Town Guide: Shipwrecks, Cabins And Saltfish In Grindavík

Town Guide: Shipwrecks, Cabins And Saltfish In Grindavík

Photos by
Timothée Lambrecq

With its small, busy harbour, views across to Reykjanesviti and Reykjanesfólkvangur nature reserve, and close proximity to the Blue Lagoon and Keflavík Airport, the humble fishing town of Grindavík—population, 3,000—is an interesting option for weekend visitors less interested in the hubbub of Reykjavík life, and more in Icelandic nature. Here’s what to do there.

Stay: Geo Hotel or Harbour View Cabins
In the winter, you might want the comforts of a hotel. Geo Hotel is centrally located and offers clean, basic, modern rooms. In the summer, the Harbour View cabins are a good option, with front windows that look right out onto the seafront. If it’s summer, and you’re on a budget and feeling brave, there’s also a campsite in the heart of the town.

Visit: Hópsnes
The peninsula at the bottom of Grindavík has a rough dirt road that winds its way out to the bright orange Hópsnesviti lighthouse. Along the way, you’ll pass the rusting skeletons of several ships, with information plaques about how they ended up there. There’s a ruined village of former salthouses and fishing buildings, and a map of shipwrecks that have occurred in the area—the elements have worn away much of the text, which perhaps speaks to the subject in itself.

Eat: Salthúsið
This large wood-panelled restaurant has various rooms suitable for solo dining, couples, or large groups. They have options ranging from soups and hot snacks to a hearty and affordable fish ‘n’ chips, or more elaborate dishes such as arctic char, baked salmon, or the house special of salted cod and vegetables. There’s even a small outdoor terrace for eating al fresco, should the sun gods look upon you kindly.

Road Trip: Reykjanes
The Reykjanes peninsula is geothermally active, as evidenced by the presence of the Svartsengi geothermal plant and the Blue Lagoon. You can drive the Krýsuvík road past the Seltún geothermal hot spot and Kleifarvatn lake, then circle left past Keflavík to the dramatic Gunnuhver hot spot, the Álfagjá tectonic rift canyon, and Reykjanesviti lighthouse and viewpoint before heading back to Grindavík past some desolate, wind-whipped coastline.

Swim: Grindavík Pool
If you’re not up for the crowds at the Blue Lagoon, check out the local pool. Every self-respecting Icelandic town has one, and that goes doubly for fishing towns, where swimming ability can be a matter of life or death. Grindavík’s town pool is located right next to the local football field, and has a slide, two steaming hot pots, a lounging pool and a swimming pool. When we visited, it was closed, in contrary to what Google suggested: check ahead for seasonal variations on the opening times.

Drink: Fish House Bar + Restaurant 
This cosy bar opened soon after prohibition was lifted in Iceland, and still has a pub atmosphere, with a darts board, a sound system for parties, and a big TV, presumably for sports events. The draught beer selection is limited, but there’s more available by the bottle, and they serve piping hot fish dishes, including—during our visit, at least— a fun extra menu of small plates.

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