“Is it just the six of us?” asks one of the four Americans that steps into the minibus where I’m sitting comfortably next to our guide, Árni Tryggvason, with lots of leg room. The traveller seemed to be surprised by the smallness of the group traveling to the Reykjanes Peninsula but in the same time relieved.
It was indeed just the six of us in a cozy Saga Travel minibus making the atmosphere intimate and relaxing as we headed to the Blue Lagoon, one of Iceland’s most sought after tourist attraction. You see, we started our trip at the geothermal spa which usually is the end-point in this tour, Blue Lagoon and Volcanic Wonders. But because we had some time on our hands (it pays off to be punctual), our guide decided to give us a little bonus and took us to Bessastaðir, where the president of Iceland lives and on a little drive through Hafnarfjörður, the Town of Elves. And just in the first minutes of the tour I realized that there wasn’t a question Árni couldn’t answer. What a guide!
Then we were off to the Blue Lagoon and got to soak up the magic of this one of the wonders of the world. Even though the place is full of people you never feel crowded. I thought that maybe I would feel a bit drowsy after soaking in the geothermal paradise but instead I felt rejuvenated and ready to take on the rest of the peninsula.
As we started our journey to the Reykjanes Lighthouse we were greeted with too many rainbows to count – a real premonition of what was in store.
When we got nearer to the lighthouse the surroundings were more reminiscent of the moon than a place that people actually call home. Such magnificent nature is hard to find on this planet and it was pure joy just to sit in silence, look out the window and imagine how this lava, which is hundreds of years old, flooded over the fields in all it’s magnificence. At this point I was so thankful for our wonderful guide because he knew when to give us interesting knowledge about everything and anything but he also knew when to keep quiet and just let us enjoy the ride.
But nothing could prepare me for the marvel that is Reykjanes Lighthouse. I fully understand now what it means when something is breathtakingly beautiful because this area left me breathless and totally lost for words. I recommend taking the steep climb to the hill where the lighthouse once stood if your legs can take it. The view is absolutely mesmerizing and on a good day you can see all the way to Eldey island. Just be careful to watch your step so you don’t fall off the steep cliffs when admiring this captivating scenery.
Our next stop was the boiling mud pools of Gunnuhver. I only have one word for that: Wow! Such power! Such overwhelming power! If you really want to feel utterly powerless to nature I urge you to visit Gunnuhver. You can really feel the ghost of Gunna and how angry she is about her murder which happens some odd 400 years ago. Again, watch your step! There is a reason why Reykjanes peninsula is filled with warning signs. The nature is out of this world but this area also carries with it a great amount of danger and mystique. I guess that mixture of peril and occult is the reason why this part of Iceland is so fascinating.
Before heading back to Reykjavík we stopped at the nearby town Grindavík and enjoyed some well deserved coffee and pönnukökur at local coffee shop Bryggjan. Pönnukökur is one of Iceland’s pride and joy and you can hardly find a grandmother in the land that isn’t an expert in the delicacy. Pönnukökur means pancakes but these are more like the French crepes than the American pancakes. You either stuff them only with sugar or really have a treat with whipped cream and jam in the middle. Utterly irresistible.
We also took a scenic route by Grindavík’s coastline where we drove past ships that had stranded in the old harbor. In olden days the Grindavík harbor was one of the most dangerous harbors in the country and these ship wrecks tell a sad and powerful story.
Our last stops were Grænavatn and Seltún. Grænavatn, or green lake, is really a place to stop at. Explosion craters that probably are over 6000 years old and have formed a beautiful, enchanting geothermal lake that is hard to see from the road. Please step out of the car at Grænavatn and just breath in the geothermal smell, that after this trip becomes more delightful than foul, and admire this nature surprise in the middle of nowhere.
But don’t forget about Seltún which is one of the most beautiful places on the peninsula in my opinion. It’s a high temperature geothermal area which showcases such an array of colors that your mind boggles over the power of nature. And if you’re a Björk fan you can see where she gets her inspiration – both in her art and wardrobe. You can especially see Seltún’s influences in the art for her studio album Biophilia.
When it was time to head back to Reykjavík I couldn’t believe that I had shared this minibus with 5 other people for eight hours. It had gone by way too fast and my senses were so filled with new experiences that I was greedy for more wonders. More breathtakingly beautiful moments. I can’t wait to hop on the next trip at Saga Travel. And hopefully I will get the pleasure to travel with Árni the guide again. But if I don’t, I dare you to ask him any question about Iceland you can think of. I guarantee he will answer every single one of them.
I also urge you to take a trip around the Reykjanes Peninsula. It certainly is a trip you won’t forget and the tour is so intimate and comfortable that time just flies by.
Lilja Katrín Gunnarsdóttir is a journalist, owner of baking blog Blaka and an actress. We invited her on our Blue Lagoon and Volcanic Wonders tour and asked her to share her experience with our guests.