#hotspring

Reykjadalur is a small valley (Smoke Valley) just north of the town of Hveragerði in the South Region in Iceland. This magnificent geothermal wonderland is possibly one of Iceland's most famous hiking trails and hiking area. The small river snaking along the valley is extraordinary with its hot pools and mud pots in the river bed making the water hot in various places and creating small natural geothermal hot pot ideal for resting and relaxing.

The hike through geothermal area

A mere five to ten minutes after starting your walk along the trail you are surrounded by wilderness, smoke, mud and, hot water. The hike through the valley to Ölkelda is approximately 3 km long. So if you are hiking from the parking lot near Hveragerði remember that you must walk the same way back.  Along the way, you'll be able to observe gurgling mud pots and superheated natural pools of water close up. Hiking this extraordinary valley is quite pleasant, indeed. It is also relatively easy, with only modestly rocky areas. It is not a challenging hike, and practically anyone can do it. The route is a treat to the eyes, with colorful strata and vegetation typical for geothermal areas.

A nice day at Reykjadalur

A wonderful place for photographers

This valley contains quite some great photo moments and photo opportunities. Upon reaching the end of the trail, at Ölkelda you are in for a treat. There, cradled in the bosom of picturesque mountains, riddled with unusual and gigantic rock formations is a natural pool: Smack in the middle of the river. It is the number one reason for the trail's popularity. The Icelanders love bathing in their natural pools. They also like just sitting there gazing at the fantastic nature surrounding them. So, take your swimsuit along and enjoy the day.

 

Reykjadalur near Hveragerði town

The Geysir hot spring is part of the geothermal field in Haukadalur valley in South Iceland, quite close to the entrance to the Kjalvegur road leading to the Highland. It has been active for 10.000 years, although the earliest accounts of hot springs in Haukadalur only date back to 1294.  Geysir is a capricious hot spring, sometimes active, sometimes not.  Its earliest mention was due to significant changes in the area's landscape following a mighty earthquake. Ever since seismic activities have been carefully documented, and the geothermal field in Haukadalur closely monitored.

Connections between earthquakes and hot spring eruptions

Earthquakes tend to strengthen Geysir. It has had quite a few peeks during the nineteen century, as well as bursts of activities. If we go a bit further back, it had been more or less asleep for ages until the 1896 earthquake. Then it started erupting several times a day again, causing eruptions of up to 60 meters high and lasting for up to an hour. In 1910, Geysir was active every 30 minutes. The spells of activity rarely last more than a few months, and after the action in 1910, it looked as if the mighty Geysir was dead.

Geysir has a history of shutting off and turning on at its own convenience

In 1935 a channel was cut through the silica rim around its vent. The ditch resulted in lowering of the water level and restored Geysir's activity. The channel soon became clogged with silica and eruptions all but ceased. In 1981, the ditch was cleared again. By then, those who had authority over the hot spring realized it could be stimulated – on special occasions – by adding soap to it. Due to environmental concerns, the method was soon abandoned.The last time Geysir displayed its grandeur was following the Icelandic National Day earthquakes in 2000. It spewed its boiling water 122 m high and thus became the highest known geyser in history.

Strokkur has taken over the responsibility of splashing boiling water from the hot spring

Today the other impressive geyser Strokkur has taken the role and responsibility of erupting every ten to fifteen minutes every day and every night of the year. It is one of the most remarkable creature of mother nature in Iceland, almost like it wast designed for tourism. Barely fails or disappoints its hundred of thousands of visitors every year. 

 

Strokkur hot spring in Haukadalur

If there is a place with apparent "wow" factor in Iceland, it has got to be Námaskarð. Located a short distance from the spectacular volcanic mountain, Krafla, Námaskarð, Hverarönd, is an expanse of hot springs, fumaroles, mud pools and mud pots. Everything is at a boiling point in the stunning arctic desert. No vegetation in sight. The constant emission of fumes has made the ground completely sterile and acidic, thus unfit to sustain flora and fauna. But, the colorful minerals defy imagination.

Námaskarð is a short distance from Lake Mývatn where you can enjoy rich vegetation and refreshing spring water. At Námaskarð, you will be hard to find pure spring water. Everything is imbued with sulfur, even the air, making the smell from the area quite distinct. Those who dislike the smell will tell you the area smells like rotten eggs. Those who do like it will maintain it has the fragrance of living, breathing earth constantly on the move.

This barren beauty is definitely a place to visit. You can spend hours gazing in amazement at the ever-changing patterns and hues. But, be mindful of the sulfur. Too much of it is not only harmful to vegetation, but also to humans.

Below is the location of Námaskarð / Hverarönd on the map of Iceland

boiling mud at Námaskarð Hverarönd

The mountain Trölladyngja (Troll Mountain) is quite curious. This dwarf of a mountain (only 275 meters high) consists of palagonite like most mountains in the area. Trölladyngja and its surroundings is part of the Krísuvík Geothermal Area, but only recently so. Until 1975, there was no geothermal activity around the mountain, but a few years later things started to shift and change. Today Trölladyngja is geothermally very active. It is quite apparent in the colorful south side of the mountain and its surroundings.

Next to Trölladyngja is another mountain, Grænadyngja (Green Mountain) that is a bit higher (393 meters). The two mountains are commonly referred to as "The Sisters." Both mountains are geothermally very active, and also very popular amongst hikers. Both mountains are easy to mound, even for the inexperienced hiker. Indeed, one of the most popular and beautiful hiking routes in the Reykjanes Peninsula is the hike from Trölladyngja onto Grænadyngja, through the beautiful valley running between them.

"The Sisters" rise high above the lava field surrounding them, and are easily discernible from a long distance away, i.e. from the Capital area. Close by, you will find some of the most popular attractions in the Reykjanes Peninsula, such as the Blue Lagoon, the Bridge Between Two Continents, Reykjanesviti Lighthouse, Seltún and Gunnuhver.
 

 

Below is the location of Trölladyngja mountain on the map of Iceland

The mountain Trölladyngja and her sister Grænadyngja

 

On the road to Krýsuvík, you will pass the beautiful geothermal area at Seltún. The main area is a fascinating hot spring field to the southwest, recognizable by the mud pools and steaming ground. Through the steam, you'll notice the yellow, green and red-orange colors, as well as the white and brown colors of the sulfates. The sulfates dissolve in water and become mottled. Thus, when it rains they disappear altogether, leaving only the bright yellow, green and red colors of the sulfur. It is a mythical sight to see.

A source for green power production?

In the mid-20th century, there were plans to utilize the geothermal field for power production, and Seltún then became one of the main drilling targets. Old drill pads are still in situ near the path along the creek.  During the winter of 2010, one of the boreholes started erupting intermittently with a few days between the eruptions. Another old drilling well blew up in 1999 forming a crater of approximately 30 diameters, now filled with mud except where a flow of steam keeps the boiling pits open. The explosion debris covers the surrounding slope like a carpet of yellowish mud up to about 100 meters.

Access is easy by the road

Walking the easy planks and steps through the area is quite an experience. Climbing to the top platform is a must. The view from this living, breathing corner of the earth is simply stunning.  To access you take a turn south from the main road between Reykjavík and The International airport at Keflavík, by the Aluminum Plant on Road Nr. 42. After about 20 kilometers you will arrive at Seltún.  Seltún is also part of the one day Road Trip around the Reykjanes Peninsula we recommend if you have a day in the capital Reykjavík. By taking that road trip you can see and discover many other magnificent places. 

 

Below is the location of Seltún on the map of Iceland

On the road to Krýsuvík, you will pass the beautiful solfatara field at Seltún.

Krísuvík is one of the fascinating areas in Iceland. That is if you are a true lover of nature. Situated in the south of the Reykjanes Peninsula, in the middle of the fissure zone of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, it is spectacular. It is such an active geothermal area; one cannot help but wonder: Is it here that Iceland breathes?

The area is riddled with steaming volcanic vents and boiling hot springs, framed dramatically by a range of multi-colored hill. At Seltún and Gunnuhver you will find solfataras, fumaroles, mud pots and hot springs, giving the soft soil its yellow, red and green hue.

Well-maintained boardwalks wind through the bubbling and hissing geothermal areas, with informative signage explaining all the important geological facts.

A short distance away from the geothermal fields you will discover several maars/crater lakes, created by the explosions of overheated groundwater.  The largest is Kleifarvatn and the second is Grænavatn (Green Lake), which glows in a deep green. It derives its color from thermal algae and crystals absorbing the Sun.

A few minutes drive away from this surreal landscape are the Krísuvík Cliffs with its thousands of sea birds. They nest in the rugged hillside beside the crashing Atlantic surf. All you have to do is hike along a trail to the edge of the cliffs, and you'll spot kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills and a vast number of other species as they dive into the frolicking sea.

Below is the location of Krísuvík on the map of Iceland

The Colorful Krísuvík

 

Kleifarvatn is the largest lake on the Reykjanes Peninsula. It is situated on the fissure zone of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge a short distance from the dramatic geothermal area of Seltún.The lake is incredibly deep, 97 meters (318 feet) at its deepest point. But, its unique feature is that it has no visible surface drainage, which means there are no rivers running to or from it. Thus, the water level only changes with the ground water. Following an earthquake in the year 2000, a fissure formed at the bottom of the lake that soon began to drain. It diminished by 20 percent. Gradually though, the fissure refilled, and the lake has returned to its previous levels.

Kleifarvatn lake is a popular destination and attraction

Today, the Kleifarvatn area is gradually becoming a popular destination for hikers, joggers and bird watchers. Surrounding the lake is a comfortable trail where you can enjoy the dramatic and ever-changing landscape. The lake itself attracts the local anglers who like to fish for trout in the tranquil, colorful area.

Monster and crime scene in a famous Icelandic novel

The lake is believed to be inhabited by a monster. The serpent-like creature is the size of a large whale and has been spotted surfacing now and then. The lake is the setting for the crime novel The Draining Lake by one of Iceland's most prominent crime authors Arnaldur Indriðason

 

Below is the location of Kleifarvatn on the map of Iceland

Lake Kleifarvatn at Reykjanes Peninsula

The world famous hot spring Geysir in Iceland is a tired old geyser that only lives on old fame and doesn’t erupt anymore. Eruption in Geysir stopped many years ago and even at the end Geysir only erupted with additional help. One of the methods for starting an eruption in Geysir in the eighties and nineties was to fill it with soft soap. A huge amount of soft soap piled into the hot spring worked like a good dose of Viagra.

It is a fantastic natural wonder that no one visiting Iceland should miss, even though the area looks overcrowded.

In Iceland, the Blue Lagoon at the Reykjanes Peninsula is becoming a landmark equivalent to Big Ben in London and the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It is a place most visitors and tourists that plan a trip and come to Iceland want to visit.  Needless to say, it is probably the most popular tourist destination in Iceland. These unique baths were discovered accidentally in the 1970s. During a construction operation at the nearby Geothermal power plant, the workers decided to use this natural pool to wash after a long and exhausting day. Soon, the word spread about the water's extraordinary qualities. It is extremely rich in silica and sulfur, thus excellent for helping people suffering from skin diseases, such as psoriasis. One gentleman from the nearby town of Keflavik fighting the disease decided to try the bath. His experiment was successful even to the amazement of some of his doctors.

A lagoon from the Geothermal Power Plant became a popular bath

During the first years, the public spas were operated at the original site. But, the natural setting proved to be too dangerous resting in the middle of a lava field. The bottom of the pool was fissures riddled, hiding some rock traps. A company was formed to build a new and safe pool.  As the lagoon became more convenient to bath in, more and more people became interested in bathing in the blue lagoon. The current pool is man-made. The nearby power plant, Svartsengi, feed the pool through water output. The water is being renewed every two days.

Recently renovated it is truly a joy to visit

Just recently the Blue Lagoon and the area around the lagoon was renovated and are now a state of the art Geothermal Pool.  The water temperature in the lagoon's bathing and swimming areas is on average 37-39°C. Apart from the public pools, the Blue Lagoon also operates a research and development facility to help find cures for other skin ailments, using the mineral-rich water.  Access to the Blue Lagoon is as easy as it gets. You go to the Road Nr. 41, which is the first road most visitors drive when in Iceland, the road between the International Airport at Keflavík and Reykjavík the capital of Iceland. About 30 kilometers from Reykjavík you turn south on Road Nr. 43 to the town of Grindavík. A few kilometers before you come to Grindavík you will see the Geothermal Power Plant at Svartsengi and the signs leading to the Blue Lagoon on Road Nr. 426.

 

 

The Blue Lagoon in Iceland

In the Icelandic nature, everything has a name, every mountain, every valley, every canyon, fissure or even crack.  And almost behind each name is a story. The most southern tip of the Reykjanes Peninsula is a spectacular place to visit. A highly active geothermal area of mud pools and steam vents boiling practically under your feet – if you dare to walk the wooden planks crisscrossing the area. Indeed, here is where you find the biggest mud pool in Iceland, Gunnuhver – or Gunna hot spring.

The hot spring got its name from one troublesome ghost, Gunna.

Just before dying the woman Gunna had a fight with the local sheriff, Wilhelm whom she hated. When she died, their dispute had not been solved. Still, Wilhelm attended her funeral. Suspiciously the next day he was found dead; his body bruised and blue, his bones broken. His remains were taken to the Útskálar church where the priest, Gísli, had to fight Gunna the ghost throughout the night as she was determined to drag the sheriff to Hell.  Gunna the ghost did not succeed and went absolutely bonkers. Wilhelm‘s widow suddenly died an unexplainable death, people traveling the peninsula got lost, died or went mad. Everyone knew Gunna was to blame. She refused to stay dead – and was quite visible. Life on the Reykjanes peninsula became unbearable.

Finding a way to get rid of the ghost

Finally, two farmers, with some spiritual knowledge, decided to get the priest at Vogósar, Erik, to bust the ghost. Knowing Eric would be reluctant, they decided to bribe him with quite a potent poteen – which he was known to like a tad too much.  After listening to their plight, the priest gave the farmers a rope with a knot on one end. He told them to give the unknotted end to Gunna; the knotted end would trundle and drag her to a place where she would get stuck forever. The farmers did as they were told and the last sighting they heard of Gunna the ghost was when she plunged into the hot spring. They declared her dead, the peninsula became safe from her misconducts and gave the hot spring her name so everyone would know where Gunna met her final fate.

Gunnuhver in the Reykjanes peninsula, not far from the International airport in Iceland was once a beautiful little hot spring.

A few months ago Gunnuhver started to change its mood and became a bit angry and aggressive. The hot spring became louder and started to expand to a larger area. In a few days, Gunnuhver had consumed part of the platform intended for viewing its beauty and started to splash hot clay and boiling dirty drizzle all over the place. Although a bit calm these days, the former pretty little hot spring is considered quite dangerous. As we can see, there are still photographers that are prepared to take the risk on some of the platforms that Gunnuhver has not consumed, yet.

Gunnuhver is a highly active geothermal area of mud pools and steam vents on the Reykjanes peninsula