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Reykjanes Peninsula: The Perfect Stopover Spot

Here, the Mid-Atlantic Rift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates can be observed, and there are two active geothermal areas with hot springs and steam vents. It is home to various kinds of craters and has some large lava fields that surfaced only a few hundred years ago. If you are interested in hiking, the Reykjanes Peninsula also has some short hiking trails and small mountains to climb that offer spectacular views. The shoreline also offers dramatic cliffs and a view of powerful waves crashing against lava. Small towns and villages are spread out along a scenic drive await exploration.


In medieval times, Icelandic scholars, monks and writers wrote sagas of Icelanders— stories about how this Nordic island was settled between the years 870 to 1070. There are about 40 in total, all great epics, which describe the land, farms, the people, their families, life, friendship, and disputes. Most of the regions in Iceland have detailed documentation of the settlement, except for the Reykjanes Peninsula, which was rarely mentioned for a particular reason.

At the time of settlement, and until medieval times, the peninsula had many eruptions that made farming there impossible. If there was a farm to plant and harvest in the beginning, it was most likely covered with glowing lava soon after the first settlement. Thus, almost no one lived there at that time. Furthermore, most parts of the country are usually packed with small streams, creeks and rivers or easily accessible freshwater, but on the Reykjanes Peninsula, you will only find one or two very small and almost dried-up streams. The peninsula is very porous and leaky, and most of the water is groundwater. Large chambers of freshwater can, on the other hand, be found more or less under the lava in Reykjanes. Therefore, it is very difficult to find a place for farming and agriculture there. During settlement, it was almost uninhabitable.


Today, conversely, the Reykjanes Peninsula has many areas visited by tourists. If you are staying in Iceland for a few days or are on a short stopover, visiting the Reykjanes Peninsula is an excellent choice. Driving the circle from Reykjavík to Kleyfarvatn, the largest lake on the Reykjanes Peninsula, and from there to the tip of the peninsula through the charming small village of Garður, then back to Reykjavík, is a grand day tour. Close to Lake Kleyfarvatn, you will find the colorful geothermal area, Seltún, with boiling clay and small, smoking, hot springs. Nearby, you can stop at the explosion crater, Grænavatn Lake, and Eldborg crater, which erupted 5000-6000 years ago.

Leaving the craters behind, you can stop by the magnificent Krísuvíkurberg Cliff to view the many layers of lava molded by the mighty forces of the Atlantic Ocean. On the way to the fabled Gunnuhver Hot Spring, stop by for a dip at the world-renowned Blue Lagoon, followed by a visit to the famous bridge between continents where you can walk from the North American tectonic plate to the Eurasian plate in just one minute. If you are still game for another adventure after visiting the old lighthouse in Garður, you can drive the 10-kilometer gravel road to walk through Lambafellsgjá’s narrow ravine (not for those of us who are claustrophobic). Then, after a beautiful day, you can make your way back to Reykjavik


If you are planning a short visit to Iceland and want to see some fantastic sites and natural wonders without going far from Reykjavik, you should consider the Reykjanes Peninsula. To start the tour, it’s less than a half an hour from the capital, and you can visit most of the areas in the peninsula the whole year round. Besides being a geological wonderland, there are hiking trails, museums, a variety of restaurants and hotel accommodations. For the most budget friendly experience on the Reykjanes Peninsula try basehotel.is, they also offer the cheapest beer you’ll find at a bar in Iceland.

About the author: Einar Páll Svavarsson is a political scientist turned photographer and writer with decades of interest and experience traveling in Iceland. Einar is also the owner and creator of one of the largest information website about Iceland – Hit Iceland. For more see hiticeland.com
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