How special Iceland is! During our 4-day road trip Iceland, we saw so much beauty. In this series, I will take you around this spectacularly beautiful island, past high cliffs and stunning views. Starting with our first stop: the Vatnsnes Peninsula, best known for Ósar Hostel and the big rock. But Vatnsness has much more to offer! We drove around the entire peninsula on the first day and discovered spectacular nature, beautiful walks, cute cottages, unusual rock formations and seal colonies. Enjoy the photos and get inspiration for your own trip to Iceland!
Vatnsnes: a beautiful drive across a deserted peninsula
If you drive the along the ring road 1, you will automatically reach the Vatnsnes peninsula at some point. We drove from the west side of Iceland onto road number 711, which goes almost all the way around the peninsula. The first significant village we encountered was Hvammstangi (population 600), 197 kilometers north of the capital Reykjavik. In the village we find the Icelandic Seal Center, where we ask for information about places to spot seals. We also eat our self-brought lunch here. In the cold and wind. We continued on road 711 and on our first full day in Iceland were already amazed by the unreal beauty of this island.
Seeing seals in Iceland at three sites in Vatnsnes
Vatnsnes is known for its seals, but because of tourists who came to disturb their habitat, many places to spot these animals are now closed.
Driving across the peninsula, however, you will still encounter the familiar blue and white seal sign in three places: this is where you can spot seals. One place even more beautiful than the other, where you can also take beautiful walks. Each spot has its own character, so it is well worth visiting all three!
It is important to know that there are certain times when you can best see them, depending on the height of the water. The Icelandic Seal Center website has links to the best times.
The first beautiful place you encounter as you drive up the peninsula on the west side is Svalbard, north of Hvammstangi. From the small parking lot you walk to the shore in about 280 meters, from where you can see seals lying on the rocks in the distance. Binoculars would have been handy for us. But even without them, we can easily see them lying around enjoying the sun. This place is not only interesting for the seals, as the nature is also stunningly beautiful.
The second stop was Illugastaðir. This is not only a very good place to spot seals, but it is also a great place for hiking, spectacular nature and you can admire many special birds. The area is easy to hike and at the end of the hike there is a little house with binoculars in it, from which you can watch the seals. Along the way, you’ll pass beautiful scenery, where you’ll feast your eyes. Illugastaðir is also a valhalla for birdwatchers. Between April 20 and June 20, the area is closed as ducks start nesting.
Along the coast in Iceland, the common seal is mainly found. These seals grow about 2 meters long and weigh around 100 pounds. They are dark in color, especially on the back a stony color with gray and flecks. However, color does depend on season, gender and age.
In addition to the common seal, you will also find the gray seal in this area. It can grow up to 2.5 meters long and weigh up to 300 pounds. The color is often darker with spots. The Icelandic gray seal appears to be monogamous. Pups are born in the fall, between late September and November. The photos below show them lying on the beautiful rocks near Illugastaðir.
The third spot we find on the east side of Vatnsnes. Also known as Ósar, this is not only a popular place to see seals, but also because of the unusual rock on the black beach (see below).
At the top of the mountain is a lookout point, with stunning views of the area and the rock. A narrow and especially very steep path leads us down. Once with both feet on the beach, we walk a bit and enjoy the fresh breeze through our hair.
From here you should also be able to see many seals, but there is not one when we are there. Maybe because the water was still too high. Anyway, it was a beautiful place where we enjoyed nature for at least 1.5 hours.
The drinking dragon: an unusual rock in Iceland
The last stop, Hvítserkur, in addition to the seals, is also known for one of Iceland’s most extraordinary rocks. If you look closely, the rock looks like a dragon drinking. F
According to legend, the rock Hvítserkur was a troll who pelted the Þingeyrar monastery with stones without noticing when the sun was rising, after which the troll petrified. The rock is 15 meters high and to protect it from the violent waves of the Atlantic Ocean, they reinforced the base with concrete. The name means “white shirt,” courtesy of the many bird droppings on the rock. At low tide you can walk across the black beach to the rock, though after first climbing down a brisk slope.
Since it was quite slippery because of the small stones and sand, I went down sliding on my butt. So it takes some work, but it’s worth it.
There’s more to see during a road trip Vatnsnes
Aside from seals and the extraordinary dragon rock, a tour of Vatnsnes is very worthwhile anyway. Beautiful landscapes, lighthouses, high cliffs, black beaches, mini-villages and many sheep: it all passes by. Even though you can get around the peninsula in 1.5 hours, it took us all afternoon. Hiking, eating, sitting in the grass and stopping at the most beautiful views: what a wonderful place!
There are other places in Iceland where you can spot seals, such as in Ytri Tunga.
How beautiful Iceland is! Read back all about our road trip Iceland? Click here!