Even before you arrive at Kirkjufell you will know what you are going to see. The classical hat shaped mountain with a nearby waterfall is Kirkjufell. What you aren’t ready for is the chaos of parking and the hordes of people jostling to get their moment at this iconic location. This is one of Iceland’s honeypot spots and despite visiting on a very busy and grey overcast day the potential of this location is easily seen.
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Kirkjufell Mountain and Waterfall
The name Kirkjufell means Church Mountain and this should be no surprise. From the south it looks like a church steeple whilst from the west it looks like the nave. Once surrounded by glaciers this 463 metre high lump of rock lump of rock rises from the calm bay near the small village of Grundarfjörður . If you are feeling energetic there is a path to the summit although be warned – it is steep and a guide is needed There is a more sedate, family friendly walk around the base of the mountain which takes about three hours.
It is made up of a base of lava with subsequent layers of sandstone and lava, all eroded and shaped by glaciers and weather of millennia in a process known as ‘nunatak’. This glacial island was left exposed above the surrounding glaciers. Layers formed which can still be seen today as volcanic eruptions layed down each layer on the mountain.
Opposite the mountain is small tiered waterfall called Kirkjufellsfoss. Compared to other waterfalls in iceland this is small but perfectly formed and with the mountain behind is stunning.
This mountain is Arrowhead Mountain in Seasons 6 and 7 of Game of Thrones and a brief moment at Kirkjufellsfoss is seen in episode 5 of season 6 when the children of the forest created the first White Walker (if you are in to the series!)
Summer Photography at Kirkjufell Mountain
Kirkjufell Mountain is stunning wherever you choose to take a photograph from. The classic view is from the waterfall where gravel paths take you around the falls from the parking area. This lends itself to long exposure photography giving the waterfall a stunning milky appearance. If you want the mountain in the background the you need to be on the far side of the waterfalls from the parking area.
READ MORE: PLANNING A SUMMER ROAD TRIP IN ICELAND
From the waterfall bridge there are paths that follow the mountains and the river and exploring these upstream can give different views of the mountain. The elevated position will change the foreground appearance dramatically.
On the main road between the mountain Grundarfjörður there are a number of places to get down to the shoreline. There is a small parking area by the fuel station in town as well as a larger pull in just outside the town to the west. Being at a lower level will give a different perspective and in the right, calm conditions give reflections of the mountain in the surface of the water.
For a totally different view take the small road to the west of Kirkjufell Mountain. On this road there are a number of parking places with tracks down to a small bay with a black sandy beach and fantastic reflections.
All the images above were taken on a grey overcast morning in summer and still the mountain has a presence.
Winter Photography at Kirkjufell Mountain
Kirkjufell mountain is also a great location for winter photography when the mountain is blanketed in snow and the aurora borealis is dancing above. The safest option it to stick to the path at the waterfall and work to the conditions.
READ MORE: HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH THE NORTHERN LIGHTS
For perfect reflections then between Grundarfjörður and the main parking area there is a small layby with direct access to the shoreline.
Remember to look after your camera and lenses if you have been out in extreme weather and keep yourself warm with plenty of layers. View an amazing winter photography tour here and book..
Places to Stay Near Kirkjufell
The nearest town to Kirkjufell is Grundarfjörður. This has a number of small hotels and AirBnB’s as well as a small campsite next to the swimming pool.
A little further away and slightly cheaper is Òlafsvík. This again has a range of hotels and AirBnB options as well as a small campsite just to the east of the town itself.
Organised Tours in Iceland that Include Kirkjufell
There are lots of tours that visit Kirkjufell if you don’t want to travel on your own. Here are a few suggestions!
Kayak around the mountain in the midnight sun
One Day of Photography
For Instagram lovers!
Game of Thrones Locations
Getting to Kirkjufell Mountain and Waterfall
Kirkjufell is located a short distance west from the small town of Grundarfjörður on Road 54. It is just under 3 hours (183km) drive from Reykjavík on good roads. The mountain can be seen as you approach and the parking areas are clearly marked.
From the main parking area follow the gravel path along the river to the bridge and then drop back down the other side. Iy is not possible currently to complete a circular walk.
There is a second parking area closer to Grundarfjörður which is on the shore and provides low level access to the water.
Places Close to Kirkjufell Mountain and Waterfall
Kirkjufell is on the Snæsfellsnes Peninsula in the west of Iceland. There are lots of things close by to visit and photograph.
- Kvernafoss Waterfall
- Skarðsvík Beach
- Búlandshöfði View Point
- Giant Padlock