The majestic, edge-of-the-world appeal of Iceland brings it to the top spot in many people’s bucket lists.
This island country in the Arctic Circle is called the Land of Fire and Ice, thanks to its active volcanoes standing in contrast to glaciers and fields of snow.
And it’s also a favorite destination to watch the enchanting and ethereal aurora borealis or the northern lights.
One small town tucked in the island’s southwestern peninsula offers all these and more.
So during your visit to the country, spare a few days exploring the community of Keflavik.
The town’s name translates to “Driftwood Bay,” which tells visitors that this destination is a seaside community.
You’ll enjoy an isolated experience that brings you to the cultural roots and heritage of the Icelandic people.
Here are the 15 best things to do in Keflavik, Iceland:
Immerse in Music History at the Icelandic Museum of Rock 'n' Roll
In a place as isolated as the Arctic Circle, it’s certainly unexpected to find something like a rock and roll museum.
But during the 1960s and 70s, Keflavik becomes a hub for the particular genre and others thanks to American influence.
They were many great and talented musicians from the town who went on to conquer the rest of Iceland and Europe with their bombastic songs.
And so, Keflavik earned “The Beatle Town” nickname.
Today, this vibrant history is showcased at the Icelandic Museum of Rock 'n' Roll, located at the Hljómahöll concert and conference hall.
Here, you’ll learn about the country’s history of pop and rock music from 1830 to today.
You’ll also find instruments, photographs, and other artifacts used by many prominent Icelandic performers.
These include Of Monsters and Men, Björk, and Sigur Rós.
Say Hi to Giganta at Giantess Cave
On the far end of the Duus Museum complex lies a famous character from Icelandic children’s stories: the giantess Giganta.
Being a benevolent character, she is well-known and well-loved by kids and even older people.
So it felt appropriate for the community to create a life-sized replica that children can interact with in real life.
This humungous sculpture lies inside the Black Cave, sitting with a wide grin and buck teeth while looking at Keflavik Bay.
Her home is complete with a kitchen, bed, and a rocking chair where she sits in peace.
Kids are welcome to come close and play beside Giganta, an activity she loved in the stories.
But beware: they say she makes loud farts and snores a lot.
Discover Stunning Works at Reykjanes Art Museum
Duus Museum is the premier cultural complex in Keflavik, with a scattering of facilities along the town’s shoreline.
One of these is the Reykjanes Art Museum, a magnificent gallery that showcases some of the region’s best works.
Upon arrival, you’ll be impressed by the minimalistic hall with hardwood floors and immaculate walls arranged in a diagonal.
On these hang colorful paintings emphasized by the soft lighting inside the facility.
Local and national artists produced these stunning pieces, showcasing life in Iceland and other similar themes.
Take your time examining these works and marvel at every brushstroke.
There are new exhibits every year, so if you plan on visiting again, there will be different paintings to see.
See Miniature Schooners at Reykjanes Maritime Center
Another must-see facility within the Duus Museum complex is the engaging Reykjanes Maritime Center.
As you can expect in an island country like Iceland, there’s a pervasive seafaring culture that started thousands of years ago.
A small portion of this history is gathered, preserved, and showcased at the Reykjanes Maritime Center.
This history comes in the form of more than 100 model boats delicately afloat on stands and shelves.
These were created by Grímur Karlsson, a local skipper who had a talent for detail and craftsmanship.
With the utmost attention to detail, he created these 19th-century masted schooners to showcase this side of Iceland’s history.
So take your time and get up close and personal with these stunning works of art.
Make a Stopover at Anchor Statue
Another favorite seaside attraction in Keflavik is the Anchor Statue, located near the Duus Museum complex.
It’s a memorial park with a small patch of grass, benches for seating, and a huge anchor right at the center.
This sculpture honors the sailors who lost their lives at sea, tragedies that Icelanders know all too well.
While here, you’ll be treated to views of the bay and the ocean farther out.
You’ll also notice another set of statues just a few steps away.
These rock sculptures—who seem to solemnly stare at the distant waves—are abstract representations of the people living in Keflavik.
Hence, the official name for the two is “Statue of Man and Woman.”
Take a Warm Dip at Waterworld
Before heading to the geothermal hot springs away from Keflavik’s town proper, you can first visit Waterworld.
This indoor waterpark is a local favorite, thanks to its accessibility and family-friendly atmosphere.
Plus, it’s heated all year round!
So there’s no need to worry about Iceland’s harsh winters while in the water park.
You’ll find a 25-meter outdoor pool and a larger 50-meter indoor pool perfect for a few laps.
There’s also a section for kids, with shallow water, thrilling slides, and inflatables that will bring hours of fun.
If you simply want to relax and soak in the warm water, check out the four hot tubs in one section of the facility.
Or you can stay in the saunas and enjoy some invigorating steam time.
Watch the Midnight Sun at Fishing Pier
Since Keflavik sits next to the northern Atlantic Ocean, you can expect many seaside attractions during your visit.
While these destinations are not as glamorous as those in major cities, they have a simple charm elevated by the wild landscapes of Iceland.
One of these attractions is the local fishing pier of Keflavik, which also serves as a park.
It’s located on a small section of the coastline that juts into the sea, offering easy access for fishermen and the Coast Guard.
While on the pier, you’ll see uninterrupted views of the surrounding shores, including the towns of Njardvik and Vogar.
It’s also a great place to watch the midnight sun, which happens during summer.
Thanks to Iceland’s location on the Arctic Circle, the sun remains on the horizon for 24 hours, which can be a disorienting but unforgettable experience for most people.
If the weather and the sea are calm, you can try fishing on the pier and catch some of the native species thriving in the cold waters of the Arctic.
Grab a Bite at Kökulist Bakery
While there are a couple of dining establishments in Keflavik, Kökulist Bakery stands out as one of the town’s enduring institutions.
It’s been around for decades, offering gourmet sandwiches and freshly baked goods to residents and visitors alike.
The menu also includes popular bread from all over the world, a selection of brewed coffee, and sweet treats like ice cream.
So when the cold winds blow, Kökulist Bakery becomes a cozy location for a pick-me-up.
Because of their delicious dishes and friendly atmosphere, the restaurant earned a reputation as one of the beloved establishments in town.
So if you smell the freshly baked bread wafting from their building, don’t hesitate to come in and get yourself a bun or two.
Go Fishing Into the North Atlantic
The ultimate outdoor adventure while in Keflavik is heading to the ocean and braving the frigid waters.
So talk to one of the local charters in town and join them on a trip to the North Atlantic.
Of course, the weather is an essential consideration, especially in the harsh Arctic, so it’s best to come during the summer months.
While on the high seas, you can try catching species like sea trout, salmon, and char.
If the seas prove too treacherous during your visit to Iceland, the lakes and rivers are a great alternative.
The same charters will offer fishing tours to the nearby bodies of water from Keflavik, so there’s no need to fret.
Most of these rivers and lakes contain similar species, and you’ll be on solid ground for extra safety.
Shop for Souvenirs at Svarta Pakkhúsið Gallery
Located near the Anchor Statue park is the intriguing Svarta Pakkhúsið Gallery.
But it’s not the conventional gallery that most people might think of, as this facility functions more like a store.
It’s one of the best places to buy exquisite memorabilia for your trip to Iceland.
On the shelves and tables, you’ll find gorgeous items handcrafted by the skilled artisans of Keflavik.
These include clay and glass sculptures, beautifully designed clothes, handmade jewelry, home decor items, and more.
What’s unique about these is that they have characteristics of traditional Icelandic designs.
So these items can serve as conversation pieces that will allow you to tell your visitors about your trip to Iceland.
Other Things to Do Nearby
After your adventures in Keflavik’s town proper, check out these other places that are just a few minutes away.
Board an Ancient Boat at Viking World
The neighboring town of Njardvík belongs to the same municipality as Keflavik, Reykjanesbær.
So reaching the town’s attractions will only take you a moment via car and a few minutes on foot.
One of the more well-known attractions that you shouldn’t miss is Viking World, an astounding museum showcasing the culture of the eponymous seafaring society.
Within the large building, you’d find a life-size replica of Viking ships, complete with ornaments and intricate design.
What’s great is that you can climb aboard the structure and experience what it’s like to be an ancient seafarer.
There are also intriguing artifacts and documents that tell the story of these mighty people, how they lived and survived the harsh environments in Iceland.
Marvel at the Gunnuhver Hot Springs
You can’t go to Iceland without visiting its iconic geothermal springs.
Thankfully, there’s one that’s less than 30 minutes south of Keflavik: the scenic Gunnuhver Hot Springs.
This active geothermal area has all the hallmarks of volcanic activity: steaming vents, mud pools, and of course, the hot springs.
But unlike others in Iceland, this one is not safe for humans.
You’d die a scalding death if you ever were to fall into the vents.
But don’t worry, there are viewing platforms set up at a safe distance.
So you can stay and watch the billowing steam as it rises from the holes for as long as you desire.
Relax and Unwind at Blue Lagoon Iceland
The alien-looking Blue Lagoon Iceland exploded into popularity thanks to Instagram influencers who posted about the place.
But its fame is an inevitable thing, as no other place in the world comes close to the powder blue waters of this attraction.
Dissolved silica is the chief reason the waters have this hue, but there are other factors that attract visitors from all over the world.
It’s said that the waters have natural healing effects, especially for those with skin diseases.
And who doesn’t want to take a relaxing dip in the warm waters bubbling from underground streams?
So if you have time to spare after your visit to Keflavik, make sure this is one of your stops!
Take Stunning Photos at Valahnúkamöl
There’s no better example of Iceland’s harsh and beautiful landscape than Valahnúkamöl.
Located 30 minutes away from Keflavik, this attraction sits on the southwesternmost edge of the island.
So storms and waves from the Atlantic regularly batter the 420-meter long shoreline.
The result is a rugged boulder beach filled with round stones shaped by weathering and erosion.
Farther out, towering cliffs stand like sentinels watching out for incoming storms or sailors.
All these features create an intimidating seascape that most people would prefer to see from afar.
But many landscape photographers venture to Valahnúkamöl to take stunning photos that will certainly be highlighted in their portfolio.
Head to the Garður Old Lighthouse
On the northern edge of the peninsula is a municipality called Suðurnesjabær, less than 20 minutes from Keflavik.
It’s home to the historic Old Lighthouse of Garður, an old municipality that merged with Sandgerði to create Suðurnesjabær.
Upon arrival, you’d discover that there are actually two navigation structures here, the old and the new lighthouse.
While the newer one is a beautiful sight on its own, most people gravitate towards the more striking ancient building.
It has been around since 1897 and is considered one of the first lighthouses built in the country.
Today, it boasts a pristine white facade with red bands, making it a highly visible structure for those navigating the nearby seas.
Visitors can walk right up to its base and appreciate the surrounding views.
Since it stands on a piece of land jutting into the sea, you’ll be surrounded by mostly water during your tour.
Visiting Iceland is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to most, so touring all its hidden wonders is a must for every traveler.
Don’t miss the quiet and unassuming town of Keflavik, with its cultural and natural attractions that showcase the best of the country.
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