#reykjanes

 

Hiking is extremely popular amongst Icelanders. Quite understandably. You can practically crisscross the entire country along hiking trails. Up moors and mountains, along valleys and prairies, through lava fields and fissures. And, as much as the Icelanders love their mountains, the Reykjanes Peninsula is gradually becoming the most popular area for hiking.

The Reykjanes Peninsula has excellent trails for the most experienced hikers, where you will find trails with steep climbs, trying grounds and along precipices. But, it also has excellent easy trails through areas of geological marvels. And, in most cases, the starting point is Höskuldarvellir.

Höskuldarvellir is a grassy plain (quite rare in the Reykjanes Peninsula) of 300 hectares. It is located next to Keilir, a hyaloclastite mount, quite visible from the main road between Keflavík International Airport and Reykjavík. You can park your car at Höskuldarvellir and from there you will be able to hike in any direction. You can climb Keilir which is quite steep with loose gravel, but an excellent view when you get to the top.  There you will find a panoramic observation platform.

Or, you may choose to head to Trölladyngja and hike Lambafell, another hyaloclastite mount, walk through Lambafells fissure. The fissure is only a few meters across but about 50 metres deep. It is possible to hike along the entire fissure.

 

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Below is the location of Höskuldavellir on the map of Iceland

Höskuldarvellir is a grassy plain (quite rare in the Reykjanes Peninsula) of 300 hectares. It is located next to Keilir,

 

Garðskagi, the tip of the toe on the Reykjanes peninsula, with its shores and lighthouses might not seem too much to write home about at first sight. And, in fact, this wonderful place has been kept secret by the locals for years and years. Whenever they need a change of scenery, a perfect place to relax, to have a picnic, a stroll along the beach, or to find much needed solitude, to cry – or even scream their head of, their destination is the Garðskagi lighthouses.

The old Garðskagi lighthouse

It may be strange to find two lighthouses standing side by side to guide the seafarers, one tall, one short. For decades, the shorter one, constructed in 1897 was regarded as one of the best lighthouses in Iceland because it stood low. Its beams were not disturbed by the mist quite common offshore in this area. But, gradually the majestic ocean forces corroded the cliff serving as its base and in the end it was deemed unsafe to enter.

The more recent Garðskagi lighthouse

The tall one was constructed in 1944 and some two decades later the old lighthouse‘s foundations were strengthened to give it a new role. It became a bird observatory – and no wonder, as the local birdlife is spectacular. The new lighthouse is a cylindrical concrete tower rising 28 meters high with a four-way facing rotation lens. The view from the top is breath-taking. Here is where you find the midnight sun in its purest form and during winter you can practically touch the northern lights.

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Below is the location of Garðskagi lighthouse on the map of Iceland

The Garðskagi Lighthouses

When you visit the Reykjanes Lighthouse, allow yourself enough time to roam the area. First of all, it will be worth your while to follow a trail to reach the spectacular shoreline along the cliffs. Opposite the lighthouse, you will most certainly want to embark on the easy climb to the top of Valahnjúkur cliff. When there you can lie down on the brink to enjoy the sight of the powerful Atlantic waves breaking on the sheer cliffs. It is a dizzying experience.

Eldey island the mighty rock in the Ocean

Ten miles off the coast you will find and see Eldey island rock, a small island, covering about three hectares and rising to a height of 77 meters. These sheer cliffs are home to a large number of birds.  Indeed, it is one of the largest northern gannet colonies in the world with around 16.000 pairs.

The disappearance of the great auk

The island formerly supported a large population of great auk after they moved there from Geirfuglasker following a volcanic eruption in 1830. When the colony was discovered in 1835, nearly fifty birds were counted. Museums, desiring the skins of the great auk for preservation and display, quickly began collecting birds from the colony. The last pair found incubating an egg, were killed there in July 1844.

 

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Below is the location of Eldey island on the map of Iceland

Eldey island

 

Reykjanes peninsula has many interesting places and several natural wonders. In fact, one could easily spend a few days in Iceland and only visit interesting places on the Reykjanes peninsula. One of those beautiful places is Lake Djúpavatn, less than an hours drive from Reykjavík. It is a bit difficult to visit since the road is a kind of a Highland gravel road for 4X4 vehicles only. But that makes visiting the place just a bit more exciting and adventures. There are also a few interesting hiking trails in the are that take up two to four hours to hike. It is an advantage and a privilege in life to be able to drive such a short distance and enjoy peace and quiet in such beautiful places.

A small lake ideal for fishing and hiking

There is one sure way of getting your children away from the computer. Take them fishing.  Find a nice lake and it doesn't matter if it has salmon, trout or sand lance. Children simply love a trip including a fishing rod and a picnic. Djúpavatn (Deep Lake) is a popular family destination in Iceland and a perfect place for a family destination. This beautiful and tranquil lake is located on the Reykjanes Peninsula, a mere half an hour drive from Reykjavík.
In spite of its name, the lake is not at all deep, a mere 16.7 meters and its size is only 15 square meters. In fact, you can rent the whole lake if you don't want to be disturbed.

A road for a 4WD vehicle only

There was no fish in Lake Djúpavatn until 1960 when a stock of char was transferred to the lake from Þingvallavant (Lake Þingvellir), possibly because the two lakes share similar geological environments. The fish, though rather small, has now been thriving in Lake Djúpavan for 55 years.  Having a picnic by the lake is ideal, of course, but in Iceland, the weather can't always be relied upon to suit your needs. But, not to worry. There is a fishing lodge by the lake where you can have your picnic indoors.

Access to Djúpavatn is quite easy from Krýsuvíkurvegur Road Nr. 42.  A few kilometers before you come to the lake Kleifarvatn you turn to Road Nr. 421 Vigdísarvallavegur.  Here you need to keep in mind that this is one of the many roads in Iceland where you need a 4X4 or a 4WD vehicle. This is not a road for a small car.

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Below is the location of Djúpavatn on the map of Iceland

Djúpavatn a beautiful and tranquil lake is located on the Reykjanes Peninsula

 

Básendar at Reykjanes Peninsula in Iceland, once a small, prosperous hamlet, was destroyed in a matter of hours. Básendar, also referred to as Bátsendar in annals, was an old fishing and trading post. Located a short distance from the town of Sandgerði, it was one of the ports for the Danish Trade Monopoly and covered the whole southern shore of the Reykjanes Peninsula. During the 15th and 16th centuries, Básendar was a prosperous place serving English and Dutch ships. But, all that came to and ended when the Danes decided to monopolize trading in the late 16th century.

The storm that destroyed the small hamlet

In a matter of hours on 9th January 1799, the small hamlet was destroyed in a storm surge.  Nobody suspected how doomed this village was.  The terrifying storm was quite unexpected. With the sea flooding the whole area, the cottages were fast filling with murky seawater. The only means of escape was through the roofs. The residents had to run for their lives, barefoot and in their nightwear. They lost their homes, their livelihood, and all their belongings. Miraculously, though, only one old woman lost her life.

You can still view the ruins

Básendar were not the only area devastated by the storm. All along the south coast of Iceland, ships tied to their moorings were broken to pieces, churches were blown from their foundations, farmsteads were rendered inhabitable, and harbors were ruined. But, Básendar, the hamlet playing a central role in Iceland’s commerce and trade for three centuries, was the only community destroyed.
The area was never inhabited again, but today the ruins are a stark reminder of the busy life lead in this quiet fishing village serving as a kind of international port. The cottage foundations, the staples for tying down the merchant's vessels, the remnants of fishermen's huts are all there. Also, the moorings and the sheep pens, the Cairns and the rock layer walls, as well as, the common well.

Access to Básendar is relatively easy.  You need to drive to Road Nr. 45 Stafnesvegur at the Reykjanes Peninsula. From there you take a turn on Road Nr. 4187 to the cluster of small old farms Stafnes.  Here you park the car and walk the few hundred meters south towards the ruins.

 

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Below is the location of Básendar on the map of Iceland

Básendar, once a prosperous village, was destroyed in a matter of hours.

 

In Iceland, the Blue Lagoon at the Reykjanes Peninsula is becoming a landmark equivalent to Big Ben in London and the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It is a place most visitors and tourists that plan a trip and come to Iceland want to visit.  Needless to say, it is probably the most popular tourist destination in Iceland. These unique baths were discovered accidentally in the 1970s. During a construction operation at the nearby Geothermal power plant, the workers decided to use this natural pool to wash after a long and exhausting day. Soon, the word spread about the water's extraordinary qualities. It is extremely rich in silica and sulfur, thus excellent for helping people suffering from skin diseases, such as psoriasis. One gentleman from the nearby town of Keflavik fighting the disease decided to try the bath. His experiment was successful even to the amazement of some of his doctors.

A lagoon from the Geothermal Power Plant became a popular bath

During the first years, the public spas were operated at the original site. But, the natural setting proved to be too dangerous resting in the middle of a lava field. The bottom of the pool was fissures riddled, hiding some rock traps. A company was formed to build a new and safe pool.  As the lagoon became more convenient to bath in, more and more people became interested in bathing in the blue lagoon. The current pool is man-made. The nearby power plant, Svartsengi, feed the pool through water output. The water is being renewed every two days.

Recently renovated it is truly a joy to visit

Just recently the Blue Lagoon and the area around the lagoon was renovated and are now a state of the art Geothermal Pool.  The water temperature in the lagoon's bathing and swimming areas is on average 37-39°C. Apart from the public pools, the Blue Lagoon also operates a research and development facility to help find cures for other skin ailments, using the mineral-rich water.  Access to the Blue Lagoon is as easy as it gets. You go to the Road Nr. 41, which is the first road most visitors drive when in Iceland, the road between the International Airport at Keflavík and Reykjavík the capital of Iceland. About 30 kilometers from Reykjavík you turn south on Road Nr. 43 to the town of Grindavík. A few kilometers before you come to Grindavík you will see the Geothermal Power Plant at Svartsengi and the signs leading to the Blue Lagoon on Road Nr. 426.

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Below is the location of Blue Lagoon on the map of Iceland

The Blue Lagoon in Iceland

In the Icelandic nature, everything has a name, every mountain, every valley, every canyon, fissure or even crack.  And almost behind each name is a story. The most southern tip of the Reykjanes Peninsula is a spectacular place to visit. A highly active geothermal area of mud pools and steam vents boiling practically under your feet – if you dare to walk the wooden planks crisscrossing the area. Indeed, here is where you find the biggest mud pool in Iceland, Gunnuhver – or Gunna hot spring.

The hot spring got its name from one troublesome ghost, Gunna.

Just before dying the woman Gunna had a fight with the local sheriff, Wilhelm whom she hated. When she died, their dispute had not been solved. Still, Wilhelm attended her funeral. Suspiciously the next day he was found dead; his body bruised and blue, his bones broken. His remains were taken to the Útskálar church where the priest, Gísli, had to fight Gunna the ghost throughout the night as she was determined to drag the sheriff to Hell.  Gunna the ghost did not succeed and went absolutely bonkers. Wilhelm‘s widow suddenly died an unexplainable death, people traveling the peninsula got lost, died or went mad. Everyone knew Gunna was to blame. She refused to stay dead – and was quite visible. Life on the Reykjanes peninsula became unbearable.

Finding a way to get rid of the ghost

Finally, two farmers, with some spiritual knowledge, decided to get the priest at Vogósar, Erik, to bust the ghost. Knowing Eric would be reluctant, they decided to bribe him with quite a potent poteen – which he was known to like a tad too much.  After listening to their plight, the priest gave the farmers a rope with a knot on one end. He told them to give the unknotted end to Gunna; the knotted end would trundle and drag her to a place where she would get stuck forever. The farmers did as they were told and the last sighting they heard of Gunna the ghost was when she plunged into the hot spring. They declared her dead, the peninsula became safe from her misconducts and gave the hot spring her name so everyone would know where Gunna met her final fate.

Gunnuhver in the Reykjanes peninsula, not far from the International airport in Iceland was once a beautiful little hot spring.

A few months ago Gunnuhver started to change its mood and became a bit angry and aggressive. The hot spring became louder and started to expand to a larger area. In a few days, Gunnuhver had consumed part of the platform intended for viewing its beauty and started to splash hot clay and boiling dirty drizzle all over the place. Although a bit calm these days, the former pretty little hot spring is considered quite dangerous. As we can see, there are still photographers that are prepared to take the risk on some of the platforms that Gunnuhver has not consumed, yet.

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Below is the location of Gunnuhver on the map of Iceland

Gunnuhver is a highly active geothermal area of mud pools and steam vents on the Reykjanes peninsula

Although Iceland was an agricultural society throughout history, some areas around the coastline were fishing communities that consisted of fishing farms and fishing posts.

Street view at Vogar is a village.

Reykjanesbær or Keflavík town is the main home town of the International Airport in Iceland and is also part of the Reykjanes Peninsula drive.  Originally, Keflavik was a typical fishing farm and a fishing t

Reykjanesbær is the center town in the Reykjanes Peninsula in Iceland

Garður village by on the tip of the Reykjanes Peninsula is a wonderful place to visit if you plan to travel to Iceland.  Located right by the International airport access is easy.

The church at Garður village

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