West Iceland and Snaefellsnes Peninsula is a remarkably quiet and touching part of Iceland: You’ve escaped the crowds of Reykjavik and have found a natural escape that’s full of volcanoes, craters, lakes, lava fields, and caves. Stykkisholmur is located on Breiðafjörður Bay in the northernmost section of the peninsula—and it’s straightforward to get to from the country’s capital city.
Stykkisholmur is a typical fishing community. In more recent years, it’s built up its tourism offerings, but you still get the small-town vibe and aesthetic. It’s often a stopping point for those traveling from Snaefellsnes Peninsula up into the Westfjords and beyond. There are plenty of other cities to visit in the area—Olafsvik, Hellisandur, Arnarstapi, Husafell—that it doesn’t get too choked with travelers.
Ahead you’ll find eight things to do while you’re in the area, from taking in Stykkishólmur’s museums to hiking its nearby mountain.
The local church is incredibly photogenic, as are most other similar places of worship around the country. Take some time to appreciate the architecture, but make sure and bring your camera. The nooks and crannies of the design are just waiting to be captured.
Check Out the Norwegian House
As with most other Icelandic towns, there are a number of museums you can find in Stykkisholmur. The Norwegian House is historic right down to its frame: It was the first wood-frame home with two stories in the country (built in 1832). Today, it serves as a regional museum breaking down life in the Snaefellsnes Peninsula through the ages. Fun fact: It gets its name from the fact that the original wood beams for the home were brought in from Norway.
Visit the Library of Water
Some would call this a museum, others an art installation. The Library of Water is a collection of 24 glass columns collected and displayed by artist Roni Horn. Inside the columns is glacial water, each one containing water from a different glacier in Iceland. On the ground, there are various Icelandic and English words embedded underneath your feet that pertain to weather. When the sun shines on the columns, the light retracts against the carpet of words, creating a peaceful spot for reflection.
Take a Dip at the Local Swimming Pool
The pools of Stykkisholmur are open year-round, and it’s a great spot to meet locals. Here, you’ll find an outdoor and indoor swimming pool, a handful of hot tubs, a tub full of cold water (it’s excellent for your circulation when you switch from hot to cold water), a waterslide, and a wading pool.
Get a Geology Lesson at the Volcano Museum
For 40 years, Professor Haraldur Sigurðsson has been studying volcanoes around the world, and you can see his collection of artifacts and information at the Volcano Museum in Stykkisholmur. While you’ll surely learn a lot of the science of volcanoes, the professor also has a deep interest in volcano art, or how eruptions are portrayed in art. This is a unique exhibit you can only see at this museum.
Learn About the Eider Duck at the Icelandic Eider Center
The eider duck is a beloved bird found all around the coast of Iceland. Eider ducks are most well known for the soft feathers, or down, they produce, which are often used in locally made textiles. At the Icelandic Eider Center, you can learn all about eiderdown farming, but they also host lectures featuring farmers and other people of interest at the center.
Go Fossil Hunting at Drapuhlidarfjall Mountain
This mountain is known for its colorful palette: a mix of basatal, jasper, lignite, rhyolite, and sulphur gives Drapuhlidarfjall Mountain rich red and orange hues. Hiking along this mountain is a treat: Don’t be surprised if you find fossils embedded in the rock (leave them be!) or petrified wood. Getting to the top requires a relatively easy hike. Once you’re there, take in the ocean scenes to the north and the lava rocks to the south.
Go Sea Kayaking in the Bay
If you’re looking for some adventure, Kontiki—a tour operator offering experiences out of Stykkisholmur—will pop you in a kayak and guide you out into the bay. On the two-hour tour, you’ll be able to take in the local wildlife while visiting some of the remote islands of Breiðafjörður.