Much To See Travelling Around The Picturesque Reykjanes Peninsula
We were not really sure what we would see when we toured the picturesque Reykjanes Peninsula from Reykjavik in Iceland. Our visit to Iceland on our cruise in the Nordic countries with Oceania Cruises started in the north on a day trip from Akureyri. We travelled around the Golden Circle Tour and saw more amazing things. But we found so many more volcanic and geothermal delights on this final tour on our stay in Reykjavík.
We started our day with a stop at the small coastal area of Hafnarfjordur. We stopped at the Kleifarvatn Lake, the Eldraun Lava Fields and at the shore by the Reykjanesvíti Lighthouse. During our day we visited first the Krysuvik and then the Gunnuhver Geothermal areas and saw the bubbling mud pools and steam. These spots were for viewing only. Our final stop at the Blue Lagoon finally showed us hot springs that were enjoyed for swimming.
On our tour day along the picturesque Reykjanes Peninsula we were also enthralled to learn about the local folklore. We looked for elves’ houses, watched for the sea monster in Kleifarvatn Lake and wondered about the witch at the Gunnuhver Geothermal area. An interesting part of our day as we observed more of the natural wonders of Iceland.
A Stop Outside Of Reykjavík At Hafnarfjordur
We boarded the bus with no real itinerary of stops for the day tour. But we knew it was not hard to find natural beauty in Iceland.
We drove out of Reykjavík and along the shore. Our first stop at Hafnarfjordur gave us a view over this natural harbour. In fact, Hafnarfjordur meant “harbour fjord”.
But it also gave us a view of the very traditional design of the Hafnarfjordur Hotel Viking. There were dragons on the roof. And dancing Vikings. We were sure it would be fun to come back during their Viking festival!
Beside the hotel, we saw the very traditional local church. In 1553, Hafnarfjordur was the site of Iceland’s first Lutheran church Today, Lutheranism remains the country’s dominant religion.
People hurried and got pictures on our 10 minute stop. And then we scrambled back on the bus.
On The Lookout For Elves In Iceland
The bus headed along the Reykjanes Peninsula. This region was known for its geothermal and geological activity. As we watched out the window, we saw landscapes covered in a thick layer of lava rocks.
Whenever there was a large rock or group of rocks, our guide pointed these out as possible “elf houses”. We strained to see if there were painted doors on the rocks. The huldufolk or “hidden people” was the Icelander’s name for elves. Elves were known for their mysterious and sometimes evil behaviour. And it was said they made themselves appear at will.
Many Icelandic people were superstitious. And construction was sometimes a challenge when people were afraid to move rocks and anger the elves.
We saw lots of rocks as we drove. But we never saw elves when we toured the picturesque Reykjanes Peninsula from Reykjavik.
Our First Stop At Kleifarvatn Lake On The Reykjanes Peninsula
The bus parked and we got a view out over the large Kleifarvatn Lake. This was the largest lake on the Reykjanes Peninsula. It was located on the fissure zone between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.
The lake was about 97m (over 300 feet) deep. In 2000, two major earthquakes opened up fissures at the bottom of the lake. Water levels diminished by 20 percent. But over time, the fissures have closed and the lake returned to its previous levels. We were fascinated to learn that the lake had no visible water coming in or going out. Most the water came and went through porous lava rock underground.
The shores of the lake varied. In some areas there were steep cliffs and other areas were littered with volcanic rock. The hills on the other side of the street provided an interesting view of more volcanic rock and slides.
It was our day to learn more about the superstitions of the locals. Folklore said that a whale-like monster lived in the lake. It was said to be like the Loch Ness Monster. Or the Ogopogo monster in Okanagan Lake in British Columbia at home in Canada. The monster had been spotted surfacing for two-minute intervals on Kleifarvatn Lake. But not when we visited!
A stop at Kleifarvatn Lake provided a beautiful view and some interesting folklore when we toured the Reykjanes Peninsula from Reykjavik.
Walking Around The Krysuvik Geothermal Site
We saw a fascinating variety in the geothermal sites in Iceland. We started with the colourful Namafjall geothermal area when we toured in Northern Iceland from Akureyri. On our Golden Circle tour from Reykjavik, we saw the Geysir geothermal area at Haukadalur and Strokkur as it erupted. On this tour day, we saw the first of our geothermal sites at Krysuvik. But it was not the last when we toured the Reykjanes Peninsula from Reykjavik.
When we got our first sight of Krysuvik, it reminded us of Namafjall with the multi-coloured earth and bubbling hot springs. There was an extensive set of boardwalks around the different areas in this large site. Along the way, we stopped and read the signs about the geology of this geothermal area.
We made sure and stood downwind of the bubbling pools to avoid the sulphur rotten egg smells. And were ever cautious about the heat of the water. These were not hot springs for bathing!
From the hot springs we moved through more volcanic landscapes. We saw such a variety in the geology and rock colour along our route.
A Stop At The Eldraun Lava Fields
It was not long before we drove through the Eldhraun lava field. Sharp black lava rocks jutted from beneath soft green moss. Near the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, the bus pulled into one of the parking lots off the Ring Road.
The Eldhraun lava field covered a vast 565-square-kilometer site. It was created when the Laki fissure and the adjoining Grímsvötn volcano poured out an estimated 14 cubic kilometers of basalt lava and clouds of poisonous gases. The eruption occurred over about an eight month period between 1783 and 1784.
The effects of this eruption were devastating. The soil was contaminated and much of Iceland’s livestock was killed. Nothing grew on the fields. The poisonous cloud drifted across Europe and went as far away as India. Large death counts were attributed to this eruption.
Much of the lava field was covered with moss. This site was surprisingly very fragile. And we were not allowed to walk on the rocks. But our guide found some flowers in the moss close to the road.
When it rained a lot, the moss was green and verdant. But in dryer seasons, the moss was more of a grey colour. This made it an ideal spot when the Apollo 11 crew trained for their moonwalk in 1969 since it looked similar to the moon’s surface. The Eldhraun lava field was a fascinating stop as we travelled along the picturesque Reykjanes Peninsula.
We Saw The Reykjanesviti Lighthouse On The Coast
We headed to the southwestern-most tip of the Reykjanes peninsula. The rugged coastline stretched in front of us. Large pieces of rock jutted up from the sea. We climbed up the hill for a better vantage point.
This area was home to thousands of nesting seabirds including puffins, fulmars and guillemots. We saw some birds. But were draw to the big bird statue on the shore.
When we looked the other way we saw the Reykjanesvíti Lighthouse. It was the oldest lighthouse in Iceland. While originally built in 1878, it was re-built again in 1907 after a major earthquake.
It was great to get to this point as we travelled along the beautiful Reykjanes Peninsula.
Another Geothermal Site At Gunnuhver On The Reykjanes Peninsula
There were still more geothermal sights on this tour along the Reykjanes Peninsula. We learned another pieced of folklore when we arrived at Gunnuhver. The area was named for a ghost named Gunna. Around 400 years ago, Gunna was known to cause disturbances in the area. Then one day the local priest set a trap for her and she fell into the hot spring. Gunnuhver translated to “Gunn’s hot spring”.
When we stopped at Gunnuhver, we saw a wide field with several large areas where steam billowed out. The largest mud pool was 65 feet across and constantly spewed dense, cloudy steam at a scalding 570˚F. These pools were created when steam from the boiling geothermal reservoir water condensed and mixed with surface water. It was interesting to learn that the groundwater at Gunnuhver hot springs was 100% seawater.
Walkways went through the site. However, often the steam clouds engulfed the walkways. The steam was hot and smelled of sulphur. So we timed our walk to get a closer view when the wind blew a clear path. Off in the distance we saw a large crater.
The colourful minerals in the ground gave the ground a variety of colours. And we saw a large standing that was milky blue. It was a bit of a preview of the blue ponds we soon saw at the Blue Lagoon.
Iconic Picturesque Sight Outside Of Reykjavík At The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon was the last stop when we toured the stunning Reykjanes Peninsula. This was one of Iceland’s most popular attractions.
Most people visited to enjoy the pool and spa facilities. The water was at 39°C (102°F) year-round. The water was supposed to be very good for the skin. It had a mix of blue-green algae that thrived in the water and a type of bacteria that was only found in the Blue Lagoon. Some of the dissolved minerals in the water included chloride and natron (that together formed sea salt) and calcium. There were also some traces of sulphur, carbonate and magnesium.
We walked around the site and got a view of a number of blue pools around the property. These pools were not set up to enjoy for bathing. But we were still fascinated to see them.
We did not have tickets to enjoy the inside facilities. But before we left, we took a quick walk around the swimming pool areas. We wondered if the water would feel much like it did when we swam in the Dead Sea in Israel.
The Blue Lagoon was a very busy and touristy spot. We were glad we visited and saw the site for ourselves. And we were sure it would be a great way to warm up if we visited in the winter season. While this was a much larger and fancy spot, it reminded us of the great hot springs we enjoyed when we visited the hot springs in the Azores in Portugal.
Geothermal Energy In Iceland
Behind the Gunnuhver fields we saw the Reykjanesvirkjun Steam Plant. This large geothermal plant used steam and geothermal brine extracted from twelve 2,700m-deep wells. After extraction, the brine was piped into a steam separator. From there, the steam passed through two large turbines.
We saw another geothermal power plant beside the Blue Lagoon. This Svartsengi geothermal power station also supplied the hot water to the various pools at the Blue Lagoon.
Geothermal power plants produced nearly 20% of Iceland’s electricity. Geothermal heating was also used for nearly 90% of the domestic heating and hot water requirements. Nearly all the rest came from hydroelectric generation. And less than 0.1% was from fossil fuels.
As we toured Reykjanes Peninsula, large steam plumes and massive steam pipes were a common sight.
Great Sights When We Toured The Picturesque Reykjanes Peninsula From Reykjavik
We were so glad we booked a day to tour the picturesque Reykjanes Peninsula on our stay in Reykjavik. We had many interesting stops. And saw a variety of geothermal sites. We were entertained with local folklore along the way. It was just one more reminder of the stunning natural beauty we found in Iceland.
Did you tour the picturesque Reykjanes Peninsula from Reykjavik? Did you find some other gems on our travels around Iceland?
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