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The top 3 most interesting lighthouses on the Reykjanes peninsula

If you find yourself on the Reykjanes peninsula on a windy day, it’s not hard to work out why there was a need for lighthouses to protect sailors and shipping along the often rocky shore. In fact, numerous lighthouses have been erected in this part of Iceland. Many cluster around the west and south west shore of the peninsula where the prevailing Atlantic Ocean waves potentially can do the most harm. All of them are worth visiting as landmarks but a few can be climbed too for spectacular views out over the sea. If you’re keen to visit a lighthouse during your stay, these three have a particularly interesting story behind them.

Reykjanes: the old one

The Reykjanes lighthouse is Iceland’s oldest. The original structure was built at Valahnúkur but fell victim to a sizeable earthquake just a few years later. The constant battering of the lighthouse by the sea didn’t help matters. In 1908, thirty years after it was first constructed, it was replaced by the building you see today, which is located slightly further inland on Bæjarfell. It’s still pretty much the same as it was when new, though gas was installed in 1929 allowing the original kerosene lamp to be replaced. Its light flashes twice every 30 seconds and helps keep maritime users safe. However, erosion from the sea once again threatens this heritage structure and it may have to be replaced at some point in the future.

Garðskagi: the tall one

Sometimes when a new lighthouse is erected, the old one isn’t demolished and that’s the case at Garðskagi. The shorter, striped one is the oldest, of course, constructed in 1897, while the newer one was built close by in 1944 and electrified two years later. You might wonder why they bothered with such a short one in the first place, but actually, at times when the cloud was low, its light would have been unobstructed by mist and fog. Unfortunately, however, in large storms, the 12.5 metre high lighthouse would be inundated by the massive waves. The structure eventually became unsafe, which is why its neighbour was needed. Standing 28 metres tall, the views from the top are simply splendid.

Hópsnes: the colourful one

Explore south of Grindavik and you can’t fail to spot the orange paint that covers the Hópsnes lighthouse. A century or so ago, before the harbour in Grindavik itself was constructed, the fishing industry flourished here. This stretch of coastline would have buzzed with activity. Little remains of the huts for processing, salting and storing the catch. This way of making a living was fraught with peril, and even today, visitors can see just how dangerous in the many shipwrecks that litter the landscape. Plaques tell their stories, though the wording on some has been worn by the waves. The lighthouse, built in 1928, was vital in saving lives and serves as a reminder of how tough times would have been for those who lived here years ago.