the beach. We liked the rock formation out in the ocean, on the left.
The pebbles are so old that they are all perfectly smooth and rounded. This is from thousands of years of being shaped by waves, which remove all the imperfections over time. Then they are washed onto the beach.
The entire peninsula was very volcanic, making this pathway feel like a walk on the moon! (By the way, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin trained here because of the area’s resemblance to the lunar surface).
This is Snaefellsjokull, the volcano (covered in low clouds/fog when we visited) that IS the main character in Jules Verne’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” The author never visited Iceland, and did not know that there is an Ice Age glacier parked on top of the peak!
With this whole area having volcanic rock everywhere, we were warned not to walk on it, covered in moss, as the moss covers holes many feet deep into which people have fallen – we were told, “never to be seen again.”
We stopped at this beach to see seals, but only saw two at a distance on rocks, which weren’t notable enough to put in this blog. Some people there mentioned places in California where there were more seals and they were closer, bigger, more interesting, etc. But look at all the black volcanic rock that provides (slippery) stepping-stones out to the ocean.
There is a great walking path atop the cliffs in Arnarstapi, where we saw these great rock formations.
On another cliff face in Arnarstapi was this wild strata of rock and orange coloring.
These small outcrops almost looked like sea animals.
This mountain never “smoothed out” – you can see the lava flow, still!
It was amazing to see hay rolls, and farmed fields, adjacent to the ocean. We told our guide that in the US, there would be hotels or luxury houses competing for that view. He was amazed!
Budakirkja – Budir Church. The remarkable thing is that a church was built here in 1703, and abolished about 100 years later. One woman fought to have a church once again, but the national church rejected her request. By the way, the Lutheran church is THE official church of the country. In 1848 she received Royal permission to open the church, and on the door it noted, “…this church was built in 1848 without the support of the spiritual fathers…” OUCH!
A riding group was leaving this site at the same time we were. Our driver inched behind them and would not pass, saying that it would scare the horses. But they only held us up for about five minutes. As you can see from these examples, the horses here are relatively small and in some ways unique due to some historical events. You can look up the history of Icelandic horses if you are interested.
Vikings, and Viking sayings, are SO popular here!
Of course, the man on top walking the wrong way, and the man falling sideways, comprised a funny sign that we had to post!

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