Reykjanes Peninsula Stories and Tips


Reykjanes landscape Photo, Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland

Krýsuvík is an abandoned farming village 50km south of Reykjavík. It was one of the earliest settlements in the country around 900AD. Due to the area's fertility during these days, it soon grew into a large estate and became a well-known agricultural and fishing centre. However a major volcanic eruption in the 12th century destroyed the hamlet in what is known as the "Krýsuvík fires". The village never recovered of this tragedy and the regional centre shifted 20km west to the village of Grindavík, now still an important fishing centre of Iceland.

During the next centuries some dispersed farms were founded in the still fertile area, still locally known as Krýsuvík. One of the greatest volcano eruptions of our times, the 1783 Laki eruption which caused even poisonous gasses to be spread over Europe, proved to be the final blow to the area. The people not killed by the toxic fogs or by the starvation that followed, fled their farmhouses to other places in Iceland or as far away as Canada. Nowadays, the only notable building in the area, located on a hillock right at the crossing of road 427 (west to Grindavík) and road 42 (running north to Reykjavík or east to Selfoss) is a small wooden church called Krýsuvíkurkirkja. The church is now fully restored and its 19th century interior makes it a nice stopover. A ruined fishing village can be reached by a 4WD track from road 427. This track ends at a cliff (Krýsuvíkurbjarg), famous for its many sea birds.

A few km north of the church along road 42 is the Seltún geothermal area, the closest one to Reykjavík. The colourful soil contains bubbling mud pools, foul smelling steam fumaroles and hot sulphurous water springs. The smoke can be seen already from a great distance away. From the car park a boardwalk takes you around the field. Care should be taken not to thread next to it as the earth only forms a thin crust here, which may break once you step on it. An attempt to use the geothermal energy was stopped when an exploratory drilling hole exploded a few years ago, visible as the grey mud from the hole is still covering the surroundings.

10km more north is the geothermally active Kleifarvatn lake. Road 42 offers nice views on the lake as it runs through the nearby hills. A footpath goes down to its shores from the information board. An earthquake in 2000 created a fissure in the soil, and the lake is now draining at a high rate, with 20% of the water already disappeared. The lower water level disclosed hot springs, formerly below its water level.

There are no scheduled buses travelling to Krýsuvík so a (rental) car, a (motor) bike or sturdy hiking boots are necessary to explore the area. For people with little time the area can be combined with a visit to nearby Grindavík and its world-famous Blue Lagoon geothermal spa as a full day trip from Reykjavík.

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