Welcome to our guide on the top things to do in Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland. Reykjanes is a unique and diverse region that is often overlooked by tourists, but it’s a true hidden gem that offers a wide range of activities and sights. From geothermal pools, to volcanic landscapes, to historical sites, Reykjanes has something to offer for every type of traveler. In this blog post, we will be highlighting some of our top picks for things to do in Reykjanes Peninsula, as well as tips on how to make the most of your visit. So, whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, read on and discover why Reykjanes is a must-see destination in Iceland.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Reykjanes peninsula has not been as much credit as it deserves for the exceptionally beautiful sites that it hides in plain sight. Home to the infamous Blue Lagoon and many other top attractions of the country, Reykjanes peninsula can be a lot more rewarding if tourists take a little bit of time searching around the landscape. Most tourists prefer to drive straight to the capital city of Reykjavik and get started on exploring the rest of the country, the more known parts of it.
The Reykjanes Peninsula is conveniently placed on a drift zone that is created by the meeting of two different tectonic plates – the North American plate and the Eurasian plate. The drift zone and the placement of the plates caused many a different geological formation to come up like hot springs, lava fields, geothermal geysers, craters and whatnot. There are several beautiful rock formations in the area, long-stretched lava fields that are covered with moss instead of lush green vegetation, and the waves that come crashing on the lava rocks. On top of all the natural charisma, the peninsula is also covered with beautiful little fishing towns, big and small alike. There are museums, restaurants, nightlife, caves and many other things. Following are some of the top things on the Reykjanes peninsula that every tourist must see as and when they come to Iceland:
The Blue Lagoon
Probably one of the most famous attractions in the country, the Blue Lagoon will definitely be on every travel itinerary that is made for Iceland. The blue lagoon is located a little outside of the capital city of Reykjavik, about 30 minutes away, and is a geothermal spa that has been constructed around a mud pool that is filled with milky azure-colored waters. The blue lagoon was initially just a mud pool filled with wastewater that came from Svartsengi geothermal plant. The very first person who bathed in the pool, Valur Margeirsson, met a lot of resistance from others because the point of bathing in a nonsensical mud pool filled with weird blue water escaped them. Although, the healing properties of the azure-colored water came to light eventually and people began to take interest in the pool. Several skin conditions like psoriasis were found to be relieved when the patients bathed in the water of the blue lagoon.
Since then, there have been several developments when it comes to the attractiveness of the lagoon. Once a lone mud pool surrounded by black lava rocks and nothing else, the blue lagoon now is a full-blown geothermal spa with hotels located around it along with several research centers and swimming facilities. The Blue Lagoon is also one of the most expensive lagoon-spa in the country and is always booked ahead for days if not months.
The healing and regeneration qualities of the pool are thanks to the rich reservoirs of silica and Sulphur. One of the research facilities located near the lagoon has developed several silica mud skin treatments for the tourists to take on for example body and face masks. These masks are available for free for the visitors to try out. The water in the lagoon stays at a constant temperature of about 37°-39°C which means that the lagoon is available to be visited any time of the year. In addition to all that, there gorgeous restaurants in the vicinity of the lagoon such as the LAVA restaurant, the Blue Café, etc. From healthy meals to cocktails, sauna, spa, luxurious hotel stays, healing and soothing dips, massages, and everything else that one can imagine to have included in their luxurious retreat is going to be something that you will find in the Blue Lagoon.
Initially just a peaceful place for the locals to hang out around and a guiding post to the fishermen, the Garðskagaviti Lighthouse has been a lot more than just a simple lighthouse, sanding alone on one corner of the peninsula, being fulfilling towards its original duties. The easy accessibility of the lighthouse from the capital city and the international airport makes it perfect to be visited any time of the year without any apprehensions or limitations of roads, ice, etc. Garðskagaviti Lighthouse is also one of the most preferred places around the capital city to conduct the northern lights. You can book northern lights tours to make the most of your northern lights hunting in Iceland. The place is perfect for the activity as well since the lighthouse is located out in the open without anything obstructing the view – natural or man-made.
Garðskagi itself is the name of the northern-west tip of the Reykjanes peninsula. There are two lighthouses located on Garðskagi. The smaller one was made prior to the taller one. The older, smaller lighthouse once used to be one of the best lighthouses in the country. It was convenient during mist-filled days since the lighthouse was low and easily visible but it is also something that fishermen missed out on it during the time of a storm. This resulted in the erection of the taller lighthouse – a white and orange colored beauty. This lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in the country standing at 24 meters, built in 1944.
Reykajnestá / Valhnúkamöl
A wonderful destination for photography enthusiasts, Reykajnestá is the south-western tip of the Reykjanes Peninsula. It is essentially a group of beautiful and unique rock formations and cliffs standing tall in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean near the shore. Reykajnestá is located fairly close to the Blue Lagoon and Keflavík airport which means that you can combine a trip to the Blue Lagoon and Reykajnestá in a single venture and make a day out of it. Reykajnestá is also popular for its very rich birdlife but people mostly visit it for the natural photography chances that they get here. The statue of the Great Auk is also located on these cliffs close to the area where the last mating pair was killed. When traveling to Reykajnestá, you will have to cross a geothermal area as well so, firstly make sure that you are careful if you are going on a self-guided tour here, and second, do not forget to take some memorable pictures here as well. It is another absolute beauty of the peninsula along with Reykajnestá.
Gunnuhver – Krýsuvík
A rather unique existence when it comes to looks, Gunnuhver is a geothermal area or field located in the southwest part of the peninsula. It is field with mud pools and fumaroles and has steam rising from it at all times, giving birth to a very dramatic landscape in the process. Gunnuhver has many ever-evolving geothermal pool that often increase in size and often engulf the paths that have been carved to roam around the area safely. On top of that if you are fan of the supernatural then Gunnuhver is the place for you. Gunnuhver also holds the largest mud pool in the country which makes it perfect for geology enthusiasts.
There is a very old legend attached to the geothermal area of Gunnuhver. There used to be a village close to the area where a woman named Gunna lived. She was poor and had to live under the authority of a rich lawyer – her landlord. Once time when she was not able to pay her rent, the lawyer took her only possession, a pot. She went on a hunger strike opposing him and died in the process.
As Gunna was being carried to the burial ground in her casket, the body disappeared and the congregation heard a whisper, “no need deep to dig, no plans long to lie”. The congregation took it as the ghost of Gunna. Later, the body of the lawyer was found decapitated in his home which was followed by the similar deaths of his family members. The ghost haunted the whole peninsula until the day a priest showed up – Eirikur. He asked the villagers to bring a ball of yarn place one end of it in the place that is haunted and take the other to the geothermal pool near-by. The ghost followed and fell into the pool with the yarn ball. It is said that one can still see the ghost of Gunna behind the mist trying to escape from the hot spring it is tied to.
The Volcano in Fagradalsfjall
Fagradalsfjall is a volcano that has recently erupted in Iceland on 19th March, 2021 and is still going on when this is written. The volcano in Fagradalsfjall is a tuya which refers to flat-top volcanoes with steep sides. This kind of volcanoes is formed when lava is erupted from beneath the glaciers which have a thick sheet of ice formed on top of them. Even though the volcano is still in the process of erupting, tours are being operated to the destination. If you like you can experience the phenomenon first hand although make sure that you only go anywhere close to the area with a special, experienced guide and dressed in proper, recommended clothing. The volcano is located near the fishing town of Grindavik, only about an hour from the capital city.
One of country’s deepest and the largest lake on the Reykjanes peninsula, Kleifarvatn is located in the center of peninsula. It is a highly active geothermal area that is covered with thick layers of lava, green-colored moss and steam-laden hot springs. You will also find several volcanoes located along the sidelines of the lake. The pulling apart of the two tectonic plates ensures that this particular area sees a lot of earthquakes and other geothermal activities. These seismic events also create new geothermal formations in the area for example, the earthquake that occurred in 2000 under the lake gave birth to a new hot spring on the corner of the lake and also drained the lake of about 20% of its original value. The water in this lake comes dripping from the surrounding lave rocks and not from any river body. But still several fishes can be found in the lake and it has also become a popular spot for scuba diving recently. The lake was recently also in the news for the alleged loch ness monster sighting near the lake.
Bridge Between Continents
The location of the peninsula results in several geothermal activities and formation, which has already been established. One of these formations are the countless fissures found all over the peninsula. The infamous Silfra fissure is also a result of the same thing. One of the major fissures which is located in Sandvík has a beautiful bridge built all over it, located on the west side of the peninsula. The bridge is completely safe to be visited or walked upon. Once can even travel down the fissure and explore it entirety if interested. The bridge was initially built as a symbol of connecting North America and Europe.
The Icelandic Museum of Rock'n'Roll
There is no fan of rock music who wouldn’t have the time of their life in this amazing existence that we know of as the Icelandic Museum of Rock n’ Roll. The museum is located in the town of Keflavík which is also known to be the home of all the top rock bands of Iceland. The town is also often referred to as “The Beatles Town”. The museum represents an exhibition of the history of rock and pop music in the country. There is an iPad tour of the museum where visitors can listen to the top rock anthems of the country while learning more about the history of it all. There is a sound lab in the museum where visitors are free to try out electric musical instruments like electric drums, guitars, etc. There is a karaoke singing room in the museum where not only singing but recording is also an option. The cinema room of the museum can be accessed to watch documentaries about some of the top musicians. There is a small gift shop in the vicinity of the museum that contains CDs and DVDs of rock and pop songs and then there is a small café which has roasted dishes and Arabian coffee beans as its specialty. You can sit back and enjoy some delicious snacks and a cup of coffee while enjoying the music of some of Iceland’s finest.
For anyone who is interested in knowing the history of the Viking of Iceland, the Viking World museum is the perfect way to get one on one with the history of the place. The biggest attraction of this museum is the seemingly floating reconstructed ancient Viking vessel that has been made using only the tools that were available to the Vikings. The said replicated vessel was recovered in 1880 and the replica was completed in the 1996. The replicated vessel was even taken for a sail on the waters that lead to America to celebrate the 1000-year anniversary of America being discovered by the Vikings. The vessel on display is suspended in air to look like it is floating in air. The name of the ship is Íslendingur or the Icelander. There are four different exhibitions that you can look forward to when you visit this museum. The first one is the Icelander itself, the second is Vikings of the North Atlantic, the third is The Settlement of Iceland and the fourth one is Fate of the Gods which deals with the ancient history of the pagan gods from old Scandinavian mythology.
Brimketill is a beautiful pool made with lava rocks located on the coast of Reykjanes Peninsula. It is well-known for its changing wonderous landscapes that change according to every season. The name of the pool literally translates to “Whitewater cauldron” which is kind of legit given the appearance of the pool with black rocks surrounding the white foaming water of the pool. It is said that there used to be a troll named Oddný who used to bathe and wash clothes in the pool which is why common folks avoided to visit it during the night since that is the time when trolls and giants are active. The pool used to be called Oddnýjarlaug which translates to “Oddný pool”. The pool was made because of erosion that took place as the waves hit the volcanic rocks around the coast. While there are several people sighted bathing in the pool, safety should be taken in consideration.
The Giantess in the Cave
A cave that is dedicated to the good giantess of Iceland, this fascinating cave is the home to a giantess who lives here. The cave was built in 2008 and the giantess transferred in it the same year. The giantess doesn’t have a name, probably because it has been lost in handing down of the legends and myths but she is known as Giganta- Skessan. The giantess is a part of a series of story that named little girl Sigga and the Giantess. The story explains the journey of the giantess moving into the cave from the mountain. Norðanbál, the artist/architect group who created the cave got the idea of building this cave and bringing the story to life.
There is a literal giantess placed in this cave located near the Keflavík town in the marina. She is about 5 meters tall and her eyes are the size of a football. The giantess has a rocking chair in which she sits, eats, burps and sleeps. The cave is about 15 sq. meter in size and has a postbox where children can drop letters for the giantess. The story book that mentions the story of the giantess mentions what a heart of gold she has. She helps little Sigga on many occasions and the villagers as well. The 16 stories record their adventures.
The oldest lighthouse of Iceland, Reykjanesviti lighthouse and is located on the tip of the Reykjanes peninsula near the coast. Reykjanesviti lighthouse was built in the year 1878 but it damaged pretty bad eight years after its construction when an earthquake hit the area. Another building was made in the 1907-1908 and the constant erosion of the land will probably require a new building in the next few years. The lighthouse is located in the close vicinity to the blue lagoon as well as Gunnuhver geothermal area which means that the calming surroundings of this decent place can be easily added to the tour itinerary of the peninsula.
Even though little known, the Reykjanes peninsula is one of the best places to visit during your travels in the land of ice and fire. If you are planning a layover in the country then Reykjanes peninsula can be a good way to spend the limited time that you have in the country. Either way, these destinations are less-traveled and are some of the top places that show the rugged beauty of Iceland. We hope you enjoy your time spent exploring the Reykjanes peninsula.