The salmon river Elliðaár is situated in East-Reykjavík in Elliðaárdalur and originates in Bláfjöll-mountains and runs to the Elliðavatn-lake in Heiðmörk (a beautiful big nature reserve area east of Reykjavík). There are two rivers, the big salmon river and another smaller one with 2 waterfalls but no fishing. You can buy a fishing permits from The Angling club of Reykjavík (Stangaveiðifélag Reykjavíkur) which leases the river.
Elliðaár is ca 5 kilometres long counting from the dam and to the ocean, with the ocean being only a few metres from Sjávarfoss-waterfall (see my first photo). The angling season is from the middle of June - the middle of September and there are 4-6 rods allowed per day and ca 1.000 salmons are caught in Elliðaár river every summer.
Angling is a very popular sport in Iceland, and there are quite a few lakes and rivers where you can buy permits and go angling near Reykjavík or around Iceland. I add the website for The Angling club of Reykjavík.
I don´t know if this can be added under "off the beaten path" as so many people visit Grótta, but I add this here as this area belongs to Seltjarnarnes, which is the town adjacent to Reykjavík in the west, although one has to be a native to know where Reykjavík ends and Seltjarnarnes begins. I refer to my tip on Grótta.
By the ocean just before you enter the parking lot by Grótta there is a small round geothermal hot-tub on the northern shore, Norðurströnd, in a place called Kisuklappir. It is quite surreal taking a foot-bath there, the water is hot and so nice and the ocean is just beside you. And the view of the bay and the mountains and Grótta is ever so nice. I highly recommend it. The hot-tub is an art-work/sculpture by Ólöf Nordal and is called Kvika. It was opened here on this spot on Culture night in 2005.
In October and November in 2011 Iceland has a special happening so to speak, to welcome foreigners to Iceland. One of the events was that one of our ministers invited foreigners to take a foot-bath with her in the hot-tub.
The hot-tub is behind the shed called Hjallurinn, and there you will also find a bench, a drinking fountain, an anchor and an information video of the flora and fauna on the shore.
I use this foot-bath often. On occasion is has been too hot to use.
Through Elliðaárdalur run 2 rivers, one big salmon river and another one where angling is not allowed, and only very few salmons stray there. It runs almost unnoticed at places but has got 2 small, beautiful waterfalls, one of which is called Kermóafoss waterfall, situated in what we call the Indian passage (Indíánagilið). Kids love to play there and it is a breathtaking place where you can sit and relax and feel like you are far away in the countryside, even though you are just a few minutes away from a very busy street, with a lot of traffic.
The other smaller waterfall is also a popular place where children play. On a sunny summer day it gets crowded by this small waterfall and kids jump in the water, so it gets quite lively here.
I used to live for 28 years withing a 5 minutes' walking distance from Elliðaárdalur, so I know it very well and it is very dear to me.
There was an area between Lagavegur and Hverfisgata which was covered in pretty artistic graffiti. It is allowed to graffiti here in the hope it will cut down graffiti elsewhere. There was music here and people were dancing. There were also kids skateboarding and playing on scooters. One man was painting over a vast area of graffiti to create a blank wall to graffiti again, so I guess the 'decor' is always changing. A place to sit and relax or people watch.
An interesting half-day trip is a boat ride to the small island of Viðey in Reykjavík Harbor. A ferry departs hourly from Sundahöfn Harbor, about a 15-minute bus ride or 90-minute walk from town. Cost of the ferry is Kr 800 for a round trip. One direct ferry per day departs Reykjavík Old Harbor for the island at 12:00. In addition, the 15:30 departure from Viðey goes to the Old Harbor.
Once on the island, you can enjoy lunch at the Viðeyjarstofa. You can also walk around the island to enjoy spectacular views of the harbor and downtown Reykjavík.
A Settlement Age farm was found in Garðabær in 1986. It is a Viking long-house dating back to ca 870-930, and an unusually big one, 8 x 30 m, which is the second largest long-house found in Iceland. We don´t know who lived here, this was the land of Reykjavík´s first settler, Ingólfur Arnarson, but it looks like a wealthy farmer lived here. It is believed that 20-30 people lived at the farm. An unusual broach was found here, pins, knives and instruments.
One can see the ruins of a long central fireplace, which were typical in these long-houses. There are remains of a weaving room, and many spindle whorls and loom-weights were found here. All cloth was woven in this way back then and during the Middle-Ages in Iceland woven cloth was the biggest export in Iceland.
There is also a pantry here. And 2 boling holes were found filled with burnt animal bones from sheep, pigs, cattle and horses. It was last used in the 10th-11th century. What is unusual about these boiling holes is that they were outside, but usually they were inside. I wonder why.
There are also remains of a pantry here and a smithy.
The Settlement Age Farm was discovered in 1986 when a kindergarten was to be built here. In 1989 further excavation was done and from 1994-2000 some serious excavation was done, supervised by The National Museum. That should have been done earlier, but we Icelanders didn´t think much of these Viking remnants in earlier days. Now a multimedia exhibition has been installed there with very good information on the Settlement Age farm - thanks to Garðabær town. To me the Settlement Age farm is the jewel in the crown of Garðabær town - which is located between Kópavogur (next town to Reykjavík) and Hafnarfjörður.
The Settlement Age farm is always open and there is no entrance fee. It looks like a small park. There are turf walls around it, which were erected later on to show the outer limits of the farm.
This is so interesting, a Settlement Age farm kind of hidden away between the houses and church here in Garðabær. I know that many Icelanders don´t even know that it exist. I stumbled into it on my way to Hafnarfjörður back in 1994+. Back then I had to take 14 years off traveling and my trips consisted of walking from Reykjavík to Hafnarfjörður and back.
Behind Vídalínskirkja church and the shopping complex Garðatorg. Bus no 1 stops on the main road. Walk east towards Garðatorg and turn left.
I have the same tip under my Hafnarfjörður pages, as that is the nearest town to Garðabær - but I fear that this info is kind of lost there, as not many people look up Hafnarfjörður when they want information on Iceland.
Reykjadalur valley is a beautiful place north of Reykjavík. It is located in Mosfellsbær village and is very dear to me as there my Aunt lives so I spent a lot of time there when I was growing up. I have got so many relatives in Varmárdalur :) My grand-parents owned a summer cottage there when Reykjadalur used to be so far from Reykjavík. It has changed since I was small, Reykjavík has spread, and there are a lot more houses now than there used to be in Mosfellsbær. At one point Reykjavík and Mosfellsbær almost touch each other, that is how much Reykjavík has spread. The inhabitants of Mosfellsbær were 8.631 in 2012.
When I go for a walk there I start by the small waterfall by Álafoss (see my tip) and follow the river Varmá by the woods. I love this walk as it seems like one is alone in the woods even though there are a lot of houses there close by. Reykjadalur is a geothermal area, thus the name "Varmá" which means Hot river. And there are some eels in it, thus the name "Álafoss" which means The falls of the eels. You will then walk past a heating-utility (see my last photo) as this hot geothermal water was used for heating houses and a geothermal swimming pool was also built here.
After walking through the small woods there you arrive by the rehabilitation hospital Reykjalundur and can enjoy their big lawn. This hike is not long - so I usually go back to the main road and walk upto Reykir where I have relatives as well and I visit my cousins on the way to there. By Reykir there is a farmer who sells vegetables at certain times of the week.
There are lovely houses in Reykjadalur and they stand side by side, we call them the Canadian houses, as they come almost ready made from Canada :) One of my relatives lives in one of these houses.
Reykjadalur is north of Reykjavík and can be reached by bus 15 how to get to Reykjadalur by bus
There is a lovely walk in Grafarvogur bay which takes you along the seashore in the north - and into Mosfellsbær village if one wants to walk this far north.
On a sunny day it is so relaxing walking here with the view of Mt. Esja, watching the seals - there are always some inquisitive seals here. They will follow you and get very close to you while you walk there, especially if you stop and catch their attention. I have had a seal coming almost up to the shore and then following me until I turned away from the shore. It is quite lovely :) It is believed that they hang out here because of the salmon in the rivers Korpa and Elliðaár river. The place is called Leirvogur bay, where you can find the seals.
There are golf-courses here above the path and I am always a little scared of being hit by a golf ball. And I have found several golf-balls on the shore...
By Geldinarnes island one can see people kayaking. And by Mt. Úlfarsfell one can see people gliding.
45% of Grafarvogur is nature - so there are many lovely walks here - but I especially like this walk.
One of the most amazing places I have ever been was Jokulsarlon, the Glacier Lagoon.
Located just off the highway in South Eastern Iceland, it is such a bizarre sight when you first see an Iceberg sticking up over the black sand dunes by the road side!
The lagoon is over 200 metres deep and has a small river flowing from it into the nearby ocean. Filled with icebergs, it is a very special place! There is a colony of seals that live here and we were lucky enough to see one doing some fishing close to the mouth of the lagoon.
Jokulsarlon has been used as a filming locations in a few well known movies in recent years, including 2 James Bond movies and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.
Besides just looking at the lagoon, you can also go on it - in an amphibious (wheeled) boat. It costs around 2,000 kroner and the trip takes 40 minutes (first departure was at 10am) You board the strange looking car/boat just near the visitors centre, and it then trundles along the road for a couple of hundred metres, before plunging into the lagoon.
You cruise amongst the icebergs, taking way too many photos and hoping to spot a seal or two. The guide spoke a little about the lagoon and icebergs.
It truly is a must see!
Located on the main highway/ring road between Skaftafell and Hofn, around 4 hours drive South East of Reykjavik
Only got a short time to visit Iceland ? Well to get a taste of what this fabulous country has on offer, you can spend the day doing the "Golden Circle" tour. Either with a tour group by bus, or with a hire car, the attractions on route are fantastic!
First stop is Pingvellir, home of the first parliament in Iceland, the largest lake in Iceland and the place where the two continental plates of Europe & North America meet.
Second up is Geysir - home of the worlds ORIGINAL geyser! Here you can see the incredible hot water spurting Strokkur doing its thing every 5-10 minutes.
Third stop is the most powerful waterfall in the world - Gullfoss. It is a two-tiered fall, spectacular to see - and you can walk right down and stand on the rocks right by the falls - a wet weather jacket is suggested - the spray is pretty impressive!
For more details on these 3 sites, visit my Iceland page.
The island Grótta is just outside the town of Seltjarnarnes which is adjacent to the west part of Reykjavík and there is no boundary between these two towns, one has to be a native to know where Reykjavík ends and Seltjarnarnes begins.
At the very end of Seltjarnarnes is the ever so popular Grótta. This is such a popular recreation area and by the parking lot you will see a lot of people, jogging, cycling, walking their dogs and playing by the ocean. During solstice at Grótta it is crowded there. And during the summer time there are so many arctic terns by Grótta I added a tip on the arctic tern with a lot more pictures from the shore at Grótta.
From May 1st-July 1st access to the Grótta island is forbidden as birds are nesting there and after that time it is strictly forbidden to remove eggs from their nest. Grótta has been a nature reserve since 1974.
One can walk to the island on an isthmus but watch out for the high-tide coming in as one can get stuck there. Read the information sign at the shore on when the high-tide comes in.
There is a café on the island during the summer time and a study-center. There is a lovely lighthouse, Gróttuviti, which was built in 1947. There was another light-house there from 1897. One can walk up to the top of the lighthouse and from there you have an astounding view of Faxaflói bay, the surrounding mountains and Reykjavík. On sunny days one can see as far as the town of Akranes.
On a cold starry winter night Grótta is the best place in Reykjavík/Seltjarnarnes to see the Northern lights. I went there with a VT-friend and the sky was lit up with awesome Northern lights as Grótta is a bit away from the light pollution.
Opposite the island is a lovely, old (1763), black and white house which was the home of the first Director General of public health in Iceland. There was the first public pharmacy and a midwife worked there as well. It now belongs to The National Museum and displays the tools used back then!
Directions: Say you are on Miklabraut, the street which splits Reykjavík in two, then drive west until it turns into Hringbraut. Drive to the end of Hringbraut which will take you right down to a roundabout by the ocean, on your right there is Grandi, but you have to take a left turn on the street Ánanaust and keep driving by the ocean, Ánanaust turns into Eiðsgrandi which then turns into Norðurströnd (always the same street though). You will see the light-house on the Grótta island.
Here is a a 360° view of Grótta.
Nauthólsvík - geothermal beach is open from May 15 - August 31 from 10-20. It is really popular and on sunny days it gets filled with people. Approximately 120.000 people visit the beach every year. Reykjavík city owns this beach and bathing and showering is free, but you pay ISK 200 for using the changing rooms. There is a service center where you can buy refreshments and an on-site barbeque which can be used free of charge. In front of the service center there is a pool with 30-35 degrees C geothermal water.
This site was redeveloped in year 2000, it had been a popular beach when my parents were kids, and there was a creek there carrying hot run-off water from the city central-heating system (from the hot-water-tanks at Perlan) and we used to bathe in that until it was closed in 1985. What they did was that they raised seawalls and brought in yellow sand (the sand at the beaches in Reykjavík is black). Now it is a beautiful beach with a lagoon where the cold sea (it is really cold) and the hot geothermal water flow together, see my pictures. The water in there is 18-20 degrees C. But it is only heated during opening hours so take care not to get in at other times as you might get hypothermia.
The geothermal beach is situated by the ocean at the bottom of Öskjuhlíð, the hill where Perlan is situated, and you can reach it on foot by walking from Perlan and down the hill through the forest. Or take bus nr. 19 from Hlemmur, the main bus-stop down-town. The drive to the beach will take you along our domestic airport.
The Univesity of Reykjavík was built by Nauthólsvík in 2009-2010 which makes this area even more lively. By the university there is a lovely restaurant called Nauthóll.
One can visit this area even when it is not open, I go there often in the winter time just to walk around.
If you don't have time to complete the Ring Road, consider renting a car and taking a short day trip to a small town outside Reykjavik. The landscape is stunning - you feel like you've landed on the moon and then all of a sudden you are surrounded by lush farmland, giant cascading waterfalls and Icelandic ponies.
Just be careful driving - while the roads are well maintained, there is little traffic and driving can become monotonous.
Yes, it's expensive and about 30 minutes from the capital (Reykjavik)...but if you can, go to this great place for relaxation!
I arrived at 630 AM in Iceland and I already booked with Reykjavik excursions to have me taken immediately to the Blue Lagoon which is near the airport anyway. And then, the bus would be available again at 1115AM for my hotel drop-off. This really saves time - instead of just waiting and walking around for the hotel room to be ready. I paid $77 for this whole gig...
As the bus approached the lagoon, you will see white clouds of thick steam coming off from some kind of factory...then you will be dropped off at the Blue Lagoon entrance which has a big white wall saying simply but elegantly, "Blue Lagoon".
Then you notice the lava rocks covered with moss - you've seen so many of them coming out of the airport. Now you can inspect it closer as you walk to the pathway leading to the entrance (but remember, do not step on the moss - says the sign).
I did not have a towl with me and I think I paid ISK680 (about $5?) for it. They also give you a writband key which you can use to store big luggage on the first floor, and for your clothes in the locker room. Iceland has strict rules about showering without your swimwear first before stepping into the lagoon, and there are private showers with doors for the shy type.
Then, you step outside and it is summer but kinda cold - so I rushed into the water and wow, it was warm and looked so clean!!! The warm water apparently comes from 6,200 ft below the ground and tit has so many minerals, primarily silica. They suggest covering your face with it for a few minutes - and then wash it off for a healthy moisturizing effect. I did it but my face still looks the same though, hehehe (I think you have to do it regularly--- well, you can buy some of the Blue Lagoon stuff which are a bit pricey but probably effective. So, why not buy some?).
Blue Lagoon stores are all over and if you don't buy it here, you can buy it some other place. The waters of Blue Lagoon also has some unique species of algae, and it has been shown that some pathological bacteria do not grow in these warm waters --- making it very pure and good for those with skin ailments.
But the beauty of the pools cannot be denied --- they give an eerie feeling with the steam and the bluish waters --- it is about 3-4 feet all throughout so don't be scared of drowning (there is somebody watching over the lagoon as well).
there is a nice lava rock sauna (nice circular cave - very warm) and other steam facilities by the pool - plus a fountain where you can have your back massaged so nicely. I suggest just using the arm floats and float and close your eyes and just relax....it is amazingly smoothing to the soul...
And if you want to go the extra mile and splurge, visit the Blue Lagoon Spa for unmatched pampering...
At Geirsnef (The nose of Geir) at Elliðavogur Cove by Elliðaár-river is the only spot in Reykjavík where dog-owner in Reykjavík are allowed to let their dogs run free. When I was younger there was a strict ban on keeping dogs in Reykjavík, but now they are allowed if they are wearing a dog-collar and kept in a leash. It is good fun watching the dogs run and play with other dogs and jump in the river and go for a swim.
Elliðavogur Cove is on the other side of Ártúnsbrekka (the hill leading to the suburbs of Grafarvogur and Árbær) and Elliðaárdalur (see the tips above) closer to the ocean.