Snæfellsjökull in the morning
Highest point
Elevation 1,446 m (4,744 ft)
Prominence >1,200 m
Coordinates 64°48′N 23°47′W / 64.800°N 23.783°W / 64.800; -23.783Coordinates: 64°48′N 23°47′W / 64.800°N 23.783°W / 64.800; -23.783

Snæfellsnes peninsula, western Iceland

Mountain type Stratovolcano[1]
Last eruption 200 CE ± 150 years[1]

Snæfellsjökull (Icelandic pronunciation: [ˈstn̥aiːfɛlsˌjœːkʏtl̥], snow-fell glacier) is a 700,000-year-old stratovolcano with a glacier covering its summit in western Iceland.[2] The name of the mountain is actually Snæfell, but it is normally called "Snæfellsjökull" to distinguish it from two other mountains with this name. It is situated on the most western part of the Snæfellsnes peninsula in Iceland. Sometimes it may be seen from the city of Reykjavík over Faxa Bay, at a distance of 120 km.

The mountain is one of the most famous sites of Iceland, primarily due to the novel Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864) by Jules Verne, in which the protagonists find the entrance to a passage leading to the center of the earth on Snæfellsjökull.

The mountain is included in the Snæfellsjökull National Park (Icelandic: Þjóðgarðurinn Snæfellsjökull).[3]

In August 2012 the summit was ice-free for the first time in recorded history.[4]


The stratovolcano, which is the only large central volcano in its part of Iceland, has many pyroclastic cones on its flanks. Upper-flank craters produced intermediate to felsic materials, while lower-flank craters produced basaltic lava flows. Several holocene eruptions have originated from the summit crater and have produced felsic material.[1] The latest eruption took place 200 AD ± 150 years, and erupted approximately 0.11 cubic kilometres (0.026 cu mi) worth of volcanic material. The eruption was explosive and originated from the summit crater, and may have produced lava flows.[5]

Snæfellsjökull from the sea

Snæfellsjökull National Park is Iceland’s only National Park to extend to the seashore.[6] The park covers an area of 170 km² (65 sq. miles). The Park’s southern boundary reaches to Háahraun in the region of Dagverðará while the northern part reaches to Gufuskálar. The coast is varied and alive with birdlife during the breeding season. The coastal plain is mostly covered by lava that flowed from the glacier or nearby craters. The lava is covered with moss but sheltered hollows can be found in many places, filled with a sizable variety of thriving, verdant plants. Snæfellsjökull has trails of lava and signs of volcanic activity clearly visible on its flanks. On its north side the Eysteinsdalur valley cuts a path up from the plain encircled by alluring steep mountains.

The geology of Snæfellsnes Peninsula is diverse with formations from almost every era of Iceland’s past. The more prominent formations in and around the National Park mainly date from geologically “modern” times back to the last ice age. The hills to the north of the glacier, around Bárðarkista, are of volcanic palagonite tuff, formed during eruptions under the glacier or below the surface of the sea. Svalþúfa is most likely the eastern section of a crater that erupted under the sea, while Lóndrangar is a volcanic plug.

Volcanic plugs at the summit
Snæfellsjökull Mountain
View from Snæfellsjökull on the summer solstice.

Lava is prominent on the landscape of this National Park with two types present – rough, jagged lava (ʻAʻā) and smooth, ropy lava (Pāhoehoe). Most of the lava emanated from the glacier, from the summit crater or from subsidiary craters on the flanks of the mountain. These lava formations are varied and fascinating, and there is a wealth of caves in the area. Visitors are advised not to enter caves unless accompanied by an experienced guide. Smaller volcanoes – Purkhólar, Hólahólar, Saxhólar and Öndverðarneshólar – are in the Park’s lowlands, surrounded by lava.

History and fishing

Church in Hellnar with Snæfellsjökull in clouds

The adventurous Bárðar saga Snæfellsáss is the best known of the Icelandic Sagas that take place in this area. There are archaeological remains from the period of Iceland’s settlement around 1100 years ago – examples of which are the Forni-Saxhóll farm, Berutóftir and Írskubúðir. Near Gufuskálar there are a large number of dome-like structures of unknown origin, thought to be between 500 and 700 years old. They are probably the oldest known relics of the fishing industry in Scandinavia. A few people believe that these structures served instead as places of prayer or meditation for Irish monks who may have once lived in the area.

Fishing flourished in the 13th century and the human population grew in the areas around the glacier. A church had been built on Ingjaldshóll hill before 1200 AD. The size of the church bears witness to the sizeable population of nearby towns and villages, at least during fishing season. Rich fishing grounds were nearby and the fishing stations were constructed where there was good access to the open sea. Dritvík is one of the best-known examples. It was one of the largest fishing stations in Iceland for a time, with 40–60 boats and 200–600 people employed there. Fishing declined on Snæfellsnes Peninsula during the 19th century because of changes in fishing techniques.

Villages close to the National Park include Hellissandur, Rif and Ólafsvík. They were all fishing and commercial centres. Today, they are still flourishing fishing ports with lively communities.


In summer, the saddle near the summit can be reached easily by walking, although the glacier's crevasses must be avoided. Several tour companies run regular guided walks during the season.[7] To reach the true summit requires technical ice climbing.

In culture


Radio and podcasting

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Snæfellsjökull.


  1. 1 2 3 "Snaefellsjökull: Summary". Global Volcanism Program. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 2010-02-16.
  2. "Flash map of Snæfellsjökull". Þjóðgarðurinn Snæfellsjökull.
  3. "Snæfellsjökull National Park". 2004-02-18.
  4. Haraldur Sigurðsson: Þúfurnar á Snæfellsjökli
  5. "Snaefellsjökull: Eruptive History". Global Volcanism Program. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 2010-02-16.
  6. Rosi, Mauro; Luip, Luca; Papale, Paolo; Stoppato, Marco (2003). Volcanoes (A Firefly Guide). Firefly Books. pp. 130, 131. ISBN 978-1-55297-683-8.
  7. "".
  8. Cocker, Jarvis (October 27, 2014). "Lava and Ice". Wireless Nights with Jarvis Cocker.

Additional sources

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