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Saturday, July 30 update: Reykjanes Geopark, Kleifarvatn Lake, Seltún, Gunnuhver, Bridge between Continents

We spent the day today in Reykjanes Geopark.  Haven’t heard of it? Me neither, and I have no idea why. In my opinion, this area should be mentioned in the same breath as the Golden Circle.

Kleifarvatn

The Geopark takes up most of the Reykjanes peninsula, which is where the Keflavik airport is. At least I think that’s how big it is? Maybe the entire peninsula is the geopark? Maybe now I’m starting to see why this isn’t as popular as the Golden Circle …

From Reykjavik, we headed south past Hafnarfjörður and onto Road 42. In half an hour, you’ll be at Kleifarvatn Lake.

Kleifarvatn pretty

Kleifarvatn pretty also

There’s a black sand beach, a beautiful blue lake, and interesting mountains. Here is what you’ll find up the hill behind the lake:rocks behind Kleifarvatn

And the view back to the lake:Kleifarvatn overview

If you wanted to have a day outdoors without too much driving, you could just spend some time here, and also hike Helgafell, since you’ll be passing through Hafnarfjörður.

We continued south; every few minutes, you’ll come to a sign for another attraction.

sydristapi sign

This was a cliff with a nice view out over the lake and a hidden black sand beach:

sydristapi hidden beach

Then a few minutes further down the road and you come to … well, I’m not really sure what it’s called, but it’s a different and bluer pretty lake:

no idea geopark cool lake

There are dozens of different things to see in the Geopark; some of them are listed here. You could probably look over the list and pick the ones you wanted to see, but it may be just as nice to drive around and see what you see?

Except you should check out a couple of sites. The next place we came to, Seltún, is one of them:Seltún geothermal area entrance

This is a geothermal area. It doesn’t have an erupting geysir, but lots of bubbling pots of liquid and steam.

Seltún geothermal area overview better

Seltún geothermal area gurgling

This reminded me of Namafjall in Myvatn except it’s much closer to Reykjavik and has a better walkway.

We skipped a couple of sights on the way to Grindavik, including Krýsuvíkurberg bird cliffs. But it was on to lunch at Bryggjan.

grindavik lunch bryggjan

(Note the ATVs parked outside; I assume they were from the nearby 4X4 Adventures in Grindavik.)

Lunch options are limited at Bryggjan, and the main draws are their two soups. They also have bread with smoked salmon or lamb on top. The soups today were a Lobster soup and a vegetable soup. I’m thinking they almost always offer the lobster soup.  We were hoping for a lamb soup. But the price for the vegetable soup is very cheap:

grindavik lunch menu

That’s 1100 krona (around $9) for as much soup and bread and butter as you’d like. And it includes coffee or tea. The lobster soup is more expensive, but also includes unlimited refills.

While in Grindavik, we stopped by the Saltfish Museum. It’s tough to find; there’s just a “Codland” sign outside:

saltfish museum grindavik

Once inside, there are actually two exhibitions. You start off with an energy section, before walking into the fishing section.

grindavik energy museum part

saltfish museum inside

The museum costs 1200 krona for adults, 600 krona for 16-20, and is free for kids 15 and under. It’s a nice museum, but may not be worth the time or money in the Geopark, which has so many things to see.

We continued driving toward the lower left corner of the country. On the very corner, you have many attractions, all within 10 minutes of each other. Let’s start with Powerplant Earth, another museum inside of a power plant. Here are some pictures from inside the museum:

power plant earth exhibits power plant earth planets inside  power plant earth

power plant earth power plant

The last one above is the working power plant which you can see from the museum.

This is a nice museum; it provides a lot of educational information in and around the displays. My only concern is that it’s expensive for kids. Admission is 1500 for adults, and 1000 krona for kids 14 and younger. Since nearly every museum in Iceland is free for kids, the price to get in here is comparatively expensive for families with a lot of children.

Note that the hours on their web site are totally incorrect. The museum is open every day from 9-4 during the summer; the rest of the year, they are only open on Saturdays and Sundays.

A few minutes past the museum you’ll come to this sign, pointing to two nearby areas you should definitely see if you’re nearby:

lighthouse area signs to other stuff

You probably saw a sign pointing to Gunnuhver before getting all the way down here, but waiting until you get here means a shorter drive to a closer parking area.

Gunnuhver is another geothermal area, but this one is very different. The main attraction is a fierce steam vent. You can hear it from the parking lot– steam is just pouring out of this thing; I can’t really capture the force in these pictures.

Gunnuhver smoke

Gunnuhver broader

The only issue with going here is that the blast of steam is so huge that, if the wind shifts, you could find yourself in the middle of a sulfuric rain. Be ready to dart around to avoid this, even if you’re on the marked pathway!

The other direction is toward Reykjanesviti, the Reykjanes lighthouse. But that’s the least interesting thing in this area. It’s a lighthouse, and it’s nice enough, but I don’t think you can go inside.lighthouse area lighthouse

Just past this you will come to a parking area. To your right will be this little guy:

reykjanes statue

(I think that statue is more interesting than the lighthouse, but I may just be weird.)

To your left is a big hill, called Valahnúkur. This may have been the highlight of the day for me.

lighthouse area hill to climb overview

Note the people on the top of the hill on the far left. Here’s a closer look from the base of that hill:

lighthouse area hill to climb

We walked all the way up; those of you with a fear of heights may not want to get all the way up to the edge. But you get a great view. We also *carefully* laid down and peered over the edge:crazy bird cliff

See the baby bird in the top right hand corner? Here’s a closer look.crazy bird cliff close up

This is a sea cliffs area with parking right next to it. Highly recommended.

Heading out of the Reykjanesviti area, you’ll nearly pass by the Powerplant Earth museum again. In the parking lot is, well, the sun:

power plant earth sun outside

This is the start of a scale model of the planets in the solar system! As you pull out of the parking lot, on your left you’ll see a tiny dot on a pedestal. That’s Mercury.

mercury powerplant earth

Note the incredible size difference between the sun and Mercury. Indeed, the sun is almost 300 times larger in diameter than Mercury. As you leave the power plant, assuming you are heading north toward the Bridge Between the Continents (left onto the main road), you’ll see the rest of the planets (all on your left) as you drive. Here’s Jupiter, which is over a mile down the road:

power plant earth jupiter outside

We saw all of them except for Pluto. Either we missed it, or they decided Pluto wasn’t a planet? [Edit:  We later learned that Pluto is in the parking lot of the power plant company.] Some of the planets are after you get to the Bridge Between the Continents:

bridge between continents artistic

As you may know, the land mass of Iceland includes part of the North American tectonic plate, and part of the Eurasian tetonic plate. These two plates fit together like puzzle pieces, and so there is a dividing line between them across the entire length of the country. Most people associate Thingvellir National Park as the main place to see the continental divide, but you can see it other places as well. Like in the middle of a shopping mall.

Here is another spot where you can walk over a bridge between the two continents.

bridge between continents sign

The kids always like jumping back and forth from one “continent” to another, and the bridge is a simple but pleasant stop. And you even get a black sand beach area below the bridge; the sand was pleasantly warm on this sunny late-July day.

bridge between continents_

That’s all we planned; it’s a very busy day, but there was a whole lot to see. The only downside is that the bridge is the furthest out point of the journey, and then you have to get back home; it’s about the same amount of time to retrace your drive back, or to go up near Keflavik. (But heading toward Keflavik means you see the rest of the planets!)

Oh, I should mention that you can get a certificate that says you crossed the Bridge Between the Continents. The Visitor’s Center in the Saltfish Museum in Grindavik will personalize one for each member of your family, as will Duushus museum in Keflavik. See the certificate here; wait for it to scroll through at the top.

I think the Reykjanes Geopark should be near the top of anyone’s list of must-see attractions in Iceland; I’m not sure why it isn’t. You can see some amazing sights in one day, with less driving than a Golden Circle trip. Maybe it needs a catchy name like the Golden Circle has; any ideas? Giant Geopark?


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Saturday, July 30 update: Reykjanes Geopark, Kleifarvatn Lake, Seltún, Gunnuhver, Bridge between Continents was last modified: January 25th, 2017 by Eric