Kirkjufell is a legendary mountain located on the Snaefellsnes peninsula. Particularly photogenic, this mountain is simply the most photographed site in Iceland.
Many travel agencies use photos of Kirkjufell to illustrate the beauty of Iceland's landscapes. The Snaefellsnes region is one of the most interesting regions on the island and is full of attractions, including the mighty Mount Kirkjufell.
Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss - knlml @fotolia
Kirkjufell can be translated from Icelandic as “the mountain church”, explained most probably by its particular pyramid structure. It is found on the north coast of the Snaefellsnes peninsula near Grundarfjordur.
Located right on the seashore, the mountain rises 463 meters from the waterline, as if planted in the ocean. Famously, it was one of the filming locations for season 7 of the famous Game of Throne series and called “Arrow Head Mountain” in the fantasy world.
The mountain is in fact made up of stratified sedimentary rock chronicling the various ice ages and eruptions of the Lýsuskarð volcanic system. At the base we find tertiary lava, then sandstone and Quaternary lava above that. Finally, the summit is made of tuff, a rock formed by the accumulation of volcanic projections. During the great glacial period of the Quaternary, the mountain was wedged between two glaciers like the keels of two mighty ships, and in this fashion the mountain slopes were eroded into the pyramid we see today.
You can clearly see the different layers on the mountain when you are nearby.
Getting to Mount Kirkjufell is quite simple all year round. Located only 40 kilometers from the port of Stykkishólmur and two minutes from Grundarfjörður, just take Road 54 on the north coast that runs around the peninsula to get there.
A small car park on the opposite side of the road from the mountain will be your starting point, and in 5 minutes on foot you'll have the perfect viewing spot.
Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss
The site can be visited in any season! Route 54 is generally in very good condition, even in winter, which is ideal because Kirkjufell offers very different colors from season to season and this never ceases to fascinate photographers.
For summer shots, we recommend the evening because the place is ideal in the silvery lunar light of the midnight sun, but sunrise shots early in the morning can be just as impressive.
As you can imagine, in winter, photo enthusiasts will be rushing there to get a picture of the aurora borealis above the mountain and the small waterfall. Those truly can be the photo of a lifetime.
Overall, and especially in summer, the site is very touristic and this means a great deal of crowds during the day, which means a high chance of finding random strangers in your frame. So whenever possible, choose to visit in the evening or early in the morning.
Kirkjufell at sunset - TTstudio @fotolia
On site, in addition to Mount Kirkjufell itself, there is a specific viewpoint of the beautiful waterfall Kirkjufellsfoss where you can capture both natural monuments in the same shot. The waterfall divides into 3 smaller falls in summer, but is very regularly frozen in winter. The Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall is nearly 17 meters tall and originates in the Kirkjufellsá River, which itself flows from the Snaefellsjökull glacier.
From the car park, visitors will usually focus on the waterfall to get that ONE shot from the best-known viewpoint to photograph the mountain.
The other most popular photo spot is to catch the mountain reflected in the lake near the waterfalls and if the water is calm even the waterfalls are perfectly reflected.
You can hike to the mountain, but it will take many hours to get close to the actual base of Mount Kirkjufell. With an experienced guide, you can even book a group hike to ascend it. This will be a high-level hike and climb all the way to the top and there have been some dramatic accidents, which is why today it is restricted to groups with professional guides.
Many tourists also enjoy kayaking in this area, and you can even paddle to the foot of Mount Kirkjufell!
Kirkjufell and its reflection with the lake in the foreground
Good news for camping enthusiasts, there is a campsite near Kirkjufell in Grundarfjörður which is an ideal budget option to stay there late enough to catch the midnight sun in summer!
For those who prefer a hotel or bed and breakfast, we strongly recommend the Stundarfridur hotel on the north coast for its value and friendly hosts.
Given the traffic near the site during the day, be it summer or winter, we strongly recommend sleeping nearby so that you can go there late in the evening or early in the morning to avoid crowds!