When you land in Iceland, you arrive at a very special place: the Reykjanes peninsula. Most people know this peninsula because the Blue Lagoon is located there. But instead of taking the time to explore this area, they race from the Blue Lagoon straight to Reykjavík. And that is a pity, because Reykjanes has a lot to offer. It is a UNESCO Global Geopark and has a great variety of landscapes.
Gunnuhver and Reykjanesviti
Reykjanesviti is a lighthouse located about 30 kilometres south of Keflavík International Airport. Located at the tip of Reykjanes peninsula, it’s the oldest lighthouse in Iceland. The lighthouse was built in 1878, was destroyed during an earthquake in 1887, and rebuilt in 1929. These days, it is Iceland’s best known and most visited lighthouse. The land around the lighthouse is geothermally active. This area is called Gunnuhver, and it’s filled with bubbling mud pools and hot steam vents. Gunnuhver is named after the ghost Gunna, who lived in the area about 400 years ago. She caused many problems before a priest set a trap for her that made her fall into the hot springs. Today, this is a fun place to visit, with a well-marked path leading through the different mud pools, one of which is the biggest in Iceland – of 20 metres wide.
Bridge between continents
On Reykjanes, you can walk over a bridge between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Reykjanes peninsula lies on one of the world’s major plate boundaries. The North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are slowly drifting farther apart each year, leaving fissures in the landscape. On Reykjanes, the fissure is clearly visible, and a footbridge has been built over it to symbolise the connection between North America and Europe. At the Reykjanes tourist information centre, you can get a personalised certificate after you have crossed the bridge.
Kleifarvatn and Krýsuvík
Kleifarvatn is a large, beautiful lake about 30 kilometres from Reykjavík. It’s 10 square kilometres in size, and 97 metres deep at its deepest point, making it the largest lake on the Reykjanes peninsula. It’s located in a geothermally active area, and therefore the lake has underwater hot springs. These hot springs pump warm water and gases into the lake, causing thousands of bubbles. You can observe these hot springs up close during one of the diving tours that are organised in the lake. But watch your surroundings when diving, because as the legend goes, a gigantic worm-shaped monster lives in the lake.
Right next to Kleifarvatn, there is an interesting geothermal area called Krýsuvík. A boardwalk leads you along the different volcanic vents and boiling hot pools. The colourful mountains in the area are the perfect background for the steaming, bubbling hot springs. This area shows just how otherworldly Icelandic landscapes can get.
Selatangar was a popular fishing outfit that was actively used from the Middle Ages until the latter part of the 19th century. In 1884, the area was abolished and today, you can visit the ruins of the old fishing settlement. It’s a beautiful area for a short stop, but beware: a ghost named Tanga-Tómas has been haunting the area for a long time. Try not to disturb him when you visit Selatangar.