Guide to the Captivating Arnarstapi Fishing Village on Snaefellsnes Peninsula

  • by Yanshu
  • Snaefellsnes
  • 12 Jan 2024

Arnarstapi boasts some of Iceland's most iconic natural attractions and breathtaking coastal landscapes, all intertwined with a rich cultural heritage steeped in the country's historic sagas and its enduring legacy as a fishing village. In this guide, I'll delve into the stunning natural beauty and unravel the historical mysteries that make Arnarstapi a captivating destination within Iceland's Snaefellsnes Peninsula.

[Photo credit to Danni Arndt]
[Photo credit to Danni Arndt]

Where is Arnarstapi Located

Arnarstapi, a charming fishing village nestled along the southern shore of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in West Iceland, offers a captivating blend of fascinating nature, historical architecture, and rich cultural heritage. This picturesque destination has the essence of iconic Iceland, with its dramatic coastal vistas and well-preserved village buildings that bear witness to its fishing legacy. Arnarstapi is also a sanctuary for diverse wildlife that thrives along its rugged sea cliffs.

A visit to Arnarstapi is an absolute must when exploring the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. It’s a place to unwind and connect with nature, where you can leisurely stroll along the coastline, inhaling the crisp, invigorating North Atlantic breeze. Allow yourself to be fully present in this enchanting place.

The iconic pyramid-shaped mountain in Arnarstapi area. [Photo credit to Danni Arndt]

Arnarstapi Coastline and Seacliffs

Arnarstapi is renowned for its rock formations, including the arch-shaped Gatklettur, which stands as a testament to the area’s volcanic history. The village sits at the base of the impressive Mt. Stapafell, a volcano that provides a stunning backdrop. Nearby, the jagged cliffs of Lóndrangar, remnants of an ancient volcanic crater, rise majestically from the sea. These columns serve as a natural fortress and are visible for miles around. Another spectacular site is Rauðfeldsgjá, a gorge that penetrates deep into the mountain and serves as a pathway to reveal stunning views of the coast.

Just a stone’s throw away, visitors can find the Hellnar lava field, where the volcanic coastline celebrates the raw energy of past eruptions. The lava formations along the beach, sculpted by both fire and water, are exceptional, inviting guests to ponder the forces that shaped this unique environment.

These beautiful landmarks are usually covered on a Snaefellsnes Peninsula day tour.

The arch-shaped rock formation Gatklettur in Arnarstapi. [Photo credit to Danni Arndt]

Wildlife and Plantlife

The Nature of Arnarstapi provides a habitat for a wide array of wildlife. The coastline and surrounding areas are frequented by numerous seabirds, which can be observed from the village or along the cliffs. The beach areas not only offer a place for relaxation but also serve as a lookout for spotting marine life, such as seals, which occasionally bask on the shores.

The vegetation in the area has adapted to the lava fields and harsh coastal conditions. Amongst the lava formations, you find resilient mosses and lichens, as well as wildflowers that bloom in the more sheltered areas during the short summer, adding dashes of color to the rugged landscape. The convergence of the geological marvels with the botanical tenacity creates an environment of both beauty and scientific interest.

Stone bridge Arnarstapi Snaefellsnes
Seabirds find nests on the bridge-like cliffs in Arnarstapi. [Photo credit to Yanshu Li]

Arnarstapi’s History and Culture

Historical Sites

The footprints of the Danish Crown can still be felt in Arnarstapi, once an important trading post under the Danish monopoly period from 1568 to 1787. During the era of Denmark’s control, the village thrived due to the Danish King’s interest in the rich fisheries. Our historical sites, remnants of this time, include old buildings and piers that served the thriving fishing industry, reinforcing our connection to the Danish influence that shaped our past.

Modern-Day Fishing

While centuries have passed, the essence of Arnarstapi as a fishing hub remains unaltered. Modern-day Arnarstapi, although focused more on tourism, still cherishes its fishing heritage. The presence of the natural harbor and access to fertile fishing grounds in the nearby waters continues to remind us of our enduring bond with the sea. Our village sustains its economy and preserves the cultural ethos of the fishing industry that once was the lifeblood of our community.

What to Do in Arnarstapi

Arnarstapi, a charming destination on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, has emerged as a must-visit spot for travelers looking to experience Iceland’s natural beauty and quaint village life. With its dramatic coastline and proximity to iconic Icelandic landmarks, you find an array of activities that cater to the adventurous spirit and tranquil seeker alike.

An iconic landmark in Arnarstapi. [Photo credit to Yanshu Li]

Outdoor Activity Options

  • Explore Natural Formations: Witness the striking basalt columns and walk along the coast to see the gorges and caves.
  • Bird Watching: The cliffs of Arnarstapi serve as a haven for seabird colonies, including kittiwakes and razorbills, perfect for avid bird watchers to photograph.
  • Northern Lights: In the right conditions, the Northern Lights create a stunning display over the village, adding that item to your bucket list.
  • Beach Visits: Stroll along the pebbled beaches and breathe in the fresh, salty air of the Atlantic.
Seabirds resting on the cliffs and rocks in Arnarstapi. [Photo credit to Yanshu Li]

Guided Tours and Hiking Trails

Joining Guided Tours:

  • Snæfellsjökull National Park Tours: Partake in a tour that ventures into the heart of the park, culminating with a visit to the Snæfellsjökull Glacier.
  • Cave Explorations: The nearby Vatnshellir Cave offers a journey into the depths of the earth.
  • Photography Tours: Capture the essence of iconic landmarks like the majestic Kirkjufell Mountain.

Popular Hiking Trails:

  • Scenic Hike to Hellnar: Take the well-trodden path connecting Arnarstapi to Hellnar, revealing coastal cliffs and unique rock formations.
  • Climb to Búðakirkja: A moderate hike will take us to the picturesque black church of Búðir set against the stark landscape.
BusTravel’s professional driver/guide drives by Snaefellsjokull glacier on the way to Arnarstapi. [Photo credit to Yanshu Li]

Accommodation Options

Rest easy at the Arnarstapi Hotel or choose the homely comfort of Arnarstapi Cottages.

In and around Arnarstapi, you’ll find a range of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s preference. From cozy guest houses offering a glimpse into local life, to modern hotels with stunning ocean views, and even campgrounds for outdoor enthusiasts, there’s a comfortable stay awaiting every visitor in this picturesque Icelandic sea village.

Legends and Folklore About Arnarstapi

You often find that the heart of any village’s identity lies in its tales and legends. In Arnarstapi, the narratives are as captivating as the landscape itself, with the Bárður Snæfellsás Legend shaping the cultural heritage and Literary References further embedding the village in the fabric of Icelandic storytelling.

Bárður Snæfellsás Legend

Arnarstapi holds a special place in Icelandic folklore, largely due to the enigmatic figure known as Bárður Snæfellsás. According to the saga, Bárður, a half-ogre, half human, became the protector of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. His presence is felt throughout the region, as he is said to watch over the inhabitants and safeguard them from harm. Tall stone structures and natural formations dot the area, believed by many to be the physical embodiment of Bárður’s spiritual protection.

Arnarstapi in Icelandic Literature

The allure of Arnarstapi’s natural harbor and its mystical surroundings caught the eye of Jules Verne, who referenced the Snæfellsjökull glacier in his renowned novel Journey to the Center of the Earth. This literary homage has added to the village’s international fame, luring travelers eager to walk in the footsteps of the novel’s protagonists and to feel the connection between the land and the potent words of Verne.

Arnarstapi’s Nearby Attractions

Arnarstapi fishing village is an ideal starting point for exploring the iconic landmarks of West Iceland. Its great location provides easy access to numerous breathtaking natural attractions, making your travel experience both convenient and memorable.

  • Snæfellsjökull National Park: A mere stone’s throw away, this park boasts the magnificent Snæfellsjökull glacier and volcano, which is the centerpiece of the region’s mystical allure.
  • Búðakirkja: The famed black church is a short drive from Arnarstapi, offering picturesque scenery that photographers and visitors profoundly appreciate.
  • Hellnar Village: A neighboring coastal hamlet, accessible through a scenic walking path along the cliffs that also serves as a protective area for diverse bird species.

I have also compiled a list of distances to other key attractions:

  • Breiðavík Farms: Approximately 5 kilometers northward, a pastoral experience awaits.
  • Djúpalónssandur Beach: Roughly 30 kilometers to the west, a beach known for its dramatic lava formations and historical remnants of fishing heritage.

Our proximity to such sites underscores our village’s strategic location for exploring the natural beauty that Snæfellsnes Peninsula offers. Notably, the area’s rich sea-bird colonies and striking shoreline are accessible from Arnarstapi, providing seamless transitions between restful village respite and adventurous exploration.

[Photo credit to Danni Arndt]
Budir black church is an iconic attraction close to Arnarstapi in Snaefellsnes Peninsula. [Photo credit to Danni Arndt]
About the author
A journalist and photographer, Yanshu is driven by a deep passion for Iceland. She's on a mission to share her love for authentic travel experiences and exciting adventures with fellow explorers. Armed with her camera, she sets off on hikes, delving into Iceland's intricacies while mastering the art of Icelandic language whenever possible.

You might like these articles