The headline ‘Perfect Reykjavik Walk’ is a bit of a lie. The place I am talking about here 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 about my beloved Grótta.

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

The golf course dominated by the angry arctic tern

Anyway, the area known as “Grótta” (there is no way for me to translate that word) is the western edge of the peninsula on which Reykjavik and Seltjarnanes are built. The good people of Seltjarnarnes have recognized this as paradise and have mostly left it in peace from development. I say “mostly” as they have put up a golf course, but I suppose that doesn’t count since angry arctic terns often dominate that. I think that doesn’t matter. This leaves a haven for joggers, walkers, cyclists, birds, and the occasional seal. I wouldn’t dare to play golf there as the arctic tern can pack a punch if angry. And, I also can’t play golf to save my life.

Birds at the beach.
Birds at the beach.

Don’t get caught out on the tides on your perfect Reykjavik walk

The best way to experience this area is to drive or, even better, cycle to the parking lot near the lighthouse 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 towards the golf course, you have this lovely 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?

Perfect place for bird watching

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 arctic tern. The list of birds you may see armed with binoculars and a lot of patience includes the following:  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.

Pass the guard post from World War 2 on your perfect Reykjavik walk

You will pass an old guard post used in World War II. This post was operated around the clock to guard against enemy shipping and submarines. The sheer boredom of standing watch there must have been something else. However, I suppose it was better than being shot to pieces on a battlefield. Then you come to this bizarre cairn-like structure painted in bright yellow.

Grótta is the perfect spot for a really spectacular sunset

There has been a cairn here to guide ships and boats since the eighteenth century. The yellow paint is a recent addition. Then path basically turns around the golf course and you walk back to the parking lot. It is an hour’s worth of a lovely walk that you can enjoy on your own, but I recommend you bring that special someone as this is really one of the more romantic walks available in Reykjavik. When the weather is excellent in the height of summer, 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 is for drying fish. Just behind there is this lovely pool for a foot bath. Just sitting there and watching the spectacular view is something else—a nice ending for the perfect Reykjavik walk.

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

Please respect the restrictions designed to protect the birds, especially when nesting. Stay on the paths, take nothing but pictures, and leave nothing behind.

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


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

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