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Tips for visiting Stokksnes and Mount Vestrahorn, Iceland


Adventure Kit contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I will earn a commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks! Stokksnes is the kind of Icelandic landscape you’ve been dreaming of – endless black sand dunes topped with green grass, and soft gray waves curling against a smooth black shoreline, all surrounded by a winding black mountain. No matter what kind of weather you have, this place will look great. The Stokksnes Peninsula was at the top of my list of places to visit on my Iceland road trip, especially for Amanda, my travel companion on this trip. We worked through our long day driving from Egilsstaðir, knowing that Stokksnes would be a late afternoon visit. It was amazing. Our trip to Iceland was fantastic (even though it cost a pretty penny), with some of the best scenery I’ve ever seen. Looking back from the perspective of time and distance, Stokksnes was one of the best places we visited. Although easily accessible, Stokknes is one of the relatively few outdoor attractions in Iceland that charges an entrance fee. Here’s what you need to know about visiting. Stokksnes and Tiny Kate! Visiting Stokksnes on a trip to Iceland The Stokksnes Peninsula was one of the oldest places settled in Iceland, with its arrival dating back to the 9th century. Later, during World War II, Stokksnes served as a base for the British Army. Today there is still a functioning NATO radar station at Stokksnes, which the Icelandic Air Defense System uses to monitor Iceland’s airspace. How far is Stokksnes from the ring road? Stokksnes is a ten-minute drive from the Ring Road, making it an easy stop. Can you visit Stokksnes on a day trip from Reykjavik? Stokksnes is a six-hour drive from Reykjavik – too far for a day trip unless you’re a masochist. How to get to Stokksnes If you’re driving the ring road counterclockwise, Stokksnes is about a 25-minute drive from Höfn (pronounced ‘Hup’ – yes, seriously). Höfn has plenty of accommodation and food options, so it’s a good base when visiting southeast Iceland. If you drive the ring road clockwise, as we did, Stokksnes is about a 90 minute drive from Djpivogur. On the way, don’t miss Hvalnes Lighthouse – the lighthouse is fine, but the mountain in the background is a great backdrop for photos. (I actually photographed a family there, completely surrounded by mountain!) Either way, it’s about a 10 minute drive off the ring road. As you drive, your first stop will be the Viking Café. Here you pay the fee: ISK 900 ($6.23) per person. Yes, you must pay the fee, regardless of whether you are on foot or in the car. This is a private property, unlike many other popular places in Iceland. If the cafe is closed, there is a machine outside where you can pay with a credit card. The cafe is a remarkably cozy place, and part of me longs for a big slice of cake. another time. It’s also a guesthouse! You can book their rooms here. We scan our ticket at the turnstile and laugh at the graffiti. After leaving the Viking Café and crossing fields full of sheep, we drive across a bridge, still water on each side, and reach the parking area next to the dunes. If you head to the end of the road, you’ll have a view of the Stokksnes Lighthouse, which was once part of a military base. Honestly, this is one of the least attractive lighthouses in Iceland and it pales in comparison to the beach and sand dunes, so we chose to skip it. From there you can set off to Stokksnes Beach. Black Sand Dunes I’ve seen a handful of black sand beaches in my life, from Santorini to Stromboli – but none quite like Stokksnes. Here the sand forms small mounds, green grass flows between each of them. Amanda and I park our car and head to the dunes, constantly taking pictures. We are amazed that we are the only ones here! We shoot our hearts out, knowing we won’t have to photoshop any randos from the shots when we get home. One of the things I quickly realized, though, is how important a wide-angle lens is to fit all Vestrahorn. The big viewfinder isn’t wide enough, but the iPhone takes surprisingly wide-angle photos (including the one at the top of this post). We have cloudy conditions, which is great, but I know the dunes will look sparkling on a sunny day too. Here are some pictures of the sand dunes. From there, we head to the beach. Stokksnes Beach The beach here is gorgeous – nice little waves that barely break the surface. It’s a far cry from Reynisfjara Beach in Vík, Iceland’s most famous black sand beach, where dangerous rogue surf breaks (and some travelers have lost their lives as a result). However, you never know if a wave of sneakers could get here, so be aware and don’t go too far in the water. If you’re looking to get perfect reflection shots of Westrahorn, you won’t be here – head further towards Viking Village, where some of the quieter bodies of water offer the mirror-like effect you’re looking for. Mount Westrahorn All the while, the majestic Westrahorn looms in the background. Next to it is the Bronhorn Mountain, called the Batman Mountain, shaped somewhat similarly to the Batman symbol. You can definitely hike up the Westrahorn, and there are maps of hiking trails at the Viking Café. If you’re up for the challenge, the longest route is the 11 km (6.8 mi) loop trip through Mount Westerhorn itself. Exiting the Viking village at the foot of the mountain, the road around Kambhorn takes you to Hvammsfjara and back to where you started. For something a little more doable, walk the 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) around Kirkgosander and along Drabsbjorg for more attractive views of the mountain. Either way, remember that the weather can turn a dime a dozen, and don’t hike unless you have the right equipment and resources. The Viking Village Last but not least is the Viking Village. This village was originally built in 2010 for Icelandic director Balthasar Kormacor, but has never been used. The village was basically deserted and is still here today. Feel free to walk around the Viking village, but don’t go into any of the buildings. They are not maintained and getting inside can be dangerous. One of the films that was successfully shot in Stokksnes was the Bollywood film Dilwale. How much time I spend in Stokksnes will I dedicate to at least 90 minutes in Stokksnes. Time really goes up when you think about buying your tickets at the coffee shop, driving to the edge, enjoying both the dunes and the beach, and walking to Viking Village. This is not the point of entry and exit. But if you have a short time and still want to experience Stokknes, I recommend spending the bulk of your time on the sand dunes with a little time on the beach. You can nullify the viking village and lighthouse without feeling guilty about it. Snowy Vestrahorn Mountain in winter, via Shutterstork. Stokksnes in the Winter While the best time to visit Stokksnes is during the summer, you can also visit them during the winter months! Like anywhere else in Iceland, check before you go, as the weather can be unpredictable and roads closed. And remember that you work limited daytime hours in the winter, even though you’ll be rewarded with a long golden hour. Vestrahorn looks great in golden light. But if you are a photographer, you will love the opportunity to capture mountain peaks and sand dunes under the refreshing dust of snow. And if I were able to photograph Mount Westrahorn, under the aurora borealis, I would be very jealous!!! This is a spot with a bit of light pollution, so if you get an aurora alert, head straight here! Jökulsárlón is located down the road from Stokksnes, in Icelandic. More Great Places in Southeast Iceland Southeast Iceland is one of my favorite parts of Iceland – waterfalls and valleys in the south meet fjords and mountains in the east! Lots of people move here quickly, but you’ll be glad you had your time here. Natural wonders abound on the southeast coast of Iceland. Arguably the most popular destination in the area, the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon cuts large chunks of the glacier and rests in the lake. Boat trips are popular things to do here. Jökulsárlón is just over an hour’s drive from Stokksnes. Don’t miss the nearby Diamond Beach, a black sand beach dotted with large icebergs that float from the lake. A bumpy gravel road will take you five minutes down the road to Fjallsárlón, another quieter glacial lake (we preferred it over Jökulsárlón.) It’s beautiful in a more subtle way. Múlagljfur Canyon, to the west of Fjallsárlón, is one of my all-time favorite places in Iceland. A charming valley and one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. You have to drive a gravel road to the road, but it is worth it. Where to stay near Stokksnes, Iceland Höfn (pronounced “Hup”) is a good place to stop for an overnight stay in southeast Iceland. It is a 25 minute drive from Stokksnes. Höfn Guesthouse is a highly rated budget option (I was originally going to stay there on my last trip). For something special, Fosshótel Vatnajökull is a little further than Höfn, but it’s stunning. While in Höfn, be sure to try langoustine somewhere. It’s the local specialty, and a delicious feature in a country of often undistinguished cuisine. Amanda and I enjoyed buttered langoustine sandwiches at Z Bistro. Alternatively, there are randomly many hotels and guesthouses along the way. I stayed at one of them – the Smyrlabjorg Hotel in Hornafjördur – on my recent trip to Iceland. It was mostly decent, but had no phone signal and no wifi, so I probably wouldn’t stay there again. Do you want to stay near Stokksnes? Stay at the Viking Café! You can book it here. And if you’re camping, there’s a camping site called Vestrahorn Camping very close by that includes entry to Stokksnes on your stay. See more places to stay in Höfn here. Is Stokksnes worth it? Oh yeah, Stokksnes deserve it! This is one of my favorite places I visited in Iceland, and these photos are some of the most cherished places on this trip. Go to Stokksnes, even if you have a short time. Even if you’re not much of a photographer. This place is charming. More about Iceland: My favorite places in Iceland: Been to Stokksnes? Any tips to share?

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