There is a mountain in Iceland so beautiful it has become a symbol of Iceland's amazing landscape worldwide. This mountain is called Kirkjufell or Church Mountain.
It is said to be the most photographed mountain in Iceland, and some even claim it's the most photographed mountain in the world.
What makes it so popular?
The attraction of Kirkjufell is not only the mountain itself. Beneath the mountain is a beautiful waterfall, called Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall. It is there most visitors go when traveling to the mountain.
Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall sits at the root of the mountain. It is possible to walk all the way up to the waterfall and see it from all sides. There you also have an amazing view at the mountain as it reaches out to the sky.
This spectacular scenery is one of Iceland's most popular sites to witness the Northern Lights.
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Why is Kirkjufell dangerous?
This mountain is however as dangerous as it is beautiful.
Kirkjufell is a cone shaped mountain and its summit reaches 463 m (1520 ft) above sea level. This makes it incredibly hard to climb. Even for the most experienced climbers.
There is no easy way to hike to the summit. The mountain has steep hills on all sides and vertical cliffs which hikers must climb in order to reach the top.
These extreme conditions leave no room for error as hikers will simply plummet down hundreds of meters if they slip. Only to stop at the base of the mountain. Resulting in great injury or in worst cases fatal.
In Iceland the weather is not always nice. In fact more often it is not. So, if there is high winds, snow and ice or heavy rains, hiking a mountain is much more dangerous. This is especially true in the case of Kirkjufell.
Despite the danger, hiking Kirkjufell has become rather popular in recent years, but with a great cost. The mountain has claimed the lives of several hikers and many more have been injured.
Earning it the title Iceland's most deadliest mountain. As a result this has caused the authorities and landowners in the area to ban hiking in the mountain.
Why Should You Visit Church mountain?
Although hiking is extremely dangerous it should not prevent people from visiting Kirkjufell. It is an incredible sight and should be on every visitor's travel plan when in Iceland.
It is located on the northern side of Snæfellsnes peninsula. Right next to the fishing village of Grundarfjörður.
It truly is unique as a mountain. Standing on its own like a giant natural cathedral in the bay of Breiðarfjörður. Hence the name,
The danish called it Sugar top, as for them it looked like a giant candy. In recent years it has also been called the Lonely Mountain, as it was depicted in the popular TV series of Game of Thrones.
How Do I Get To Kirkjufell?
What´s also great about Kirkjufell is the easy access to the mountain. It is only about a two hours drive from Reykjavik, all on paved main roads and easily located.
It is open and reachable all year round and in summer you can select any car for the trip. Even small ones like Kia Rio or Toyota Yaris.
During winter we do recommend a 4x4, as it can snow a lot in the area. So, you might want to get a SUV like a Dacia Duster or larger.
There is also a parking lot where visitors can safely park their rental cars.
This of course makes it very appealing to travelers driving in Iceland looking for a short and rewarding road trip.
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Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall are far from being the only interesting sites on Snæfellsnes peninsula. There are countless others within that area, well worth exploring.
Driving around Snæfellsnes peninsula is a great one day tour for travelers in Iceland. As you drive from Reykjavik you can stop and visit many amazing places all within the same day.
On the southern side of the peninsula are some of the most extraordinary beaches of Iceland. A breathtaking landscape compatible with the renowned beaches and natural beauty of south Iceland.
A great place to stop is Arnarstapi. A small fishing village under Snæfellsjökull glacier. There you can see Gatklettur, arch rock, as well as amazing basalt columns at the beach. There is even a natural stone bridge on which you can walk across.
Snæfellsjökull national park
When taking a tour to Snæfellsnes Peninsula, we recommend driving around it and see Snæfellsjökull National Park. There you will witness the mighty mountain Snæfellsjökull. An accent volcano sitting under a glacier.
Not only is the national park full of natural wonders it is also surrounded by mystery. Home to Jules Verne novel “Journey to the center of the earth” as well as being said to be a UFO hotspot.
On the northern side of Snæfellsnes Peninsula are the towns of Ólafsvík, Grundarfjörður and Stykkishólmur, as well as Rif and Hellissandur.
There are numerous activities available from these places such as whale watching, and other boat tours where you can see puffins and other wildlife.
Hidden gems of Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
For those interested in getting off the beaten path while on Snæfellsnes Peninsula there are a few less known but interesting sites you might want to check out.
One of these hidden gems is the Landbrotalaug hot spring. And the Fossá waterfalls at Vatnaleið mountain pass.
Other interesting hikes in Iceland
Kirkjufell Mountain might be Iceland's deadliest mountain and as we do not recommend hiking there, except for experienced climbers, with guidance and in the best conditions possible, there are other alternatives.
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It should be clear to anyone interested in traveling in Iceland that there is no shortage of mountains and beautiful trails to hike.
For those interested in short hikes, hikers can go to Mount Esja. Located just outside Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland.
It is just a few minutes drive from the city center and there is a parking lot where visitors can safely park their rental cars and walk up a well marked trail.
It is a rather easy hike but it can take a few hours, depending on how far up you like to go and how fast you hike. All that is required is a good pair of hiking boots.
It is possible to hike Mount Esja for most part of the year. But it is of course harder during winter due to snow and less daylight. Just remember to always dress according to the weather.
Once up, hikers can enjoy beautiful scenery overlooking the capital area, Reykjanes peninsula and even Thingvellir National Park.
If you´re looking for a bit longer and more difficult hike, you might want to walk up to Fagradalsfjall Volcano. The amazing site of Iceland's most recent volcano eruption.
Located on Reykjanes Peninsula, close to the famous Blue Lagoon. It is a short drive from either Reykjavik or Keflavik International Airport. There are parking lots where hikers can safely park their rental cars before taking the trail up to the mountain.
There are many trails leading to the crater site where two eruptions have recently occurred. It is a few hours hike and a great day's trip.
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As it takes a few hours we recommended wearing hiking boots and other outdoor clothing.
Although there is not an ongoing eruption, Fagradalsfjall is still a highly active volcano site. Hikers will walk beside the fresh lava field, which is still hot from the last eruption.
According to scientists there is a good chance that there will be another eruption soon. Who knows, maybe you will see a new eruption while you are there.
If you´re looking for a bigger challenge there are more extreme hikes available in Iceland. The most popular multi day hikes in Iceland is the Laugavegur Trail.
Laugavegur trail is a 54 kilometer trail in South Iceland. The trail goes from the geothermal hot springs of Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk Nature reserve. Usually it takes about 3 to 4 days to hike the trail and hikers need to be well prepared for such a long trip in the highlands.
The highest point on the way is Hrafntinnusker with an elevation of 1050 meters (3440 feet). Along the way hikers will pass though the most amazing landscape in Iceland. Passing glaciers, canyons and beautiful rhyolite mountains.
It might not be the easiest hike but certainly one of the most amazing ones found in Iceland.