The Reykjanes Peninsula is located in the south-western corner of Iceland and is home to Keflavik International Airport and The Blue Lagoon. The peninsula is right on the Mid Atlantic Ridge and in fact The Bridge Between Continents was built out on the edge of it as a symbol of the connection between North America and Europe. This is where the tectonic plates are slowly drifting apart and the area has gone through serious volcanic activity in the past leaving rugged lava fields and steaming hot springs all over. Some of the landscape here looks like straight out of a sci-fi story. When the first astronauts were going to the moon NASA decided to send them here to practice and test equipment . Also some of the films that have been shot in Iceland have used this area as a backdrop for a different planet or some post apocalyptic world.
Keflavik International Airport is situated out on the tip of Reykjanes and was built by the US Air Force during WW2 and the airbase here was operational until 2006 and there is in fact recent talk that it might reopen. The airport has been growing rapidly in the last few years and it is conveniently situated only 45 minutes drive from Reykjavik City. There are quite a few scenic spots here and Lake Kleifarvatn is the largest lake on the Reykjanes peninsula, only a short drive from Reykjavik, and a few minutes from there is Grænavatn Lake as well as the geothermal area Seltún. The steaming vents of this geothermal field smell strongly of the sulfur deposits found all around and in fact due to the geothermal activity which is of course a result of the volcanic activity underground.
The Blue Lagoon is out on the peninsula and is probably the most visited destination in Iceland and for a good reason. The geothermal spa has an earth sea flowing through filled with white silica mud which has been proven to have restorative and healing properties for human skin. Various treatments are also available at The Blue Lagoon depending on what you are interested in and to which level you want to take your visit. The Lava Restaurant and The Moss restaurant are both top end restaurants and cater to individuals and groups alike. The surroundings of The Blue Lagoon are also amazing as they decided to leave a large portion of the 700 year old lava field around it undisturbed and let it become a part of the award winning design of the place.
The Reykjanes Peninsula is also an area frequently used for Northern Lights Tours. The lights occur around a 100 km above ground so a tour is all about finding a clear sky in a dark place and then wait and hope. There are a few good places out here but in order to be on the safe side it is a good idea to travel with experienced drivers and guides which know the good places and understand both the cloud forecast as well as the activity forecast.
Þingvellir National Park is a true natural gem and one of the most visited destinations in Iceland. Known for its breathtaking landscape, geological curiosities and important part in Iceland's history. Usually taken as the first or last stop on the classic Golden Circle.
This is where the tectonic plate boundaries can be clearly seen. The North American plate and The Eurasian plate are drifting apart about 2-3 cm per year and the continental crust is about as thin as it gets. Most of the rest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is below sea level where the volcanoes rise from the Atlantic ocean floor. Here, however, the skyline is jagged with volcanoes and craters and the earth's surface is torn apart by the movement of the tectonics. Some of those fissures are quite wide and water runs through them towards Thingvallavatn Lake, one of the biggest lakes in Iceland and home to the local arctic char. The source of the water is mostly Langjökull Glacier to the north-east and it takes around thirty years for the water to seep through the lava and then emerge crystal clear. The water in Silfra fissure is a popular dive site famous for the absolute clarity of its waters. An amazing experience despite the cold, just make sure you are wearing a dry suit. There's also a theory stating that right here between the two major plates is a minor plate or a piece that has broken off and that is the reason for how many volcanoes can be found in the area.
This is also where the vikings formed their national council here in 930 and thus created the oldest ongoing parliament in the world. This was based on a tribal system which was common in scandinavia and northern Europe at the time, but evolved separately in Iceland and is referred to as Althingi. Thingvellir actually means The Fields of the Parliament. This is were most major decisions in the history of Iceland have been taken from the decision to become a christian nation in 1000 ad up until the declaration of independence from Denmark in 1944. Also, one of Iceland ́s foremost painters in the 20th century Mr. Johannes Kjarval turned the combination of lava, moss and birch into his own school of abstract painting greatly admired and loved both domestically and abroad.
In recent years the area has entered popular culture as the backdrop for some scenes in the very successful TV series Game of Thrones. And right where we usually stop at Hakid might be where some of the inspiration for the look of the great wall in the series comes from.
The Northern Lights are an amazing phenomenon which can be experienced in Iceland and other countries around the polar regions. A northern lights tour in Iceland is all about finding a clear sky away from any so-called electric light pollution and hoping for auroral displays. The lights are caused by geomagnetic storms caused by solar winds from sunspot activity on the surface of the sun. The aurora belt is like a giant rubber band in the upper atmosphere around the magnetic poles of the earth's magnetic field. The southern lights occur around the south pole and are named aurora australis and the northern lights occur around the north pole and are called the aurora australis. They are more commonly seen for geographical reasons in the northern hemisphere. The amount of activity is dictated by a solar cycle of eleven years but the fact is that with a little luck there is a good chance viewing the aurora can be done at some point during any given winter night in Iceland. They are of course blocked out by the midnight sun during the summer.
The Northern Lights feature strongly in myths and folklore around the polar regions. They were believed to be the weapons of the gods in parts of Siberia, vikings believed them to be the paths of the valkyries bringing the dead to Valhalla after battles and in Greenland and northern Canada they were believed to be the souls of dead hunters.
Doing this private tour by super jeep also gives added flexibility in case of cloudy skies or other tricky weather conditions.