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Almost at the very tip of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Arnarstapi fishing village is a remote spot perfect for keen hikers and birdwatchers. From the scattering of houses that tumble down to the Atlantic Ocean, you can embark on a clifftop walk to spot ethereal rock formations and nesting seabirds or head up the legendary Stapafell Mountain. Arnarstapi is also a popular overnight stop for those taking a few days to explore every nook and cranny of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
House in front of mountain
Distance from Reykjavík
193km (120mi)
Coordinates
64.76964475285934, -23.623052062621053
Best time to visit
All year-round

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Arnarstapi
12 hours

Wonders of Snæfellsnes National Park - Small Group Tour

The Snæfellsnes peninsula is often referred to as “Iceland in miniature”, as you get a little bit of everything. The diverse landscape includes natural wonders like vast black sand beaches, magnificent mountains, large volcanic craters, rich birdlife, and the mighty glacier, Snæfellsjökull. This intimate tour is perfect for those who like to get off the beaten paths.

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Landscape view of Snæfellsjökull's Mountain
12 hours

Snæfellsjökull Summit Hike

This is a thrilling one-day hike to the summit of Snæfellsjökull glacier, the crown jewel of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. This challenging journey rewards hikers with breathtaking views, fascinating geological formations, and the triumphant feeling of conquering one of Iceland's most picturesque glaciers.

Experiencing Arnarstapi Fishing Village

History and Legends at Arnarstapi Village

These days, the little fishing village of Arnarstapi feels quiet and isolated. A scattering of houses, holiday cottages and a handful of cosy, family-run restaurants are perched on the shore of the wild North Atlantic with a natural harbour protected from the dramatic sea swells. A few fishing vessels and leisure boats putter from the harbour out to catch herring and spot birds nesting in the cliffside. However, back in the olden days, Arnarstapi was a buzzing shipping port and the centre of commerce for the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Under Danish rule in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, the booming herring trade connected Arnarstapi with the rest of the world.

An explorer taking a picture of a statue in Arnarstapi, Iceland

The settlement dates back even further than that. Farms and natural landmarks around Arnarstapi are mentioned in the mediaeval Icelandic sagas, showing that this area has been inhabited for centuries. Place names in the area crop up in the Bárðar Saga Snæfellsáss which tells of a half-man, half-ogre who lived on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula during the settlement period.

There’s always been a sense of adventure around Arnarstapi, a vibe that Jules Verne must have picked up on as his adventure epic Journey to the Centre of the Earth is partially set in Arnarstapi. The main characters stop in Arnarstapi before they climb nearby Snæfellsjökull glacier to make their way to the Earth’s core. You may see Arnarstapi referred to simply as ‘Stapi’ in some guides, books and by locals.

Landscape picture of Arnarstapi in the Snæfellsnæs Peninsula

Getting to Arnarstapi Village

It is fairly easy to navigate yourself to Arnarstapi village if you are hiring a car. From Reykjavík, you follow the Route One main road to Borgarnes and turn onto Road 54 which takes you along the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Turning onto the Útnesvegur road will lead you to Arnarstapi village. The road distance between Reykjavík and Arnarstapi is almost 200 kilometres, and the drive takes around two and a half hours without stopping. It is a beautiful drive, especially in the long daylight hours of summer when you don’t have to worry so much about adverse weather affecting road conditions. No matter the time of year, it’s always a good idea to check the SafeTravel Iceland app before hopping in the car to keep up to date with sudden road closures.

In winter, it can be challenging to drive the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Luckily, guided trips of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula leave year-round from Reykjavík, so if you don’t fancy hiring a car or if the weather looks a bit hairy, you can leave the driving to an experienced professional.

Rock formations at Arnarstapi village on the Snæfells peninsula

What to see and do in Arnarstapi Village

The biggest draw for visitors to Arnarstapi is the clifftop walk from this small fishing village to Hellnar, two and a half kilometres along the coast. Some Snæfellsnes day trips from Reykjavík stop at Arnarstapi long enough for you to complete the hike there and back. A marked path leads along the coast and from it, you can spot the rock bridges this area is famous for. Gatklettur, or ‘The Hellnar Arch’, frames the deep blue ocean perfectly from the trail and you can gaze out at the entire rugged coastline from the Arnarstapi cliff viewpoint along the way. Close to the village, there’s a striking view of the cliffs and coastline from Arnarstapi lighthouse, which looks more like a war bunker than your typical lighthouse, but offers the perfect vantage point to spot waves crashing and birds circling out at sea.

The coastal walk to Hellnar is fairly flat and easy, but those who really want to exercise their leg muscles can hike to the summit of Stapafell Mountain from Arnarstapi. There’s a path to the top from the northern side, getting steeper as you ascend.

Around Arnarstapi, the basalt cliffs and sheer volcanic rocks are a haven for birdlife. Small boats run from the harbour in the village to spot kittiwakes, gulls, fulmars and Arctic terns. In mating season (summer) the cliffside is alive with the ruffle of feathers and squawk of gulls.

Apart from the pretty natural harbour, within Arnarstapi itself you’ll find a handful of local restaurants serving hearty stews and homemade rye bread with a medicinal shot of Brennivín for a nightcap. Those seeking to spend the night will find campsites, holiday cottages and a cabin hotel offering accommodation options.

A person taking a picture with a phone of the Kirkjufell Mountain in the Snæfellsnes peninsula.

Experiences and sights close to Arnarstapi

There are myriad sights along the Snæfellsnes Peninsula to fill multiple days of adventuring. Between Arnarstapi and Reykjavík, you can stop at Vatnshellir Cave – an 8,000-year-old lava cave which can be explored with a guide. Perhaps you want to sample the culinary delights of Iceland en route and a break at the Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum can satisfy any cravings for the famous fermented shark. Or, stretch your legs at the beautiful cascades at Bjarnarfoss where water tumbles over ancient lava tracks, or take in the iconic view of the conical Kirkjufell mountain with its trickling falls in the foreground. Close to Arnarstapi, you can embark on a glacier hike on Snæfellsjökull during the winter season.

All About Arnarstapi

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