The Perfect Reykjavik Walk for Bird Watching and Romancing That Special Someone

Well, the headline is a bit of a lie since the place I am talking about here is actually belongs to the small and lesser known town of Seltjarnarnes on the western tip of Reykjavik.

But I like to keep things simple so I am sticking with this headline anyway even if I get brutally murdered by someone from Seltjarnarnes.

Bakkatjörn pond is a haven for a fantastic variety of birds.
Bakkatjörn pond is a haven for a fantastic variety of birds.

Anyway, the area known as “Grótta” – there is no way for me to translate that  – is the western edge of the peninsula that Reykjavik (and Seltjarnanes) are built on. The good people of Seltjarnarnes have recognized this as the paradise which it is and have mostly left it in peace from development. I say mostly as they have put up a golf course but since that is often dominated by angry artic terns I suppose that doesn´t count. This leaves this a haven for joggers, walkers, cyclists, birds and the occasional seal. I wouldn´t dare to play golf there as the artic tern can really pack a punch if it is angry. And, also, I can´t really play golf to save my life.

Birds at the beach.
Birds at the beach.

The best way to experience this area is to drive or even better, cycle, to the parking lot just near the light house that is on an island just off the beach. You can walk to the island on the low tide across a small isthmus but please be careful not to get caught on the high tide! When you walk on the path towards to the golf course you have this really nice large pond (Bakkatjörn) on the left and a pristine beach on the right. Both places are teeming with birds.

Do you see the seal?
Do you see the seal?

Bakkatjörn pond and the beach at Grótta is frequented by many species of birds that like to nest or simply stay there to rest in relative shelter from predators given by the vigilant artic tern. The list of birds you may see armed with binoculars and a lot of patience includes: Black Headed Gull, Red-breasted Merganser, Ruddy Turnstone,  Long-tailed Duck or Oldsquaw, The Red-necked Phalarope, Greater Scaup, Calidrids, Eurasian Oystercatcher and Black-legged Kittiwake.

Imagine spending a long and freezing winter night as a soldier, waiting for an invasion that never came.
Imagine spending a long and freezing winter night as a soldier, waiting for an invasion that never came.

You will pass an old guard post used in World War II which was manned around the clock to guard against enemy shipping and submarines. The sheer boredom of standing watch there must have something else although I suppose it was better than being shot to pieces on a battlefield somewhere. Then you come to this really weird cairn-like structure that is painted in bright yellow. I suppose this area isn´t entirely drug free! Seriously, there has been a cairn here to guide ships and boats since the eighteenth century although the yellow paint is recent addition. Then path basically turns around the golf course and you walk back to the parking lot. It is an hour worth of a really nice walk that you can enjoy on your own but I recommend that you bring that special someone as this is really one of the more romantic walks available in Reykjavik. In the height of summer when the weather is nice you should go there to experience a really spectacular sunset.

The lighthouse at Grótta.
The lighthouse at Grótta on the low tide.

The final attraction is just off the parking lot, you will see a strange shed which really is for drying fish. Just behind there is this really nice pool for a foot bath. Just sitting there and watching the spectacular view is really something else.

Shed for drying fish. Behind it there is a nice surprise.
Shed for drying fish. Behind it there is a nice surprise.

Please respect the restrictions designed to protect the birds, especially when they are nesting. Stay on the paths and take nothing but pictures and leave nothing behind. If you don´t we will find you and force-feed you fermented shark.

Get those feet in there!
Get those feet in there!

 

How to get there?
Grótta is at the western edge of Reykjavik as shown on the map below.

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The Perfect Reykjavik Walk for Bird Watching and Romancing That Special Someone

time to read: 3 min