7 natural treasures in Reykjavík that locals love but you probably never heard about
Reykjavík is one of the smallest capital in the world yet it has so much to show. There are many articles about museums, restaurants, swimming pools and other highlights, but not about its natural gems.
I have always preferred nature to cities, especially now as I'm living in the most beautiful country of the world. One of the main reasons I moved to Reykjavík is the city’s strong connection to nature. It provides a great base to find the balance between a modern urban and a nature explorer lifestyle. Let me show you around my favourite natural beauties of Reykjavík.
Hot pot with a view – Seltjarnarnes and Grótta Lighthouse
On the edge of the Reykjavík peninsula is a small town called Seltjarnarnes. What makes this location unique is the fascinating panorama in almost every direction. During sunset, you will surely experience a memorable coastal walk.
Seltjarnarnes is also known for Grótta lighthouse, a popular spot for northern lights hunters during the winter season. Less known for the tiny-teeny hot pot on the seacoast. Even though it's really just a footbath, it's still amazing!
- Tip: Rent a bike or go on a riding tour along the spectacular coastline.
- Note: The passage to the lighthouse is impassable during the high tides. To make sure you won’t be stuck on the island, check out the tide forecast before heading to Grótta.
- GPS coordinates of the hot pot: 64.1624° N, 22.0083° W
- How to get there by public transport: Take the local bus nr. 11 from Hlemmur central bus station to Seltjarnarnes, Hofgarðar. Walk along the sea coast up to the end of the peninsula.
Hiking paradise in Reykjavík– Úlfarsfell mountain
Úlfarsfell is a small mountain on the outskirts of Reykjavik. It's also a popular hiking area with a few ATV, bike and quad adventures. From the top, you can enjoy a fascinating view of the city, Mount Esja and the little islands in the Faxaflói bay. On a clear day, you can even see all the way to the Snæfellsnes peninsula.
- Tip: The area is an excellent place to watch the northern lights during winter. Just make sure you climb high enough to have an open view to the north.
- GPS coordinates of the top: 64°14'70.35"N, 21°71'01.52"W
- How to get there by public transport: Take the bus nr. 18 from Hlemmur and get off at Skyggnisbraut (30 min). You will see the mountain from here, hiking trails start from the parking place beside the pond.
Shipwreck on the shore – Geldinganes island
Geldinganes is one of the largest islands in the Faxaflói bay. I hadn't heard about it before so visiting it was just a sudden afternoon idea, but ended up as a great adventure.
Walking over the narrow passage to this inhabited island feels like leaving the city far behind and facing the wilderness. Moreover, it’s like travelling in the time: there is an abandoned shipwreck on the shore! Unmissable settings for photographers, especially during sunset.
- Tip: There is a JetSki rental here for the adventurers
- GPS coordinates of the ship wreck: 64°09'39.9"N 21°47'47.0"W
- How to get there by public transport: Take the bus nr. 18 from Hlemmur and get off at Melavegur/Jötnaborgir (40 min). Face to the sea, you will see the island.
The natural and historical treasure - Viðey island
Photo: Helgi Halldórsson, Flickr
In Viðey you can experience the rich diversity of nature, bird life and flora. Stunning coastal rock formations and charming view in every direction. The main building on the island was built in 1755 and currently functions as a café, restaurant, and museum of Viðey's history.
The “The Imagine Peace Tower” is another exciting place to visit on this tiny island. It is a tall tower of light, that can reach an altitude of 4000 m and can be seen from far away during the dark nights. The tower is a memorial to John Lennon from his widow, Yoko Ono.
- Tip: The Reykjavik city card gives you access to the ferry
- GPS coordinates of the tower: 64°9′47.66″N 21°51′34.08″W
- How to get there by public transport: take bus nr. 16 from Hlemmur to the station Klettagarðar / Skarfagarðar (8min), then take the ferry
- Note: In wintertime, the ferry runs only on weekends
Golden sand and tropics in Reykjavík – Nauthólsvík geothermal beach
If you thought Iceland is not the best location to swim in the ocean, you probably haven’t heard about the geothermal beach in Reykjavík. Nauthólsvík is a true local paradise with golden sands, a hot tub, steam bath and a nice view. Grill your own hot dogs and create a lifelong memory of swimming in the freezing cold North-Atlantic Ocean.
Using the water running off from the hot tubs, the small lagoon is warmed up to a tolerable 15-19° C (or somewhat less in the winter season). The beach gets quite busy on a sunny summer day, but locals use it all year round. Check out our ocean swimming adventure in the middle of the Icelandic winter.
- Note: Opening hours in Nauthólsvík
- Tip: The lagoon is significantly warmer in the morning when the thermal water is routed in from the hot tub.
- How to get there by public transport: take bus nr. 5 from Hlemmur to Nauthóll – HR (last stop). Walk by the university building towards the sea.
Attractive lava formations and caves - Heiðmörk Nature Reserve
A few kilometres from Reykjavík you will find a breathtaking nature reserve, called Heiðmörk. Its odd shaped, volcanic red hills (Rauðhólar) can be easily spotted from the distance and the rare sight of a forest with over 5 million trees that were planted by pioneers and volunteers in the 50’s - will catch your eyes as well.
Mariuhellar, a group of small and safe caves make this place more exciting to discover. Many gravel roads and walking paths lead through the stunning landscape, providing an excellent opportunity for an easy hike, horseback riding or cycling.
- GPS coordinates of the caves: 64°07′17.17″N, 21°89′33.68″W
- GPS coordinates of the red hills: 64°09′74.70″N, 21.75′13.62″W
- Note: Since this is a large area of 300 hectares, it is recommended to get there by car, making it more flexible to discover. Using a bicycle or attending a horseback riding tour can be more fun though.
- How to get there by public transport: Take the bus nr. 5 from Hlemmur central bus station to Bugða / Reiðvað (35 min), and walk 2 km towards the park.
Café in a greenhouse - The Reykjavík Botanical Gardens
The Reykjavík Botanical Gardens are located relatively close to the city centre. This peaceful place is filled with beautiful trees and flowers from all over the world that blossom in summertime. Tiny ponds with waterlilies, ducklings and geese make the atmosphere more idyllic, walking paths lead through and around the gardens.
Café Flóran, the friendly restaurant inside a greenhouse. Tasting the extremely fresh and delicious dishes with ingredients grown in the garden is highly recommended.
- Note: there is no entrance fee in the Gardens. The café operates from May to the end of September and at Advent weekends in December with candles and cosy Christmas lights. The Zoo is located next to the Botanical Gardens
- How to get there by public transport: Take the bus nr. 2 or 17 from Hlemmur and get off at the Zoo (15 min). The station called “Fjölskyldu- og húsdýragarðurinn Laugardal” in Icelandic. From here walk 10 minutes towards the park.