Reykjanes Peninsula is located in the South West Iceland. It’s mainly known for the international airport and world-famous wellness resort – Blue Lagoon. It’s often neglected as tourist rush straight to Reykjavik after their landing; even the locals admit their only reason to go to Reykjanes is to catch the plane. And it’s such a shame! The area is extremely interesting and has so much to offer. It’s perfect for exploring right after your arrival or just before you leave.

So why is it so interesting? First of all, you’re able to witness with your owns eyes the famous Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where two tectonic plates drift away from each other. It’s also a place of UNESCO Global Geopark, with its volcanic activity shaped wonders that create the dream location for photographers. It’s also a sparsely populated area, which (besides Keflavik and Njarðvík) mainly consist of fishing villages located in the Southern part of the peninsula. With its dramatic coastline, constant geothermal activity, active volcanism and rugged landscape including vast lava fields, the place definitely needs some more attention than it actually gets! So here’s some ideas of how you can spend some of your precious time exploring this place.

Bridge between continents

Have you ever thought than getting on foot from Eurasian Plate to the North-American one would take place within less than a minute? Well, it’s possible in Iceland! The plates drift away from each other a few centimetres each year. The bridge over the fissure was built as a symbol for the connection within the two plates and it’s also a wonderful possibility for you to have the experience of overlooking the scenery out of this world. It’s also possible to walk underneath the bridge. The area is surrounded by the Reykjanes lava field, which the youngest layer dates back to 1240. If you fancy, you can take a little hike around small craters called Stampar that’s not so far away from the bridge. Besides that you can pay a visit to Sandvík beach. Don’t follow my steps and drive there with a 4×4 car, or your car will get stuck in the black sand 😉

Gunnuhver

It’s a geothermal area named after the angry ghost called Guðrún, which supposedly came back after her death to deal with her unfinished business, aka killing her enemies. The lively place is full of fumaroles, steam vents, and mud pools, which happen to be the biggest in Iceland! Don’t forget to be cautious though, the paths may be designated, but it doesn’t mean they control the warm steam and boiling mud that’s being shot in the air. In 2014 the activity increased distinctively which resulted in destroying one of the ramps. There are currently two safe ramps from which you can admire the view over the awe-inspiring natural phenomenon.

Krýsuvík

Another well managed geothermal area, which is located by a mountain slope. It gets the most magical vibe during the golden hour of sunset, giving the most magical glow thanks to the combination of light and constantly moving steam. The wooden pathways allow you to take a short walk around the numerous fumaroles, boiling water and ground covered in rainbow-like colours. Don’t be discouraged by the smell though – the water contains large amounts of sulfur which makes the area smell like a rotten egg!

Brimketill

It’s a small natural pool carved in the cliffs located not far away from Grindavík. The coastal erosion created this pond in a lava rock, which is constantly beaten with the force of the ocean waves. In some photos the place looks serene with people even bathing in it, but please remember such behaviors are extremely unadvised and irresponsible! Safety over that insta shot, always. There’s also some folklore connected to the pool called Oddnýjarlaug in Icelandic (Oddný’s pool). Oddný was a giantess who supposedly bathed and washed her clothes in the pond, who lived nearby in a cave Háleyjabunga. The legend says that she got distracted once and forgot about the dawn coming up. The sunlight turned her into a rock, which was washed out to the sea after some time.

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Kleifarvatn

A picturesque lake located near hot springs and green-looking pond called Grænavatn. It’s one of the deepest lakes in Iceland reaching 97 meters. It’s said that it’s inhabited by a creature looking like a worm with the size of a medium whale. Well, maybe you’ll be the first to spot it? It’s possible to have a stroll around the lake with stunning mountains all around, lava structures with green moss covering them and mysterious steam coming from hot springs. It’s a lake that doesn’t have any river run in and from it, which means that the water comes in from an underground source. In the southernmost part of it there’s some hot water coming in from hot spring but overall, it’s a very cold reservoir. If you’d like to spend some more time in the area, it’s a great idea to try kayaking or even diving in the lake to see the Mid-Atlantic Ridge underwater!

Hafnarberg – Sea-cliffs

Long line of sea lava cliffs south of Hafnir, which is a small fishing town. The cliffs are full of bird life, which makes them a perfect spot for birdwatchers as well as people who are just keen of untouched nature. It’s a perfect spot to stretch your legs after a long drive and admire the view of huge waves splashing against the cliffs.

Keilir

Alright, some science first. It’s a 380m high hyaloclastite mountain, which means that it’s made of angular, glassy rocks formed by volcanic eruptions underneath an ice sheet. It’s supposedly much older than the lava fields surrounding it, as it’s said it’s been formed during the last Ice Age. Scientists believe that it’s some sort of a „plug” for a very large crater below.

It’s a mountain that looks like a classic volcano-shaped one drew by a child. You can see its distinctive shape from Reykjavik and you pass it while going to and from the airport. It really stands out and it’s not that hard to hike. The bigger challenge is to actually being able to drive there, as the road leading to the mountain is very bumpy and rugged. Once you’ve got the proper car, the hike takes between 2-4 hours depending on your fitness level and weather conditions. After you reach the summit, the views around will take your breath away!

Krýsuvíkurberg

Another great stretch of cliffs, one of the longest ones in Europe reaching 15km. Standing at the highest at 40m, it’s a home for 57 thousands nesting seabird couples. It’s one of those places that make you highly respect the unpredictable force of nature. The rough waters of Atlantic Ocean keep crashing against the high walls of the cliffs. It’s definitely worth a little detour from the main road! While watching the seabirds, please remember about not getting too close to them.

Sandvík

It’s a beach located not far away from the Bridge between continents, right on the Western coastline of the peninsula. It’s not very well known among tourists, therefore it’s a perfect location to feel a little bit more secluded from the crowds near he most famous landmarks. With its black sands and grass covered dunes, it’s not only attraction for the visitors. In 2006 a movie starring Colin Eastwood wash shot at this place. Keep in mind that the road leading to it is a bit rough!

Reykjanes lighthouse & Valahnúkamöl

It’s situated in a picturesque location, just on the top of a hill near Valahnúkur cliffs. It’s possible (and highly advised!) to walk up the hill to get the magnificent view of the vast ocean. The first lighthouse in this place was built in 1878 but it unfortunately didn’t survive the frequent earthquakes in the area. A new one was raised in 1907–1908 and has been attraction ever since. It’s a gorgeous place to take photos, have a picnic or just a simple stroll. The cliffs nearby are probably one of the most photographed places across Reykjanes with its dramatic and sharp rocks that are constantly hit by the waves of the rough ocean.

Grænavatn

Directly translating to „Green Lake”. It’s literally a green-looking small lake located in a volcanic crater. It’s 44m deep and the color is most probably caused by the high content of sulphur. It’s perfectly fine to take a walk around it and watch the colors change with the angle of sunlight. Obviously, there has to be some folklore behind the unusual shades of the water, so beware of the underwater monster living in the crater! There’s another crater yet a bigger one called Gestsstaðavatn on the other side of the road.

Garður Lighthouses

Garður is a small village in the Western part of the peninsula. It’s mostly visited thanks to the two lighthouses standing by the shore. The older one has been turned into a place where you can have a nice lunch or dinner with a stunning view from the balcony – it’s called The Old Lighthouse Cafe/Röstin Restaurant. It was built in 1897 and it was also used to study migrating birds from Greenland and Northern America. There’s a camping right by the lighthouses. If you’re lucky enough, it’s possible to spot some seals and dolphins who are not such uncommon guests there. It’s a gorgeous spot to have a little stroll on the beach to stretch your legs and breath in the pure, salty air.

Hvalsneskirkja

A beautiful church made out of carved basaltic stones was built between 1886 and 1887. The wood used in in interior is a simple driftwood, collected on the nearby beaches. The thing that makes it even more interesting is a gravestone of a 4 year old girl called Steinunn Hallgrímsdóttir, the daughter of the most famous psalmist Hallgrímur Pétursson. The church Hallgrímskirkja in Reykjavík carries a name after him. There’s nothing else like raw Icelandic little churches located in breathtaking locations!

Viking World

Museum that’s situated in Njarðvík, opened in 2009 in an original looking building. It has a few exhibitions – some of them are permanent, some are temporary. One of the permanent ones (called Íslendingur) is a huge Viking boat hung up under a ceiling. It’s a replica of the Gokstad Viking ship, which sailed across the ocean to L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland in order to celebrate Leif Ericsson’s achievements. Here you can find out a lot about the Vikings in Iceland and rest in a cafe afterwards. Definitely an important spot during your Icelandic adventure!

Lava Restaurant & Blue Lagoon

A stunning restaurant offering sophisticated meals made with the freshest, most local ingredients. It’s definitely a wonderful, modern approach towards Icelandic cuisine. The place is also built into a 800-year old lava cliff and it’s designed with class, which make and unforgettable culinary experience. It’s possible to taste the food without buying an access to the Blue Lagoon, although it’s highly advised to splurge a little bit to pamper yourself. You deserve it!

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