The Reykjanes Geopark is home to a striking, dramatic landscape comprising lava fields, volcanic craters, geothermal waters, and lava caves. This exciting day tour includes visits to the latest eruption site, the Seltún geothermal area, the bubbling mud pools of Gunnuhver, and the Bridge Between Two Continents!
Straddling Tectonic Plates at the Bridge Between Two Continents
Facts about the Bridge Between Continents
Did you know that you can stroll between Europe and America in a matter of seconds? The 50-foot Bridge Between Two Continents crosses the rift between the two tectonic plates in Iceland. The continental plates are constantly drifting apart and separate further by around 2.5 centimetres every year. It is this separation that has caused the huge scar, or ‘rift’ in Iceland’s landscape. The Bridge Between Continents spans the gap of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which runs for more than 16,000 kilometres across the globe. Despite its length, Iceland is the only place on Earth where you can see the Mid-Atlantic Ridge above sea level.
The Bridge Between Continents used to be called ‘Leif the Lucky’ Bridge after Leif Erikson, a Viking-age explorer from Iceland who is said to have set foot on America around 500 years before Christopher Columbus.
How to visit the Bridge Between 2 Continents
Isolated at the edge of the Reykjanes Peninsula, the Bridge Between Continents feels as though it is in the middle of nowhere. Jet-black lava fields and rugged rock formations seem to stretch for miles from this spot. It is around 62 kilometres (38 miles) from Reykjavík and the drive takes just under an hour. It is easy to drive yourself to the Bridge Between Continents if you are hiring a car – you just need to follow routes 40 and 41 out of the city and turn off onto route 44 at Njarðvík, following route 425 out of Hafnir until you see the sign for the bridge.
The Bridge Between Continents is close to Iceland’s main international airport. Keflavík Airport is 23 kilometres away (14 miles), and the drive takes around 25 minutes. The famous Blue Lagoon geothermal bath is in the same area as the Bridge Between Continents, so the bridge can be an easy stop before or after a rejuvenating soak in the milky-blue waters.
If you’d rather leave the driving and navigation to someone else, there are plenty of day trips from Reykjavík to the Reykjanes Peninsula. Joining an organised tour that stops at the Bridge Between Continents is an easy way to reach this isolated spot and means your trip is paired with the highlights of the area – the Blue Lagoon, volcano hiking and visiting the lighthouse at the edge of the ocean.
Things to do at the Bridge Between Continents
Most people stop at the Bridge Between Continents for just a few minutes, making the short walk from the car park to the footbridge to snap some photos as they straddle the line between America and Europe. There are signs either side of the bridge (one saying ‘welcome to America’, the other ‘welcome to Europe’) for prime photo opportunities and, once you’ve crossed, you can claim a certificate at the nearby Reykjanes Geopark Visitors' Centre which is located in the Duus Museum in Keflavík town.
Apart from crossing the footbridge, you can simply take in the other-worldly beauty of the spartan volcanic landscape from the Sandfellshæð Viewpoint a few moments' walk away. If you’re travelling this far along the Reykjanes Peninsula, you may as well continue for a few more minutes to Sandvík Beach where the rugged volcanic cliffs meet the wild North Atlantic Ocean.
Away from any light pollution, the Reykjanes Peninsula is a prime place to hunt for the Northern Lights in winter. The Bridge Between Continents is in the middle of nowhere with a handy car park, so it’s a great place to cast your eyes towards the sky and search for the green glow of the aurora borealis on a cloudless night. The beams of light dancing against the black sky with the bridge in the foreground make an excellent photo.
Experiences and Sights Around the Bridge Between 2 Continents Iceland
While the Bridge Between Continents is quite a small yet quirky feature of the Reykjanes Peninsula, it is close to one of Iceland's biggest and most popular attractions. The famous Blue Lagoon is just 25 kilometres from the bridge – a 25-minute drive. Here, you can slip into the bath-warm water of this outdoor lagoon and let your mind and body rejuvenate. As Keflavík Airport is in the area too, you can easily combine a visit to the Bridge Between Continents and a session at the Blue Lagoon with transfers to your evening or late afternoon flight home.
Once you’ve crossed the bridge, it’s worth heading to Keflavík town where there is a volcanic geopark and visitor’s centre. This is where you can pick up a certificate declaring you’ve crossed the rift between two continents. This section of the Reykjanes Peninsula is also home to Garður Old Lighthouse, which is a pretty lookout point where you can gaze at the endless North Atlantic Ocean all the way to the horizon. The Reykjanes Geopark is UNESCO-protected and features marked walking trails that wind across the volcanic landscape.
All About the Bridge Between Two Continents
Iceland is gradually splitting in two as the Eurasian and American tectonic plates drift apart at a rate of about 2.5 centimetres a year. However, over the centuries, new volcanic eruptions help to fill the increasing gap with magma which then solidifies leaving a rift in the landscape, but keeping Iceland cemented together.
The continental divide between the American and Eurasian plates runs as a great fissure like a scar across Iceland’s landscape. There are several points along the fissure where you can walk between the tectonic plates. The most famous spot is probably at Þingvellir National Park where a walking trail leads between the two continental plates. You can even dive or snorkel between the plates at Silfra. The Bridge Between the Continents on the Reykjanes Peninsula is where you can straddle the continental divide, with one foot in America and one foot in Europe, and get a certificate for it from the Reykjanes information centre in Keflavík town.
On the Reykjanes Peninsula, the Bridge Between Two Continents is within perfect day-tripping distance from Reykjavík. It’s 62 kilometres (38 miles) from the centre of the capital and it’s an easy, relatively short (55 minutes) drive which you can tackle yourself if you’re hiring a car. You can stop at the ethereal, milky-blue waters of the Blue Lagoon on the way and look out over the North Atlantic at the rugged cliffs of Hafnarberg nearby. The main international airport at Keflavík is just a short drive away too – it’s around 23 kilometres (17 miles) and takes about 25 minutes. Organised day trips run from Reykjavík to the Reykjanes Peninsula and some include a stop at Iceland’s Bridge Between the Continents if you don’t fancy driving yourself.
The bridge itself is only 50 feet long, so you could pass between the continents in seconds if you want to. Including stopping for a photograph or two of you straddling the continents, the walk across usually takes a few minutes. There is a short walk along the path from the car park to the bridge too.
While you can stand between the two tectonic plates at the Bridge Between the Continents, the gap is too large to touch both sides of the rift at the same time. The only place in Iceland where you can touch two tectonic plates at once is under the water at Silfra. On a diving experience between the continental plates, there is a point where the two sides of the great rift are close enough to touch at the same time.
The continental plates of Europe and America meet at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge – a long chasm in the Atlantic Ocean that runs for thousands of miles. The rift is mainly deep underwater, but it does run through Iceland, making this the only country on Earth where you can witness the meeting of the American and Eurasian plates above sea level. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is in the west of Iceland and runs through Þingvellir National Park and out on the Reykjanes Peninsula where you’ll find the Bridge Between Two Continents.
The Bridge Between Two Continents is the official name of the bridge spanning the gap between the North American and Eurasian continental plates. It used to be named ‘Leif the Lucky Bridge’ after the renowned Icelandic Viking-age explorer Leif Erikson who was said to be the first European to reach America, around 500 years before Columbus.
The Bridge Between Two Continents is almost at the very westerly tip of the Reykjanes Peninsula. It is at Sandvík and crosses the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
The Bridge Between Two Continents doesn’t cross water as it is a symbolic bridge connecting the two sides of the Mid-Atlantic Rift. It is more like an art installation or sculpture than a means to get from one side of the rift to the other. Sitting against a backdrop of lunar-like volcanic plains, it makes for a striking picture.
The border between the tectonic plates runs through Iceland – most famously through Þingvellir National Park, but also scarring the land across the Reykjanes Peninsula. It is marked at the Bridge Between Two Continents where one side is signposted with ‘welcome to America’ and the other ‘welcome to Europe’, making it a popular photo spot.