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The slender top of Kirkjufell rises with elegance and mystery above the tiny settlement of Grundarfjordur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. It may well be the most photographed mountain in Iceland, and it’s definitely among the most beautiful. Take one look at its strange form—which rises out of the surrounding landscape and sea, into a slender rocky ridge—and you’ll likely reach for your camera too.
A vibrant green meadow adorned with yellow flowers, with the cone-shaped Kirkjufell mountain soaring majestically in the background.
Best time to visit
All year round
Coordinates
64.94195, -23.30600
Distance from Reykjavík
178km (110mi)

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€133
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Landscape view of Snæfellsjökull's Mountain
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Snæfellsjökull Summit Hike

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What to know about Kirkjufell, Iceland

The history of the “Church Mountain”

While it’s most famously known as “Church Mountain”—Kirkjufell in Icelandic—this mysterious peak has other names. Some call it the “witch’s hat”, while early Danish sailors dubbed it Sukkertoppen, or “The Sugar Top”.

Whichever name you prefer, Kirkjufell stands out from most other mountains in Iceland. This is because it would once have been what geologists term a nunatak or glacial island: a mountain whose summit poked out from a surrounding ice cap. Picture a vast expanse of ice with only Kirkjufell’s rocky peak emerging.

Why did this form? Iceland's volcanic activity plays a part. In the past, a volcanic eruption would have spewed molten rock that formed the bulk of Kirkjufell. Since this occurred beneath a glacier, the rock cooled rapidly, resulting in the mountain’s unique jagged summit.

Over time, the encasing ice smoothed the mountain's gentler slopes. However, being composed of harder volcanic rock than its surroundings, Kirkjufell resisted erosion more effectively. This left us with a distinct steep-sided mountain in an otherwise relatively flat landscape.

A woman capturing a photo of the iconic Kirkjufell mountain on a clear day using her smartphone.

What to do on a visit to Kirkjufell

If you’re visiting the Snæfellsnes peninsula, you’ll want to stop off at Kirkjufell. Undoubtedly, it's one of the most impressive sights in western Iceland.

A popular activity is the Kirkjufell hike. During summer or in favourable weather, a short walk around the mountain is truly enjoyable. However, attempting to reach the summit is advisable only for experienced mountain climbers equipped with the proper gear, including ropes. Tragically, there have been fatalities on this mountain due to visitors venturing beyond their capabilities.

Luckily, there is an alternative Kirkjufell hike to do. You can hike a loop of the small peninsula on which the mountain sits, giving you incredible views of the mountain from all sides. This coastal path is about 6.5 kilometres (4 miles) and can be completed in less than 2 hours.

Of course, you shouldn’t miss some of the iconic Kirkjufell viewpoints either. Park up at the Kirkjufellsfoss car park and you’ll be able to see the famous mountain from the magical waterfalls. It’s a truly picturesque scene.

"Spectacular waterfalls cascading with the iconic Kirkjufell mountain as a breathtaking backdrop

How to get to Kirkjufell

To visit Kirkjufell you have a lot of travel options. For example, you could visit on a self-drive tour of Iceland, or on a guided group tour of Snæfellsnes peninsula. The choice is yours.

One of the most popular ways to see Iceland is to hire a car. It’s definitely a convenient way to see Iceland at your own pace. Kirkjufell and its surroundings have ample parking, and it’s about a 2.5-hour drive from Reykjavík.

Heading north on route 1 from the capital, take route 54 after Borgornes in the direction of Snæfellsnes. After a short distance, route 56 will keep you heading north to rejoin the route 54 on the north side of the peninsula, where you can head west to Grundarfjörður and Kirkjufell.

That said, not everyone wants to drive. When you’re in an unfamiliar country with famously volatile weather, that’s understandable. It can be a lot more relaxing to skip the hassle of driving and navigating and join a guided tour to Kirkjufell instead.

For instance, see Kirkjufell alongside the other wonders of Snæfellsnes. The peninsula is often referred to as “Iceland in miniature” thanks to its high concentration of breathtaking sights—from the icy expanse of the Snæfellsjökull to the cliffs and black-sand beaches around Arnarstapi. In fact, much of the peninsula is a national park, Snæfellsjökull, one of only three in Iceland. You can explore it all and more in a day trip from Reykjavík.

Alternatively, get in touch for a trip that’s tailor-made for you. Whether you want to combine a trip to Snæfellsnes with an active adventure in the highlands, or you have something else in mind entirely, we can help make it happen.

All About Kirkjufell

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