There’s plenty to see in the immediate vicinity of Fagradalsfjall volcano. This part of Reykjanes is littered with fascinating ruins and wrecks, as well as bearing evidence of past eruptions in its lava landscape and geothermal properties in its steaming vents. If you’re in the area and you plan to explore, here are our recommendations for the top five attractions around Fagradalsfjall volcano.
Blue Lagoon Spa
Blue Lagoon Spa is only a fifteen minute drive and 8 miles by road from the car park at Fagradalsfjall. If you’ve hiked up the ridge trails to take a closer look at the volcano, your aching quads and strained calf muscles will thank you for tacking on a spa session after you return to your car. Before long you’ll be shrugging off your dusty clothes and easing yourself into the warm, milky waters of this popular geothermal bath. Slap a restorative silica mud mask onto your face and wade across to the bar to get yourself a drink. Settle back and relax, letting your mind wander to that incredible volcanic scenery you’ve just witnessed.
Krísuvíkurberg cliffs (Krísuvíkurbjarg)
Krísuvíkurberg’s cliffs aren’t especially high, but they are impressively wide, stretching for more than three miles along the southern coast beside Reykjanes. The many visible strata in the cliff face represent separate layers of lava, each with their own subtle differences in colouring. In summer, they provide a home for tens of thousands of migratory birds, including fulmar, guillemots, razorbills, peewits and kittiwakes. Because of this, this remote spot attracts many birdwatchers armed with binoculars and long lenses. In the 17th century, this was also a place where Turkish invaders tried to come ashore, on what’s known as Ræningjastígur, or the Bandits’ Path.
If you were in any doubt about the power of the waves that batter Reykjanes, you only need to take a stroll along the Hópsnes peninsula. This part of the area is littered with shipwrecks, a powerful reminder of how dangerous this stretch of coastline has been for fishermen and their boats in rough seas. There are information boards beside the derelict vessels which outline the events which caused them to founder. The Hrafn Sveinbjarnarson III, for instance, came a cropper on the rocks in February 1988; fortunately all of the eleven crew members were airlifted to safety by helicopter. Even with today’s technology, this part of Iceland is a force to be reckoned with.
The ruins of Selatangar
Fishing has long been important to the people of Reykjanes. In the past, it was a vital source of protein in their diet and a useful commodity to trade with those who sailed to the country from mainland Europe. There were once well over a hundred fishing stations along Iceland’s coast, but almost no traces of them remain. They’d have functioned as a temporary settlement during the spring – by summer, everyone was needed to work on the farm and bring in the harvest. Selatangar was one such place until it was abandoned in the 1880s. It’s now a ruin and only the foundations of those huts remain to give us an idea of what those places might have been like. Imagine how tough it would have been and count your blessings you don’t have to live or work in such conditions.
This coastal spot is well worth a closer look. Located within the Reykjanes UNESCO Global Geopark, a quarter of an hour by car along the 427 adjacent to Selatangar, this lava field is quite unusual in that it is circular. During a volcanic eruption around 2000 years ago, lava flowed down to the sea. When the hot molten rock met the cold Atlantic Ocean waves, it solidified into a barrier. Lava backed up in a pool behind this blockage and spread out to form the shape you still see all these centuries later. Trapped gases had to force their way out, creating a lava chimney. Take a hike and marvel at the wonders of nature.
This breathtaking lake is Reykjanes’ largest, covering more than three square miles in area. Nevertheless, an earthquake a couple of decades ago drained it of about a fifth of its water, creating some hot springs in the process. Icelandic author Arnaldur Indriðason was so inspired by the event he used it as a plot device in a novel; as the water level fell, a body was revealed. Kleifarvatn is still one of the country’s deepest lakes, measuring 97 metres at its deepest point. Unusually, it is not fed by rivers – if you were to walk all around its perimeter you’d see that there is no visible water coming in or going out. Instead, the water comes from underground.