#reykjanes

Reykjanes

Reykjanes Peninsula is the place in Iceland where most visitors arrive, it is the home of the International Airport in Keflavík.  Apart from the Blue Lagoon many of the most popular attraction in Iceland are in other Regions.  Reykjanes peninsula, on the other hand, has many exciting attractions and fascinating natural wonders.  Landscape attractions accessible by car less than hours drive from Reykjavík. There are also many interesting hiking trails and moutains in Reykjanes Peninsula.

Spákonuvatn a small shallow lake

The beautiful small lake, Spákonuvatn (The Fortunetellers lake), is south of the mountain Trölladyngja; a mountain everyone who arrives via the airport in Keflavík will see when driving to Reykjavík. The small lake is surrounded by geological wonders like Sogið. Although a short distance for Reykjavík and Reykjanesbær town it is place few people visit, so you can expcet a quite and peacful time visiting Spákonuvant. There are also interesting spots to visit nearby like Lambafellsgjá fissure, Keilir mountain and Djúpavatn lake. It is part of the backland and "wilderness" at Reykjanes Peninsula.

Finding Spákonuvatn

The road to Trölladyngja and Spákonuvatn is midways between Keflavík and Reykjavík marked Keilir.  It is a perfect place for comfortable hiking in wonderful colorful surroundings, not far away from the city.  Many of these places you can visit are covered on our web page like Lambafellsgjá and Trölladyngja.

If you only have a day to drive around the countryside in Iceland and are interested in some of the spectacular sites and natural wonders Iceland has to offer, the Reykjanes Peninsula Drive is a great option. This is especially true if you are staying in Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland, or near the International airport at Reykjanesbær or the small fishing town of Grindavík.

The many reasons Reykjanes Peninsula day tour is a perfect road trip for stopover and short stay passengers who visit Iceland

For anyone slightly interested in geology the Reykjanes peninsula is like a candy store or a wonderland.  This small area is packed with samples of how the planet behaves over time, i.e. over a period of tens of thousands of years.  Here you will find volcanoes, mountains and mountain rigs, a variety of lava, hot springs, craters, boiling clays, ravines, rhyolites, fissures, geothermal activity, high-temperature geothermal system and the list goes on.

A bridge where North America and Europe drift apart

The Reykjanes peninsula is not only a spectacular place to see and a great place to understand the ongoing, and everlasting struggle between surfacing magma and the many forces of nature, but also a home of a small part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.  It is the only place where this longest mountain ridge on the planet that stretches from the Arctic to Antarctica is not under sea level. The ridge is where two tectonic plates meet and seem to be in agreement to drift apart.  And here you can walk between the two tectonic plates on a bridge where North America and Europe drift apart.

A place to remember if you visit the Geopark

The canyon was formed by this movement and this geological agreement and drifts two centimeters per. year. If you walk the 18 meters long bridge, you are practically walking from one tectonic plate to another. The drifting is so slow that you will probably not feel the drift unless of course the plates decided to take a fight and send us an earthquake.  In September of 2015, the Reykjanes Geopark became the 66th Geopark in the world and is a part of the UNESCO program. 

A bridge where North America and Europe drift apart

Just a few kilometers south of the Geothermal area Seltún at Krísuvík is a small lake, Grænavatn (Greenlake). The lake is a volcanic crater that got its name from its unusual green color. The color is due to a high level of sulphur in the water and its depth.  The lake is only about few hundred meters in diameter and offers a perfect trail for a refreshing walk, as it only takes about 20 minutes to walk around the lake.  For a small lake it is quite deep, though, or 45 meters.  This is visible as you stand by the brim, and you can see how the color changes by the shoreline where the lake gets deeper. Grænavatn is considered by geologists to be one of the most noteworthy geological phenomena of its kind in Iceland.

A failed venture that almost destroyed the lake

Many visitors wonder what the deal is with the two silage towers and the decaying cowhouse right by the lake.  This is one of those unfortunate projects initiated at a time when understanding of nature was limited, and respect for natural wonders easily gave way for economic ventures. Although this was not such a long time ago, in the fifties, the whole project almost ruined the lake as some of its surroundings were altered in the process.  Needless to say, the whole venture failed, and the people and the Hafnarfjörður municipality behind it have not yet had the decency to remove this horrible building and heal the area around the lake.

Grænavatn and folklore

Due to its unusual nature and color, the lake has been a source of folklore stories throughout the centuries.  Only as recently as the middle of the 16th century an odd creature was spotted coming from the lake.  The lake is almost on the main road Krísuvíkurvegur (42) and can be seen as you pass by it only a few hundred meters from Seltún the geothermal area. 

 

Just a few kilometers south of the Geothermal area Seltún at Krísuvík is a small lake, Grænavatn (Greenlake).

From the road on the south shore leading to Grindavík (427) east of the large lava Ögmundarhraun that surfaced during the years of settlement in Iceland, about 1.100 years ago, the landscape seems like a flat land with classical vegetation. A kind of a Morse ending by the seashore.  But if you take the turn on the rather difficult track to Krísuvíkurberg, you will see dramatic changes.  Krísuvíkurberg is a 6-kilometer wide cliff south on the coastline of Reykjanes Peninsula.  Although not particularly high, around 50 to 70 meters, it is an impressive sight as it stretches along the coastline. The cliff is a home to tens of thousands of birds and is a spectacular geological phenomenon. 

Krísuvíkurberg has interesting layers of lava molded by the ocean

The cliff is a wall that the mighty Atlantic Ocean has molded with its enduring force for thousands of years. The cliff was originally formed by blankets of layers of lava that accumulated on top of each other thousands of years ago in many different eruptions.  A process that can only be explained on a geological timeline. The layers are visible on the wall with different colors as they represent a different time and different kind of magma and lava. There are up to 10 different layers on the east part of Krísuvíkurbjarg and around five on the west side. It is a monument of Natures ability to form various patters in thousands of years for us to enjoy and photograph.

Krísuvíkurberg also has its part in the Icelandic folklore

There are not many places where boats can land to access the land. But in the early 17th century, the Turks invaded Iceland and abducted hundreds of people and sold them to slavery.  One of the landing places was at Krísuvíkurberg, and the steps where they came up was called Ræningjastígur, or Bandits path. Fortunately, they only managed to kill one woman before they got into a fight between themselves with fatal consequences. According to Icelandic folklore, their disagreement was a spell from a priest who saw them approaching, and thus saved his people. 

Krísuvíkurberg is a cliff is a wall that the mighty Atlantic Ocean has molded with its never enduring force for thousands of years.

Vigdísarvellir has always been a popular camping site in Iceland, especially amongst the people living on the Reykjanes Peninsula. It used to be a smallholding from the Þórkötlustaðir farm in Grindavík inhabited until 1900. Explaining why Vigdísarvellir is the only spot in the Peninsula's lava fields where you'll find large green pastures. Also, you will still find the ruins of the old crofts in situ.

Vigdísarvellir, along with Lake Djúpavatn, is part of the high-temperature geothermal area on the Reykjanes Peninsula. The low and flat lands are predominantly covered by Holocene lava flows covering the older hyaloclastite formation.

From Vigdísarvellir, you will find hiking trails in all directions. It is a great location to camp for a few days while you inspect the hiking trails crisscrossing the Peninsula. The Reykjanes Peninsula being one of the most geologically interesting areas in Iceland, you will most certainly find palagonite, basalt and obsidian. The lava formations are quite spectacular with their deep valleys and rugged hills, beautiful rare moss species and delicate flora. Here is most certainly the place where you can practically merge with nature. And, after a day of robust hiking, lying down in the grass at Vigdísavellir to listen to the silence, is simply ethereal.

A great camping ground for those who want privacy

The mountain Trölladyngja (Troll Mountain) is quite curious. This dwarf of a mountain (only 275 meters high) consists of palagonite like most mountains in the area. Trölladyngja and its surroundings is part of the Krísuvík Geothermal Area, but only recently so. Until 1975, there was no geothermal activity around the mountain, but a few years later things started to shift and change. Today Trölladyngja is geothermally very active. It is quite apparent in the colorful south side of the mountain and its surroundings.

Next to Trölladyngja is another mountain, Grænadyngja (Green Mountain) that is a bit higher (393 meters). The two mountains are commonly referred to as "The Sisters." Both mountains are geothermally very active, and also very popular amongst hikers. Both mountains are easy to mound, even for the inexperienced hiker. Indeed, one of the most popular and beautiful hiking routes in the Reykjanes Peninsula is the hike from Trölladyngja onto Grænadyngja, through the beautiful valley running between them.

"The Sisters" rise high above the lava field surrounding them, and are easily discernible from a long distance away, i.e. from the Capital area. Close by, you will find some of the most popular attractions in the Reykjanes Peninsula, such as the Blue Lagoon, the Bridge Between Two Continents, Reykjanesviti Lighthouse, Seltún and Gunnuhver.
 

The mountain Trölladyngja and her sister Grænadyngja

In Iceland, Snorrastaðatjarnir, or the Shorrastaða Ponds, is a spectacular place to observe bird migration during spring and autumn. This fertile and beautiful spot is shaped like a bowl. It lies just off the main road on your way to the Blue Lagoon, is a resting place for the thousands of birds moving between countries and continents. Part of the Nature Conservation Register, it has always been a popular picnic and outdoors area for people living in the towns around the Reykjanes Peninsula. 

Snorrastaðatjarnir has three major ponds that were all formed by rift valleys. Their biosphere is quite rich, and it is a rare child who doesn't love catching sand lances and water beetles in the pond.

The flora in this unique bowl in the middle of a lava field is quite diverse. It is heathery and sports a variety of moss species. You might even find candlesnuffer moss. Here you are also likely to spot endangered wildflower species, like blue moor grass and herb paris. This area is practically the only place on the Reykjanes Peninsula where you will find woods. The most prominent tree is birch, growing tall and straight as the area is sheltered beneath tall fault walls.

Snorrastaðatjarnir, or the Shorrastaða Ponds

On the road to Krýsuvík, you will pass the beautiful geothermal area at Seltún. The main area is a fascinating hot spring field to the southwest, recognizable by the mud pools and steaming ground. Through the steam, you'll notice the yellow, green and red-orange colors, as well as the white and brown colors of the sulfates. The sulfates dissolve in water and become mottled. Thus, when it rains they disappear altogether, leaving only the bright yellow, green and red colors of the sulfur. It is a mythical sight to see.

A source for green power production?

In the mid-20th century, there were plans to utilize the geothermal field for power production, and Seltún then became one of the main drilling targets. Old drill pads are still in situ near the path along the creek.  During the winter of 2010, one of the boreholes started erupting intermittently with a few days between the eruptions. Another old drilling well blew up in 1999 forming a crater of approximately 30 diameters, now filled with mud except where a flow of steam keeps the boiling pits open. The explosion debris covers the surrounding slope like a carpet of yellowish mud up to about 100 meters.

Access is easy by the road

Walking the easy planks and steps through the area is quite an experience. Climbing to the top platform is a must. The view from this living, breathing corner of the earth is simply stunning.  To access you take a turn south from the main road between Reykjavík and The International airport at Keflavík, by the Aluminum Plant on Road Nr. 42. After about 20 kilometers you will arrive at Seltún.  Seltún is also part of the one day Road Trip around the Reykjanes Peninsula we recommend if you have a day in the capital Reykjavík. By taking that road trip you can see and discover many other magnificent places. 

On the road to Krýsuvík, you will pass the beautiful solfatara field at Seltún.

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