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Bridge Between Two Continents

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Bridge Between Two Continents

Close to Iceland's Keflavík International Airport lies a special bridge. It connects two continents, America to the west and Europe to the east, as it lies across the point where two tectonic plates are diverging. A few minutes southwards from the bridge is Gunnuhver, a hot spring area named after a ghost.

Photos: Kari-Mette Johansen and Randi Jansdatter Boldevin. Slideshow: Páll Kjartansson, text: Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir. Copyright: icelandreview.com.

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Close to Keflavík International Airport, at the “heel” of Reykjanes peninsula, lies a special bridge. It connects two continents, America to the west and Europe to the east, as it lies across the point where two tectonic plates are diverging.

Although not visible everywhere, this plate boundary lies across Iceland from the southwest to the northeast and is an area of volcanic activity and geothermal heat. Other places where the plate boundary can be seen include Thingvellir National Park.

Reykjanes is famous for its geothermal heat. The peninsula’s most popular attraction is no doubt the Blue Lagoon which was created when excess water from the Svartsengi power plant leaked into the lava field.

Seltún in nearby Krýsuvík with its bubbling hot springs is another frequented tourist hot spot. A few minutes southwards from the bridge lies Gunnuhver, a hot spring area named after the ghost of Gudrún Ögmundsdóttir, whose nickname was Gunna.

After having caused the violent death of a local couple, a priest was sought to get rid of Gunna’s spirit. He gave her the end of a string to which she held tight and then he pulled her into the hot spring. Since then her ghost has only been seen near Gunnuhver.

The area around Gunnuhver is known for its vibrant colors; fiery red and bright green. The mud pools and steam vents form where steam from boiling geothermal reservoir water emanates, condenses and mixes with surface water.

There are other attractions on Reykjanes too. The lighthouse Reykjanesviti is worth a visit and the violent surf crashing against the sea cliffs below is a breathtaking sight.

The area is also known for its birdlife; off shore lies the islet Eldey, a 77-meter high rock which is home to the country’s, and one of the world’s, largest gannet population. The islet was put under preservation in 1974.

Eldey is also the site where the world’s last Great Auks are believed to have been killed in 1844. In 2010 a bronze statue of the giant flightless bird by American artist Tood McGrain was placed at Valahnúkur on Reykjanes, looking towards Eldey.

The peninsula has many other attractions, including the aforementioned Krýsuvík and the “draining lake” Kleifarvatn close by, the cone-shaped Mt. Keilir which is popular for hiking, the Salt Fish Center in Grindavík and Viking World Museum in Njardvík, to name a few.

For further information about the region, go to visitreykjanes.is.

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