We spent an enjoyable hour or so exploring the rugged coastline and taking in the atmosphere of the place. Walking up to a highpoint, we could observe the screeching Kittiwakes nesting on the cliff faces below us, and we could see the little soft puffs of chicks periodically poke their heads out from underneath their parents.
Sea Stack, Reykjanes Coast
On our way back from the coastline, we stopped briefly at one of the effluent pools of the Reykjanes geothermal power plant. It was interesting for its color - an unnatural-looking bright pale blue color. This color comes from the silica particles that are dissolved into the geothermally-heated water - water that is extracted from the Earth's depths by the plant's boreholes.
Reykjanesviti and Gunnuhver
Moving on with our tour of the Reykjanes peninsula, we drove through the fishing port of Grindavík. Although this was our first glimpse of an Icelandic town, we didn't stop here, other than to visit with some hardy-looking Icelandic horses on the outskirts of town. Icelandic horses, in case you didn't know, are a distinct breed that have changed little since Viking times, and strict laws exist to keep the breed pure.
After horse-visiting, we continued east, now following the southern coast of the Reykjanes peninsula. There was some attractive but desolate scenery as we wound our way through more rugged volcanic hills. My guidebook described this road as 'unsurfaced', but this appeared not to be the case - it was smooth and paved. Evidence of infrastructure improvements - good to see that Iceland is not all doom and gloom after their recent financial apocalypse.
Rough-looking farm buildings
Turning north on regional highway 42, we soon came to another region of geothermal activity - a place called Krýsuvík. The nature of this geothermal field is a bit different than at Gunnuhver; there are more in the way of deep, soupy bubbling pots here, filled with grey clay-like mud. Also, the site is set into a hillside, and we could look up and see more steaming vents high on the slopes above. There were a number of walkways and trails here, and we got out and poked around for a few minutes before continuing on.
Krýsuvík had two more points of interest, both of which we skipped: the first is a hidden-away bathable hot spring, and the other is the site of Iceland's smallest church - Krýsuvíkurkirkja, built in 1857. The latter would have been interesting to see, but for the bright idea that four teenagers had to douse the interior with gas in 2010 and light it on fire, completely burning it to the ground.
We decided also to skip on the hot spring, too. Although it sounded fun, the day was drawing on, and we wanted to spent a decent amount of time exploring a bit of what urban Iceland had to offer. In other words, spending some time in Iceland's capital, Reykjavik.
We continued north on regional road 42 as it wound through a more mountainous landscape. The road was now gravelled, adding to the sense of remoteness. It wasn't really all that remote, though, since my map showed that we were only twenty-five minutes drive from downtown Reykjavik. Such is the nature of Iceland: you don't have to go far to feel away from it all.
The highway soon wound scenically along the western shore of lake Kliefarvatn, the largest lake on the Reykjanes peninsula. The lake is prone to being affected by the tectonic activity of the region, and in 2001 a half-kilometer tear opened up that drained about half of the water out of the lake. By 2008 the crack had filled in with sediment and the lake returned to normal levels. Good thing, too, because this is quite a scenic location. We stopped and took a few shots of the lake, the winding highway, and the edge of a 1500-foot high plateau behind, its flanks still sporting a few snow patches, even though it was July.