August 28, 2017

Since native English speakers severely struggle with the Icelandic language, I lovingly named this blog after a Sesame Street character. Throughout my travels in Iceland, I resorted to “renaming” unpronounceable locations with something a bit more familiar. The lovely natives understand the complexity of their vernacular and find amusement when foreigners butcher simple words in their language. In the two and a half weeks I spent there, the only thing I correctly learned how to say was “takk.” Fortunately, thank you is the simplest thing to pronounce.

The drive south from the Westfjords to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula (“Snuffleupagus” Peninsula) took me and Mom through a magical 4.5 hour excursion. Just before the Snæfellsjökull National Park, we discovered the enchanting Rauðfeldar Canyon. With a waterfall inside a hidden cave, it’s no wonder why legend believes that a half-man, half-troll use to live here. This creature lived nearby with his eldest daughter, Helga. One day when she played on the beach with her two male cousins, they both pushed her onto a glacier that believed to have drifted all the way to Greenland. This infuriated the man-troll so much that he killed his two nephews, pushing one off a nearby cliff and the other into Rauðfeldar Canyon. He then disappeared into the glacier and was never seen again. The majority of the Icelandic people believe in tales of trolls, and it is stories like this that made any place seem to come to life.

IMG_0204 - Rauðfeldar Canyon
Rauðfeldar Canyon

The relaxing isolation of the Westfjords spoiled us because once we arrived at Snæfellsjökull National Park, tourists descended large charter buses in droves. This quickly reminded us that Reykjavik was only a short 2 hour drive away. We briefly visited Djúpalónssandur, a unique black sand beach lined with rugged mossy boulders, and Saxholl Crater before venturing down an F-road (4WD road) towards Snæfellsjökull glacier.

Mom and I possess very limited off road skills, as so wonderfully demonstrated in The Outback. (Feel free to revisit our adventures with Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride here.) We believe in our general rule of thumb: only go as far as you feel comfortable. Unfortunately, this is not always good advice as sometimes there is not always a safe place to turn around. Steep grades mixed with unpredictable rocks and rough pot holes kept us from driving the full distance to the glacier. Nevertheless, our detour felt like driving on the moon; except I doubt driving on the moon would offer a backdrop of lava fields, muddy glacial runoff trickling off a cliff, hidden patches of snow and grassy growing vegetation.

Back on the main road, we made our way to our evening’s accommodation. On the north side of the peninsula, Kirkjufell mountain stood proudly overlooking the town of Grundarfjordur. The waterfalls across the street framed the scene to make it just as iconic as I hoped it would be. We stayed in town, a short distance across from the water, and couldn’t believe the panoramic views of Kirkjufell we got to enjoy everywhere we wandered. Someone recommended dinner at Bjarsteinn and we luckily snagged one of their last tables of the evening. This adorable house-like restaurant on the water served us one of the best meals of the trip. I feasted on the local blue ling fish, one of my new favorite fresh catches. Friendly service and a warm atmosphere made this an excellent place to relax after a busy day of sightseeing.

View from Kirkjufellsfoss

With such diverse scenery including lava fields, volcanic craters, crystal fjord waters and a 700,000 year old glacier, the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is the perfect place to sample all of Iceland’s offerings in one place. Despite the number of tourists aimlessly snapping photos and crawling over each other to see the same sights, Mom and I still found some off beat treasures of our own. If for nothing else, I would return to visit the majestic Kirkjufell.

Kirkjufell mountain and Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall


I would like to thank Stop 17 Café on Smith Street in Collingwood for allowing me to perch and write this blog. Your hospitality made me feel welcome and got my creative juices flowing. I look forward to returning to your Writer’s Room upstairs!

Mr. Snuffleupagus with Big Bird

10 thoughts on “Snuffleupagus

  1. haha, I LOVE it!! I spent several weeks backpacking and driving around iceland and I too couldnt say any of the words in Iceland. But let me tell you all those areas were absolutely amazing and the waterfalls and rock formations were totally breathtaking no matter if we could pronounce them or not. Glad you got to experience Snuffleupagus!!

  2. Iceland’s majestic landscape is really a sight. Cant wait for my daughter to get of age and visit Iceland

  3. I love to learn local legends while I’m on the road and I’d definitely love to view the cave where they believed the troll used to live… especially if there’s a waterfall inside!

  4. I feel you and the suffering of foreign pronunciation. I think my anglocentric language skills reflects poorly on me as a traveler, but try as I may, I just can’t get my tongue working. In your defense, snuffleupagus did have two letters that aren’t even part of the English Alphabet.

    We just got back from Sri Lanka, where we butchered the local language with little or no improvement over our stay. Just keep smiling and everybody seems to be ok. Of course, they might be saying “Stupid American” in Sinolese and we wouldn’t have understood them anyway.

    Love your picture of Kirkjufellsfoss. Great composition.

  5. The title definitely made me smile – Snuffleupagus was always my favorite Sesame Street character! I loved your photos, I think you really captured the unpoilt charm of Iceland, especially Kirkjufellsfoss!

  6. Haaaa, I love this, we did similar, often collapsing into giggles as I tried to pronounce where we were heading to as I read the map and Pete drove!!! Snæfellsjökull or Snuffleupagus was one of the places we visited (your nickname rocks) and enjoyed!

  7. Love the name for the blog! I was in Iceland twice with my old work and really wanted to get to Kirkjufellsfoss but could never make it work out. I love your photos of it.

  8. It would actually be so much fun to try mastering the Icelandic language before making a trip. The names are as exotic as each of those unbelievable places in the country. I think any simpler names would probably not even do justice. Iceland is so high on everyone’s list, isn’t it!

  9. Half-man, half-troll?! I love legends like these! Wow, diverse indeed… I’d love to see the crystal fjords and lava fields in person. Iceland looks other-worldly and I’m fascinated.

  10. such a simple yet lovely article , totally portraying the essence of a great holiday , some great pics too ..Iceland is a dream destination for me

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