Snæfellsjökull Glacier: Hike to the Center of the Earth

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A summer view of Snæfellsjökull glacier with the glacier reflected in the sea

What’s that over there?

It’s 100 km (62 mi) from Reykjavík, but in the evening light, you can see it quite clearly. If you aren’t familiar with the sight, you can’t help but wonder, what is it? If you see somebody passing by, ask them and they’ll probably tell you. What you see is Snæfellsjökull.

Noteworthy due to the literary reference in Jules Verne’s famous “Journey to the Center of the Earth”, where at the summit one could find the entrance to a passage to the center of the earth. The “Jokul of Snæfels” a volcano and glacier combo which sits at the end of the Snæfellssnes peninsula. It’s 700000 years old, last erupted in 250 AD, and has a summit that stands at 1446 (4744 ft). You can stand there too.

In Sneffels Jokulis craterem, quem delibat umbra Scartaris, Julii intra kalendas descende, audax viator, et terrestre centrum attinges; quod feci. Arne Saknussemm

Translated into English, it reads:

Descend, bold traveller, into the crater of the jökull of Snæfell, which the shadow of Scartaris touches before the Kalends of July, and you will attain the center of the earth. I did it. Arne Saknussemm

Of course, you can’t actually reach the center of the earth from the summit of a volcano in West Iceland; but the story is powerful, we feel, because it captures the imagination. So does the act of summiting it.

Snæfellsjökull glacier in the distance of the the sea

Reaching the summit, evening glow

Did you ever wonder what the view from the top might be like? Well, if you have, you don’t need to wonder for very much longer: Snæfellsjökull may be formidable, but it’s very hikeable. With 7 - 8 km round-trip and 750 m (2460 ft) in elevation gain, it’s a challenging (follow link for description of difficulty levels) but rewarding hike.

We were now beginning to scale the steep sides of Snæfell. Its snowy summit, by an optical illusion not unfrequent in mountains, seemed close to us, and yet how many weary hours it took to reach it! The stones, adhering by no soil or fibrous roots of vegetation, rolled away from under our feet and rushed down the precipice below with the swiftness of an avalanche.

Jules Verne, Journey to The Center of The Earth

Indeed, journeys like this are not just about reaching the summit; it's about the journey, the entire process, going there, and coming back. Icelandic Mountain Guides has recently started summit hiking trips of Snæfelsjökull, a journey which will see you through black sands, infinite mossy lava fields, waterfalls, and canyons. As you descend, you will begin to notice the quality evening light changing, weather permitting, turning into golden hues and bringing out a gentle glow to the landscape as the day progresses into a long night.

People hiking to the snowy top of Snæfellsjökull glacier on a tour with Icelandic Mountain Guides

Let us take you there!

A group of hikers hiking the snowy hills of Snæfellsjökull glacier on a tour with Icelandic Mountain Guides

We offer day tours to the summit of Snæfelsjökull. If you decide to join us for this awesome day tour, we will meet you on Snæfellsnes Peninsula. We provide the glacier gear, safety equipment, an expert guide, and a safety briefing before your adventure begins. We normally operate this hike from 15th May to 15th August, but that all depends on the conditions on the glacier. Check out the tour for more information and reach out to us via email ([email protected] or call us at +354-687-9999).

Your journey to the center of the earth starts here.

A map of Iceland showing the way to Snæfellsjökull

About the Author

Joseph Mattos-Hall

Joseph Mattos-Hall

Hailing from London and born into a British/Brazilian/Italian household, Joseph came to Iceland originally to complete a master’s degree in Environment and Natural Resources from the University of Iceland: the rest is history.

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