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21 reasons to visit Reykjanes Peninsula

By Staff

  • The Blue Lagoon is one of Reykjanes's main attractions. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

Well, almost all visitors to Iceland do indeed visit Reykjanes peninsula. It’s home to Keflavík International Airport, the main gateway to Iceland, and, of course, the great Blue Lagoon, which attracted around 600,000 visitors last year. However, large parts of the rest of the peninsula are—strange as it sounds, being so close to all this traffic—almost off the beaten track. With a rugged lava landscape, smoking geothermal fields, and many iconic historic structures, Reykjanes peninsula will surprise and delight.

 

1. Because it’s home to the Blue Lagoon
The stark contrast between the neon blue water and the dark volcanic rocks is an awe-inspiring image that characterizes one of Iceland's most popular tourist destinations - The Blue Lagoon. Steam rises around the facility like a smoke machine out of a movie and the sting of the neon blue water plays tricks with your mind because, at a toasty 38 degrees Celsius, a natural pool is not suppose to be this hot. Located just outside the fishing town of Grindavik, the geothermal power that is exerted around the area has been harbored for the enjoyment of tourists from all over the world.

2. Iceland’s oldest lighthouse
Reykjanesviti lighthouse is an iconic historic structure, and few buildings in Iceland—or in the world—are as imposingly located. It was Iceland’s first lighthouse, and actually, there have been two versions of lighthouses with this name. The original one was built in 1878 but got severely damaged in a large earthquake that struck in 1887. The current version was built on safer ground in 1907 at Bæjarfell hill. Large steam clouds from geothermal fields at the bottom of the hill bring added drama to the surroundings.

3. Gunnuhver geothermal area
Gunnuhver's mud pools that stretch over the southwestern part of the Reykjanes peninsula got their name from a female ghost, who fell into the spring over 400 years ago. Today, steam rises up from the natural boiling water in the mud pools, with the largest pool stretching over 20 meters wide inside a rim of mud. Located near the Reykjanes lighthouse, not far from the “Bridge Between Continents,” the Gunnuhver Hot Mud Springs offer a great place to enjoy the scenery of Iceland. From the safety of the bridge’s viewing ramp, you can look down to the spring and hear the bubbling noises of the boiling water.

 

Gunnuhver geothermal area

Gunnuhver geothermal area. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

 

4. Because of the Reykjanes Nature Reserve
The Reykjanes Nature Reserve is about 300 square km in size and is one of Iceland’s largest nature reserves. It is bordered in the east by the districts of Gullbringa and Árnessýsla, and in the north it connects with the Bláfjöll nature reserve. Its western borders are west of Undirhlíðar and Núpshlíðarháls hill and make a straight line to the sea at Selatangar, a former fishermen’s station. The southernmost borders follow the coastline. The nature reserve is also home to Kleifarvatn lake, a great site unspoiled by man. The land is very hilly, and two very distinctive ridges cut through the landscape. Some say that the desolate nature of area make parts of the reserve look similar to the moon.

5. The Bridge Between Continents
Did you know that Iceland is drifting apart at almost 2 cm per year? Iceland is located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge; therefore, the tip of the Reykjanes peninsula, where you can see the ridge rise above sea level, marks the boundary between Europe and North America. At the “Bridge Between Continents,” you can observe the tectonic plates drifting apart from each other. You can actually set foot in two different continents. The bridge is located about 7 km south of Hafnir on road 425. If you complete the short walk over the bridge, you can obtain a certificate that confirms you have crossed the Bridge Between Continents. The certificate is available at the tourist information offices in Reykjanes.

 

Bridge between continents

The Bridge between two continents. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

 

6. Brimketill lava rock pool
Brimketill is a pool-shaped, lava rock formation that is located along the coast in Grindavik. While the beautiful pool-like structure is amazing to look at, there are some brave souls who decide to take the plunge and swim in the volcanic structure. The legend goes that a troll-like woman, named Oddný, once occupied the pool. However, tourists are the primary occupants of the present-day location. Below is a video of some individuals enjoying Brimketill, swimming in the natural pool.

7. The beautifully restored Harbour House
Five new exhibitions opened last spring at the Duus Culture Centre in the town of Reykjanesbær, in addition to its permanent collections. The centre is formed of several old historic buildings. The oldest and most remarkable is the Harbour House, which opened this week after years of restoration. It is made of wood and was built in 1877. The youngest is a concrete structure finished in 1954. The complex also includes the Reykjanes Maritime Centre, the Museum of Art, the Heritage Museum, and the Movie Hall. 

8. Vikingworld Iceland
Vikingworld Iceland is a five-exhibition museum located in Reykjanesbær town, along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Additionally, the facility also includes a farm zoo (during the summer), a playground for kids, and an outdoor classroom for lectures. The biggest attraction of Vikingworld is the authentic Viking ship built by the Icelandic ship builder Gunnar Marel Eggertsson in 1996. It was sailed to New York in the year 2000 as a part of the millennial celebration of Leifur Eiríksson's journey to the New World. Visit Vikingworld Iceland to learn about the history and lifestyle of the Vikings of the North Atlantic from over a thousand years ago. 

 

vikingaheimar2.jpg

The Viking World museum. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

 

9. Reykjanes Seakayak
Iceland is known for its amazing landscape and the best way to experience the beauty of the country is by getting in touch with nature close up. Reykjanes Seakayak offers guided tours by sea kayaks in the vibrant and safe environment of Reykjanes bay. Reykjanes Seakayak is located between Keflavik and Reykjavik and the guided tours are done in groups of two to eight people, lasting two hours.

10. You can explore the history of Grindavík's seafaring culture
The Saltfisksetrið exhibition provides a great history of Grindavík’s seafaring culture, highlighting the town's most prominent industry, the production of dried salted cod. The museum attracts tourists and local students alike, as the cod industry is summarized in an interesting and informative manner. The exhibition opened in 2002 and has slowly expanded its collection of pictures, which details the historical objects of the town. Located under 20 minutes from Keflavik airport, the Saltfish Museum will give you the opportunity to learn about an important part of Icelandic culture.

11. The beach Kirkjuvogsbás
What happens when the cold water of the North Atlantic Ocean collides with a piping hot stream from a geothermal power plant? You get a perfect recipe for Icelandic relaxation on the beautiful beaches of Kirkjuvogsbás. Located not far from the Blue Lagoon and close to Reykjanesvirkjun power plant, just 20 minutes away from the Keflavik Airport, the beach has long been an undercover tourist destination for those willing to embark on an adventure. Make sure you stop by the beach to test out the water or simply to take in the breathtaking views. 

12.  The Grindavík Harbor
At the Grindavík harbour, near the Blue Lagoon in the fishing town of Grindavík. you can see the heart of the Icelandic fishing industry, first-hand, with numerous fishing ships entering and exiting the harbour on a daily basis. Furthermore, you can stop for lunch at the Grindavik harbour Cafe to enjoy some seafood and a coffee, while taking in the scenery of the harbour's surroundings.

 

Grindarvík, harbour, höfn

Grindarvík harbour. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

 

13. The Power Plant Earth Exhibition
Located at the main power house in Reykjanesvirkjun, the Power Plant Exhibition gives visitors a tour through the universe starting from the Big Bang up until present day. The interactive nature of the tour contributes to the popularity of the exhibition. Visitors can experience various inventions that have changed people’s lives, through the touch screens and displays found in the facility. Furthermore, the theme of energy, and more specifically geothermal energy, is explored for future generations, stimulating the mind and soul during this unique experience.

14. Bird watching at Hafnaberg Cliff
For all of you bird enthusiasts out there, Hafnaberg cliff is a low, vertical cliff that is rich with a wide variety of flora and fauna inhabiting its slopes and its skies. Birds that can be seen at the cliff include guillemots, kittiwakes, fulmars, razorbills, and many others. Sometimes seals and small whales can also be spotted a short distance off the coast. The cliff is located in a convenient spot and can be easily accessed from the main road.

15. Because you can explore nature and get some adrenaline pumping through your veins
The ATV Quad biking tour through lava and black sand in Krýsuvík region is not for the faint-hearted. For the adventurous, it's pure joy. The tour takes you up into mountains where you can enjoy a fantastic view over the Blue Lagoon, the island of Eldey, and other local landmarks.

16. Because of the annual All Tomorrow’s Parties
The great music festival All Tomorrow's Parties (ATP) comes to Iceland in the beginning of July every year. ATP is an organisation based in London that has been promoting festivals and concerts throughout the world for over ten years. It sets itself apart from big festivals by staying intimate, noncorporate, and fan-friendly. The line-ups are chosen by significant bands or artists, resulting in unpredictable and exciting events from any (and every) musical genre. Iceland’s version is held in the old US navy base in Keflavík, giving it a very different vibe indeed.

Portishead, ATP

Portishead.

 

17. Sudurnes Science and Learning Center
The science learning center offers visitors a chance to get in touch with their "nerdy" side. The multiple exhibitions include a nature gallery as well as a polar exhibit inspired by the French medical doctor and polar explorer Jean-Baptiste Charcot (son of the famous neurologist, J-B died in Iceland in 1936). The center also offers high quality research facilities with clean seawater to conduct experiments on behavioural ecology and fisheries. Visitors have the opportunity to learn from these fascinating discoveries and see first-hand some of Iceland’s sea creatures and wildlife. Also, don’t forget to stop by the center’s collection of plants and shells, in addition to the only stuffed walrus in Iceland. The learning center is open from 10 am to 4 pm on weekdays, and 1 pm to 5 pm on weekends.

18. Made from local materials
The beautiful no-frills Hvalsneskirkja church is located on the westernmost tip of Reykjanes peninsula, on the outskirts of Sandgerði village. Built in 1887 from local materials, the walls of stones were carved from beach boulders and the timber sourced from local driftwood.

 

Hvalsneskirkja, church

Hvalsneskirkja church. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

 

19. A step back in time
Stekkjarkot farm in Reykjanesbær town provides insight into the way the cottages of fishermen and small farmers in Iceland looked in the old days. This is a classic example of the roughly built turf and stone cottage, once common on the Reykjanes peninsula and other coastal areas of Iceland. The older part of the cottage, with its open hearth, dates back to the 19th century. Admission is free. Open 1 pm to 5 pm.

20. The Rock and Roll Museum 
The Icelandic Rock and Roll Museum in Reykjanesbær municipality provides visitors with everything they want to know about the history of Icelandic music and the country’s most famous bands. Keflavík town, which is within the municipality, was once called the Liverpool of Iceland since a number of prominent musicians got their start in the airport’s town. Keflavík’s music was heavily influenced by American radio and TV culture as a result of having the US military base located on the Reykjanes peninsula until 2006. 

21. The magnificent Krísuvíkurbjarg
One of Iceland’s most stunning bird-watching locations is within one hour of the capital but is often overlooked. The sea cliffs Krýsuvíkurbjarg are a magnificent natural wonder, stretching several kilometers and rising vertically from the sea. During the summer months, the cliffs are packed with up to 60,000 bird couples of nine different species. There is a great hiking trail from the highway, easily navigated in half an hour.

 

Krísuvíkurbjarg, cliffs, reykjanes

Krísuvíkurbjarg cliffs. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

 

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