What to see in Reykjavik and Reykjanes
1. Bláa Lónið / The Blue Lagoon (48 km from Reykjavik)
The Blue Lagoon at Svartsengi, Reykjanes, has become one of the most popular attractions in Iceland. It was created by accident when the warm effluent from a local geothermal power plant, expected to disappear into a permeable lava field—obviously didn’t. For some time, it was a well kept-secret of the locals, with its slippery rocky bottoms and thick silica mud. Soon the healing effects of the brine on people suffering from skin problems became evident. Today the lagoon has been turned into a modern spa, a well-designed lagoon with a bathouse, restaurant, hotel and souvenir shop. Relaxing in the warm and steamy lagoon in an other-worldly environment is a captivating experience. The water is rich in salt, silica and various minerals and people from all over the world, including patients with skin ailments, enjoy the relief that it gives their body and soul. The Icelandic authorities recognize the benefits of the water‘s chemical composition and treatments at the lagoon for native patients are covered by their social insurance. Skin care products based on the Blue Lagoon brine can be purchased in shops all over the country.
The country’s biggest outdoor swimming pool is in Laugardalur, centrally situated in Reykjavik. It has excellent hot tubs, slides and jacuzzis. The botanical garden, a farm animal zoo and family entertainment park, an ice skating hall, jogging tracks and more are located in Laugardalur.
3. Videy Island
Viðey Island is a small but significant historical location in the nature reserve of Kollafjörður Inlet, just off the shores of Reykjavik. Its highest point rises 32 m above sea level, and no less than 30 species of breeding birds have been spotted there. Eider ducks and the lesser black-backed gull are the most common ones. Archaeological excavations show that habitation on the island started shortly after the settlement of Iceland in the 10th century. A church was located on the island in the 12th century and in 1225 an Augustinian monastery was consecrated. In 1539, the Reformation reached the island, and the monks fled. In 1751, the island became the seat of the royal treasurer and sheriff Skúli Magnússon, and his residence, the Viðeyjarstofa Mansion, the first building made of stone and cement in Iceland was erected in 1755. The country’s second oldest church—still standing—was built in 1774 and is also located in Viðey. In the 19th century, Iceland’s first printing press was brought to the island, and the country’s first harbor for ocean-going vessels was built on its eastern part at the turn of the 20th century. The importance and prestige of the island declined rapidly in the first half of the 20th century as authorities had moved to Reykjavik and Reykjavik Harbor had taken over. Two hiking trails lead to all the corners of the island starting behind Viðeyjarstofa, which today houses a restaurant. Regular ferry services are offered to the island all year round, as well as regularly organized hikes and side tours. A riding school and a horse rental operate during the summer.
4. Arbær Museum
The Arbær Museum was established in 1957 by the City of Reykjavik. The main aim of this open air museum is to bring into perspective the architecture and lifestyle of Icelanders in the past, as well as registering old houses, relics and antiquities. The number of buildings on the museum grounds is constantly growing, and most of them have been moved there from the old center of Reykjavik. The oldest house, Smiðshús, was built in 1822. There is an old-fashioned sweet shop and a souvenir shop, and demonstrations of long forgotten arts and skills are held throughout the summer. Guided tours can be arranged for groups.
Grindavik is a beautiful Icelandic fishing town on the south coast of the Reykjanes Peninsula. The Blue Lagoon, Grindavik's premiere attraction, is located 5 km from the town center. The Icelandic Saltfish Museum in Grindavik that opened September 6, 2002, tells the story of saltfish production and its importance for the Icelandic economy throughout the centuries in a new specially designed house spanning 650 m2.
Krisuvik is a geothermal field southwest of Kleifarvatn, where blowing steam holes and bubbling mud pools can be viewed at close range.
Near Krisuvik is Kleifarvatn, the only proper lake on Reykjanes Peninsula. It is in barren but beautiful surroundings, where picturesque rock formations adorn the shore . According to legend, a snake-like monster, the size of a whale, inhabits the lake and has been seen from time to time.
Located in Eldborg, near the Blue Lagoon—the waterfalls, columnar basalt and lush vegetation of Gjáin creates a dramatic exhibition of geology and was a filming location for The Game of Thrones.
9. Keflavik Airport
Keflavik Airport is a 45-minute drive from Reykjavik and is easily accessible by taxi or by the FLYBUS that connects the airport with all Fosshotels in Reykjavik.
Hafnarfjordur, called “Town in the Lava” is only a 15-minute drive from Reykjavik. In a tour of the town, you'll find a botanic garden, a lively harbor, museums from art, seamanship to Vikings, horseback riding, whale watching cruises and in December a Christmas Village. Also available are Hidden World Tours through Iceland's largest elf community.
11. Hallgrimskirkja Church Tower
A beautiful site in Reykjavik..
12. Lundey - Puffin Island
North of Viðey is Lundey, a tiny island named after its large population of puffins. It is only possible to see the island as part of a boat cruise and not possible to go ashore. From the boat, you'll have a great view of the cliffs and grassy slopes on the island and the burrows where the puffins live.
Heiðmörk is a popular recreational area as is Raudholar Nature Reserve within it. Since 1950, the more than 4 million trees that have been planted in the Heiðmörk area have been a boon to the already existing vegetation. There are many species of wild birds, especially around Elliðavatn and Myllulækjartjörn. Some archaeological remains have been excavated on Þinganes southwest of Elliðavatn, among them ruins of a site considered to have been a local parliament, or "þing," dating to 900-1200. More ruins have also been discovered, dating from the first half of that period. Blue Mountain and Reykjanes Country Parks adjoin Heiðmork, and together they grant access to a large, very inviting and varied area for outdoors activities such as hiking and horseback riding. In certain designated areas, there's grilling.
The Elliðárdalur Valley, located in the capital, has lovely walking and jogging paths meandering through a tranquilly beautiful environment. Additionally, one of the country’s best salmon rivers runs through it.