In a 100 percent classic trip to Iceland, you will most likely just see the Reykjanes peninsula from a bus on your way from Keflavik International Airport to Reykjavík. This peninsula is full of surprises. Some are quite famous, some are less. This is my first article about Reykjanes, today, I will focus on the northern part of the peninsula.
Reykjanes peninsula is located in the south west of Iceland, just south of Reykjavík. It is a volcanic piece of land scattered with lava fields and small mountains. For a very long time it has been kind of ignored by tour operators and actors of tourism industry, but it is getting more and more popular. Why is that? Well, the first reason is that it is full of wonders, different landscapes and colors, museums, hiking trails, a ski resort, nice and charming villages, shipwrecks just to name a few. The second reason is that it is conveniently close to Reykjavík and the Keflavík International Airport is located on the peninsula. Therefore, if one has a hotel booked in the capital and a rental car, he can easily have 3 or 4 different day trips, each time visiting another area of Reykjanes peninsula.
Today I will not speak about all my favorite places in the peninsula. It would be too much at once and I am pretty sure nobody would read the article until the end! So today I will give information about the northern part of Reykjanes only, and you will also discover that Keflavík is more than just an international airport. I will write more articles about Reykjanes in the future.
This guide is completely subjective, I will basically just list the places that I like or that I would like to visit relying on my very own tastes and preferences. Although, I will not forget to give a few hints about opportunities to do other activities.
For anyone who has been to Vogar before, it would seem odd to find it in a guide of places to see in Reykjanes. For sure, it is peaceful. For sure, it is quiet. And for sure, at first glance, you could wonder what the hell you are doing there. Well, it is certainly not for everybody’s tastes, but here is why I like it.
The first thing is that I love fishing, especially sea fishing, and Vogar is an awesome and very popular spot for this. If you are into it, aim to the harbor, you just need to drive straight ahead from the main entrance of the town. There, you will find a nice tiny pier and most likely already one or two fishermen (rarely more).
The spot is nice because of the view on some the green hills diving into the ocean. This is also often a nice place to do some bird watching (the seagulls there are the biggest I have ever seen) and once I even had the chance to spot a seal coming close to the shore and staring at me. If you are into planes, depending on the winds, you sometimes get to see them taking off and landing in Keflavík International airport, right above your head. So, if you are not overly enthusiastic about fishing or if you are traveling with someone who is not, this is still a quiet and beautiful, yet simple, town by the sea to rest for a few minutes and enjoy whatever snacks you have in your car.
The other thing I would like to mention about Vogar might be more of your concern if you are on your way back to Reykjavík. If I had a “top ten sunsets of my lifetime” the one I have seen in Vogar would get a very decent place in it. Whether I looked toward the land and the mount Keilir (one of the most noticeable landmark of the Reykjanes peninsula) or climbed on the wave breaker to stare at the ocean, there were the most intense pinks and purples I have ever seen in the sky. I cannot tell if it was a coincidence or not, but, if you are driving by before dusk, I recommend you give it a try.
Please read carefully at the end of this article the rules about fishing in Iceland.
In Vogar you can mainly get pollock and different kinds of flat fishes. Occasionally, you will catch a cod, sometimes even big ones.
If you are using baits, I recommend you to fish on the right side of the pier (when you are heading toward the tip of it) and do not cast too far; you might get your line stuck.
Depth is approximately 0 to 2 meters (0 to 6.6 feet).
If you are using spoons or lures just cast straight in front of you from the tip of the pier.
Depth is approximately 2 to 5 meters (6.6 to 16.4 feet).
There is a very interesting museum located just east of Keflavík, in Njarðvík. It is a maritime town which is mainly worth the stop for its museum: the Viking world museum. As you can guess by its name this is a museum about Vikings’ history.
I was first kind of doubtful about it, thinking it could be a typical tourist bait. Based on what I heard about it around me and the reviews I read, I have completely changed my mind, and I am now really looking forward to visiting it.
Here are the most important things to know about it:
The drive from Reykjavík to there is around 40 minutes, 44,3 km (27.5 miles).
The museum consists in four exhibitions: THE ICELANDER – Viking ship, THE VIKINGS OF THE NORTH ATLANTIC, THE SETTLEMENT OF ICELAND, FATE OF THE GODS.
As mentioned before, I did not visit it myself, but I understood that this museum is a very nice family activity, so do not hesitate to go with your children.
Information about opening times and prices at the end of this article.
If you did not arrive in Iceland by boat in Seyðisfjörður, crashed your spaceship in the middle of a lava field or survived a week long fight with a starving polar bear on an iceberg floating from Greenland to the Icelandic coasts … Then you probably landed in Keflavík International Airport. If indeed you crashed a spaceship or fought a polar bear on an iceberg, please, contact me and tell me your story. Drinks are on me.
But Keflavík has much more to offer. The first time I went there, it was because a fisherman in Vogar told me about a very nice fishing spot there, so I wanted to check it out. I discovered a city completely built on the sea shore along cliffs. Many, many, tiny cliffs. Do not hesitate to venture on the rocks if they are dry, but if they are even slightly wet, take extra caution. They become extremely slippery very fast. From there you will get a nice view on the ocean, the mount Keilir and if the weather is clear enough, you can even see Reykjavík. Also, of course, it is a great place to stare at planes landing and taking off.
I can also add that it is another place I once had the chance to get the visit of a seal. But more impressive, I once saw a whale swimming very close to the shore. Even during some whale watching boat experiences, I never saw a whale that close. I have no idea if it is a common thing or not to see them so close, but hey, if you are around, it is worth a try. Here is an article from Travelade about the best spots to see whales from land.
From there, if you head to your left (when facing the ocean), you will see a small harbor. There you can book some whale watching tours or rent a fishing rod and try to catch your dinner. A bit after the harbor there is “the giantess cave”. It is a cave into the cliff in which a giantess is imprisoned; I will let you discover the story behind it on your own. There is also her bed and a few other decorations. It is certainly not the main attraction of Reykjanes or even of Keflavík, but I have been there with a five years old kid who enjoyed it a lot. So if you have the feeling you have done a bit too much of adults activities and sightseeing, you can take your children there.
On the left of the entrance of the cave, there is a walking path. I recommend you to take it; you will go up the cliffs that you could spot from the city. In summertime the path is full of beautiful blossoming lupines. There are a few wooden benches on which I would recommend you to have a picnic (unless you are adventurous enough to go further down on the rocks by the sea). From there you can gaze at a wonderful panorama on the whole northern part of the Reykjanes peninsula, watch the ongoing dance of the fishing boats roaming the bay, and spot some whales if you are lucky. If you are a morning person, I even recommend you to forget about the picnic and head there for breakfast to enjoy the sunrise. I did it a few times, it is just magical.
As mentioned earlier, my first visit in Keflavík occurred because of a fisherman in Vogar who gave me information about a good fishing spot. If you were reading the article hoping to learn about it, well, I am sorry, but I love the quietness of the place so much that I forgot to mention it on purpose. Still, to be fair, I squeezed a few hints about it here and there in this article. It means that I actually did mention it at some point; I just avoided making it crystal clear. If you are the guy from the spaceship or the iceberg, I will be happy to share the GPS coordinates with you right away.
Garður is located a few kilometers before Keflavík International Airport. Therefore, you can visit it either during a day trip on Reykjanes from Reykjavík or spending the last few hours of your vacations before dropping off your rental car at the airport.
You will notice the main landmark of Garður already on the sign by the road tempting you to go there. It is a square based small lighthouse. It is white with two red stripes. The shape and the colors of it make it pretty noticeable. The town will also grant you with nice beaches to take short walks on, while getting the fresh air and the smell of the ocean.
After wandering on the beaches for barely a few meters, you will immediately notice a much bigger, yet more traditional other lighthouse , with an out of service boat at its feet. There is a hotel restaurant just nearby, you can ask there to either visit the folk and maritime museum that is inside the hotel or get an access to the top of the lighthouse. This hotel restaurant is also the best place in town to get a coffee, with a terrace giving you a huge panorama on the ocean.
There is much more to say and to do in Reykjanes. This is why I already know I will write other articles about this gorgeous peninsula in a close future. Everything I described here implied that visitor is autonomous and ideally has a car. If you need some organized tours, I recommend you to see what we, at Travelade, can propose you.
Fishing in Iceland, rules and regulations:
In this article I just gave recommendations about sea fishing specifically. To fish in the sea, you do not need any specific license and there are no restrictions about time or seasons. Obviously, this is only true if you are casually fishing with a rod. If you are on boat using a net, you will surely need a license, and probably a professional registration.
If you want to fish in lakes, you must get a fishing license: Veiðikortið. It cost a bit less than 8 000Kr and gives you access to 34 lakes in Iceland. You will then have to respect seasons, and times of the day you are allowed to fish. All those information are displayed on the website of Veiðikortið, also in the leaflet you will be given you when you buy the license.
Fishing into rivers is more delicate, they are different licenses for the different rivers. And there is no such thing as a website selling all the different licenses, not to my knowledge at least. So I recommend you to investigate properly prior your trip.
If you bring your own equipment, it must be sanitized accordingly to a specific procedure. The easiest way iis to just hand your gears to customs upon arrival, they will take care of it in 15 to 20 minutes for a price around 39€ (45 USD). Iceland has a very delicate ecosystem and well protected environment, therefore, one must not put foreign bacteria and micro-organisms in the clear Icelandic waters.
Viking world museum:
Opening times: Monday to Sunday from 7am to 6pm
Prices: Adult: 1500 Kr, Student: 1300 Kr, Children under 14: Free
There is a 10% discount if you book online.
This one is free
Garður folk museum and lighthouse:
Those were open only on demand when I was there. If it is regular business hours, just pop in the hotel and ask for it.
The best travel recommendations come from locals. Check out these Wanderguides from Iceland by locals sharing their travel tips and hidden gems.