Arnarstapi is a small fishing village in the southern part of Snæfellsnes peninsula at the foot of Mt. Stapafell. Currently inhabited by a little over 100 people this village was a natural site for landings and harbor for small vessels, and therefore ideal for a shipping port. In the olden days, Arnarstapi was thus from very early on, a busy fishing port and commercial center servicing the West coast area under the Danish crown and a merchant monopoly of Denmark was in effect from 1565. From then on and through the 17th and 18th century, agents of the Danish crown had custodial power over Arnarstapi and commercial rights by royal appointment over nearby lands, formerly owned by Helgafell monastery and monopoly of all trade in the area. Several old houses from that time, each with its own unique history, can be seen at Arnarstapi, the old Amtmannshús (The Danish Prefect’s Residence (1774–1787) having a history of its own, it having been moved in 1849 to nearby Vogur á Mýrum, where it stayed until 1983, when it was moved back again to Arnarstapi in 1985 and declared a historical site in 1990.
Being a popular destination of tourists in summer, Arnarstapi is today a thriving centre for local tourism activities where there is a variety of natural and culinary attractions as well and a cluster of second homes (cabins) are located in and around the village. There is much beauty to be found in nearby attractions, and an old horse trail past Neðstavatn is now a popular hiking trail across the lava and along the beach between Arnarstapi and Hellnar. This walk is about one hour. The lava field is called Hellnahraun, and its coast where at its westernmost edge can be found the ancient small village of Hellnar is a natural preserve. Along the coast there are some unique rock formations to be seen. There the waves of the ocean play along with the sun and the daylight to produce a natural show of which the most spectacular can be experienced at the cliff Gatklettur, and the stone bridges called Hundagjá, Miðgjá and Músagjá.
At Arnarstapi amongst the many beautiful natural stone structures formed by the sea, you’ll see a huge statue called ,,Bárður”. Bárður was according to Bárðar Saga Snæfellsáss the settler of this area, half a troll, and half a man, his father was half a titan, but his mother was human. Bárður came to Iceland in the 9th century and gave the peninsula its name, Snjófellsnes peninsula, but both words “snær” and “snjór” mean snow in Icelandic. He is considered the protector of Snæfellsnes peninsula.
This popular destination is also a huge part of Jules Verne’s A Journey to the Center of the Earth, where Arnarstapi or ‘Stapi’ is the last stop on the route the protagonists take before they climb Snæfellsjökull and enter the interior of the planet through a tunnel in the crater.
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