Most visitors to Iceland know that the Golden Circle Tour is the first thing to do/see, and especially if you have limited time in Reykjavik. However, if you’re lucky enough to be spending more time in Iceland as a wheelchair user, you can get the help of the accessible tour company Iceland Unlimited and see the stunning Reykjanes Peninsula. You’ll also get to stop at the very wheelchair accessible Blue Lagoon and go in for a dip! Here’s a bit about my experience taking a wheelchair accessible tour of this beautiful part of Iceland.
My tour guide’s plan on this day was to circle the Reykjanes Peninsula on the southwestern-most portion of Iceland. Our first stop was in the Reykjanes Geopark, located in the midst of miles of lumpy lava fields reminiscent of my recent visit to Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho. Upon entering the park, we were surrounded by mist, or what was most likely just very very low clouds. The visibility wasn’t great, but the mist gave the landscape a very creepy, ghostly feel that was actually very beautiful. My guide mentioned how easy it probably was for the Vikings to believe in trolls and elves in this kind of ambience, and I totally got it.
A few minutes later we stopped at an overlook next to a lake. Down below was a black volcanic sand beach exactly like what you would see in Hawaii (minus the sunbathers, of course). The low green-and-black mountaintops disappeared into the low clouds, but the images were fantastic. I was able to collect a few lava rocks for my friends, and I hope they’ll be pleased with the unique souvenir.
Iceland is often cold and very wet, especially when you’re seated and not totally covered! Waterproof pants are a must for a visit, and these are the ones I use (they come in men’s sizes, too): Singbring Women’s Outdoor Lightweight Waterproof Hiking Mountain Pants
Our next stop was at some hot springs that were completely reminiscent of my visit to Yellowstone a few weeks ago–and the sulphur smell here might have been even worse! The pools were very active, and my guide said he was happy because the area was much quieter the last time he was here. Since the local geology here is different than Yellowstone, so are the colors. The pools there were a deep glacier blue with surrounding bacteria in a rust orange. Here, the colors were much more subdued. The water and mud were a grayish blue (periwinkle, if you will), and while there was plenty of that orange and mineral white everywhere, it wasn’t as intense. I couldn’t see the whole area because the transition from the parking lot path to the wooden ramp wasn’t doable for my scooter, but I saw the biggest springs.
We started the drive to our next scenic spot and got to see many more lava fields. Suddenly my guide hit the brakes because there were several cars parked half on the roadway (there are no shoulders here). At first he was mad, but then we saw what the fuss was about. Sheep roundup!!! First, you have to understand that there are sheep EVERYWHERE in Iceland–pretty much three for every man, woman, and child in the country. At this time of yar, ranchers use Icelandic horses (which are small and look like miniature horses) to round up the sheep in this area to prepare them for slaughter. Hey, the yummy lamb dinners have to come from somewhere. Well, catching this roundup in the act is a rarity, according to my guide, but we saw it! It was so cool to see the horses guiding the very long line of sheep along the coast.
Next, we stopped at the southwestern-most point of the peninsula–and the whole country. We couldn’t get out of the van because the ground was just way too uneven for my scooter to negotiate. However, I was still able to get some great photos of the large rock outcroppings and the cliffs in the distance with he North Atlantic crashing into them.
Our next stop was another hot springs area. However, this one was different because it was home to one of the most active geysers in all of Iceland. I mean, this thing as GOING literally full steam. My guide said it didn’t used to be this active, as evidenced by a wooden walkway going up to the vent that had been completely destroyed. The steam erupting from this thing could be seen from quite a distance, and who knows how long it’ll keep going? It could slow down or get even bigger; such is the nature of geothermal activity and Mother Nature.
After this, we were off to our final stop of the day–the famed Blue Lagoon! I had seen plenty of pictures of this place and knew a few people who had been here, so I kind of knew what to expect. However, it was still pretty surreal. My memory of my guide’s explanation of the lagoon is a bit fuzzy, but from what I can recall it was created by water that had to be diverted from an overflow somewhere. When it started to pool, people realized it wasn’t toxic and started bathing in it. Then they started noticing the silica-infused water had some healing properties–most notably for psoriasis and other skin conditions. People felt so great after bathing in the lagoon that an inpatient clinic was established to take advantage of the lagoon.
The whole place is set up like a luxury resort. There’s a hotel, gourmet restaurant,
spa, and gift shop. People are wandering around and lounging on the patio in plush white bathrobes (even though it’s 53˚ outside), and getting pretty tipsy at the swim-up bar in the lagoon. I didn’t get in the water, even though there’s a special accessible changing room and water wheelchair for the zero entry, because hot water makes my MS symptoms flare up. However, there was a little ramp going down into the swim-up bar next to the water where I was able to put my hands in to get a feel. The water was very warm and slippery, like treated soft water. My guide said if you got your hair wet, you’d have not just one, but like three bad hair days because of all the minerals in the water. Many people were also slathered in mud concocted from the water (which is sold in the gift shop), and is supposed to be amazing for your skin. I was happy to observe all this silliness from the glass walls of the amazing restaurant where we had lunch.
It’s possible to visit these areas on your own if you’re driving a rented vehicle. However, I recommend using a guide to learn about all the fascinating geology and geography of the Reykjanes Peninsula landscape. My guide also knew the most accessible paths for my electric scooter at each stop along the way, making for a very smooth and enjoyable day trip from Reykjavik.