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5 things to do near KEF airport

The best kinds of trips are those where you get to know a destination by interacting with its residents and doing things you wouldn’t do usually at home. Of course, once you arrive at the airport, all you need is two feet and a sense of adventure: hikers will be delighted at the extraordinary sight of nearby Fagradalsfjall volcano even though the eruption’s currently on pause and the lava’s subsided. But although there’s plenty to see in this part of Iceland, there’s a lot to be said for basing your itinerary around pastimes that are much more active. The good news is that you don’t have to venture far from Keflavik Airport to find some fun things to do. Before you hit the road for Reykjavik and beyond, here are five things to do near Keflavik Airport.

Ride an Icelandic horse

Icelandic horses are sturdy, calm animals that are easy to ride. Even if you’re a complete novice, it won’t take you long to feel comfortable in the saddle and confident that you won’t fall off and make a fool of yourself. Riding an Icelandic horse is a great way to get to see your surroundings, not least because you’ll cover more ground and be slightly more elevated than if you were on two feet instead of four hooves. Arctic Horses is a local outfit which offers rides in the Reykjanes Peninsula, so you won’t need to travel very far from the airport to start your equine excursion. You’ll enjoy a ride where you might look out over the ocean or see the steam rising from a distant volcano. Ambling along, you’ll feel relaxed and at one with nature. Once you’re ready, your guide will invite you to try the famous tölt. Icelandic horses have a unique gait, so while you’ll recognise the walk, trot, canter and gallop from back home, this extra pace will be something entirely new. It’s fast, giving rise to its nickname “flying pace”, but it’s also super smooth and relatively easy to master.

Spend a day birdwatching

Iceland’s location in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean means that it’s a popular stopover for migratory birds. That, together with the opportunity to see its native birds and seabirds, makes the country a treat for even the most experienced birdwatchers. It’s possible to see many species without leaving Reykjanes. One of the must-visit places on the peninsula is the bird cliffs at Krýsuvíkurberg. Home to a colony numbering into the tens of thousands, you could see myriad species including snow buntings, purple sandpipers, puffins, guillemots, kittiwakes, razorbills, fulmars, shags and gulls. Further west, some of those species are also regular visitors to Hafnaberg. Wading birds pick their way through the mud flats of Ósar Bay, close to Hafnir; it’s a good place to spot Harlequin ducks, eiders, mallards and Arctic skuas as well. Valahnúkur is where you’ll find the only colony of Arctic terns in a geothermal area, though be warned, they are notoriously aggressive when protecting their young. A few miles offshore on Eldey Island, one of the largest northern gannet colonies awaits.

Rock out to some of Iceland’s best tunes

Museums are no longer the stuffy places we once endured in the pursuit of education. These days, many are fun places to hang out and enjoy yourselves while you learn something new. On the Reykjanes Peninsula, one of the most captivating is the Icelandic Museum of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Much of its appeal is thanks to how interactive it is. There are biographies of many of Iceland’s most famous bands and singers, and you’ll be given an iPad to carry round with you so that you can listen to some of their most successful tunes. The museum’s Sound Lab also offers visitors the chance to have a go at playing an electric drum kit, guitar or bass. That said, you’ll probably have the biggest laugh in the museum’s karaoke booth as you realise that singing in tune isn’t as easy as those professionals make it seem.

Book a pamper package at one of the world’s top spas

The Reykjanes Peninsula is where you’ll find the Blue Lagoon. While many tourists are content to stop by for a quick soak in this fabulous geothermal baths, if you can spare the time and money you won’t regret splurging on a visit to their Retreat Spa. For five gloriously indulgent hours, you can forget your cares and worries as you spoil yourself with their tried and tested pamper routine. Guests have access to a secluded private pool. You’ll enjoy the same mineral-rich water as in the regular pool, but its lava canyons make the experience feel much more atmospheric. The Retreat’s designers have created hidden nooks and discrete spaces where you can relax beside an open fire, meditate to the sound of trickling water in their lava spring or gaze out through floor-to-ceiling windows from a cosy nest chair. Take advantage of an extensive range of spa treatments including float therapy, massages and a menu of beauty treats such as exfoliating scrubs and replenishing facials.

Take to the water

Vogasjóferðir (Voga Sea Tours) is a Reykjanesbær-based family business. They offer trips on their boat Særós which will help you explore the shoreline and waters that surround the Reykjanes Peninsula. A popular option is their whale watching tour, which heads out into Faxaflói Bay from Keflavik’s harbour in the hope of spotting humpback and minke whales, harbour porpoises and white beaked dolphins. They also offer you the chance to try sea angling. They’ll take you out to the best fishing ground in the bay and supply all the equipment you need to catch something – most likely haddock, cod, pollock or mackerel. You’ll enjoy plenty of fresh air and, best of all, you get to keep anything you catch. Særós also heads out into the bay after dark, so if you’re keen to find a spot to watch the Aurora Borealis away from light pollution, this could be the ideal way to achieve that goal. It’s advisable to dress warmly, as it tends to be chillier out here than on land. Nevertheless, if you hit the jackpot and the Northern Lights make an appearance, you won’t be thinking of anything but that incredible show in the sky.