Gunnuhver, a very active geothermal area in Iceland

Exploring the Reykjanes Peninsula in Iceland

What do you do when you arrive in Iceland at 6 a.m. and feel like heading straight to the Blue Lagoon, only to realize that you still have a few hours until the glorious and relaxing geothermal pool opens? You take a road trip around the Reykjanes Peninsula, of course! You may be wondering why one would want to head straight from the airport to the Blue Lagoon. First of all, the lagoon is practically on the way to Reykjavik from the airport, which is a 30-45 minute drive, so you don’t want to waste precious time driving back and forth if you don’t have to. Second, the Blue Lagoon is the perfect cure for jet lag, and who can argue with that? Inga from Tiny Iceland met us at the airport and showed us some cool spots around the peninusla, and now we are going to share them with you.

So, now that you are convinced you need to be at the lagoon when it opens, you need to know, what exactly is there to do around the peninsula while you wait. At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much around the airport besides otherworldly landscapes, but I was wrong.

We started out driving until we reached a unique stone church, Hvalsneskikja, which was built in 1887. I was surprised to find out how old the church actually is–it doesn’t look like it at all! The church is located in a pretty area with an even older cemetery that dates back to the 1600s.

Hvalsneskikja, Iceland

Next we stopped at a nearby black sand beach called Valahnúkur to watch the waves crash onto the rocky shore.

Valahnúkur Black Sand Beach, Iceland

Eventually we made our way towards the lighthouse, Reykjanesviti, and contemplated walking to the top of the hill. It was a violently windy day, so we decided to skip the climb, but it looked like there were beautiful views from the top.

Reykjanesvit, a lighthouse in Iceland

Along the drive, we saw pretty Icelandic horses and stopped to say hi to them on this windy day.

Icelandic Horses

We also made a pit stop at Gunnuhver, which is a very active geothermal area. Legend has it that this area is haunted by an angry witch and there are information boards detailing the harrowing story.

Gunnuhver, a very active geothermal area in Iceland

There are wooden paths and interesting signs that lead you near many hot mud pots, steam vents and hot springs; the thriving activity of the land was wonderful to see. The amount of steam billowing out of the ground and the vibrant colors makes this a great introduction to the vastly different landscapes of Iceland. Even better was the fact that we had the entire area to ourselves. It may have been due to the weather, but it didn’t seem like the area attracted mass amounts of tourists either, which is nice if you like the quietness of nature without large crowds.

Gunnuhver, a very active geothermal area in Iceland

Gunnuhver, a very active geothermal area in Iceland

Gunnuhver, a very active geothermal area in Iceland

After all this driving around, we were hungry for some breakfast. Beware that if you are arriving on a weekend (and possibly even during the week) there might not be much open. We tried stopping by a couple restaurants in Grindavik with no luck, and ended up waiting a few minutes for the N1 station to open. N1 stations are great for a quick, cheap meal, so keep that in mind for the rest of your stay. After a breakfast of a ham and cheese sandwich, we packed up and drove to the Blue Lagoon. We arrived at the lagoon minutes before they opened, and there was already a line. If you are visiting during high season, I would recommend purchasing your entrance online before you arrive, or pick only a few of the stops along the above route so you can get to the Lagoon early. After checking out the peninsula, you will be soaking in the Blue Lagoon before you know it!