The magnificent mountain of Kirkjufell Iceland is the icon of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. With its waterfalls Kirkjufellsfoss, it attracts nature lovers and photographers. There is something special about the shape, location and colors of the Kirkjufell Mountain: green in summer, orange in winter, white with snow, under the northern lights, at sunrise, at sunset...Magical! Don't miss it on your Iceland road trip.
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About Iceland's Mount Kirkjufell
What is Kirkjufell?
Kirkjufell is a 463 meter (1519ft) high mountain on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Because of its shape and stand-alone location by the sea with waterfalls close by, it has become one of the most iconic landscapes in Iceland (and one of the most photographed).
I really enjoyed it, and visited it under different weather conditions. It was always magical, so I selected it in my Top 10 Iceland Landscapes.
What does Kirkjufell mean?
Its name means "Church Mountain", because of its shape. Kirkja is the Icelandic name for church.
Where is Kirkjufell located? Map
It is located on the North Coast of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula (see the guide), just West of Grundarfjordur, one of the main towns in the region.
It is located East of the Snaefellsjökull glacier.
It is 185km (114mi) away from Reykjavik. Under good conditions, it would take you 2h15 to drive there.
Below is a map to help you locate Mt Kirkjufell.
Is Kirkjufell a volcano?
Because of its strange shape and the volcanic nature of Iceland, people wonder if Kirkjufell is a volcano. It is not. Just the work of time with sediments and erosion. See the next paragraph to understand how it was formed.
So how was Kirkjufell formed? What type of Mountain is Kirkjufell? (Geology)
Kirkjufell is a stack of layers of sedimentary rocks from glacial and interglacial stages. At the base is Tertiary Lava. And then it alternates between Sandstone, and Quaternary lava. At the top is tuff (a geological profile is available at the bottom of this article).
And then during the last Ice age, erosion shaped it. Its side are so steep because it was a high rock pressured between 2 glacier tongues.
Other facts about Kirkjufell...
- The location was also made famous by Game of Thrones.
- It is a great place for photographing the Northern lights on a clear night as it is facing North
How to pronounce Kirkjufell?
If reading this article is difficult because you are wondering about the pronunciation of Kirkjufell, check it out here
About the Kirkjufellsfoss (Kirkjufell waterfalls)
"Foss" means waterfall in Icelandic.
Very close to Mt Kirkjufell is a series of waterfalls. The alignment is ideal to photograph all of that together.
They are located on River Kirkjufellsá flowing from the Snaefellsjokull glacier over the Helgrindur ridge.
Both steps of the waterfall are not very high (they reach around 5 meters (16ft) in height) but the interest is the combined view with the mountain behind.
How to get to Kirkjufell Iceland
- Located along road 54 (the circular road around the Snaefellsnes Peninsula)
- Just a 2 minute drive past Grundarfjörður towards the West,
- Reykjavik to Kirkjufell - 2h15 drive on sealed roads
- Thingvellir to Kirkjufell (if you want to do both Golden Circle and Snaefellsnes) - 2h30 drive
- The drive is easy, with one lane in each direction and wide enough roads
Need to rent a car for your road trip in Iceland?
You can choose from some great local companies!
- I selected Route 1 car rental (and paid entirely for it). I really enjoyed their service to drop and pick up the car, as well as all their advice before going on the road - Check out prices and car availabilities
- Otherwise you can compare the vehicles and prices from local companies on this practical website
Where to park for Kirkjufell?
When you approach the mountain, you will find a small parking area.
Beware, surprisingly it is located on the side of the road opposite to the mountain.
So, if you arrive from the East, it will be to your left; and if you arrive from the West end of the peninsula, it will be to your right.
Kirkjufell Mountain, with its GPS coordinates, is included in my eBook:
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Organized tours - Reykjavik to Kirkjufell & Snaefellsnes
Another option is to opt for a day trip from Reykjavik, where you just sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery. There are tours taking you to all the main attractions on the peninsula:
Tips for Visiting Kirkjufell and its waterfall
- WALK to the view - 5 min walk from the parking to the famous view - From the car park a trail climbs to a bridge over the river and you can then walk down to get the famous views of the Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall and the mountain
- NOTE TO SELF - Wear good shoes as it gets very muddy and get layers. The weather is not always comfortable. During one of my visits, it was windy cold and very difficult to do anything - see photo, I know it is scary, but it is not always like that 🙂 - Check out my complete article with detailed suggestions and tips on what to wear and pack for Iceland to stay warm and comfortable
- BASE WALK - The West Iceland tourism board indicates that you can walk around the base of it. It can be a family walk and takes 3 hours
Can you climb Kirkjufell?
KIRKJUFELL HIKE - Yes, it is possible to hike to the top of Kirkjufell (Kirkjufell hike).
However It is a difficult hike with very steep sections, slippery rocks and wind. Do not go by yourself (it can be very dangerous, with people fatally falling). Hire an experienced guide who can take you along the right tracks.
Best angles to Photograph Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss Iceland
In any weather, the place keeps its magic!
However know that Kirkjufellsfoss is a photographer magnet – don’t expect to be alone!
Best places to photograph Kirkjufell:
- With the waterfall: top or lower sections, see the panoramic above where you can see both.
- With the reflection on the lake: at the bottom of the waterfalls there is a lake. When it is completely calm, it shows an almost perfect mirror image of the Kirkjufell.
- Apparently, you can go on higher ground for an interesting perspective without the waterfall. I have not tried it, considering the weather.
- From the town in Grundarfjordur
- And you can see Kirkjufell on both sides from Road 54 that goes along the North Shore of the peninsula
With both sections of the waterfall:
With the lake:
Driving from the East
And as you drive on Road 54 on the Snaefellsnes peninsula towards the town of Grundarfjordur, you can get nice views of the surprising mountain:
This is one of my favorite viewpoints.
Everybody rushes to the waterfalls, but this is such a peaceful place!
The following shot with the rainbow was taken from the town of Grundarfjordur near hotel Framnes. But just with my iPhone because it was pouring rain.
Driving from the West
Best time to Photograph Mt Kirkjufell (Northern lights and sunrise)
Sunrise and Sunsets at Kirkjufell
Of course, like anywhere, the best times are sunrise and sunset. Because of its location facing North and the openness of the area, it is really good for both conditions.
Sadly I did not get much colors the many times I went...
Northern Lights at at Kirkjufell
Kirkjufell Iceland is a good location for aurora borealis for 3 reasons:
- the place is already very photogenic,
- the position from the waterfall is facing North,
- plus, there are no strong sources of light so you could see them well.
Learn more about tracking and photographing the northern lights on my special article.
Sadly, the conditions were not good for me, but here is a photo by another photographer:
Surroundings of Kirkjufell Mountain
Below is the view from the waterfall towards Grundarfjordur
Kirkjufell Accommodations - Grundarfjordur
Hotels near Kirkjufell
Camping near Kirkjufell
There is a campsite at Grundarfjordur near the pool. Check at the swimming pool reception.
Kirkjufell in Winter
Kirkjufell Iceland is as magic Winter as it is in Summer. Below is a picture to prove it.
You might be lucky to see it under the snow. But know that the waterfalls normally don't freeze entirely.
Accessing Kirkjufell in Winter: The road to get there is normally cleared to the waterfall carpark.
But always be careful, it can be slippery.
You can learn more with extra pictures in my article: Kirkjufell in Winter
And if you are planning a trip to Iceland in Winter, check out my planning guide.
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