The Vibrant Town of Stykkishólmur in Snaefellsnes, Gateway to the Westfjords

  • by Yanshu
  • Snaefellsnes
  • 17 Aug 2023

Discover Stykkishólmur in Snaefellsnes, Iceland, where bustling city life meets serene countryside. This classic Nordic town offers a unique blend of vibrancy and tranquility. Join me in exploring its highlights in this travel guide.

The Vibrant Town of Stykkishólmur in Snaefellsnes, Gateway to the Westfjords

Have you ever wondered if there’s a place in Iceland that perfectly balances bustling city life with the serene idyll of the countryside? A place that embodies the vibrant appearance and tranquil ambiance of a classic Nordic town, leaving a unique and stylish imprint on visitors’ experiences?

 I must say, that place is Stykkishólmur in Snaefellsnes, Iceland.

In the travel guide, I will take you through the highlights of Stykkishólmur, the capital of Snaefellsnes Peninsula.

A panorama view of Stykkisholmur from the hill next to the harbor. [Photo credit to Yanshu Li]

Where is Stykkishólmur Located

Stykkishólmur is located on the northern side of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, offering convenient access to a variety of destinations both for day trippers and those looking for a longer stay. Given its location, you can easily explore the peninsula’s unique landscapes and attractions.

Just a short drive away, you will reach the Snæfellsjökull National Park, home to the famous Snæfellsjökull glacier. The park, which is less than an hour and a half away, offers hiking, glacier tours, and caving experiences, among other activities.

The Harbor view of Stykkisholmur, Snaefellsnes Peninsula. [Photo credit to Yanshu Li]

Stykkishólmur Ferry Baldur

Stykkishólmur is also the gateway to Flatey island, and the Westfjords in Northwest of Iceland. Renowned for its pristine landscapes, the Westfjords region is best known for the majestic Dynjandi waterfall, situated near its largest municipality, Isafjords.

The Baldur ferry offers a daily service across Breiðafjörður Bay, connecting Stykkishólmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula with Brjánslækur in the north. This ferry journey not only shortens the travel distance between the south, the midwest of Iceland and the WestFjords, but also doubles as a unique dining experience on the water. 

In summer, there are two sailings each day (refer to the summer schedule for details). During this season, many travelers opt to visit Flatey Island, known for its impressive birdlife. A popular choice is to catch the morning ferry from Stykkishólmur to Flatey and either return in the evening or proceed to Brjánslækur. 

Additionally, it’s feasible to transport cars across the bay while visiting Flatey, without any extra charge. However, be aware that Flatey Island has limited ferry stops in winter. Remember to book vehicle space on the ferry ahead of time. 

The duration of baldur ferry from Stykkisholmur to Flatey island is about 1.5 hours, and to Brjánslækur of the Westfjords is about 2.5 hours.

Stykkisholmur, serving as a key hub for services and commerce on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, is a favored stop for visitors looking to recharge. If you are looking for accommodation options, Hótel Egilsen and Hotel Fransiskus in Stykkisholmur are great options.

Getting ready to board on Baldur ferry from Brjarnslaekur in Westfjords to Stykkisholur, Snaefellsnes Peninsula. [Photo credit to Yanshu Li]

Here’s a quick overview of travel times to popular nearby destinations from Stykkishólmur:

DestinationDistanceApprox. Drive Time
Snæfellsjökull National Park75 km (47 miles)1 hr 20 min
Berserkjahraun Lava Field25 km (16 miles)25 min
Kirkjufell Mountain45 km (28 miles)35 min
Helgafell Sacred Mountain8 km (5 miles)10 min
Eldfjallasafn – Volcano Museum16 km (10 miles)15 min


Also nearby is Kirkjufell, a distinctively shaped mountain which fans of photography and nature would recognize as one of Iceland’s most photographed landmarks. 

Touring the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, it becomes clear that Stykkishólmur is more than just a beautiful coastal town; it’s a wonderful starting point to experiencing the broader wonders of Iceland.

From Stykkisholmur, you can visit Flatey Island north of Snaefellsnes Peninsula.

The Past and Present of Stykkisholmur

A natural harbor, Stykkishólmur boasts a rich history and a vibrant cultural scene that reflects its status as a longstanding hub of Icelandic maritime heritage and activity. Here, you can see how its past shapes its present-day, and dive into the literature and folklore that echo through the streets and alleys of this picturesque Icelandic town.

The History of Stykkishólmur

Stykkishólmur, the heart of Snæfellsnes peninsula, began its journey as an important trading post, especially during the era of Danish trade monopoly. The well-preserved Norwegian House, now a regional museum, stands testament to the architectural history dating back to the late 19th century. For those interested in spiritual history, Helgafell or the Holy Mountain, is just a short distance away—once central to the local belief system and related rituals.

Cultural Events in Stykkisholmur

Every year, the town celebrates Danish Days to honor the historical connection between Stykkishólmur and Denmark. This festival brings our community and visitors together in a celebration filled with traditional food, music, and entertainment, showcasing Stykkishólmur’s cultural heritage. This event illustrates our desire to uphold and share our town’s unique history and customs.

Literature and Folklore

The town echoes with tales from the Sagas, ancient Icelandic stories of bravery, love, and conflict. One of the most celebrated sagas, the Laxdæla Saga, is deeply woven into the fabric of our region. These stories, passed down through generations, not only reflect our past but continue to enrich the contemporary cultural experience in Stykkishólmur. 

The folklore paints vividly as a gateway to understanding the Icelandic way of life and perseverance in the face of the harsh Northern environment.

Through them, researchers uncovered the profound historical roots and the ongoing cultural renaissance that Stykkishólmur enjoys.

A picturesque corner of Stykkisholmur, Snaefellsnes Peninsula. [Photo credit to Yanshu Li]

Stykkisholmur’s Present

The livelihood of Stykkishólmur historically revolves around the ocean, with a definitive push towards sustainable practices and diversification in recent times.

Fishing Heritage

The fishing heritage remains the bedrock of Stykkishólmur’s economy. The harbor stands as a testament to our enduring relationship with the sea, where fishing vessels dock with their fresh catches. The fishing industry sustains not only our food sector but underpins the entire community, as it has done for generations.

Popular Hub in the Region

The town has made a concerted effort to embrace the boom of tourism in Iceland and also made a pledge to eco-tourism, with Stykkishólmur being the first European community to receive EarthCheck Certification. 

You can embark on tours with the ferry Baldur over the Breiðafjörður fjord, connecting with the natural beauty and contributing to the eco-conscious economy.

In the pursuit of modern commerce, the town has positioned Stykkishólmur as a center of services and commerce for the West Iceland region. As more visitors come each year, the town’s retail sector is gearing up to meet the needs of a population that values both tradition and innovation within its economy.

Unique seascape from Stykkisholmur, Snaefellsnes Peninsula. [Photo credit to Yanshu Li]

Film and Literature

Stykkishólmur’s unique charm and scenic landscapes have not only attracted tourists but also filmmakers and authors. The town has featured in cinematic productions and literary works, weaving itself into the fabric of the imagination world.

Some Icelanders say Stykkishólmur produces the best dried fish in Iceland, and others praise its breathtaking natural beauty and convenient gateway to the Westfjords. 

But what really made its name stand out was the scene in ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty‘ when Walter, mustering courage, jumped onto an ascending helicopter. That iconic moment, set against the backdrop of Stykkishólmur‘s colorful houses scattered across its hilly landscape, leads him to an incredible adventure.

The pivotal moment when Walter stopped imagining and started actually doing things.

What to See in Stykkishólmur

Stykkishólmur is brimming with captivating sights, from striking natural formations to rich historical architecture. I’ll guide you through the most significant landmarks that give this town its unique charm and character.

Natural Landmarks

The town is proudly home to some of Iceland’s most impressive natural landmarks. Kirkjufell, also known as ‘Church Mountain,’ is undoubtedly a crown jewel, renowned for its distinctive shape and frequently captured by photographers, especially with the Northern Lights as a backdrop. 

Not far behind is Helgafell Mountain, a sacred hill with a rich history and stunning panoramic views of the surrounding area for those who hike to its summit. For the adventurous souls, Snæfellsjökull Glacier offers a mystic allure, being the setting for Jules Verne’s famous novel ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth.’

  • Kirkjufell: A magnet for nature lovers and photographers.
  • Helgafell Mountain: Offers historical significance and hiking opportunities.
  • Snæfellsjökull Glacier: A glacier with literary fame and natural beauty.
Winter’s Kirkjufell mountain with frozen waterfall, Snaefellsnes Peninsula. [Photo credit to Danni Arndt]

Historical Buildings

Stepping into historical significance, Stykkishólmskirkja stands as the modern church with unique architecture, blending seamlessly with the landscape. This church is not only a place of worship but also serves as a landmark that reflects the town’s cultural heritage.

Stykkishólmskirkja: A modern church that intertwines with the town’s history.

Stykkishólmskirkja, Stykkisholmur church is a landmark in the town. [Photo credit to Yanshu Li]

Museums and Art

For those who revel in culture and history, the museums are a treasure trove. Library of Water, a unique art installation and community space, holds a collection of water samples from Iceland’s glaciers, reflecting an impressive natural archive. Meanwhile, the Volcano Museum houses an extensive collection of artifacts and exhibits related to geology and volcanology, offering insights into the fiery heart of our planet.

  • Library of Water: A reflective exhibit on Iceland’s natural resources.
  • Volcano Museum: Explores the volcanic history that’s shaped our environment.
Stykkisholmur is also famous for its eider down bedding products, in this museum you can take a look. [Photo credit to Yanshu Li]

What to Do in Stykkishólmur

In Stykkishólmur, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to filling the days with recreation and activities, from exploring the stunning nature to enjoying various sports and entertainment facilities.

Outdoor Adventures

The town is surrounded by breathtaking landscapes that beckon for outdoor adventures. Nature enthusiasts can embark on hiking excursions to see the panoramic views from the top of Súgandisey lighthouse or take part in a range of kayaking experiences through the picturesque coastline. For those interested in the local art scene,I recommend visiting the installations by the well-known artist Roni Horn, which can add a cultural twist to your outdoor journey.

  • Nature Watching: Keep an eye out for the diversity of bird life and the unique Icelandic flora.
  • Boat Tours: Set sail on a boat tour to explore the surrounding islands and possibly catch sight of some seals.

Sports and Entertainment

For sports fans, the community facilities offer a variety of indoor activities. The locals take pride in our basketball programs, providing both entertainment and a way to stay active. Families and individuals alike can take a dip in our swimming pool, which is not just any pool—it’s enhanced with unique seawater hot tubs for a truly invigorating experience.

  • Basketball: Check out local matches or join in on a pickup game at the community court.
  • Swimming Pool: Enjoy a swim in an outdoor swimming pool or relax in the seawater hot tubs for a blend of relaxation and energizing recreation.

By engaging in these activities, you not only stay connected to our beautiful natural surroundings but also reinforce the community spirit through sports and shared experiences.

Northern Lights in the sky from Stykkisholmur, Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
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.

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