There’s plenty to do in Grindavík, Iceland, a placid fishing town steeped in fish trade history. Many of the same families have been trolling these waters for generations, and visitors can see fishers hauling their daily bounty of cod out of the harbor by day and dine on the local catch at night. But the Grindavík area’s greatest claim to fame is the giant manmade geothermal expanse of the Blue Lagoon.
Sights in Grindavík
Bláa Lónið (Blue Lagoon)
Bláa Lónið (Blue Lagoon)
Located 23 kilometers south of Keflavík International Airport, the Blue Lagoon (Svartsengi, tel. 354/420-8800, 7:30am-9pm daily June-Aug., 10am-8pm daily Sept.-May) draws visitors from around the world, to soak in the glorious, healing waters amid a dreamlike atmosphere.
A trip to the Blue Lagoon in the winter is eerie and wonderful. Watching as snow falls from the jet-black December sky, or as northern lights dance across it, while soaking in the heated water is sublime. But the heated water, which ranges 37-39°C (98-102°F), is heavenly during any time of year. The milky waters and the misty air during the summer are lovely, especially on sunny days.
The water is not deep, less than five feet, and the bottom is covered with white silica mud, the result of a natural process of re-condensation. It’s common to see visitors cover their faces with the mud, as it’s very good for your skin. The gift shop sells Blue Lagoon skin products that have ingredients ranging from silica mud to algae found in other parts of Iceland.
For those not interested in taking a soak, there are two steam baths on the property, as well as a dry sauna and massage area. Spa treatments are also available.
Many tours feature a visit to the Blue Lagoon, but if you’re traveling independently, it makes sense to visit right after you fly in or before you head home, as it’s very close to Keflavík airport. A rejuvenating soak is a great way to kick off your trip or end it on a relaxing note.
The entrance fee is 6,000ISK for adults, 3,000ISK for teenagers, 3,000ISK for senior citizens, and children under the age of 13 are admitted free. Because of the increase in tourism over the past few years, the Blue Lagoon now requires that you book a time slot ahead of your arrival. Thousands of people visit the site every day, and it could be quite crowded during summer months. If you don’t bring your own towel, you can rent one at the front desk, along with swimsuits and bathing caps.
Saltfisksetur (Saltfish Museum)
The Saltfish Museum (Hafnargata 12A, tel. 354/420-1190, 9am-6pm daily, entrance 500ISK) is a museum that tells you exactly what Iceland’s fish trade was like from 1770 to 1965, when saltfish ceased to be Iceland’s top export. Photos, fishing equipment, and even a full-size fishing boat from the early 20th century are on display, explaining the importance of saltfish to Iceland, economically and culturally. If you’re curious about the region, would like to learn more about processing saltfish in the olden days, or would like to get a look at an old-school fishing boat, be sure to stop by.
A sad part of Iceland’s fishing history is the stories of men that went out to sea to never return. There’s a moving memorial in downtown Grindavík, in the main garden near the Saltfish Museum, showing a mother with her son and daughter waiting for their fisherman husband/father to return home from sea. It’s a reminder that the fish used for consumption and trade has come at a high price for many families over the years. The memorial was created by sculptor Ragnar Kjartansson.
Sports and Recreation in Grindavík
Reykjanes has several well-maintained trails perfect for cycling. Arctic Adventures (tel. 354/562-7000) operates a popular mountain biking tour that departs from Reykjavík by bus. Biking begins at the Blue Lagoon. The easy bike ride takes tourists on trails that run along volcanic craters, rugged lava fields, and bubbling hot springs throughout the peninsula. The tour runs mid-May-mid-September for 33,000ISK and ends with a dip in the soothing, geothermally heated water at the Blue Lagoon.
Tourists can camp from mid-May to mid-September at Grindavík’s Campsite (Austurvegur 26, tel. 354/660-7323, 1,200ISK) by the harbor. A popular campsite, Grindavík’s location offers laundry facilities, a common eating area, and a playground for children that has swings and a spider net for climbing. The campsite accommodates tents, RVs, and campers, with access to hookups. The grassy field is an open space with beautiful views of mountains. There’s also a paved entrance to the campsite and a large parking area. Close by is an area to empty camper port-a-potties.
Just four kilometers southwest from the Blue Lagoon, Húsatóftir Golf Course (Húsatóftum, tel. 354/426-8720, 5,000ISK) is an 18-hole golf course where visitors can golf from late May to early September, depending on the weather. The course sits on a scenic part of the southern part of the country with picturesque views of the landscape. However, the course can be busy with locals during the high season of June-July. Be sure to call ahead for a tee time.
Grindavík is home to one of the best pools in South Iceland. The Grindavík Swimming Pool (Austurvegur 1, tel. 354/426-7555, 7am-8pm Mon.-Fri., 10am-5pm Sat.-Sun. June-Aug., 400ISK) has a 25-meter pool, hot tubs, tanning beds, a water slide, children’s pool, and fitness center.