Reykjanes is the picturesque peninsula where most visitors enter Iceland when they land at Keflavík. However, the majority of people immediately travel onwards to Reykjavík, and the south coast route, unaware that Reykjanes itself is full of natural wonders and charming coastal towns. Whether you want a low-hassle road trip, or you’ve ended up with some time to kill at the airport, here’s an ideal day out in Reykjanes.
Behind the mountains that lie inland from the coastal road to Reykjavík is Kleifarvatn: a large lake that often reflects the surrounding landscape like a mirror. There are viewpoints along the roadside, and sweeping black sand beaches ideal for a stroll, as well as plenty of discrete hiking trails into the hills.
Just past the lake is the Seltún geothermal hotspot. Right next to the parking lot are several large, fiercely bubbling craters spewing out steam and turning the earth into a colourful, mineral-stained canvas. A well-marked trail leads you over a zigzagging wooden walkway to a viewpoint over the whole spectacular area.
The fishing village of Grindavík is the ideal place to stop for lunch. There are some options: Salthúsið is famous for its bacalao, Papa’s serves an amazing fish ‘n’ chips made with the day’s catch straight from the harbour, and the Fish House has a nice pub atmosphere. There’s a hardfiskur museum, a pool, and a stone “Viking temple” in the town centre. If you’ve time, drive out to the Hópsnesviti lighthouse to see a trail lined by rusted shipwrecks.
Site: Reykjanesviti & Gunnuhver
The short version of this trip involves cutting back inland past The Blue Lagoon—or, you can take a longer coastal detour around the edge of the peninsula. It’s worth it: the Reykjanesviti lighthouse sits on a picturesque piece of coastline near the impressive Gunnuhver geothermal area. Also nearby is a footbridge over the Eurasian tectonic divide.
Museums: Rokksafn & Viking World
After all that energy-sapping outdoorsiness, the town of Kelfavík has a few museum options. Rokksafn—the Museum of Rock ‘n’ Roll—is a tribute to the town’s musical past, when locals formed bands based on the local (now decommissioned) U.S. military base radio station. You can also visit Viking World in the adjoining village of Njarðsvík, which houses a full-sized Viking ship, and some displays of artefacts and Viking history.
Swim: The Blue Lagoon
This world-famous geothermal spa has recently undergone redevelopment after a huge swell in popularity. The milky-white outdoor pool has been expanded, meaning bathers are more spread out in the space, and there’s a mud bar to pick up facial treatments as you bob around. It’s intensely relaxing: so much so that you might need a nap afterwards.
Stay: Lighthouse Inn, Garður
A particularly picturesque place to spend the night is Garður. This tiny village sits right on the tip of the peninsula, and has not one but two lighthouses, just a stone’s throw from each other; the smaller houses a café during the summer months. There’s a camping ground, or you can get a room in the airy and comfortable Lighthouse Inn—a newly built hostel with a view over the coast.
Read more about travelling in Iceland here.