Exploring Reykjanes Peninsula

Reykjanes Peninsula (Reykjanesskagi) holds some of Iceland’s best kept secrets and everything is within a 30 minute drive from the airport. Yet, many people either don’t know about what this area has to offer or choose to ignore it. It’s like people get so excited about leaving Keflavik Airport and head to Reykjavik, that they forget to explore that area. Of course the Blue Lagoon is an exception, but there is plenty of other things to do and see in the area than the Blue Lagoon. If you have an extra day or half-day to explore, I would definitely recommend checking out Reykjanes. Here are some of the top attractions in Reykjanes Peninsula:

  • Kleifarvatn Lake
  • Krísuvík
  • Grænavatn
  • Blue Lagoon
  • Reykjanesfólkvangur
  • Krísuvíkurberg Bird Cliffs
  • Gunnuhver
  • Reykjanesviti
  • Bridge Between Continents
  • Stafnesviti lighthouse
  • Hvalsneskirkja church
  • Brimketill lava rock pool
  • Stekkjarkot turf cottage
  • Garðskagaviti lighthouse
  • Viking World Museum
  • The Iclenadic Museum of Rock’n’Roll
  • The Icelandic Saltfish Museum
  • Reykjanesbær Art Museum

So, as you can see, there are plenty of things to see in Reykjanesbær. If you have an entire day to explore, you could visit almost all of these destinations. That’s the great thing about Reykjanes Peninsula – it is so packed with interesting places that you only have to drive 10-15 minutes to reach your next destination.

Depending on your itinerary, there are lots of different routes you can take and combination of attractions you can visit. For me and my wife, we chose to drive around the peninsula clockwise, starting with the beautiful Bláfjallavegur.

Our first stop was at Kleifarvatn lake, where we enjoyed the view and hung out with the birds. It was a beautiful day and the view was pretty awesome. This lake is surprisingly deep (97 meters) and diving is pretty popular here. The lake is about 9.1 square km and by far the largest lake in Reykjanes. The lake reduced in size in the early 2000s due to some earthquakes, as fissures formed at the bottom. Legend has it that a large monster, the size of a big whale, lives in Kleifarvatn.

Only a few minutes after passing Kleifarvatn, we reached the Krýsuvík/Seltún Geothermal Area. This place is characterized by vivid colors and steam rising from the ground. This is really one of the most amazing landscapes in Iceland, and it’s so close to Reykjavík! The area is well maintained, with informative signs and a great boardwalk that makes navigating the area very easy. Even though it was a sunny day, the wind was a little cold, so it was nice to warm up by the steamy hot springs.

Next, after a quick stop at Grænavatn (Green lake), we headed towards Grindavík, a small fishing town in the south part of Reykjanes peninsula. The drive is really beautiful and again, I was happy that we didn’t take the northern route (road 41). Grindavík is only about 10 minutes from the Blue Lagoon, our next stop. This is literally the most popular tourist place in Iceland, so I wasn’t surprised by how busy they were. We have been to the Blue Lagoon together once before, so we decided not to get in this time. Not only is it one of the most popular tourist place in Iceland, but it’s also one of the most expensive.

After our quick stop at the Blue Lagoon, we headed back to Grindavík and towards Reykjanesviti light house. It’s 31 meters tall and is located right on the southwestern tip of the peninsula. It was originally built in 1878, but only 8 years later, it was destroyed by an earthquake. The current lighthouse was built in 1908. From 1878 to 1999, the lighthouse keeper lived in a house built right next to it.

The area by the lighthouse is very cool and worth a visit on its own. From there, you can get a good look at Eldey, a 77 m. tall rock formation that hosts the Atlantic Ocean’s largest Gannet colony. You can see a live video stream of Eldey here. You can also find some interesting information about the extinct great auk and just a beautiful coastline scenery.

After a great stop by Reykjanesviti, it wasn’t far to get to Gunnuhver hot spring. The area is named after a female ghost that was laid there around 400 years ago. This is a beautiful area and no less impressive than the Krýsuvík geothermal area. I would actually recommend that travelers visit Gunnuhver instead of Krýsuvík, if they had to choose between the two places. That’s mostly because there will be much fewer people by Gunnuhver. The area is not as accessible, meaning no buses and a lot fewer tourists.

At this point, it was getting late and we had to drive back to Reykjavik. Once we reached Keflavik, it was a familiar 40 minute drive to Reykjavik, along road 41. We wanted to check out a few more places but this was a spontaneous trip and with such a late start, that will have to wait another day. I hope this has convinced you to spend some time in Reykjanes Peninsula.

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