Kirkjufell Mountain

Visit Kirkjufell Mountain while touring Iceland

Kirkjufell, also known as “Church Mountain,” is famous for its unique shape. Located on the north shore of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in Iceland, it is the most photographed mountain in Iceland. It stands near the fishing village of Grundarfjörður and forms its most important landmark. It rises to a height of 463 meters above sea level. Kirkjufell features in the list of the top 10 most beautiful mountains in the world. If you are a Game of Thrones fan, you must have recognized it as the Arrow Head Mountain.

sunset at kirkjufell mountain
frozen waterfall by kirkjufell
snaefellsnes town in iceland
person taking a photo by kirkjufell mountain

Guided day tours visiting Kirkjufell Mountain

Where is Kirkjufell?

Kirkjufell is located on the North Coast of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. It is one of the prime attractions of west Iceland. Kirkjufell is just 183 km from the capital Reykjavik and 379 km from Akureyri. You can also reach it from Borgarnes on the Ring Road that is only 107 km from it.

Why visit Kirkjufell in Iceland?

Don’t you want to know why photographers love this mountain? There are many unique things about Kirkjufell, including its shape, formation, and isolated location. 

Photographers and tourists throng Grundarfjörður to take a look at this famous mountain. Along with the Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall, the mountain gets hundreds of visitors every day. The thin top of Kirkjufell, along with the striking slopes, makes it look enthralling. The mountain forms a peninsula beside the fishing town. The view of Grundarfjörður from the peak is mind-blowing.

hiker with yellow raincoat sightseeing kirkjufell

The Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall jumps down in three steps making a picturesque scene. Although a small waterfall, Kirkjufellsfoss looks dramatic when seasons change. Thus, it attracts a lot of tourists who visit west Iceland.

Kirkjufell rises magnificently from the ocean, which makes it an excellent photo subject. When visiting it, don’t forget to take snaps from different angles. The trails around the mountain are accessible and give good views of the ocean and the town.

However, it is hard to climb Kirkjufell, and only expert hikers try it. If you want to take up the challenge, get an experienced guide to accompany you.

Kirkjufell is known as Church Mountain because it resembles a church steeple. Danish sailors called it a Sugar Top. When seen from other angles, the peak looks like a witch’s hat and a scoop of ice cream.

aerial drone view of kirkjufell mountain

What is the meaning of Kirkjufell?

Initially, the mountain was named Kirkja that means Church in Icelandic. With time the name changed to Kirkjufell, the Church Mountain.

How to visit Kirkjufell?

aerial road view in snaefellsnes peninsula

Kirkjufell Mountain is easily accessible through roadways. You can take a car from Reykjavik and drive to Kirkjufell. Take Ring Road 1 and head north to take the undersea tunnel till you reach Borgarnes. When you are at the end of the town, take the roundabout to get on road number 54. Drive along that road till you reach Grundarfjörður. There is no way you can miss Kirkjufell, as it is visible from a distance. You can include this in a day trip as it takes only 2 hours and 30 minutes to reach it from Reykjavik.

Public transport is also available to reach Grundarfjörður. You have to take three connecting buses from Reykjavik to Borgarnes, then another from Borgarnes to Stykkisholmur, and finally the third one to Grundarfjörður.

How was mount Kirkjufell formed?

kirkjufell mountain sunset water reflection

Mount Kirkjufell dominates the vision as we approach Snaefellsnes Peninsula. From a distance, the mountain appears perfectly cylindrical. The formation of this mountain is as dramatic as its appearance. 

Kirkjufell Mountain was formed millions of years ago due to glacial erosion. Its formation started by the end of the Ice Age. The most distinctive feature of Kirkjufell is its layers, which were formed by volcanic eruptions. At the base, you can find tertiary lava that is about 5-10 million years old.

As you move up, you will find layers of sedimentary rocks belonging to glacial and interglacial stages.  The layers of lava and rock that form the upper strata of the mountain date back to 700,000 years. Scientists have found sandstone and quaternary lava in the upper layers while the top is made up of tuff.

Kirkjufell lays between two glaciers that have shaped it and given it an unusual shape. The layers of rocks are distinctively visible from the top. This has occurred due to a natural phenomenon called nunatak in Iceland. It refers to a high rock jutting out of glaciers. Kirkjufell is an exposed peak not covered by ice. It is also known as a glacial island.

Some interesting facts about Kirkjufell

kirkjufellfoss waterfall near mountain
  • Kirkjufell is one of the highest mountains in Iceland. 
  • Kirkjufell is surrounded by several mountains including, Mýrarhyrna, Stöðin, and Hálsvaðall. 
  • Kirkjufell is composed of different types of rocks and lava. 
  • Kirkjufell was initially called Firðafjall during settlement. But later on, the name changed. 
  • You can find fossils at the top of Kirkjufell. 
  • Danish sailors called it Sukkertoppen or the Sugar Top as the shape of the mountain resembled the sugar packages that were used to import sugar to Iceland.

Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall – the wonder of Iceland

Kirkjufellfoss waterfall in iceland

As you drive toward Kirkjufell from Grundarfjörður your eyes will get mesmerized by the beauty of the Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall. There are three waterfalls, but they don’t have separate names. The waterfalls join the river Kirkjufellsa.

During the summer months, the waterfall becomes the favorite spot for local kids and adults as they jump into it to cool off.  

When touring Kirkjufell Iceland, pay a visit to this waterfall. It is easily accessible, and there is a parking lot nearby to park your cars. Follow the path to get closer to the waterfall. Spend some time here enjoying the views. You can shoot magnificent photos of the waterfall and the mountain too.

Are you planning to hike Kirkjufell?

couple hiking near kirkjufell in summer

No matter how enticing Kirkjufell Mountain looks, hiking is quite arduous here. The trail is steep and exposed. The path is marked at places with ropes and chains, and hikers are advised to follow the trail only.

Inexperienced hikers or beginners should not try to hike here. Do your research and get a guide before you proceed. Only expert hikers are encouraged to hike on the testing terrain of Kirkjufell, as several accidents have happened in the recent past.

So, plan to hike Kirkjufell only if you are confident and experienced. The hike usually takes 1.5 hours one way. Once you reach the top, you will not want to get down, as the views are incredible. You may lose the track of time as your eyes feast on the sweeping views. Your soul will find solace in the sights that Kirkjufell offers through the mind’s eyes.

Where will you get the best shot of Mount Kirkjufell?

group of people near waterfall in iceland

There are a few locations where you can take astounding photos of Kirkjufell Mountain and its neighboring areas. 

  • To get the mountain and waterfall in a single frame, the best place is from the left side of Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall. 
  • Hike the hills above the waterfall, and you will get amazing shots of the town and the fjord region. 
  • There is a spot between a farm near Kirkjufell and the town. Rest on the bench and take a look around. The serene views are enough to elongate your break. Don’t forget to click fabulous pics.
  • If you stand at the base of the mountain, you can take towering shots of it. If you can capture the reflection of Kirkjufell on the water, that would be a double whammy for you.
  • Here is another tip for you. Before you get into the town, there is a gas station by the beach. With its colorful houses, the entire town is visible from here.

Where to stay near Kirkjufell?

The best way to enjoy Kirkjufell and its surrounding area is to stay in Grundarfjörður. We have mentioned the places with the best rating here.

aerial view of grundarfjordur village

Grundarfjörður HI Hostel provides comfortable accommodation. It is inexpensive with high standards of service. 

You can also stay in guesthouses, B&B, and farm stays that are located in Grundarfjörður. 

Some of these are – 

  • Guesthouse 43 
  • Hellnafell Farmstay 
  • H5 Apartments 
  • The Old Post Office Guesthouse 
  • Jf Comfy Stay 
  • Hamrahlíð 9 Guesthouse 
  • Grund í Grundarfirði

Camping at Grundarfjörður

Adventure seekers can try camping at Grundarfjörður. This is an excellent option to imbibe the beauty of the area. You can view Kirkjufell day and night and get astonished by its different looks. 

The camping site is near the swimming pool and offers wheelchair and electricity services.

Kirkjufell in winter

With a fresh coat of snow, Kirkjufell looks astounding during the winter. If you are visiting Iceland in the winter months, don’t miss Kirkjufell.

Kirkjufell and Northern Lights

kirkjufell mountain and northern lights

Another wonder to watch in Iceland is Kirkjufell bathed in the Northern Lights. This is an incredible scene, and anyone who has witnessed this would never forget it. On cloudless winter nights, it is possible to watch the Northern Lights dancing over Kirkjufell.

Don’t miss out on Snæfellsjökull Glacier

snaefellsjokull glacier in iceland

This is the most iconic landmark of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. It rises 1,446 meters above sea level and is visible from Reykjavik on clear days. The Midnight Sun bathes the glacier in pinkish hues creating indelible memories.

When visiting Kirkjufell, check out the other local attractions to have a memorable holiday. The must-visit places include Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall, Hellnar, Barnafoss, Arnarstapi, and Eldborg Crater.

Don’t go hiking on Kirkjufell without a guide, and always stay within the trail. Follow the safety rules, and your Kirkjufell tour will be an unforgettable one.