The Snæfellsnes Circle

Updated: Apr 27

The Golden Circle is a famous tourist route but there is another circle route that is a “Must See.” It circles the mystic and extinct volcano and glacier Snæfellsjökull. This is the famous place in Jules Verne’s 1864 science fiction classic, “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and the 2008 movie by the same name. In the book “Under the Glacier” by Halldór Laxness and a film with the same name, you can also learn more about this same area.

Leaving Reykjavík, you travel along the #1 Road to the north. Along the way are many interesting and beautiful sites to explore but during this trip we were focused on Snæfellsnes. It is about a two-hour drive from Reykjavík to the beginning of this circle.

We did make a stop at the farm, Borg, which is just north of the city, Borgarnes. Borg was the home of our famous settlement era ancestors, Egill Skallagrímsson and his father.

The grandfather of Egill was named Kveldulf. He was a Viking berserker and a famous landowner in Norway. Kveldulf did not want to swear allegiance to King Harald the Fairhair and so he fled from Norway to Iceland. When they were on their way, Kveldulf became ill and before dying, he told his son to make a coffin and throw it overboard with his dead body in the coffin. Wherever this coffin washed up on shore was where they were supposed to settle. This spot was at the farm they called Borg. There is a church there, a big rock, and a sculpture that commemorates Egil´s poem about the loss of his son, Böðvar, who drowned during a storm.

When our ancestor, Egill, was seven years old, he was mad at one of his playmates. He went home, picked up an axe, and returned to the group where he chopped the boy in the head and killed him. He also killed other people throughout his life ….. but he began his first killing at the age of seven! Egill lived until he was over 80-years-old.

Before Egill died, he hid his treasure near Mosfellsbær, where he was living. He was going blind and deaf and was over 80 years old. These two containers of silver were paid to him by the King of England because Egil’s brother had been killed defending this king. Egill then committed his final murders. The two men that had helped him bring the treasure to the burial location were promised payment but instead, they were killed.

There are many more tales about Egill and his diverse personality between a Viking warrior, murderer, and sensitive poet and father. Egill is my 25th great grandfather and his son, Þorsteinn the White, is my 24th great grandfather. You can read more about our ancestor, Egill Skallagrímsson, HERE.

It has been written that Þorsteinn was a very handsome man. He was tall and strong with blonde hair. He was wise, gentle, and calm. He became in charge of Borg after his mother died and he was married. He had two illegitimate sons and with his wife, he had ten children. I am descended from one of the illegitimate sons, Hrifla and also from one of the daughters from the marriage, Helga the Fair, who it is told that she was the most beautiful woman from the time of the sagas. These 12 children of Þorsteinn had many many descendants – so, if you are Icelandic, chances are that your ancestor is Egill Skallagrímsson, too!

We visited a mineral water stream that pours out of the ground. It is called Ölkelda. This water has been analyzed and it is good for people that suffer from heart and kidney diseases. It is good for your blood and for your teeth. We drank from the spout and it tastes like wonderful mineral water.

Then we visited the site of Ari Fróði Þorgilsson or Ari The Wise (1067–1148). He was a Christian priest in Iceland and the author of the very amazing Íslendingabók that chronicles the stories of the various families that settled Iceland.

You can next stop at a small village called Hellnar and then hike to the next village called Arnarstapi. You will be happy that you did this hike because the lava field and the amazing coastline are worth the time. There are very unique lava formations and beautiful seabirds to see along the way. We did not do this hike this time but you can see photos and learn more about Arnarstapi HERE.

Driving west of Hellnar, you come to the Vatnshellir Lava Cave. We had a guided tour but it was just the three of us on that tour, so it was even more special. The tour took about one hour and it was 2000 Icelandic Kronur or about $16 USD. You put on a helmet and grab a flashlight. Make sure to wear a warm coat and gloves because it is cold down there. This cave was only opened to the public in 2011. The steel silo is locked up and you cannot go down t