Exploring Reykjanes Peninsula
Reykjanes Peninsula (Reykjanesskagi) holds some of Iceland’s best kept secrets. I think it’s a little strange, since all of Reykjanes is within a 30 minute drive from Keflavik Airport. It’s like people get so excited about leaving Keflavik Airport and head to Reykjavik, that they forget to explore that area. Sure, there are a lot of amazing places to see by the ring road, but if you have an extra day to explore, I would definitely recommend checking out Reykjanes. Kristie and I did exactly that the other day.
These are some of the most interesting places you’ll find in Reykjanes and Kristie and I wanted to see as much of them as we could in one day:
- Kleifarvatn Lake
- Krýsuvík / Seltún Geothermal Area
- Grænavatn (The Green Lake)
- The Blue Lagoon
- Reykjanesviti Lighthouse
- Gunnuhver Hot Spring
- Bridge Between Continents
- Eldey Island
- Víkingaheimar (The Viking World Museum)
Since we were coming from Reykjavík, Kristie and I decided to take a different route to Reykjanes. I have driven road 41 (Reykjanesbraut) from Reykjavik to Keflavik a thousand times, so I wanted to find a more scenic route. So, instead of driving on road 41 and exploring Reykjanes counterclockwise, we decided to use Bláfjallavegur (road 417) and explore Reykjanes clockwise.
The drive from Bláfjallavegur to Reykjanes, towards Kleifarvatn lake.
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. I wrote a separate post on the Blue Lagoon here.
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 couple of more places, like the bridge between two continents, but that will have to wait another day. I hope that this has convinced you that Reykjanes is worth exploring, and feel free to leave questions or comments below 🙂