The Reykjanes peninsula is the first point of contact for most visitors to Iceland since the Keflavik International Airport is there. Many guests are stunned by the sight of the endless lava fields covered in gray-green moss and feel like they’ve landed on the moon.
The reason for this spectacular landscape is the active volcanic system underneath the peninsula. However, for many the short ride to and from the airport is the only glimpse they’ll get of this area that has so many hidden gems and stunning vistas.
Instead of driving straight from the airport to Reykjavik why not take the scenic route? Heading south towards Grindavik will take you through the beautiful Krysuvikurleid. On the way you’ll pass the luminous Graenavatn, its water colored green by the algae and crystals in the water. The Krysuvik geothermal area where a wooden path will take through the colorful area of steaming earth and bubbling hot springs.
You’ll also see the legendary Kleifarvatn (the setting for one of famous crime-writer Arnaldur Indridason’s novels). Kleifarvatn has diminished due to two recent earthquakes that are thought to have opened up fissures at its bottom. Let’s hope that the mythical worm that’s said to live in the lake hasn’t vanished down one of those fissures. The lake is surrounded by otherworldly volcanic rock formation giving it its eldritch aura.
Gunnuhver and Reykjanes Lighthouse
The highly active geothermal area Gunnuhver is collectively named after the biggest mud pool in the area, and Iceland. The Gunnuhver pool is said to have gotten its name from the mad female ghost that haunted the area. Causing multiple deaths and wreaking general havoc until two local farmers sought the advice of famous magical priest, Eiríkur of Vogsosar. He told them how to trap her in the pool. The peninsula has been free from her haunting ever since. A ramp built close to Gunnuhver will let you look into its depths and hear the bubbling and hissing noise it makes. Perhaps the lamentations of the trapped Gunna?
Close by you will find the oldest lighthouse in Iceland, the Reykjanesviti lighthouse. The original structure was built in 1878 but collapsed in an earthquake only eight years later. It was rebuilt in 1928 and is still in operation. Take a walk down to the beautiful beach below to fully appreciate your surroundings.
Viking World Museum
This modern museum celebrates the ancient world of the Icelandic settlers. Various exhibitions on everything from life in ancient Iceland to the myths and legends of the Norse mythology (rumor has it celebrated fantasy author Neil Gaiman got the idea for his book Norse Mythology at this museum). It will teach you all you need to know about the fierce and resilient Vikings. Their crown jewel is undoubtedly the full size replica of a original Viking vessel, the Icelander, that sailed all the way to America with a full crew in 2000. The museum also has a playground and a settlement zoo.
The Bridge Between Continents
On the western part of the peninsula, close to Sandvik, you can experience the unique feeling of simply walking between two continents. The small fissure, created by the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates moving away from each other. It has been joined by a small footbridge allowing you to cross continents in barely a minute, like some sort of superhero. They’ll even give you a certificate at the Duus Culture House in Keflavik!
The Blue Lagoon
Of course it’s impossible to talk about the Reykjanes peninsula without mentioning its most famous attraction. The Blue Lagoon is on the bucket list for people all over the world who visit it for its healing properties (and, let’s not lie, the great Instagram pictures). It’s aquamarine colored water and thick white silica mud are known to make your complexion bright and your skin super-soft. The spa also offers pampering treatments from facials to in-lagoon massages. Just make sure you book your ticket in advance as the lagoon is extremely popular with both locals and visitors.
Reykjanes with its lunar landscape is the perfect area for some adventurous activites. ATV/Quad biking is very popular around there and provide a great opportunity to experience the rough beaches and majestic lava fields up close. If you’re in Iceland during the summer you have to go on a Panorama ATV tour and experience a true mountain safari. For something a bit more organic, try the horseback riding tour which will have less horsepower but way more Horse Pwrr! (humor me). For those who prefer more lofty pursuits a helicopter tour over the peninsula will offer extraordinary views over this extraordinary area.