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.
The Reykjavik Harbour Area is very much at the heart of the city and indeed the oldest archeological remains of a farm in Iceland have been found right between the harbour and Tjörnin (The Pond). You could say that the city more or less grew from the harbour here where the first viking ships landed over 1100 years ago. For years the area served freight ships and fishing boats alike. This is also where both Winston Churchill and the first Beatles album came ashore.
In recent years the area has undergone a major facelift and what used to be the old shipyard and fishermen´s storage is now home to hipster cafés and fusion restaurants, designer shops and software companies. Even the shipyards offices and working area have been turned into an Icelandair hotel The Marina.
Reykjavík Harbour is a stone´s throw from the main shopping streets and pretty much qualifies as the city centre. Numerous tours can be pre-booked from there, and few classic day tours can be taken from here, whether you want to do The Golden Circle or visit The Blue Lagoon, it can be easily arranged from this location. Reykjavík Harbour is only 45 minutes from the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa and roughly the same distance from Thingvellir National Park and Rift Valley the start of the Golden Circle that also includes Gullfoss Waterfall and the geothermal area at Geysir. But the area around the harbour is also a great place to start with. Whale watching tours leave from here throughout the year and Harpa Concert Hall is right on the edge of the water. Some of the best bars and restaurants in the downtown area are also situated around here and it is well worth going on Tripadvisor just to see what´s going on since Iceland and Reykjavík in particular are right in the midst of a culinary revolution. Check out some of the seafood available as well as the local organic lamb, or find a seedy dive to disappear into for a few hours and see if the Northern Lights grace you with their presence when you stumble back out. Remember also that geothermal heat and hot springs are plentiful in Iceland, so every swimming pool in Reykjavík is in fact geothermal, they are well appreciated by the locals and can be recommended for their cleanliness, jacuzzis and steam baths.
It is widely accepted that Reykjavík has morphed from being basically a fishing village on the cold shores of the North Atlantic into being a modern city and a hot destination offering its own slightly eccentric but cosmopolitan charm at the same time.
Port of Reykjavík receives a growing number of cruise ships every year as well as just getting more popular in general. So, whether you are stopping by for a day, doing a 24 hour layover or spending more time, it is a smart idea to check your interests and options and book ahead.
A private tour of reykjanes peninsula is a great option for passengers coming to Iceland on Cruise ships, docking at Reykjavik Port. Traveling out to where the old Keflavik Airbase is situated among the lava fields, checking out some boiling hot springs and aspects of the mid Atlantic ridge splitting the earth´s crust into the North American and the Eurasian tectonic plates.
Kleifarvatn Lake is out on the peninsula a short distance from Reykjavik and has drained almost 20% since a 2000 earthquake changed something underground but it still is among the deepest lakes in Iceland. Close by is the Seltún geothermal area with an unmistakable cloud of sulfuric steam, quite harmless but stays in your nostrils for awhile.
The tour also takes you through the lava fields created by eruptions in the past and there is plenty of geothermal areas with boiling hot springs and steaming mud pots reminding us that we are right on the mid Atlantic ridge. All the way out on the tip of the peninsula next to the Keflavik International Airport there is the old naval air station Keflavik where thousands of US troops were stationed during the cold war and was strategically considered extremely important for the North Atlantic.
Close to the airport is the Bridge Between Continents built as a symbol of the connection between east and west right across one of the fissures caused by the continental drift. There is also massive hot spring here Gunnuhver said to be the home of a ferocious lady ghost and it is situated in a scenic spot right next to Reykjanesviti Light House.
The most famous attraction in Reykjanes would have to be The Blue Lagoon though, a geothermal spa in the middle of a vast 700 year old lava field and a major highlight for anyone visiting Iceland. In a large geothermal field the hot water or earth sea constantly flows through and completely renews itself over a period of 36 hours. The Blue lagoon offers various treatments as well as just soaking the healing waters with a silica mud mask that is said to make you look ten years younger, and is also the home of Lava restaurant and Moss restaurant
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