Kleifarvatn is the largest lake on the Reykjanes Peninsula close to the geothermal mud pools at Seltún. The lake used to be around 10 km2 but in the aftermath of an earthquake in 2000 the water level it shrunk to around 8 km2. The visible surface drainage exposed a few boxes which were later identified as cold war era spy equipment and Icelandic author Arnaldur Indriðason used this event as inspiration for one of his crime novels. The lake has long been shrouded in some mystery, it is pretty deep, 97m (318 feet) maximum depth and neither the water supply nor the outlet is visible, even after it became known as “the draining lake”.
Close to the lake there is the geothermal area Seltún and since there is a lot of geothermal activity in the area there are numerous hot springs here and mud pots bubbling away. In the many lava fields which stretch out on the Reykjanes Peninsula, although there has not been an eruption here for 700 years, there are various geothermal fields. The Blue Lagoon water supply is geothermal earth-sea which produces silica mud known to have restorative properties for human skin. All visitors to Iceland should consider visiting The Blue Lagoon and Kleifarvatn is only 30 minutes drive from there. Keflavik International Airport is also close to the Bridge Between Continents and out here on the peninsula there are many good spots to wait for the northern lights should they appear on your chosen winter night in Iceland.
Kleifarvatn has arctic char thriving in it which was released in the 60´s and has done quite well making the lake a destination for fishermen. Divers also come here to snorkel in the lake exploring the volcanic bottom.
Kleifarvatn is a short drive from Reykjavík and offers lovely little piece of amazing landscape which despite being so close to the city makes you feel you are somewhere out in the wilderness. With a little bit of imagination it is easy to start your own adventure here and wait for the ripples on the water to become the head of some prehistoric monster rising once again from a deep slumber, or wonder from behind which mountain the orc hordes will come running to attack the monster. Or maybe just take a moment and find yourself stranded on a different planet waiting for the next spaceship to break the clouds wondering whether the alien crew will be friendly enough to give you a ride back to the nearest space station.
The Krýsuvík area has a few geothermal fields which have solfataras and fumaroles scattered around them and these hot springs also have sulphur deposits which were mined in the past. Out on the reykjanes peninsula it is impossible not to be aware you are right on the mid Atlantic ridge since there signs of volcanic activity everywhere. Coming in to Keflavik International Airport the first thing to notice is the barren rugged lava fields drifting into the North Atlantic and the steam rise from the various geothermal areas including the world famous Blue Lagoon. The lava fields are of course the result of numerous eruptions occurring in the past and sometimes you can guess their age by the amount of vegetation growing on them. It takes a hundred years for one inch of moss to grow on lava so it is perhaps no wonder that these fields are quite stripped of vegetation. The fact is that even if there has not been an eruption here for around 700 years there are still plenty of earthquakes, and the fact that Reykjanes peninsula basically stretches out into the North Atlantic makes up for some rather harsh albeit periodical weather conditions.
Next to Krýsuvík is Lake Kleifarvatn which is the largest lake on the Reykjanes Peninsula around 8 km2. After an earthquake in 2000 the lake actually shrunk by almost 2 km2 and the theory is that some fissures must have opened up on the bottom absorbing water and causing this drainage. Some equipment was found on the exposed bottom of the lake which was later identified as instruments for spying of probably Soviet origin. This in turn inspired icelandic crime writer Arnaldur Indriðason to write the novel Kleifarvatn (The Draining Lake).
A little further down the road is Grænavatn Lake which formed in one of a few explosion craters formed by volcanic eruptions in the distant past, the lake has a vivid deep green colour. The lakes and the hot springs of Krýsuvík also referred to as Seltún are all within a few minutes drive of each other and are basically between Reykjavík and Keflavik International Airport. This means that going through this area can easily be combined with an airport transfer or a visit to The Blue Lagoon which is less than half an hour from here.
This area is also popular for northern lights tours since it is close to Reykjavík but has no electrical light pollution to speak of, so on a clear night this a good area to wait for aurora activity to appear high in the sky. The area also feels like a different planet so if you are planning to shoot your little sci-fi fantasy in Iceland this would be a definitive location to scout.
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.
Reykjavík is the capital of Iceland, the world´s northernmost capital and around two-thirds of the total population of the country live in and around the city. The oldest archeological remains of a permanent settlement in Iceland are right in the city center dating back to 874 and believed to be that of Ingólfur Arnarson the founder of Reykjavík according to the sagas. Reykjavík really just became a city during the 20th century. In 1900 only about 6000 people were living in reykjavík at the time. During WW2 the city grew significantly and during the war the allied forces built many roads as well as the domestic airport, and the international airport, as well as setting up their headquarters and army barracks. The second half of the 20th century was pretty quiet but included highlights such as the world championship in chess in 1972 when Bobby Fischer became world champion. In 1986 the world cast its eye towards Iceland when then USA President Ronald Reagan and USSR General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev met for a summit in Reykjavik which is considered an important stepping stone towards the end of the cold war and disarmament. But apart from WW2 Reykjavik has been a pretty cool little place, a breeding ground for artists and infamous for a colourful nightlife.
Reykjavik City has become a hip destination lately for people seeking northern lights, music festivals and the new Icelandic fusion cuisine. A number of amazing day tours can be taken from the city that are back before happy hour and give you plenty of time to relax in one of the geothermal swimming pools and check out what is going on at the Harpa Concert Hall. In summertime the Secret Solstice music festival is a major event, so is Culture Night and Gay Pride weekend. In winter there are the Iceland Airwaves and Sonar music festivals both drawing international crowds. Although Reykjavik is the northernmost capital in the world, thanks to the hot springs and geothermal heat it quite warm on the inside and 90% of all homes in Iceland are geothermally heated. So, only green energy for this capital city on the shores of Faxaflói (Smoky Bay) guarded by the great Mount Esja.
There are many ways to experience Reykjavik. Whether you go by foot or get someone to give you a little road trip around the city make sure you get in a few highlights. Perlan observation deck, Hallgrimskirkja lutheran church, Harpa Concert Hall, City Hall and The Pond (Tjörnin) are all well worth checking out. Make sure you find out where there is free entry and were you need to pay. Getting a private driver to take you around is really the best way to get everything in make sure you get a proper introduction.
The Reykjanes Peninsula on the South West corner of Iceland where both Keflavik International Airport and The Blue Lagoon are situated is slightly less explored than many other areas around Reykjavik but is an absolute gem. A private tour around the peninsula allows you to discover many of its hidden treasures such as the boiling mud pools at the Seltún geothermal field, the Bridge Between Continents and Lake Kleifarvatn. Reykjanes peninsula is a UNESCO Global Geopark.
The extraterrestrial landscape of the area was forged during periods of volcanic activity in the past creating some unique geological features giving a very distinct feeling of being in a different world. The Mid Atlantic Ridge runs along the length of the Atlantic ocean right between Europe and North America and rises above sea level right here. Going out to Reykjanesviti Lighthouse you can see the lava emerging from the surf and it is easy to imagine the ocean floor beneath the waves looking pretty much the same ravaged by the movement of the plates tectonic. The ridge system can be traced here along the low mountain range and long fissures cutting through the landscape, as well as craters that can be found scattered in the lava, fortunately there have not been any eruptions here for over 700 years. There are a few geothermal areas on the peninsula as well as geothermal power plant where there is a lot of research being done on the possibilities of harnessing and the distribution of geothermal energy. Out here we can also find the Bridge Between Continents a bridge built as a symbol for the connection between Europe and America.
The largest lake on the Reykjanes peninsula hidden between the mountains not far from the outskirts of Reykjavík known for its natural beauty. Around 8km2 and almost a 100m deep. After a series of earthquakes in 2000 the lake lost almost 20% of its surface and still seems to be losing volume although at a very slow rate. In 2000, as the lake shrunk some curious boxes appeared on the exposed lakebed, their content was later identified as Russian spying equipment dating back to the cold war.
Seltún Geothermal Field
The natural geothermal mud pools boiling in the hillside just off Kleifarvatn have pretty strong smell of sulphur and people in the past were of the opinion that this was some sort of a gateway to Hell. The surrounding ground has a light colour which is a strong contrast to the dark lava fields just a little further on and the mud in the pools is mostly a greyish mixture of clay and geothermal water slowly bubbling away.
The Bridge Between Continents
You could pick a few spots and say you are right in the middle between the two tectonic plates and given that any of those would still be just a fraction of colossal phenomenon this one is as good as any plus it has a fantastic view. The fissure which the bridge lies across is in the middle of great lava flow with a view of a series of small craters. Out to sea lies Eldey Island, which has one of the largest concentrations of Northern Gannets in the world and was the last known home of the now extinct Great Auk.
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