The Reykjanes Peninsula
The Reykjanes Peninsula is the first sight of Iceland for most visitors to the country as they arrive by air at Keflavík airport, thrilling with its moon-like terrain, imposing volcanoes, windswept and desolate lava fields, and bright blue mineral lakes.
Most might speed its whole length on Route 41 to reach the bright lights of Reykjavík as soon as possible, but the Reykjanes Peninsula has UNESCO status as a Global Geopark, and there are more than a few good reasons to spend time here too.
Here you can view the massive splits in the Earth’s tectonic plates, stride between two continents, walk amongst bubbling geothermal hot springs and delve deep into the unique geology of this land.
Here too is the iconic Blue Lagoon, the most famous hot pot in the world, which is easily reached by a short detour from the Reykjavík road on Route 43.
The Blue Lagoon is a must-see destination for first-time visitors to Iceland, drawing high numbers daily and requiring advance bookings as a result.
A more peaceful option offering solitude and calm, Garður lies in the other direction on Route 45, right on the furthest edge of the peninsula, signposted by two lovely lighthouses and providing potential whale watching and bird spotting opportunities across Faxafloi Bay.
Driving south on the coastal Route 425 brings you to the Bridge Between Continents, where an unfussy metal footbridge offers you the chance to span the yawning gap between the American and Eurasian tectonic plates.
Further south on the 425 coastal road lies the famous rock pool of Brimketill, where the Atlantic Ocean wildly crashes into black lava cliffs, sending sheets of seawater spray into the air.
The coastal route winds its way past Grindavík into the GeoPark itself, through sweeping turns that dance across stark landscapes towards the Krýsuvík and Seltún geothermal areas and Kleifarvatn, an enormous black sand beach-ringed lake. Nearby, the Krýsuvíkurberg cliffs offer incredible vantage points for birdwatchers.
Most of the routes here are fully paved, but there are some gravel sections and a few routes that are only suitable for 4WD vehicles.
Reykjanes is also a convenient base for adventurous visitors who are keen on taking self-drive trips to the rest of the country, with excellent roads leading quickly towards the wonders of the Golden Circle and the South Coast.