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Iceland Mag


Hellnar on Snæfellsnes one of "25 secret European villages you should visit in your lifetime"

By Staff

  • Arnarstapi The fishing twin villages of Hellnar and Arnarstapi on the south coast of Snæfellsnes peninsula are known for the beautiful cliff formations. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

The publication Business Insider has named the village Hellnar on the south coast of Snæfellsnes peninsula as one of the 25 "hidden European villages" everyone should visit. Hellnar is described as "the most contemporary village in Iceland", despite the fact that the village has a history stretching back to Viking times.

"The handful of residents—all of them small-boat fishermen—share a serious commitment to preserving the environment. Houses and farms in Hellnar, located at the far end of a peninsula facing the Snaefellsjökull glacier, are heated by eco-friendly hydroelectric power, and Hotel Hellnar was the first hospitality venture in the country to be certified by Green Globe, the international sustainability certification system."

Interestingly, though, the photo with the story is of the nearby village Arnarstapi. This little oversight does not matter all that much, as the two twin villages are both worth visiting! 

Beautiful twin fishing villages
Historically both Hellnar and Arnarstapi were fishing villages. Arnarstapi was larger of the two, and an important trading post for the entire Snæfellsnes peninsula. In the 19th century the population peaked at close to 200 people, with somewhat fewer living in Hellnar. Today neither village is home to more than a few dozen people, and even if we count summer cottages and seasonal residents their current population is well below that of the 19th century. 

Read more: West Iceland one of 17 best places to visit in 2017 according to CNN Travel

Since a large colony of Arctic terns lives in the Arnarstapi there are probably more terns in the village than people!

Breathtaking cliff formations, lava fields and hidden bays
The harbour of Arnarstapi is protected by beautiful basalt columns, and surrounded by deep ravines and grottoes. The two villages are connected by a walking path used by fishermen in previous centuries. The path takes you through a beautiful lava field and past amazing rock formations and dramatic cliffs and small hidden bays which are full of sea birds. The seaside and the cliffs between Arnastapi and Hellnar have been made a Natural Reserve in 1979.

Read more: Photos: Hraunfossar waterfall in West Iceland is even more beautiful in winter

Once you are at Arnarstapi and Hellnar, you must stop at Lóndrangar, a beautiful cliff formation further west on Snæfellsnes peninsula, and at Djúpalónssandur beach, a beautiful little bay on the western tip of the peninsula

While Hellnar and Arnarstapi might be new to the writers of Business Insider it has been know to Icelanders for decades as one of the most beautiful spots on Snæfellsnes peninsula. We can highly recommend both spots: If you are visiting West Iceland and Snæfellsnes, you should certainly stop at Hellnar and Arnarstapi!

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