A Guide to Visiting the Gerðuberg Cliffs in Iceland
The Gerðuberg Cliffs are one of the most iconic sights in Iceland. The enormous dark grey hexagonal columns can be seen for miles around but it’s not so much their size that makes them so impressive. So perfectly formed are they that they look like they have been carved by hand. We knew that we had to include them in our 6 day Iceland itinerary and were not disappointed.
If you’re thinking of visiting the Snaefellsnes Peninsula during your Iceland holiday, here’s everything you need to know about the Gerðuberg basalt columns.
How to get to the Gerðuberg Cliffs
The Gerðuberg cliffs (also referred to as the Gerduberg cliffs) are located on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in the west of Iceland. If you are based in Reykjavik, you could reach the cliffs in about 90 minutes by car if you don’t stop every 5 minutes to take photos like we did. There are lots of cute Icelandic horses on the way to the cliffs!
Hiring a car in Iceland is by far the best way to get around. We went at the end of October and although there was a bit of snow around, the roads were in perfect condition. We hired a 4×4 with snow tires just in case as we didn’t know ahead of time what the weather would be like in October.
From Reykjavik, take the Golden Circle road north up to Bourganes and from there take the I54. About 5km after the turn off for the I55 you will reach a dirt track on the right. You will be able to see the cliffs at this point but they are not overly obvious so keep an eye out. The track has a lot of potholes which might be a bit of a challenge for small cars.
Gerðuberg Cliffs parking
The Snaefellsnes Pensinsula is not as busy as the Golden Circle and so parking will not be an issue. There isn’t a designated car park at the Gerðuberg basalt cliffs as such but you can park on the side of the track just opposite the cliffs. There is an area that looks a little like a car park where people pull off the road to park.
As you can see below, there wasn’t anybody else around when we visited. Just make sure to fully pull off the road so that you aren’t obstructing anyone.
How were the Gerðuberg Cliffs formed?
Despite their appearances the Gerðuberg Cliffs were formed naturally thousands of years ago. Their perfectly hexagonal shape is thanks to the way the lava flowed after a volcanic eruption. It flowed evenly and was very quickly cooled by sea water.
The basalt columns (also referred to as Columnar Jointing) are between 1m and 1.5m wide and from 7m to 14m tall. At Gerðuberg they form a cliff about 500m in length.
Basalt rock formations are actually found all over Iceland as a result of the same process. You can see other examples at Reynisfjara Beach (Black Sand beach), Swartifoss waterfall in the Vatnajökull National Parkand and Stuðlagil Canyon in Jökuldalur
What is there to do at the Gerðuberg Cliffs?
As with most of the natural sights in Iceland, visiting the Gerðuberg Cliffs is all about marvelling at the beauty of a natural wonder. There isn’t anything to do as such but we would recommend climbing too the top. Some people advise not to do this as there is nothing to see!? We disagree. The views from the top are stunning and a little lunar-like.
If you go in winter, you’ll find interesting icicle formations in the ground which our kids loved. Make sure to have some snow boots in the car with you as there was quite a bit of snow around, despite the rest of Iceland not being very snowy.
The climb itself was a fun activity for the kids but if you don’t fancy the climb (some parts are not suitable for young children), you can take a track up and around the back of the cliffs (to the left of the cliffs as you are facing them).
What is there to see near the Gerðuberg Cliffs?
No matter how impressive the cliffs are, you shouldn’t come to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula just to see them. Make sure to add these stops to your itinerary:
- Búðakirkja Black Church – one of 3 black churches in Iceland
- Kirkjufell Mountain – one of the most iconic mountains in Iceland
- Lýsuhólslaug – take a dip in this geothermal pool (open june to mid-August from 11am to 8.30pm)
- Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum – try fermented shark (an Icelandic delicacy)
- Arnastapi – visit a historic Icelandic village with a stunning coastline
- The Settlement Center – a lovely museum where you can find out more about the settlement of Iceland