Arnarstapi Coastal Wonders and Wildlife

Arnarstapi Coastal Wonders and Wildlife

Sited at the foot of the prominent peak Stapafell, Arnarstapi is a tiny fishing hamlet with a breathtaking coastline. 

Formed of successive lava flows from Snaefellsjokull eruptions, its basalt cliffs are constantly pounded by huge waves. The only road through the village ends at the harbor, where a couple of small fishing vessels defy the waves and land a worthwhile catch. 

A wooden viewing platform is a good spot to look for harbor seals, waiting for tidbits from the returning fishermen. This is also the spot to snap the classic Arnastapi view of the sea stacks backed by Snaefellsjokull's icecap.  

Starting at the port, a cliff-top path leads past several blow-holes, which are usually most active at high tide with a southerly swell. 

There are basalt columns, natural rock arches, and offshore sea stacks. What’s more, this stunning array of natural sculptures is home to thousands of pairs of breeding kittiwakes and fulmars, while Arctic terns favor the flat grassland, either side of the approach road. 

These nesting seabirds return each spring to breed, the kittiwakes choosing to build their nests on precarious cliff ledges. In winter look for harlequin ducks, eiders and shags.

As there is limited parking at the port, it is easiest to begin the walk from the car park by the statue of Bardur, a cairn-like sculpture visible from the approach road.  An information board tells the story of Bardur, guardian of the volcano Snaefellsjokull. 

From the car park, follow the path for 100m to the cliffs, then continue east on the cliff path to the harbor, returning to the car park along the road - allow 45-60 minutes as there is plenty to see. The walk is easy and enjoyable, but take care as the trail is uneven in places and goes quite close to the edge in parts. You can also extend the walk by going along the coast in a westerly direction as far as the next village, Hellnar (30-40 minutes), or continuing east along the cliffs of Solvahamar.

Toilets are in the Samkomuhus Community Hall on the opposite side of the road, along with a friendly cafe, open all year round. Locally knitted sweaters and gloves are on sale there too. Refreshments are also available at Arnarbær cafe, in the turf building up the road.