With a year-round population of less than ten residents, it’s amazing to imagine this sleepy coastal village was for centuries one of the largest fishing towns beneath the Snaefellsjokull ice-cap. While the remnants of the fishing sheds built by Hellnar’s 11th-century settlers may suggest that this town hasn’t changed since the Vikings arrived, it has a contemporary commitment to preserving the environment.
The cliffs between Arnarstapi and Hellnar are a Natural Reserve and the 2.5 kilometer (1.5 mi) hiking trail linking the two settlements offers spectacular scenery including Gatklettur, a magnificent arch extending into the sea. The peculiar Badstofa caves are known for their unique light refraction and colorful interior. Other natural highlights in the area are bizarre rock formations in the shapes of stacks, as well as cliffs swarming with huge colonies of birds.
Hellnar hosts the official visitor center for Snaefellsjokull National Park where exhibits reveal regional geology, trade history, geography and wildlife that can be found in the park. During summer everyone heads to the seaside cliffs at Hellnar to enjoy a lunch stop at Fjoruhusid, a tiny cafe located on the water. Their signature and life-affirming dish is a creamy seafood soup that is brimming with fish and scallops drawn fresh from the ocean directly off the peninsula.