Usually, most of the tourists start their Icelandic adventure here. There is the main international airport (Keflavik), where all international tourists land. However, not many people know that the Reykjanes Peninsula is a place worth stopping at for longer. It has several interesting places worth visiting. There are, among others, geothermal wonders of nature, hot springs, a fantastic Viking Museum, a bridge suspended between two continents and breathtaking cliffs. Recently, the Fagradalsfjall volcano has become the main attraction of the region. The volcano erupted at the end of March 2021 and has been delighting crowds of onlookers for several months.
It is worth adding here, that the greatest attraction of the whole Reykjanes Peninsula area is nature and its unusual forms. It is simply worth taking a drive across the peninsula. Therefore, I suggest planning 2 days for a peaceful tour of the entire peninsula.
In 2015, UNESCO recognized the Reykjanes Peninsula as a UNESCO Global Geopark. The Geopark covers an area of over 800 km2 and there are 55 locations recognized as geological sites on its territory. These sites play a significant role in Geopark and are related to the history of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the influence of the tectonic plate movement.
Geo-stands can be single or complex objects with particularly important geological values. They can be both natural (erratic boulders, rock formations, lava fields) and artificial (mines or quarries). You can read more at the UNESCO geosites website.
Formerly (in the 16th century) there was a large international fishing port here, where merchants from all over northern Europe came for shopping. With time (in the 17th century), the Danish monopoly on trade was introduced and the town began to decline. After World War II, the US Army was stationed in Keflavik, but the last soldiers left Iceland in 2006. After the reconstruction of the military quarters, their function was changed and now they mainly serve students as dormitories.
Keflavik, Troll’s Cave
Although it is an attraction prepared for the youngest, adults will also have a good time there. Inside the cave, a gigantic troll (named Skessa) sleeps, so be careful he doesn’t wake up. But, don’t worry – the troll is snoring loudly, what can still be heard outside the cave, so you will know when it is a safe moment to enter 😉. The cave also has a 5XL size troll’s bed and armchair. Getting on the bed for an adult is a real challenge, but it is worth climbing because it helps to imagine how big the troll is. The cave can be reached from the small marina, at the end of Keflavik. The path with big troll feet painted on it starts opposite the Duus restaurant. Website in Icelandic only skessan.is/forsida. You can enter the cave every day between 10.00 a.m.-5.00 p.m., admission free.
is a name for traditional fishermen’s huts from the beginning of the 19th century made of stone, wood and turf. Some of them are open to the public. The huts were built in the years 1855-1924.
Viking World Museum
Right behind Keflavik, there is a great attraction, both for the young and old. The museum is small but very interesting. The main attraction of this museum is a replica of a Viking ship – Íslendingur (Icelandic), and a very interesting exhibition related to the history of the settlement on the island.
There is a small cafe there, a souvenir shop and a local handicraft shop.
The museum is open every day, but it is worth checking the hours before the planned visit, as these can change depending on the season. The admission ticket costs 1500 ISK (about PLN 50), children enter for free. More information on the vikingworld.is website.
Duus by Keflavik Airport
For the night, I recommend staying at the Duus by Keflavik Airport Hotel in Keflavik. This is a fantastic place, a hotel with a soul, situated right on a small marina. The hotel also owns the Kaffi Duus restaurant, which offers fantastic regional cuisine with a modern twist. A really great experience.
There are two lighthouses in the town of Gardur, on the Gardskaga headland. The first lighthouse dates back to 1897 and was once considered the most visible lighthouse in Iceland. Its low position meant that the light of the lantern was not blocked by mists. At the same time, the lighthouse was not visible when it was covered by high waves and a storm. Therefore, over time, a second lighthouse was built right next to it, built in the year 1944. The new lighthouse is 28 meters high and is the tallest structure of this type in Iceland. Both lighthouses are on the UNESCO Geopark’s list of positions.
Today – this older lighthouse is after a major renovation. The property can be visited, and after visiting hours, it can even be rented for private functions. GPS data how to get to the lighthouse: N64 ° 4 ‘54.974 “W22 ° 41’ 25.952”
On the headland, there are also wrecks of fishing boats that can be accessed. There is a small free campsite near the lighthouse (overlooking the ocean).
The Gardur area is a popular destination for fans of sea birds as it is home to many birds’ habitats. It is worth going down to the small beach at the end of the headland, where you can find not only peace but also experience close contact with beautiful nature and powerful ocean waves.
At the junction of two continents
Driving along the national road no. 425, it is worth stopping at the point where two tectonic plates meet: the Eurasian and North American ones. The canyon, which shows the place where the plates are moving apart, is marked with a symbolic 18-meter footbridge. It is worth visiting this place, as it belongs to the UNESCO Geopark sites.
GPS coordinates to get to the canyon: N63 ° 52 ‘5.558 “W22 ° 40’ 31.588”
Reykjanesta Lighthouse is located at the top of an inactive volcanic peak. For a long time, serves as a beacon for ships bound for the ports of Keflavik and Reykjavik. It is located on the southwestern tip of the Reykjanes peninsula, about 16 km west of Grindavik and 20 km southwest of Keflavik.
The first lighthouse in Iceland was built on the Reykjanes peninsula, right there in 1878. Unfortunately, a few years later it was destroyed after an earthquake. The lighthouse that can be seen today was built in 1929. It is a white concrete structure with a cylindrical shape and is 26 meters high. However, due to the location of the lighthouse, its light is located at an altitude of 69 meters above sea level and it is a record on a national scale. Thanks to this, the range of the light of the lighthouse is extremely long and has a length of over 40 km (22 nautical miles).
The lighthouse is also equipped with a modern DGSP system. This is a GPS measurement technique that allows for greater accuracy.
This place is really worth visiting. The area around is a veritable lunar landscape, thermally active. There are thermal springs nearby and great views of the cliffs above the ocean (as long as it’s not raining and there is no dense fog). The lighthouse and its vicinity are on the UNESCO Geopark list.
GPS coordinates to get to the lighthouse: N63 ° 48 ‘54.266 “W22 ° 42’ 11.934”
The cliffs hide an interesting attraction. On the shores of the ocean, there is an unusual rock formation – Mount Valahn. Valahnúkur consists of layers of tuff, pillow lava and breccia. The mountain was created during a single eruption and shows examples of the different phases of the eruption.
Tuff forms during an explosive eruption, while pillow lava forms when lava explodes under the water. Breccia, on the other hand, are rocks crushed during tectonic movements, usually re-bonded.
The cliffs are very picturesque, and the ocean is always very rough at this point. The waves hit the cliff walls with great force, causing very spectacular splashes of water. It is worth taking a walk around the area.
The road no. 443 leads directly to the cliffs (you must pass the lighthouse). GPS data: N63 ° 48 ‘44.426 “W22 ° 43’ 0.770”
Reykjanes Peninsula and the Reykjavik area
Before you set off on your way to Reykjavik, there are a few more interesting places to visit along the way.
Blue Lagoon is the largest and most awaited tourist attraction in Iceland. It is also a world-renowned SPA offering hot spring baths. The water is rich in minerals and can be used for many medical treatments.
It is an unusual attraction, offering perfect rest and relaxation. Unfortunately, in high season it can be extremely crowded and expensive.
For those who want to see the phenomenon of the Blue Lagoon, and at the same time skip the long queue and avoid the crowd inside, it is possible to see part of the lagoon that is not commercial. You have to pass the main entrance, turn left and take a walk around beautiful coves filled with magical blue water. The views are amazing and breathtaking. And all of this with no fees and no crowds.
I recommend using this form of sightseeing if you are interested in seeing the blue lagoon itself. The spa and hot spring baths can be visited in many other places in Iceland. Although they are not as popular (and expensive) as the Blue Lagoon is but are equally fantastic.
Reykjanesfolkvangur Nature Reserve and geothermal natural wonders
The reserve covers an area of 300 km2 and begins approx. 40 km south of Reykjavik. The reserve was established in 1975 to protect lava rock formation ns. There are some interesting places worth visiting.
- Kleifarvatn Lake, which is the largest (10 km) and deepest (97 m) water reservoir in this part of Iceland.
- Krysuvik geothermal area and the Seltun geothermal field are located near the lake.
When visiting the Krysuvik geothermal area, remember to cover your nose with a scarf or neckerchief. There is such an intense and pervasive smell of sulphur (“rotten eggs”) that it is difficult to focus on anything else.
Within the geothermal area, there are paths, wooden jetties and stairs that can be safely walked over, right next to the bubbling swamps. One of the paths leads to a small rushing river.
The views are surreal, out of this world, delightful, interesting, and definitely – worth seeing.
National road 42 runs through the centre of the reserve, which is very picturesque and “forces” a stop at every parking lot by the road. It is a great place to see, breathtaking views. Being in this area, plan your route so that you can drive across this road and enjoy its beauty.
The whole area is crisscrossed by dozens of hiking trails, which most often coincide with the old paths that lead between abandoned farms.
The Reykjanes Peninsula has one more wonderful place worth seeing. To the southwest of the Reykjanesfolkvangur nature reserve are the Krýsuvíkurberg cliffs, which are bird sanctuaries. These cliffs are a wonderful work of nature!
The rocks are steep, almost vertical and very high. They can be viewed from two sides. The first viewpoint is in front of the parking lot side. A thick chain hangs out there to define a safe place to stand over the cliff. Do not go behind this chain, as the cliffs slide very often. When I was visiting this place, I met a nice gentleman. He said that he has to check the places to be designated with this chain every day, as conditions change almost daily and the “conventional” safety line moves.
You can also see the cliffs by going to their top on the left. There is a slight hill there and a second viewpoint. After climbing it – you can see the cliff from the ocean side and thousands of birds nesting there. A very interesting place. Amazing views.
The volcano that erupted in 2021 is just writing its latest history. It is located on the Reykjanes Peninsula and lies between road no. 43 (leading to the Blue Lagoon), road no. 42 (next to Lake Kleifarvatn and the Krysuvik geothermal area) and road no. 427 which closes the area to the south.
The volcano woke up almost 700 years after the last eruption. Its eruption in March 2021 was preceded by increased seismic activity, which kept Icelanders awake from mid-December 2019. Several months have passed since the first fissure from which lava flowed out (August 2021). Several more fissures came and the lava began to explode, creating spectacular fountains of fire and lava. In May, some lava fountains were projected as high as 450 meters and were visible from Reykjavik, 40 km away.
Also, in May, an attempt was made to stop the lava flow by building two 8 m high earth embankments. They were supposed to stop the flow of lava into the valley and further towards road no. 427. The lava, however, passed one of the fortifications, but it does not pose a risk of flooding the road.
Due to the relatively calm and predictable course of the eruption, the volcanic eruption has become Iceland’s biggest tourist attraction this year. It is attracting both – crowds of observers and drone operators. There are two hiking trails marked out to the eruption site, starting on the road no. 427.
Practical information and warnings
When visiting the Reykjanes peninsula and Fagradalsfjall volcano, be absolutely careful, heed the warnings and use common sense. Visitors are not only endangered by poisonous volcanic gases. There is also the risk of volcanic bombs falling within a radius of several hundred meters from the active crater. Volcanic bombs are a type of pyroclastic material that can be thrown into the air with great force during a volcanic eruption. Such bombs can be up to several meters long and weigh 2 tons! Additionally, some of them may explode in flight as a result of the expansion of their constituent gases. This is a very dangerous phenomenon, so be careful not to get too close to the volcano.
Below are some interesting sites to visit. You can find maps and photos of the place where the volcano erupted.
- Lava field maps on the National Land Survey of Iceland website.
- Lava field map created by Facebook users
- For those of you wanting to see the latest photos and live feeds from the volcanic eruption site, there is a nice profile on Instagram of geology experts to be watched. Her name is Helga, and with passion and patience, she explains all geological processes related to a volcanic eruption, magma, gases, chemistry. She explains everything that a “normal” person has no idea about and has never heard of before but is happy to hear those stories from a wise person: Geology_with_Helga
Iceland, my other post
I encourage you as well to read my other posts about Iceland