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Snæfellsnes Peninsula - Grundarfjörður (Kirkjufell), Iceland

Friday, June 9, 2023 - 10:15am by Lolo
135 miles and 2.75 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay


StykkishólmskirkjaStykkishólmskirkjaToday, Day 9 on the Ring Road, we began our exploration of the beautiful Snæfellsnes Peninsula, a large peninsula extending from West Iceland, nicknamed ‘Iceland in Miniature’ due to the rich diversity of its natural features.

However, first we had to get there. We had learned our lesson yesterday that we should look first to see if a road is gravel before taking it, so this time when Google suggested we take Road 54 to Grundarfjörður, we checked and sure enough it was gravel.

Although Road 54 was a straight line to Grundarfjörður, we decided to take a longer V-shaped route along paved roads. Even if it took longer, we didn’t care.

Our destination for the evening was the Grundarfjörður campground, located very near to the iconic Kirkjufell mountain, the most photographed mountain in all of Iceland.

Interior of StykkishólmskirkjaInterior of StykkishólmskirkjaBefore getting there, we made a short detour to the small town of Stykkisholmur on the northern shore of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula to see its famous church Stykkishólmskirkja, a futuristic church with a sweeping bell tower that looks like a whale vertebra, or some say, a spaceship. It was a far cry from the tiny sod-roofed church we had visited what seemed like a month ago

The interior of Stykkishólmskirkja features hundreds of suspended lights and a painting of the Madonna and child floating in the night sky.

Like all Lutheran churches it is much simpler and less ornate than Catholic churches.

View of Kirkjufell from our campgroundView of Kirkjufell from our campgroundAlso, unlike Catholic Churches, there was no fee to enter. In fact, our entire time in the church we saw absolutely no one. Iceland is so safe and trusting that they don’t feel the need to watch over you to make sure you are not doing something inappropriate.

After the church, we continued on to the Grundarfjörður campground. We couldn’t find anyone to check us in, so we drove around the campground and noticed that the grassy field that we were supposed to camp on was full of deep tire tracks from people getting stuck in the mud. This wasn’t good. Plus, there didn’t seem to be any place to check in.

Iconic view of KirkjufellIconic view of KirkjufellWe decided to go directly to the Sundlaug Grundarfjarðar (swimming pool) first as we were badly in need of a shower since none of us wanted to use the horrible one in the Búðardalur campground last night.

This pool is actually not part of the Grundarfjarðar campground, but it serves as their shower facility. Every town and small village in Iceland has a heated swimming pool for its residents and hot tubs as well. The costs are usually quite reasonable. According to their website the price was 1,000 ISK ($7.67). We would have paid $20 for a shower and a pool at this point.

KirkjufellsfossKirkjufellsfossWe wondered why there was no one else in the parking lot, but we soon found out why. When we went to try to open the door to the facility, a gentleman came over to us and said that the pool was closed, because the federation of public worker unions in Iceland, which included pool employees, was out on strike, affecting 37 pools throughout Iceland.

We could have cried. That would mean two days without a shower. Technically, our van had a shower, sort of like the kind in a boat, that wets the entire bathroom. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so we took very quick showers in the van.

Now all we needed was a rainbowNow all we needed was a rainbowSo far, this campground was not living up to expectations - muddy fields to risk getting stuck in and no pool. It did, however, have a wonderful side view of Kirkjufell and the fjord beyond it.

As there was not much to do in the campground since the pool was closed, we headed over to the Kirkjufellsfoss parking lot, just 5 minutes away. We were definitely not the only ones with this idea, so it took a bit of patience and jockeying for position to get a well-composed photo.

And what a rainbow it wasAnd what a rainbow it wasThis is not the kind of photography Herb likes, where everyone sort of lines up to take the classic shot, which is Kirkjufell with the lovely Kirkjufellsfoss (waterfall) in the foreground.

He much prefers wandering around on his own, finding his own satisfying compositions, sort of what we did at Vestrahorn.

Still, the composition of the mountain with the waterfalls in the foreground was stunning. We could see why it is the most photographed mountain in Iceland.

Dinner at BjargarsteinnDinner at BjargarsteinnKirkjufell means Church Mountain, because it resembles a church steeple. Danish sailors called it a Sugar Top. When seen from other angles, the peak looks like a witch's hat or a scoop of ice cream.

Its isolated position, rising 1,519 feet from the sea, make it extremely photogenic.

Bjargarsteinn hand-drawn menuBjargarsteinn hand-drawn menuThen as if by magic, a long rainbow appeared over the mountains to the right of Kirkjufell, giving us the chance to take a more unique photo than the standard shot.

All our previous rainbows were in the sprays of waterfalls. This one hugged the top of a mountain range

Maybe our luck was turning after a rough 24 hours of mis-navigating on gravel roads, horrible showers in last night’s campground, and a pool workers strike thwarting our efforts to swim and soak today.

Random couch with sideview of KirkjufellRandom couch with sideview of KirkjufellNo Herb's Pylsurs or Hilda’s tortellini in the van tonight, but rather we went out on the town to Bjargarsteinn, a cozy yet elegant restaurant with delicious traditional Icelandic food, and magnificent views of Kirkjufell. The menu was even hand drawn.

Dining out in Iceland can be very expensive, and the entrees here were in the $40 to $50 range, but if you don’t order all the extras, like appetizers and dessert, it is no more expensive than dining out at home. Plus, there is no tipping or sales tax so it makes a big difference.

Hilda and I both had the fish of the day, which was some white fish that I never heard of, and Herb and Paul had a lamb dish. It was absolutely delicious.

Early morning empty parking lotEarly morning empty parking lotFor a village of less than 900 people, this was quite a wonderful restaurant - terrific ambience, delicious food, great service, and views of Kirkjufell.

After dinner, we took a walk along the Grundarfjörður fjord. Right behind the restaurant we came across a rather randomly placed couch, but it did have a great view of Kirkufell. It was soaking wet from the rain, but fortunately Herb stopped me mid-air before my butt reached it.

Kirkjufell to ourselvesKirkjufell to ourselvesContinuing along, we came across a guide with a tour group getting ready to go out in kayaks. We were not envious at all as it was cold and windy, making the water quite choppy. The clincher was when the sky opened up and it began to hail. Weather can be quite changeable in Iceland. We ran back to our vans, so I’m not sure if they ever really went out. I highly doubt it.

The next morning we set out to explore the rest of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, but first, a quick stop to see Kirkjufell in the morning light. As we have learned throughout the trip, if you can get to a popular stop by 8 am, you can pretty much have it to yourself. Sure enough, we were the only ones in the parking lot,

Snæfellsnes Peninsula - Grundarfjörður (Kirkjufell) location map in "high definition"

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