What are the best hot springs in Iceland? Where can you find these hot springs and what makes them so special?
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Natural Hot Springs in Iceland
Iceland is the land of ice, fire and water, water, WATER! The country is situated on a 'hot spot' on the earth, resulting in a lot of geothermal activity, but there are also glaciers dotted all over the country. This mixture of geothermal activity, ice and fire, means that there are numerous hot springs and geysers all over the country.
Some of the hot springs are boiling hot but other ones have the perfect temperature to bathe in. These hot springs are equally popular with travellers and locals alike.
The Blue Lagoon.
Besides this list of hot springs that are free to enter, there are a number of other hot springs and pools that charge entry (and have changing and shower facilities, something that the free hot springs are lacking).
The ones that charge entry include the most famous one - the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is on the Reykjanes peninsula, close to Reykjavík.
- Find all Blue Lagoon tours here
Another lagoon that's similar in texture and has the same blue colour is the Mývatn Nature Baths in the north of Iceland.
The Secret Lagoon. Picture from Secret Lagoon by Breathe Iceland
Then there is the Secret Lagoon near Flúðir, one of Iceland's oldest pools that has a bubbling hot spring right next to it.
And last but not least there's Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal Baths, where one of the saunas is built over a steaming hot spring!
And then there are also swimming pools dotted all over the country and in Reykjavík - a total of 17 in the greater Reykjavík area!
- Read more about the best swimming pools in Reykjavík
- Read more about the best swimming pools in Iceland
Hofsós swimming pool in Iceland. Picture credit: Mike Kelley
But what about the natural hot springs out in the nature, where there's no entry fee? There are more than a dozen of them (and some of them we still want to keep secret so they don't get ruined!) But the question remains: Which one to pick?
Read about my top 5 hot springs in Iceland here. You can try to get there yourself, or join other travellers on hot spring tours.
1. Reykjadalur - a hot spring river near Reykjavik
Reykjadalur (literal translation: 'Steam Valley') is one of the easiest hot spring areas to reach from Reykjavík. A short drive (45 minutes) brings you to the town Hveragerði and from there you can hike up to the warm river that flows down Reykjadalur valley.
Photo from Reykjadalur hot spring tour
The hike is not very demanding (although it's not recommended for people that are afraid of heights since at one point you'll be hiking along the top of a deep gorge) and you reach the warm river after about 45-90 minutes (depending on how fast you walk and how often you stop to take pictures of the waterfall in the gorge and all the pretty bubbling muddy hot springs on the way). There are no facilities for changing your clothes when you get up there.
You can reach the Reykjadalur river on this best value hot spring tour.
- Find out more about Reykjadalur hot spring river
2. Seljavallalaug - hot spring pool in a mountainside
Seljavallalaug is in the south of Iceland. In fact, it is not a natural pool but a man-made 25 meter long and 10 meter wide construction from 1923. The hot water that trickles into it is completely natural though and the pool is constructed into a mountainside in a narrow valley with breathtaking natural surroundings.
The good thing about Seljavallalaug is that there are small rooms for people to leave their clothes in. The water is only cleaned once every summer so it may look a bit dirty but it's worth it for the tranquility and beauty around.
In 2010 Seljavallalaug got completely covered with ash from the big eruption in Eyjafjallajökull.
Photo credit: The Daily Mail
The pool is a couple of hours drive from Reykjavík. To get there you just need to head south on the main ring road, past Selfoss and Hvolsvöllur. Slow down just before you reach Skógafoss and turn left to go towards 'Seljavellir' on a dirt road.
If you want to go with a tour, this South Coast tour is currently the only one that goes there. In this 14-hour outdoor tour, you will also get to see the deserted DC3 Plane Wreck.
- See all south coast tours here
3. Landmannalaugar - highland hot springs
Picture from Landmannalaugar Super Jeep Tour
Landmannalaugar (Land-man-pools) is an area that's known for it's extremely beautiful multi-coloured landscape and a very popular hiking destination. Everywhere you look you'll see sandy mountains in red, blue, green, yellow, purple and black - and the best thing to do after an exhausting day of hiking is to relax in the geothermal hot natural pools that are waiting for you next to the campsite.
The pools stay consistently warm throughout the summer, and have a constant stream of hikers relaxing in them.
Take note that some parasites that bite guests have been found in these pools, but they are considered harmless. If you are allergic to mosquito bites then you may want to abstain from entering the pools.
Landmannalaugar are only accessible during summertime, and only accessible with a 4WD car. To get there you'll need to cross some rivers, so if you're not used to driving in the highlands you may want to take a bus (special highland bus) or go on a super jeep tour to get there. If you do drive yourself, then drive carefully and make sure you cross rivers where they are at their widest (as they are deeper and run faster where they are narrow).
4. Grjotagja - a hot spring cave in North Iceland
Grjótagjá (Rocky Cleft) is not close to Reykjavík. If you happen to be traveling in the North of Iceland, staying in Akureyri and want to explore the stunning nature around Lake Mývatn, then you're not far away from Grjótagjá.
The temperature of the water in Grjótagjá varies and became too hot to bathe in in the late 1970's (about 50°C). It's been cooling down since but may still be too hot to bathe in, depending on days and the earthquake activity.
Because of the varying heat of the water, loose rocks in the cave and extremely slow water flow it is now forbidden to bathe in the water. Just seeing it because of its spectacular beauty is well worth it though, and you can always go around the corner and bathe in Mývatn Nature Baths!
Grjótagjá now has a newfound fame, after being featured in Game of Thrones - although don't expect to see a waterfall inside it - that one's unfortunately made with the help of computers!
To get there: Drive east from the village Reykjahlíð (ringroad), for a couple of kilometers, then turn right just before you reach the road to Mývatn Nature Baths.
- Find Lake Mývatn tours here
5. Víti in Askja - a volcanic crater hot spring
The one hot spring I can't leave out, even though I've never been there myself (because it's hard to get to and far from Reykjavík) is Víti in Askja, not to be confused with Víti in Krafla. The literal meaning of Víti is Hell.
It has been a dream for a long time to go there, and I'm certain that if I'd ever been there myself, Víti would have been on the top of my list!
Picture from Askja hiking and hot springs
The temperature of the water varies from 20°C to 60°C and the bottom is muddy. The volcanic crater is dangerous because in some places the mud is scolding hot (east part of the crater) and there is also a lot of sulphur in the water, sulphuric steam may cause people to faint. But the place has been described as one of the most awesome and magnificent place in Iceland and whoever stands on the edge of this crater will never forget the experience! You might say that Víti lives up to its name!