Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland

The famous Blue Lagoon is located near the international airport on Reykjanes. But the peninsula has so much more to see, including lava fields, billowing steam vents, a geopark, a quaint fishing village, Iceland’s oldest lighthouse plus the chance to walk across the Mid-Atlantic Ridge separating the Eurasian and North American continents.

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1 Geothermal Pool at Blue Lagoon on Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland

One of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions is Blue Lagoon. The spa’s proximity to the Keflavík Airport makes this the perfect haven for relaxation before or after an international flight. Hop onto one of their easy transports so you can hop into their soothing geothermal pools with temperatures ranging from 98° to 104° Fahrenheit. Bláa Lónið also makes a perfect day trip from Reykjavík. It is less than 30 miles away. Advance reservations are highly recommended because droves of tourists want to experience why National Geographic lists Blue Lagoon among the 25 Wonders of the World.

Nordurljosavegur 9, 240 Grindavík, Iceland
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2 Silica Mud Masks at Blue Lagoon on Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland

These women are indulging in a Blue Lagoon specialty: Silica Mud Masks. Included in the admission price is the chance to wade across the pool to the Silica Bar. Then dip your hands into a pot of warm, wet clay and smear it on your face and body. Go ahead! Don’t be nervous or self-conscious. The experience is unique, fun and heavenly. When you wash off a few minutes later, your skin will have a luxurious softness and glow.

Nordurljosavegur 9, 240 Grindavík, Iceland
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3 Silicate Pool on Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland

Encircling Blue Lagoon’s Visitor Centre is a surreal pool. The blue color and white mud are evidence of silica. During evaporation, the rich minerals convert to white clay while clinging as residue to the rocks. This is part of the Illahraun lava field, produced by a violent volcano in 1226. Deep below the surface is the Svartsengi Geothermal Field. Its name means Black Meadow.

Nordurljosavegur 9, 240 Grindavík, Iceland
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4 Geothermal Power Station on Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland

Adjacent to Blue Lagoon is the Svartsengi Power Station. Their six plants harness the immense heat and steam of the surrounding geothermal field to produce electricity. The water in the reservoir averages 455°F! The facility also pipes hot water to heat the homes of the 22,000 people living on the Southern Peninsula. Svartsengi is one example of how Iceland harnesses its natural resources. Approximately 85% of the country’s energy is renewable. The primary sources are geothermal and hydropower. Wind farms have also been built in the last few years.

Svartsengi Geothermal Power Plant, Orkuver í Svartsengi, Iceland
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5 Mount Thorbjorn near Grindavík on Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland

After leaving Blue Lagoon, head towards Grindavík, a small town on the southern coast. The barren, mossy landscape along the drive is incredible. On the left is Mount Thorbjorn. Þorbjörn is a hyaloclastite ridge formed during a subglacial eruption. This phenomenon occurs when the molten lava and gases of a glacier-covered volcano violently mixes with snow and ice. The result is the magma fractures into glass.

[63.860676, -22.450609]
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6 Fishing Vessel Moored at Grindavík on Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland

This commercial fishing vessel (Tomas Thorvaldsson) is moored at the Grindavík harbor. The town only has a population of 3,000 people yet is Iceland’s fourth largest fishing port. Their primary catches are redfish, cod and haddock. Also emerging in Iceland is aquaculture specializing in Arctic char and Atlantic salmon.

Seljabót & Miðgarður, Grindavík, Iceland
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7 Vonin Sculpture at Grindavík on Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland

The village of Grindavík has always been dependent on fishing and tolerant of tragedy. This Seamen’s Monument featuring a grieving family look towards the sea is named “Vonin” meaning “Hope.” The sculpture by Ragnar Kjartansson was erected in 1980. At the base is an inscription reading, “In patience and trust your strength must be.”

Marargata & Mánagata, Grindavík, Iceland
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8 Old Grindavík Church at Grindavík on Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland

Old Grindavík Church was built by carpenter Tryggvi Árnason in the Ironworks district of Grindavík in 1909. Below the bright red roof and spire is a façade of galvanized iron. In 1982, Gamla Grindavíkurkirkja became a daycare center.

Vesturbraut & 43, Grindavík, Iceland
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9 Billowing Steam Vent at Geopark on Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland

Reykjanes is covered by sixteen lava fields created by eruptions from the 8th through the mid-13th centuries. The peninsula is also scarred by a row of craters named Eldvöp. Beneath the ravaged surface is thermal activity where temperatures can exceed 500° Fahrenheit. When the gasses and steam escape through a fumarole, the billowing white clouds are a dramatic show. This steam vent is Gunnuhver.

Möðruvellir 4, Möðruvallavegur, Iceland
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10 Gunnuhver Hot Springs at Geopark on Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland

Gunnuhver Hot Springs is a spectacular display of geothermal activity at the Reykjanes UNESCO Global Geopark. The closer you get along the boardwalk, the more you are awed by the thundering power of the boiling water within its 65 foot wide fissure and the giant fog of scalding, thick steam. The namesake is an 18th century woman. Locals suspected Gudrun (or Gunna) was a witch. Her ghost was accused of killing a judge and terrorizing the peninsula until tricked into falling in this cauldron.

Möðruvellir 4, Möðruvallavegur, Iceland
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11 Reykjanes Lighthouse on Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland

There are about 120 lighthouses along Iceland’s 3,088 mile coastline. The country’s first was built in 1878 on nearby Valahnúkur Point. After it was destroyed by an earthquake, this replacement was raised on Bæjarfell Hill. The concrete, cylindrical tower of the Reykjanes Lighthouse is capped with a red lantern. Together they stand 102 feet yet are 226 above sea level. Ships sailing in the North Atlantic can see the beacon up to 22 nautical miles before reaching the southwest coast of Iceland.

Reykjanes Lighthouse, Islandij, Reykjanes, Iceland
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12 Eldey Islet near Geopark on Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland

About ten miles off the coastline of Reykjanes Geopark is Eldey. The name means Fire Island. This 246 feet tall basalt rock is home to a colony of 16,000 pairs of gannets. This mostly white seabird has an enormous wingspan up to six feet tipped in black. It is remarkable to watch them retract their wings and plummet into the water at speeds up to 60 miles per hour.

[63.812221, -22.717644]
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13 Last Great Auk Statue at Geopark on Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland

The great auk was a flightless bird measuring up to 33 inches tall. Although not related, its black and white coloring resembled a penguin. The bird’s distribution once covered the North Atlantic coasts. But the species were victims of unrelenting hunting, especially during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Finally, the last breeding pair was killed on Eldey Island in 1844. This bronze memorial was created by sculptor Todd McGrain as part of his Lost Bird Project.

[63.812505, -22.714458]
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14 Valahnúkur Point at Geopark on Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland

Forming Iceland’s southernmost point is Valahnúkur. This tuff ridge was created during a volcanic eruption about 10,000 years ago. Tourists find it irresistible to climb for dramatic views of the North Atlantic coastline. This is another attraction at the Reykjanes Global Geopark. This designation was created by UNESCO in 1998 to recognize and protect areas with “earth interest.” The network currently has 120 geoparks in 33 countries.

[63.812297, -22.716042]
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15 Bridge Between Continents on Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland

Do you think it takes hours if not days to go from Europe to North America? How about 60 seconds! By walking the 60 foot span of the Bridge Between Continents (also called Leif the Lucky Bridge), you are crossing the tectonic plates along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. This fissure at the Álfagjá Rift Valley near Sandvík grows wider by almost an inch a year as the Eurasian and North American Plates constantly drift apart.

[63.868204, -22.675417]
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