Djúpalón Beach

Top choice in Snæfellsjökull National Park

On the southwest coast, Rte 572 leads off Rte 574 to wild black-sand beach Djúpalónssandur. It’s a dramatic place to walk, with rock formations (an elf church, and a kerling – a troll woman), two brackish pools (for which the beach was named) and the rock-arch Gatklettur. Some of the black sands are covered in pieces of rusted metal from the English trawler Eding, which was shipwrecked here in 1948. An asphalt car park and public toilets allow tour-bus access, and crowds.

Down on the beach you can still see four lifting stones where fishing-boat crews would test the strength of aspiring fishermen. The smallest stone is Amloði (Bungler) at 23kg, followed by Hálfdrættingur (Weak) at 54kg, Hálfsterkur (Half-Strong) at 100kg, and the largest, Fullsterker (Fully Strong), at 154kg. Hálfdrættingur marked the frontier of wimphood, and any man who couldn’t heft it was deemed unsuitable for a life at sea.

A series of rocky sea stacks, some of which are thought to be a troll church, emerge from the ocean up the coast as you tramp north over the craggy headland to reach the black-sand beach at Dritvík. From the 16th to the 19th century Dritvík was the largest fishing station in Iceland, with up to 60 fishing boats, but now there are only ruins near the edge of the lava field.