Grundarfjörður: The Centre of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula


blog authorBy Johanna Sigurðardóttir shield verificationVerified Expert

Nestled into a natural harbor on the northern side of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, this quaint little town of Grundarfjörður has a rich history, amazing scenery, and makes for an excellent base of operations when exploring the area.

Even though Grundarfjörður in Iceland has a modest permanent population, the amenities are well suited for the large crowds it attracts in the summertime. The area even hosts some fun activities that don’t require long trips into nature.

Unveiling the Enchanting Town of Grundarfjörður

When you start the journey around Iceland, the Snæfellsnes peninsula is a must-visit in West Iceland. There are plenty of amazing things to do in the area, and Grundarfjörður will be a great option for parking your bags in a cozy hotel or hostel before you begin the peninsula adventure. For visitors, Grundarfjörður is mostly known as the town you start from when visiting the nearby nature, like Mount Kirkjufell and the Snæfellsjökull Nature Reserve.

Kirkjufell (“Church Mountain”) is the most photographed mountain in Iceland. It is well known to provide amazing results from all angles and can get you stunning pictures with the Icelandic Northern Lights in the background.

The Snæfellsjökull Nature Reserve has a myriad of hidden gems and a very rich history, including Viking archeological sites and the scene of a shipwreck from the mid-1900s.


How to Get There

Even though the island is relatively small, there will still be some traveling time from the capital city to Grundarfjordur in Iceland. When you’re done with the top things to do in Reykjavik, you can take Ring Road 1 going north until you reach Borgarnes. From there, continue on Road 54 until you reach Road 56. Take it to quickly cross the peninsula before getting on Road 54 going west, leading you to Grundarfjörður.

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Embark on a Journey Through Time: A Glimpse into Grundarfjörður's History

Much like most towns in Iceland, Grundarfjörður has an interesting history that dates back many hundred years to when the Vikings settled on the island. Even though the town itself wasn’t very well-developed for a long time, there are still multiple signs of old Viking settlements all around it, so it is assumed that this was an important area from the very start. This is very likely due to the natural harbor that would shield boats from the harsh North Atlantic.

After the Danes lifted the Icelandic trading embargo, Grundarfjordur became one of the first official trading posts of the country and the only spot in the western parts of Iceland where trade was allowed. The French fishermen took a particular liking to Grundarfjörður in Iceland and established both a hospital and a church there in the mid-1800s. This is why Grundarfjörður is now the twin town to the French Paimpol. 

Things to Do in Grundarfjörður, Iceland

Grundarfjörður in Iceland certainly packs a punch when it comes to interesting things to see and do. So, it’s no surprise that you’ll find plenty of places to sleep over and a good selection of cafés and restaurants. If you’re not in the mood to go too far out of Grundarfjörður, you can always check out the wide variety of activities inside and around the town’s borders.

Culinary Delights

When it comes to food, there is plenty to choose from in Grundarfjörður. There are the more traditional restaurants, like Bjargarsteinn – the House of Food, or you could go with Maestro for some delicious street food.

If you prefer to grab a coffee with a view, you should visit Kaffi 59, which gives you a stunning view of Kirkjufell over the roofs of neighboring houses. If you’d like another unique experience, get a coffee at a Græna Kompaníið where you can get all the normal coffee house stuff as well as high-quality yarn and books!

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Serene Sanctuary

After a couple of hours in the car, it’s nice to get out and move about a little or soothe an aching body with a hot bath. Luckily, Grundarfjörður hosts activities like golf, horseback riding, a combined library and art exhibition, and an outdoor pool in true Icelandic fashion.

The town also has a rich cultural scene, including multiple outside art installations: a life-sized replica of an orca, a sculpture with 112 different Icelandic words for “wind”, and numerous stone sculptures from a well-known and beloved local artist. Nothing will ground you better than walking amongst these robust sculptures in the raw Icelandic environment around Grundarfjordur.

Adventures Await: Unveiling Grundarfjörður's Enthralling Activities

Iceland is well-known for Puffins and whales. Taking one of the many Grundarfjordur tours to see them will be time well spent.

In the summertime, the Snæfellsjökull Nature Reserve will be absolutely stunning, and with the Midnight Sun in Iceland, you’ll be able to enjoy it for a long time every day. This time of year is prime time for camping and hiking in the area, really allowing you to explore Snæfellsnes Peninsula like the Vikings: on foot.

If you’d rather visit the area in the quieter months when the snow lays thick, you should swing by the Snæfellsnes Ski Resort to hit the slopes and carve some snow. It’s not an overdeveloped resort with massive amounts of amenities, but it’s well worth the visit and the ski rent.

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Planning Your Grundarfjörður Adventure

You have multiple ways to approach the trip when going for an adventure at Grundarfjordur in Iceland. Spending an extended period in the area will allow you to carefully go through all the things you want to see and trails you want to hike, and (if you visit in the winter) get the opportunity to wait for the Northern Lights to hit Kirkjufell for a good picture.

If this is more of a stop along a road trip, you need to properly plan your time and prioritize what to see and which part to visit. Regardless of your choice, renting a car in Reykjavik and staying in Grundarfjörður overnight are our best tips for a successful visit to this picturesque little town.

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