While it can be easy to overlook the region due to it’s proximity to the Keflavik Airport and capital city, or bypass it on your way to explore the many wonders of the country, don’t!
Without throngs of people, you’ll be able to explore the sights at your own pace, unlike the Golden Circle or South Coast. You can experience life and nature as locals do with cozy cafes and beginner-level hiking. You’ll revel in the unique natural wonders that make Iceland one of most interesting places to visit.
Need a few practical reasons to consider the Reykjanes Peninsula for your Iceland itinerary?
- Its accessible all year round with a rented vehicle. Tour operators also focus on the peninsula for day-long excursions.
- Short distances between points of interest keep you moving at a good pace, so no getting bored. If you have kids (or are a hyper-active person yourself), this is a great peninsula to visit!
- Is your home base Reykjavik? Perfect! Within an hour’s drive you can experience so much of what the peninsula offers.
- On a one-day stop over with Icelandair? Reykjanes Peninsula is the ideal region to explore since you can see much of it in less than 24 hours.
So if practicality and the idea of less tourists aren’t enough to entice you to include the Reykjanes Peninsula into your itinerary, I’ve outlined a few more reasons that will have the strong Icelandic wind calling your name.
Also- Don’t forget to pin this post for later so you make your friends jealous with your Iceland pictures!
GEOLOGY, GEOGRAPHY, GEOTHERMAL
On the Reykjanes Peninsula it’s all about the earth! Identified as a UNESCO Global Geopark, the peninsula consists of major tectonic plate boundaries, volcanic and geothermal activity, and unique geological formations. It is the only place in the entire world where the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is visible above sea level.
Far-reaching lava fields covered in slow-growing grey-green moss dominate the landscape. This land (rock?) is less than a millennia old. That’s right, most of the landscape in the region was created after the Viking settlement began in 871 A.D.
Driving through on your way from the airport the landscape might seem boring. Or you might be thinking your plane actually landed on another planet. (I’m kind of convinced it did.) But this other-worldly view is so, so unlike anything you’ve seen before.
Geothermal activity is high in the region as a result of it’s location along tectonic plates. Heard of a little place called the Blue Lagoon? That’s created from geothermal power station runoff (aka: it’s not a natural hot pot, but still really cool).
You can also bear witness to the energy at play in hot springs and sulfur springs on the peninsula in the east and in the southwest. To the east, Seltún, in the Reykjanes nature reserve consists of mud pools and fumaroles. The various soil minerals reveals a myriad of sediment colors.
In the southwest lays Iceland’s largest geothermal mud pool, Gunnuhver. Hot gases bubble deep within the earth before expelling themselves in a continuous white cloud.
As the Mid-Atlantic Ridge rises above sea level, half the country (and the peninsula) sits on the Euraisan tectonic plate, with the other half on the North American.
A bridge in honor of Leifur Eiríksson, built in 2002, allows visitors the chance to walk between. Named so to honor Leif the Lucky because, according to Icelandic tradition, he encountered the North American continent 500 years before Christopher Columbus.
Crisscrossing the Reykjanes Peninsula is a network of ancient walking routes. These ancient roads harken back to a the not-so-distant past when when locals traveled by horse and on foot. There are about 25 main hiking routes that you can enjoy.
A 10-kilometer coastline trail takes hikers from the Gróf marina to the Stapi cliffs in Innri-Njarðvík. It’s an easy route, with a smooth walking surface, where you’ll take in the fresh sea air, seabirds, and vegetation among the expansive lava fields.
REYKJANES UNESCO GLOBAL GEOPARK
The Reykjanes UNESCO Global Geopark, recognized in 2015, contains areas of important sites, managed by a holistic protection, education and a sustainable development policy.
Geologically speaking Reykjanes is a young one! Landscape changing eruptions have occurred as recently as 1240. That’s approximately 370 years after the first settlers arrived on the island!
If you are really into geology, this is the region to go! But, I’m not the girl to talk about it.
I find the fissures, scoria, and other features to be stunning, but I honestly don’t understand what it’s talking about. To save us both some time, I linked the brochure from the Reykjanes UNESCO Global Geopark where you can read through some 55 sites.
The coastline of the peninsula is rocky, jagged, and prone to strong storms. More than a dozen lighthouses illuminate the way to safety. Seabirds float along the wind between crags and the salty waters.
At Brimketill, lava escapes from land into the sea. The porous rock erodes with the crashing of the waves, creating a pool for the giantess Oddný.
Off the coast of Valahnúkur, lies Eldey, a 77 meter-high island home to 18,000 gannet seabirds.
From the shore, a jagged coastline is breathtaking and completely swoon-worthy. However from the sea, that jagged coastline can spell disaster. Luckily the fishermen of the peninsula are guided back to shore with the help of lighthouses that dot the some 200 kilometers of coastline.
There are more churches on the peninsula than towns. If that statistic doesn’t scream “Iceland” I don’t know what does.
Instagram is abuzz with the errie black church, Búðir, on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, but Reykjanes is also home to some very distinct churches. However, they appear to be unnoticed by the world of social media.
Hvalsneskirkja is a stone church constructed of basaltic lava stones and drift wood. This is staggering, since most church across the entire country are made of wood (except for some found in Reykjavik and Akureyri). Another stone church can be found at Innri-Njarðvík. Traditional wooden churches striking against the backdrop of the Reykjanes Peninsula can be found at Kálfatjarnarkirkja, Keflavíkurkirkja, and Kirkjuvogskirkja.
Having the Iceland trip of your dreams doesn’t mean you need to travel long distances or take 2 weeks away from work. If you only have 3-4 days you can experience what Iceland has to offer.
Don’t just show off your photos of the Blue Lagoon. Inspire your friends to visit this incredible country when you share the moody, contrasting Reykjanes landscapes of your interplanetary voyage to the land of fire and ice.
Looking for more day trips from Reykjavik? I’ve got you covered: