A day on the Reykjanes peninsula
Are you planning a trip for a day or two close to Keflavík airport? You do not have to look far: The Reykjanes peninsula offers some of the best sights in Iceland, all within close distances.
Before you start your journey, we recommend checking Safetravel.is for road and weather conditions and reading these tips about driving in Iceland.
CROSSING TWO CONTINENTS
The Reykjanes peninsula lies where the North-Atlantic Ocean ridge comes ashore, and the manifestations of the continental rift zone between North America and Eurasia are prominent. Reykjanes (meaning the steam peninsula) features a unique volcanic landscape, recognized by UNESCO as the Reykjanes Geopark with 55 defined geosites, including the Fagradalsfjall volcano that erupted in 2021. and again for a short period in 2022.
The first thing you will notice when driving from Keflavík airport is the open treeless landscape of the region. The land is covered with black basalt lava fields and palagonite ridges, with steam rising from hot springs and geothermal power plants that harness the power of volcanism in the area.
The closeness to the open sea offers the chance to see thousands of seabirds from shore and with a bit of luck, seals and cetaceans, especially during the early springtime. In addition, Large ocean waves crashing on the shore add to the powerful scenery.
CLOSE BUT STILL REMOTE
Even though being close to the Keflavík international airport, it is easy to find spots where you feel the remoteness and solitude characteristic of Iceland. For those seeking culture, the museums of Reykjanes, such as the Museum of Rock’n Roll and the Viking World, are an excellent choice. Furthermore, the Reykjanes region also offers a nice selection of restaurants and cafés and the world-renowned Blue Lagoon spa.
Below are a few recommendations for places to see in Reykjanes peninsula, and for further exploring, we recommend checking out the local travel site VisitReykjanes.is.
11 SIGHTS ON THE REYKJANES PENINSULA
1. Fagradalsfjall volcano, which erupted in 2021, is a popular hiking location for a good reason. The new black basalt lava field is still hot and steaming, and the new spatter crater is a stunning sight. There are several hiking paths to choose from, with different lengths and levels of difficulty. Make sure you are prepared for the hike to the volcano and check the map and conditions on-site.
2. Grindavík town. The small fishing village Grindavík is only 10 km from the Fagradalsfjall eruption site. Perfect location for a pit stop before and after hiking to the volcano. You can choose from several restaurants serving local fish, shops for food and necessities and have a dip in hot tubs in the local swimming pool after a hike.
3. Brimketill is a natural pond on the rocky coast west of Grindavík. It magnifies the ocean waves and makes big splashes that are fun to see - from a safe distance. The folklore tells of the pond being used as a bath by the giantess Oddný. However, bathing in Brimketill is NOT for humans and caution around the pond is advised due to unexpected waves.
4. Reykjanestá is the uttermost south-western tip of the peninsula with a stunning landscape where the North-Atlantic Ocean Ridge comes ashore, manifested in rifts, fumaroles, craters, and lava from recent eruptions. The black sea stacks close to shore add extra decor, as well as the distant Eldey (meaning fire island) that rises steeply on the horizon. Eldey island is home to one of the largest northern gannet colonies in the world, with about 16.000 breeding pairs. EldeyIt is closed for bird protection, but you can watch the gannets live on a webcam here.
5. Gunnuhver is a powerful fumarole located at the tip of Reykjanes. The steam-rich hot spring takes its name from folklore about Gunna the ghost that was lured into the fumarole.
6. Stampar craters. The small, beautifully shaped Stampar is a series of craters formed in the Reykjanes Fires in 1210-1240. They line along a NE-SW fissure that marks the direction of the rift zone between the continents.
7. The Bridge Between Continents is a symbolic footbridge across one of the fissures marking the boundary between the North-American and Eurasian tectonic plates. It is located in Sandvík bay, one of the main locations for Clint Eastwood's films Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima.
8. Hafnaberg is a bird cliff on the southern coast of Reykjanes that stretches 15 km and reaches 40 m in height. During the nesting season (from April to July) Krísuvíkurbjarg is home to various seabirds, fulmars, kittiwakes and auks like puffins and guillemots.
9. Selatangar is a historical site with relics from a medieval fishing station that was abandoned in 1880. The remains of the fishers huts and sheds were stockfish was stored can still be seen.
10. Seltún is a colorful geothermal area located on the banks of the Krýsuvík lake in the central part of the Reykjanes peninsula with bubbling mud pots, steaming fumaroles and boiling springs.
11. Garðskagaviti is a lighthouse in the small village of Garður at the north-western tip of the Reykjanes peninsula and a popular spot for birdwatching and for northern lights during the winter. Two lighthouses, the old and new one, reflect different styles and architecture that becomes noticeable as you travel around Iceland.