When landing for the first time at Keflavik airport, many travellers feel like they have just landed on the moon – that’s how alien the first impression of the landscape of Reykjanes can be. On a closer look, the area reveals many magnificent wonders in both geological and aesthetical terms. In addition, Reykjanes is one of the best regions in Iceland to get to know the Icelandic fishing industry and the history connected to it.
A Convenient Hot Spring to Drown a Ghost
The Blue Lagoon is without doubt the most famous attraction of the Reykjanes Peninsula. Not only do the warm healing waters and the accompanying white mud make people feel reborn, but so do the strange combinations of colours. When the amazingly pure and lucid blue colour meets the ancient green of the moss you’ll be fully aware of your senses.
The Blue Lagoon is far from being the only geological wonder of the peninsula. There you will find an abundance of hot springs, lava fields, volcanic craters and other related phenomena. Reykjanes is where the mid-Atlantic ridge rises above the ocean’s surface and the peninsula’s unique geological phenomena stem from the fact that it is positioned on the rift between the Eurasian and the North American tectonic plates.
The Reykjanes Peninsula is easily accessible to those interested in its many wonders. A good example of that is the amazing hot spring Gunnuhver, which is located on the southwest point of the peninsula. Gunnuhver, and the area around it, is a spectacular sight, a heaven for all those who love strange colours and forms in nature. Not only is the site beautiful but there is also a curious tale connected to the hot spring. Legend has it that long ago a ghost named Guðrún caused a great disturbance in the area, until a priest set a trap for her which ultimately led to her falling into the hot spring. Until this day Gunna (her nickname) is supposed to be stuck down underneath the hot spring. So if you want to get rid of a ghost, Gunnuhver might be the perfect solution.
Gunnuhver has become quite accessible after recent improvements to the walkways surrounding it. One can enter the site from two directions. From there one follows paths through the geothermal site to a large viewing platform. The view across Gunnuhver vividly shows how the earth‘s energy bursts through the its crust in the form of bubbling mud, boiling water or vapour.
This spectacle is ideal if the aim is to capture something great on a camera, as the wide variety of unique colours along with interesting formations will not disappoint the photographer.Abundance of Interesting Sights
The area around Gunnuhver is an interesting one as you will both witness a unique and dramatic natural beauty and see how the natural forces are captured to produce power in a sustainable way. Reykjanesvirkjun is the power plant that harnesses some of the abundant geothermal energy in Reykjanes. The power plant also has considerable educational value, as it houses the museum ‘Earth, powerplant,’ which is very informative regarding the Earth, the Universe, its creation and different methods of producing power.
You will also find a historic Icelandic lighthouse close to Gunnuhver, which not only seems to be keeping a watchful eye out to sea but also the land, as it rises over this amazing geothermal area. It is one of the oldest lighthouses in Iceland. Walking towards the sea from the lighthouse, you will find Valahnjúkar cliff, a great example of Iceland’s dramatic nature. There you will witness a rich birdlife and connect with the natural forces by watching the strong waves and staring at the majestic, steep island of Eldey, which rises from sea near the coastline. A short distance from Reykjanesgarður you’ll find other interesting places. For instance, the bridge between two continents – a symbolic place where you literally stand between the two tectonic plates. Hafnaberg is also worth a visit, with its wide array of birdlife. It is located right next to the Sandvík coast, and you can witness with your own eyes the force of the ocean as it crashes ashore. Rich Fishing Life
Reykjanes is one of the primary locations for the fishing industry in Iceland. In former times, a large part of the population would travel out to the peninsula and bring fish back to their homes. A good example of this is the fact that the population of Grindavík used to increase tenfold during the fishing season, going from 200 to 2000. On the peninsula you will find a multitude of sites where local fishermen would push their boats out to sea and then drag them back ashore, full of fish. You can even see the indentations in the rocks where the boats were dragged back and forth on land.
Although Icelanders often say that the sea beckons them, showing what an important element it is for the Icelandic psyche, it has taken its toll through the centuries. On the west coast of the peninsula there are a couple of former fishery locations that used to play a great role in this important industry. But tragedies at sea were frequent as the surf was strong and plenty of sharp and unforgiving reefs just off the coast. In 1928 Iceland’s first trawler Jón forsteti was shipwrecked by the town of Sandgerði. As a result the first rescue team in Iceland was founded. Nowadays, Iceland has a world-class association of rescue teams.
Reykjanes has 11 lighthouses scattered around the peninsula to signal the distance to land to sailors. The lighthouses come in many shapes and sizes, the biggest ones being Reykjanesviti and the lighthouse in the town of Garður. Then there are a few smaller ones, often of a strange but an attractive yellow colour, some of which are square shaped. These lighthouses might be interesting sights to see along with the beautiful coastline that they guard.
An array of museums can be found in Reykjanes, with exhibitions connected to the area, its history and especially the fishing tradition. One of those is the ‘Viking Worlds’ in Reykjanesbær, where you can see a genuine Icelandic Viking ship called Íslendingur.
The natural museum in Sandgerði, Fræðasetrið, offers an exciting exhibition on the arctic explorer Jean-Babtiste Charco, whose ship the Pourqui Pas sank off the coast of Iceland in 1936. The docks in Sandgerði are also an interesting sight, where you can observe the small fishing boats bring in the catch of the day. In Grindavík you can visit the Salt Fish Museum, which retells an important part of Iceland’s history, as salted fish was once one of Iceland’s main exports.
Finally we must mention the number of outdoor activities available in Reykjanes, especially for bird enthusiasts and hikers. Birdwatchers are in luck as Krísuvíkurberg is home to one of Iceland‘s largest bird populations. Hafnarberg is also a beautiful birdwatching site. Walking paths around the area are numerous, often ancient walking routes from the time before cars. The geology of the area will certainly open up for you during these walks through the various lava fields, caves and colourful, outlandish formations.
More information is available on www.reykjanes.is