#reykjanes

 

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.
 

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Below is the location of Trölladyngja mountain on the map of Iceland

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.

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Below is the location of Snorrastaðartjarnir on the map of Iceland

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. 

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Below is the location of Seltún on the map of Iceland

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

 

Selatangar is an old fishing stations and one of the few around the coast of Iceland that is remaining, although only as ruins.  Throughout the centuries, from the early 14th century and up until the late 19th century, fishing stations were essential for most farms and families in Iceland in their effort to sustain. For many farms, it was part of their livelihood. Even though Iceland was an agricultural society, many families and farms needed to add fish to their meals to sustain because the farms did not always have the capacity to feed them and the farms could not grow grain. Also, fish was one of two commodities Icelanders could give merchants who came to Iceland from Europe and offered interesting products otherwise unavailable. Products like corn, alcohol, coffee, and a variety of textile, to name a few.  But life at a fishing station was probably one of the most challenging ways to make a living throughout the history of the country.   

The many fishing stations around the coast

Throughout the centuries, Icelanders built about 140 fishing stations around the coast.  Early on in the Commonwealth time and the 13th and 14th century, most fishing stations were at Reykjanes Peninsula and the Westfjords.  Fishing stations were usually built near rich fishing grounds and also required a good landing place.  Since all of the fishing was done on rowing boats, so called six-oar rowing boats, the distance to fishing grounds had to be near the shore. Not until the beginning of the 20th century did fishing posts develop into hamlets or villages.  Up until that time fishing stations were mostly provisional and “homes” to farmers and workers from the beginning of February until the beginning of May.  During that period the fishing station was the home and workplace and the place where men took their rowing boats out to the open sea to catch fish. One reason that this was not done during summer was the fact that every individual and every hand was needed at the farm to collect hey and prepare for winter.  The downside was the fact that the time from February to May is the most difficult time of year in Iceland as it is the time of our worst weather and winter storms. This often made life at the fishing post a living disaster.

A very difficult life at Selatangar and most other fishing stations

Visiting Selatangar one cannot help but be amazed at the hardship, and severe circumstances people had to endure at these fishing stations. Set on the south coast of the Reykjanes Peninsula, a short distance from Grindavík, Selatangar was an important fishing station for centuries until the 1880s. The cluster of shacks and huts built into the black lava, often little more than caves is nothing less than incredible.  All that remains today are the foundations of the shore-side dwellings, but enough to give you a good idea of the terrifying way of life and conditions the fishermen had to withstand. Living in haphazardly structured stone cottages, by the raging Atlantic Ocean, with no electricity, limited access to water and ruthless weather conditions. To make thanks even worse it was mostly at a time when daylight is shorter and the dark is longer.  So it did not take a lot of imagination to give wings to stories of ghosts like Tanga-Tómas, who used to harass the fishermen at Selatangar, and probably still does. It wouldn’t surprise us if the ghost has teamed up with its neighbor, Gunna at Gunnuhver to scare people traveling at the Reykjanes Peninsula.  They are both still at large, so be aware and careful when visiting Selatnagar.

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Below is the location of Selatangar on the map of Iceland

Throughout the centuries, Icelanders built about 140 fishing stations around the coast.

 

The Reykjanes Lighthouse is Iceland's oldest lighthouse.  It was built during 1907 and 1908 instead of the old lighthouse that had been built in 1878 but was destroyed by an earthquake eight years later. At the time, it was the most advanced and expensive structure to be built in Iceland.

The current Reykjanes Lighthouse was designed by the Danish architect Frederik Kjorbo and the Danish engineer Thorvald Krabbe.  It is a 26.7-meter high concrete construction with traditional looks. The lighthouse was illuminated in 1929. Its focal plane measures 73 meters above sea level. The light characteristic is "Fl(2) 30 s", i.e. a group of two flashing lights every 30 seconds.

An antenna for the transmission of DGPS-signals in the long-wave range is mounted on the rooftop.

Until 1999, there was a lighthouse keeper on location. He lived with his family in the house next to the lighthouse, along with his assistant and his family. It was not an easy life as the raging storms were often too strong for anyone venturing outdoors. The lighthouse keeper and his assistant could be stuck in the lighthouse for days on end. Which, of course, was quite inconvenient because, "there was no way their women could attend to them."
 

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Below is the location of Reykjanes Lighthouse on the map of Iceland

The Reykjanes Lighthouse

 

The Lambafell fissure is an open narrow fissure in a small hill or a stack in the landscape named Lambafell. It is an exciting and popular hiking route and a great place to take children. The path is unforgettable, and it might be a good idea is to bring a small light to light up some of the interesting walls.  At the southern end of Lambafell, you will find active high-temperature steam vents. Along the entire mount is a groove, or a ledge, which leads to the deep and narrow Lambafell fissure. The fissure's width is only a few meters, but it is 50 meters deep. During the summer, you can hike along the entire fissure, and it will be worth your while.

The best way to hike through Lambafellsgjá fissure

Indeed, the best route to descend into the fissure is from the south, down a steep and rather loose graveled slope. The fissure's walls are covered with excellent outcrops of subglacially formed basaltic pillows. The fissure was most certainly formed during the Holocene, but the pillows are thought to be a lot older than the last glacial period, possibly the one preceding the last one – or even older.
At the northern end, the fissure opens at the same level as its surroundings. You can either hike back through the fissure or go back over the hill and down a well-marked trail.  At the northern end, the fissure opens at the same level as its surroundings. You can either hike back through the fissure or go back over the mount and down a well marked trail.

Only an hour drive from Reykjavík

Driving to Lambafellsgjá can be a part of a driving tour and a hiking tour at the Reykjanes Peninsula.  When you drive from Reykjavík on Reykjanesbraut Road Nr. 41. After a short drive passed the Aluminum plant, you turn south on the road to Keilir.  You go a bit further than the turn to go to Keilir and find a small parking space about one-kilometer hike from Lambafellsgja.

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Below is the location of Lambafellsgjá on the map of Iceland

The Lambafell fissure is an open fissure in an oval hyaloclastite mount named Lambafell.

 

Krísuvík is one of the fascinating areas in Iceland. That is if you are a true lover of nature. Situated in the south of the Reykjanes Peninsula, in the middle of the fissure zone of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, it is spectacular. It is such an active geothermal area; one cannot help but wonder: Is it here that Iceland breathes?

The area is riddled with steaming volcanic vents and boiling hot springs, framed dramatically by a range of multi-colored hill. At Seltún and Gunnuhver you will find solfataras, fumaroles, mud pots and hot springs, giving the soft soil its yellow, red and green hue.

Well-maintained boardwalks wind through the bubbling and hissing geothermal areas, with informative signage explaining all the important geological facts.

A short distance away from the geothermal fields you will discover several maars/crater lakes, created by the explosions of overheated groundwater.  The largest is Kleifarvatn and the second is Grænavatn (Green Lake), which glows in a deep green. It derives its color from thermal algae and crystals absorbing the Sun.

A few minutes drive away from this surreal landscape are the Krísuvík Cliffs with its thousands of sea birds. They nest in the rugged hillside beside the crashing Atlantic surf. All you have to do is hike along a trail to the edge of the cliffs, and you'll spot kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills and a vast number of other species as they dive into the frolicking sea.

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Below is the location of Krísuvík on the map of Iceland

The Colorful Krísuvík

 

Kleifarvatn is the largest lake on the Reykjanes Peninsula. It is situated on the fissure zone of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge a short distance from the dramatic geothermal area of Seltún.The lake is incredibly deep, 97 meters (318 feet) at its deepest point. But, its unique feature is that it has no visible surface drainage, which means there are no rivers running to or from it. Thus, the water level only changes with the ground water. Following an earthquake in the year 2000, a fissure formed at the bottom of the lake that soon began to drain. It diminished by 20 percent. Gradually though, the fissure refilled, and the lake has returned to its previous levels.

Kleifarvatn lake is a popular destination and attraction

Today, the Kleifarvatn area is gradually becoming a popular destination for hikers, joggers and bird watchers. Surrounding the lake is a comfortable trail where you can enjoy the dramatic and ever-changing landscape. The lake itself attracts the local anglers who like to fish for trout in the tranquil, colorful area. Kleifarvatn lake and the area around the lake is also a great place to view the Northern Lights.

Kleifarvatn and the area around the lake is a great place to see the Northern Lights

Kleifarvatn and the area around the lake is a great place to see the Northern Lights

Monster and crime scene in a famous Icelandic novel

The lake is believed to be inhabited by a monster. The serpent-like creature is the size of a large whale and has been spotted surfacing now and then. The lake is the setting for the crime novel The Draining Lake by one of Iceland's most prominent crime authors Arnaldur Indriðason

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Below is the location of Kleifarvatn on the map of Iceland

Lake Kleifarvatn at Reykjanes Peninsula

Apart from the Snæfellsjökull glacier, Mount Keilir on the Reykjanes Peninsula is possibly the most painted mountain in Iceland. This perfectly cone-shaped mountain has always fascinated artists. It is renowned for the colorful display of lights and shadows surrounding it at dawn and dusk, often bathing the mountain in a mythical light.

Keilir is a palagonite mountain. It was formed during a sub-glacial eruption during the Ice age. Still, Keilir is not a stratovolcano, like the Snæfellsjökull glacier or the famous Eyjafjallajökull glacier that are cone-shaped volcanoes erupting at relatively regular intervals. Keilir was formed through a single eruption beneath a dense Ice age glacier. Such volcanoes are usually palagonite mountains and they erupt only once.

Keilir is only about 380 meters high and relatively easy to climb. The mountain is very popular amongst hikers.  The view from the top is spectacular. During the years, two trails have formed on the east side of the mountain. It is wise to stick to those trails, as the mountain's gravel is quite loose. On the top, you will find an observation platform with an excellent overview of the Reykjavík Peninsula. There you can appreciate how extremely geologically active the area has been throughout the centuries.

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Below is the location of Keilir on the map of Iceland

Mount Keilir on the Reykjanes Peninsula

 

The church at Hvalsnes on the western part of the Reykjanes Peninsula is somewhat revered by the Christian Icelanders. The longest serving priest in the Hvalsnes parish was Hallgrímur Pétursson, a much-loved hymn writer whose life has become a legend. Even though he served the parish long before the present church was built, the Icelanders tend to look on the church site as a kind of a holy place.

This humble, still impressive church was built from carved basaltic stones from the local area during 1886 and 1887. It was consecrated on Christmas Day 1887. The proprietor of the Hvalsnes estate that was also the project manager financed the building. The wood for the interior was driftwood, collected from the shores nearby.

One of the most precious artefacts in the church is a gravestone with the name of Steinunn Hallgrímsdóttir, who died at the age of four in 1649. Her father, the Reverend Hallgrímur Pétursson, made it. The gravestone was lost for ages but was discovered in 1964. It had been used as part of a walkway leading to the church.

Earlier, during the Catholic era in Iceland the Hvalsnes churches were dedicated to the Holy Mother, St. King Olaf, St. Catharine and all other saints.

 

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Below is the location of Hvalsneskirkja on the map of Iceland

 The longest serving priest in the Hvalsnes parish was Hallgrímur Pétursson, a much-loved hymn writer

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