The geothermal region of Reykjadalur is a famous place for hiking and natural hot spring baths.
Boiling water escaping from the springs flows along the sides of the mountain to form a river. As this river is fed by glacier water and rainwater, its temperature varies throughout its course.
So it’s up to you to choose your spot for the perfect bath in nature!
The nearby town is Hveragerði. It is known for its multitude of greenhouses heated by water from volcanic hot springs. It is, therefore, an essential home for Icelandic horticulture.
If you need anything, you can find a supermarket, a petrol station, and several cafes and restaurants close by.
Have you heard of the Icelandic rye bread, Rúgbrauð? You’re probably wondering why I’m talking about bread here. Simply because it was customary, in geothermal areas, to cook it in the soil using natural elements! This practice gave it the name of “volcanic bread” or “hot spring bread.”
First, prepare the dough with black rye, whole wheat flour, buttermilk, golden syrup, baking powder, baking soda, and a little salt. Then place the dough in a metal pan with a lid. Seal the top and bury the whole thing in the ground about 30 cm deep and “bake” it for 24 hours.
The Hengilssvæðið area
Do you see Dyrafjöll, north of Hengill? A folk saga tells that it was here that a young farmer killed the troll woman, Jóra, who had fallen asleep waiting for innocent vagabonds and knights.
Hengill volcano, the main spot of the area
The Hengill volcano, which is still active, covers an area of about 100 km².
But there is nothing to worry about; its last eruption took place 2000 years ago!
It is an essential source of energy for the south of the country. It supplies two power plants in the region that are managed by Orkuveita Reykjavik (Reykjavik Energy).
The volcano’s surroundings
The area around Hengill Volcano is a fantastic hiking site, accessible throughout the year. It contains the most beautiful Iceland has to offer: wild landscapes, diverse vegetation, bubbling craters, hot springs, rivers, and lakes.
Since 1991, Reykjavik Energy has been involved in the development of hiking trails on the site it operates in, so that all can appreciate the area. They marked itineraries and put information panels at the start of the walks.
You can download the hiking map from the link:
or directly on the Reykjavik Energy website:
https://www.or.is/en/ – “Environment” section.
On the paths, wooden stakes with tips painted a specific color for each trail guide us through the various routes. The numbers seen on small plates along the tracks indicate the distances between the bases and the main destinations.
If you’re looking for a short hike crowned by a swim in the hot springs in nature, you will find the perfect combination at Reykjadalur.
We went for the 3.5 km route that took us to the part of the river designed for bathing (from the car park to Point B on the map). It took us 3 hours to make the round trip. The trail was excellent, and although it sometimes got a bit steep, we had no difficulties. And frankly, the view is worth the sweat!
Let’s start the walk
We began our hike and found ourselves in the midst of craters with boiling water and pools of bubbling mud. “Danger” signs indicate that the water is at 100˚C. I’m always amazed and a little scared to pass right by these hot springs. I view them as a direct link to the center of the earth. We are indeed in Iceland, where Jules Verne‘s “Journey to the Center of the Earth” begins. 😉
As with all hikes in Iceland, it is forbidden to go off marked trails. For our safety first of all, but actually mainly for the protection of nature.
At the risk of repeating myself, the landscape is majestic — I’ll let you enjoy it in the pictures.
It was the beginning of our walk, and we were desperately looking for the hot river. But the path led us to the top of a hill, while a beautiful river flowed in the valley. We had to face the fact. It wasn’t this one.
Too bad because it was beautiful!
So we continued our ascent and arrived on a plateau. The rainy morning had given way to better weather, and we were lucky enough to enjoy some rays of sunshine. And when the clouds parted to let them pass, the landscape lit up as if by magic!
Eventually, here we are! All in all, it didn’t take that long, but impatience always makes time slower than it is and we were dreaming of a nice hot bath! It was on our bucket list when we decided to travel to Iceland.
The “bathing” part, over a hundred meters, has been arranged and set up. The higher is the warmest part, and a small swimming pool has been built there. A few people were enjoying the water, locals who came to appreciate this heavenly place, so we went back down a bit.
And here’s our quiet bath spot.
Small screens allow a little privacy to get changed, but it was so quiet that we didn’t really have a need for them.
It’s time to return
After a nice hot bath and a shiver getting out of the water, we started our way back perked up.
We took the time to admire the particular plants and algae that grow in rivers of warm water. And what beautiful and bright colors!
I can’t finish without a saga: the saga of hot springs
As Icelanders are fond of storytelling, they also have one that talks about “hot spring birds.” The story didn’t take place in Reykjaladur but in Olkelduhals and Hagavikurlaugar, two other geothermal areas, but it is worth knowing. Legend has it that these small, dark-colored birds would swim in the bubbling hot springs. If you were able to capture one to eat, don’t make the mistake of boiling it! This is entirely useless — immerse in cold water; it will become tasty and ready to be eaten.
It is a hike to do without hesitation. The walk is lovely with varied landscapes. The track is easy to access with no risk of getting lost, which suits well with my bad sense of orientation. You only have to think of taking your swimsuit because the real goal is still the bath. And I swear to you that it is exceptional to enter a mountain river and to relax there!