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Keflavik town (Reykjanesbær)

Keflavik town is on everyone’s lips when planning their trips to Iceland but not on everyone’s travel list. And this little town has an exciting story to discover and many places worth visiting. 

Keflavik town is located on the South-west coast of Iceland, more precisely on the Reykjanes coast in the Reykjanes peninsula. It has around 15,500 inhabitants and is the fifth most populated town in Iceland. 

Situated at a 47 km distance from Reykjavik, Keflavik is a little town mainly known for the presence of the international airport in Iceland. Keflavik hides an interesting story that many people do not know. 

Scottish entrepreneurs developed the town in the 16th century based on fishing and fish processing as its main activity. But they were not the only foreigners that put the base of developing the little town. During World War II, in 1940, the US forces were stationed in Iceland and built what later became the Keflavik International Airport. 

The presence of the US forces in Iceland was to deny Germany a strategic hold on Iceland. At that time, the airstrips in Keflavik served as a military base for stopovers and logistical support. The military base at Keflavik was named Naval Air Station Keflavík. 

After World War II, during the Cold War, Naval Air Station Keflavik was used by NATO forces to control the marine and submarine traffic in the Atlantic Ocean. The base had a total of 5,000 people.

The US closed the base in 2006 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the infrastructure is used nowadays for different purposes. 

It is known that the presence of the Americans in Keflavik caused controversy in the local Icelandic community. Icelandic men hated them because Icelandic women fell in love with American men and had families together.

This led to discrimination against them and their children. Because of this, Icelanders started to reject the idea of being part of NATO or having any military presence on Icelandic territory. This thing is still available today, but this attitude has other reasons. 

Beyond all these controversies, Americans invested money in developing the area and the infrastructure in Keflavik and contributed to its cultural and social development.

Keflavik is a very underrated town in Iceland. The town has some fascinating museums that you should visit. In the 1970s, Keflavik was famous for being the home of many musicians in the country.

The Americans at the US military base introduced the rock and roll scene, and Keflavik followed their lead and became known as “the Beatle town”, “the Liverpool of the North”, or Iceland’s “Capital of Rock n’ Roll”.

There is even a museum dedicated to rock and roll and Icelandic music. Some Icelander musicians that are famous in the world are Björk, Sigur Rós, Of Monsters and Men and the recently renowned KALEO.

There is also a cinema at the museum where they put documentaries and movies about the Icelandic music scene

Another museum you should not miss in Keflavik is the Viking Museum “Viking World.” Five exhibitions present the life of the Vikings, their history, traditions and customs together with their heritage and their religion. All you want to know about Vikings you can find there. 

Not far away from Keflavik town, you can find Reykjanes Museum of Heritage – Stekkjarkot where you can see two traditional Viking turf houses some of the last ones in Iceland.

You will find The black cave of the Giantess by the marina in Keflavik. Inside the cave, you will find a Giantess sleeping on an enormous bed. She has a huge cup and a toothbrush.

The cave is relatively small but the decorations inside are the size of the Giantess and make you feel so tiny. If you are travelling with kids, this will be a nice stop.

The landscape around Keflavik is really impressive and the little town has many hidden gems to offer. Next time when you come to Iceland give Keflavik a chance and visit this little cute town on a private tour.

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