Early Summer in Iceland: Reykjanes Peninsula in half a day

21 May

We touched down in Iceland a day before our offspring and their wives arrived for our family holiday (couldn’t get the flights to tally). What to do with a perfect blue sky day before they flew in from Edinburgh and Melbourne?

I’d booked us all into the Keflavik airport hotel (150 metres from the terminal and an hour from downtown Rekjavik) to make it easier to rendezvous and collect our peoplemover car rental next day. Super convenient and a comfortable hotel staffed by very helpful Latvians (Iceland has trouble filling vacancies in the hospitality industry with its own citizens). Not so good for sight seeing without a car. Quickly solved with the help of the interweb. I found a local guide, Sven, who specialises in showing visitors the highlights of the Reykjanes Peninsula. Thirty-two-year-old Sven was a chef until 12 months ago when a deeply ironic, life threatening allergy to seafood drove him out of the kitchen into starting a tourism business.

Sven with the Svenmobile.

Our first stop at an Icelandic pony stable didn’t go to plan. Sven’s friend Kristian keeps four horses there and Sven has permission to show them to people. When Sven opened the stable door a powerful, black horse pushed his way out. Followed by a second. They ambled off to feed and Sven just managed to stop two more barging out. There was no way we could get the escapees back in by ourselves. Sven quickly phoned Kristian and he came within five minutes. Kristian explained that one of his horses had worked out how to open stall latches. The horse lets himself out then opens the other stalls. Kristian thought he’d fixed the problem but clearly not. After being inside throughout the winter the horses are feeling their oats on this fine day and keen to be outside rolling in the gravel and eating green grass, 
With Kristian directing and all of us located strategically, arms akimbo, we managed to shoo the horses into the corral.

Sven and Houdini (below).

‘You lookin’ at me?’ (Above) Scratching an itch (Below)

Down the road we visited a an 1897 lighthouse and a seamans’ cemetery by a picturesque church.

Next stop a black sand beach with hundreds of gulls wheeling about and smooth, rolling breakers. Apparently surfing is starting to become popular in Iceland. You’d need extra padding in the wetsuits to protect you.

We drove through the rift in the Eurasian and American continental tectonic plates, crumbling, towering walls either side. The plates are drifting inexorably apart at a couple of centimetres a year. But first Sven had to let some air out of his tyres so we could continue through the shifting black sand.

Staring up at America and bridging two continents.Iceland’s geothermal power stations are fascinating. Ten men operate the power station feeding electricity to the whole of Rekjavik’s 120,000 residents. Conventional coal-fired power stations need hundreds of staff and nuclear powered need thousands.
A boardwalk enabled us to get close to a sulphurous steam vent, what Sven called a ‘cloud factory’.

We cruised past Blue Lagoon. The car park was almost full. A top attraction due to the power of Instagram, these commercial hot springs don’t take walk-ins, you must have a prior online booking. When I found out the lagoon is actually artificial (it’s the water run off of geothermal power generation) I was less keen to go. Iceland’s first five star hotel is under construction right next to it. Since Sven told us there are many other, better, natural thermal springs I’d prefer to try them.

At Grindavik harbour we were just in time to see a cod fishing boat being unloaded. A forklift driver whizzed back and forth carrying the plastic bins of large freshly caught cod piled on shaved ice. Fishing is the life blood of Iceland and fisherman are among the most highly paid workers in Iceland. Poistions are clung to dearly. Improvements in technology have made the job easier and less dangerous, thus the average age of fisherman is rising. At the Bryggjan Cafe on Grindavik harbour we met a 65-year-old fisherman from the boat we’d just seen who went to sea when he was 17. He has no immediate plans to retire.

The cafe is clearly an institution, every picture on its walls tells a story. A piano forms part of the bulging bookshelf and a guitar hangs overhead. The owners Johan and Teresa are warm and welcoming and Stuart recommends their lobster soup with dark bread. Johan made me a plate of fresh vegetables washed down with strong, hot, black coffee.

An excellent tour, the safe arrival of Cam, Eliza, Tristan and Jenny, and a superb sunset (shot out our hotel window at 10:50pm) made for a spectacular start to our Icelandic adventure!

4 Responses to “Early Summer in Iceland: Reykjanes Peninsula in half a day”

  1. Heather watt May 21, 2016 at 11:56 pm #

    Great photo of a magic family see you when you get back .
    Love to you all

    • Sharon Tickle May 22, 2016 at 7:33 am #

      Thanks Heather! Look forward to seeing you and George in June. Hope the wee bairn is thriving. SXx

  2. Sven May 23, 2016 at 8:59 am #

    Thank you for coming by. I hope Iceland will blow your mind. Or at least the weather.

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