Kleifarvatn is the largest lake on the Reykjanes Peninsula, located in the south-west of Iceland. It covers an area of 9.1 square kilometres (3.5 square miles) and is one of Iceland's deepest lakes, reaching a depth of 97 metres (318 feet).
Explore this region on a self drive tour in Iceland.
Kleifarvatn is located in the centre of the Reykjanes Peninsula, near the Krýsuvík and Gunnhver geothermal areas. This region is renowned for its geothermal and geological activity; the landscape is covered in a thick layer of lava, which itself is topped by a haunting moss, and hot springs steam in many areas. A row of active volcanoes run along its length.
The peninsula, and Kleifarvatn itself, lies on the fissure zone of the Mid-Atlantic ridge, between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Their movements, as they pull apart, are what cause this region to have so many eruptions and earthquakes.
An earthquake in 2000, in fact, occurred beneath Kleifarvatn, and drained it of over twenty percent of its surface area. It has since recovered, but not quite the same; the seismic event created hot springs in one corner of the lake.
The draining of Kleifarvatn inspired the Icelandic author Arnaldur Indriðason to write a novel, titled after the lake. In the crime-fiction, the receding waters uncover a body long hidden beneath the surface, and the story follows how she died, and at whose hand. The name of the translation is ‘the Draining Lake’.
Kleifarvatn is not fed by any rivers; all the water coming in and out of it comes from the porous lava rock around it. In spite of this, it still has a high fish population, and is popular amongst anglers.
According to folklore, a whale-like monster lives in Kleifarvatn, akin to the Loch Ness Monster. It is one of two beasts of cryptozoology in Icelandic tales; the other regards a serpent in the eastern lake of Lagarfjlót.
Kleifarvatn is usually visited on sightseeing tours of the Reykjanes Peninsula. Recently, however, scuba diving tours have began in it. On these tours, divers can see the hot springs and feel the bubbles, while exploring the world between two tectonic plates.
The only other place this is possible is Silfra ravine. The water here is a lot clearer, having visibility for up to a hundred metres, but it has much less life in it in Kleifarvatn.
The sightseeing tours visit an array of sights on the Peninsula beside Kleifarvatn. These include the aforementioned geothermal areas, a ‘bridge between the continents’, the Reykjanes lighthouse, and the many fishing villages that nestle in the lunar landscapes.
Some also include activities in the surrounding area, such as lava tubing in the nearby cave of Leiðarendi. Caving here provides an excellent opportunity to learn about the peninsula’s geological history and folklore.
Of course, no discussion of the Reykjanes Peninsula can be complete without a mention of the Blue Lagoon. This stunning resort is renowned the world over for its azure waters and silica masks, as well as its healing properties.