I am a little OCD when it comes to travel planning (or planning in general), so believe me when I say that I researched my recent trip to Iceland thoroughly. And I am completely flabbergasted that this did not show up in most of the blogs, articles, and tour itineraries I’ve looked at. But it did show up once and that was enough. I added this to the list of my pitstops and have been thanking my lucky stars ever since. This was, hands down, my favourite stop in the Golden Circle and one of the top highlights of my entire trip to Iceland.
The Reykjadalur hot spring is incredible and would be at the top of my list should I ever find myself anywhere near Reykjavik. It’s a hike, a relaxing soak, a perfect picnic spot, and a few hours spent out in the fresh air, all neatly tied in one beautiful package. Iceland is peppered with hot springs but this is one of the coolest I’ve tried because it’s actually an entire hot river. With walled-off “terraces” to form little pools you can enjoy all to yourself if you travel off season. And it feels very remote. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Because getting here is half the fun.
The Reykjadalur hot spring is about a 40-min drive from Reykjavik near Hveraderdi but you’re in for a hike when you get there. A beautiful one and worth every step. My partner and I didn’t time the hike but expect to spend at least 30 mins hiking in through a pristine landscape. There is definitely some elevation gain but it’s a pretty gentle rise and not particularly onerous. The path is very well maintained and walking on soft volcanic soil is pretty enjoyable on its own. And then you have the landscape. Moss-covered hills and valleys, waterfalls, steam vents, bubbling mud pools – it’s nothing like I’ve ever seen before and absolutely beautiful.
To get here, drive to Hveragerdi and follow signs for Reykjadalur. You would need to drive through the town and up towards the hills. A Google map search actually produces pretty accurate results and helps visualize the route. You will eventually come to a dead-end and there will no doubt be a number of cars parked along the road. There is a small cafe at the base of the trail and a couple of outdoor washrooms, which I highly recommend using before you start the hike because that’s the only one you’ll see from here on. The one thing Iceland is not known for is its dense vegetation, so if you’re banking on some tree cover later on to see you through, you’re shit out of luck.
Once you’ve emptied your bladder and made sure you have everything you need, head on up the trail. It’s very easy to follow and incredibly well maintained. We did also notice some signs of horse-led excursions heading in the same direction (mainly in the form of infrastructure). They won’t take you all the way to the hot spring (horses aren’t allowed past a certain point) and I’m not sure who runs those tours, but the option is definitely there.
As you get closer to the hot spring, you will start passing through mud pools and hot vents. These are really fun to see and, fortunately, very well signed warning people that these are hot. I would suggest paying attention to those. 100 degrees is mighty hot and will scald you if you get too close!
We visited in November and the weather was perfect (slightly above zero). Don’t let overcast skies keep you away – it made the soak all the more enjoyable and the hike in quite moody. November also meant the perfect amount of people (not too many!) to make this a thoroughly enjoyable visit. Once you get to the valley, the hot river stretches in front of you and if you are lucky enough to visit when it isn’t crowded, you can claim one of the stepped “pools” all to yourself. They aren’t terribly deep but deeper than most of the natural hot springs we’ve visited and definitely deep enough to stretch out and completely submerge yourself when you’re horizontal. And the temperature was absolutely perfect! I cannot rave about this enough.
There are boardwalks on either side of the river, and a couple of modesty screens and benches to make changing a little easier (though, really, with natural hot springs and a largely European visitor base, privacy is just something you’re going to have to get over; trust me – nobody cares). This is a remote location, so do bring everything you need with you (including snacks and water if you plan to stay a while, which I highly recommend).
Let me know if you end up making a stop here and enjoy the visit as much as I have!