The colourful Geothermal Areas by Mt. Ölkelduhnúkur and Ölkelduháls in South Iceland
One of my favourite things to do in Iceland when the sun is shining is visiting the geothermal areas. There is one geothermal area, by Ölkelduháls and Ölkelduhnúkur in South Iceland, which I had meant to visit for many years.
But we were always in a hurry when either visiting the towns Hveragerði and Selfoss or going further east and returning home late, so we always passed the sign Ölkelduháls on Hellisheiði heath saying: "We must visit this geothermal area soon".
The beautiful new center in Selfoss town
We finally succeeded in visiting this beautiful geothermal area on a sunny day in July. It was our wedding anniversary, and we had just returned back home after visiting the new center in Selfoss.
The sun barely sets in June and July here in Iceland, so it was still sunshine when we returned back. So we made a quick decision to finally visit this geothermal area.
The information sign by the beginning of the hike to Reykjadalur - we arrived there in the evening at 19:15
We turned from ring-road 1 on Hellisheiði heath onto a gravel road. The road turned out to be a bad, coarse gravel road with many potholes, so one has to drive slowly.
When we had driven on this road for a couple of minutes we saw a big truck approaching us from the opposite direction. And it was driving pretty fast!
There was no way that we could meet this truck without being driven off the road!
I was both worried and wondering what a big truck like this was doing on this narrow road.
But as we met, for some strange reason, in that very spot, there was enough space for us to drive off the road so that the truck could pass.
We stopped the car by the beginning of the hike to Reykjadalur valley, as we saw in the distance that there were many big trucks and filming in process in the exact geothermal area, where we were headed.
There are many hot springs in this geothermal area
So we decided on going for a hike and have a peek into Reykjadalur valley from above and hoped that the filming crew would be gone soon, as it was getting late.
The hike from the parking lot to the Reykjadalur path is only 1 km and we saw a couple of hot springs on the way. And we met several people coming from bathing in the valley.
I have shown you the very popular Reykjadalur valley where you can bathe in a warm river in another travel-blog:
Here the film crew was filming - see the difference between visiting geothermal areas in the sunshine or in the shadow
And sure enough, when we returned from having a peek into Reykjadalur, we saw that the crew was wrapping up and the trucks were leaving.
From a distance we noticed men raking over the footsteps they had left in the geothermal area.
And when we reached this area one Icelander was left still raking and tidying up. He told us that they had been filming a scene in a Viking film, Icelandic and foreign cooperation. I wonder if it was a scene from the film The Northman?
Now that we were alone in the geothermal area, we hiked through several colourful spots beautifully lit up by the evening sun.
We started in this spot, where they had been filming. I have no idea what it is called, but we were engulfed in beautiful orange colours.
Almost everywhere I looked the earth was hissing and boiling.
Bright geothermal colours
Be careful here, we don't want to step into a hot spring or a boiling mud pool.
Accidents sometimes happen in geothermal areas, if people are not careful and stray off the paths.
My mother told me that when she was a girl she had witnessed a man accidentally stepping into a hot spring, and the skin peeled off immediately as if he had been wearing pantyhose!
Bubbling mud pools
There are many hikes in the Hengilsvæði area, where the massive Hengill volcanic mountain range covers an area of approx. 100 km².
The volcano last erupted some 2,000 years ago, but you can see from the boiling ground that it is still active. And the Hengilsvæði area is a high-temperature geothermal area.
We Icelanders make use of this geothermal heat and the two biggest geothermal power plants in Iceland, Hellisheiðarvirkjun and Nesjavallavirkjun, harness the energy, and deliver it f.ex. to Reykjavík, where I live.
See also my travel-blog: A colourful Hike through the Nesjalaugar and Köldulaugar Geothermal Areas in SW-Iceland
Orange and yellow geothermal colours
There are some folktales connected to this area, f.ex.: The temperamental Giantess Jóra in Jórukleif and the Lava Pots by Selfoss in South Iceland.
She terrorized this neighbourhood until the area became deserted.
In my travel-blog I tell you her story and how the way she was killed gave a name to the Öxará river at Þingvellir national park.
Hiking signs at Ölkelduháls
By the time we reached this sign, we saw that we were only less than a km away from Klambragil in Reykjadalur, but we had looked into that gorge from above.
I have shown you Kambragil in my Reykjadalur travel-blog. It is a beautiful spot with a geothermal area, right above the warm river in which you can bathe.
And inside the gorge, you will hear boiling hot springs inside the rock, which make a very distinct sound.
We just followed the trail which was marked with blue sticks. There was no arrow pointing in that direction, but we could see some hot springs further on.
The grey coloured hot spring
The first hot spring that we visited had a metallic grey colour. I have no idea what it is called or if it has even got a name.
It is strange, but on the Icelandic maps, which I use for placenames, there are no names for the individual hot springs in this area. I guess that they were never given a name.
It is a pity as names add value to the landscape or as we say in Icelandic: "Landslag yrði lítils virði, ef það héti ekki neitt".
But as you can see in my Hveravellir travel-blog, then all the hot springs have a name: Hveravellir - the beautiful Oasis in the Highland of Iceland
The colourful outflow from the hot spring
What caught my attention when visiting this hot spring was this colourful spot in my photo above, so I zoomed in on it.
Here was an outflow from the hot spring, more of a drizzle really and there was a build-up of geothermal clay with many geothermal colours.
A beautiful blue hot spring
The next hot spring we encountered was only a stone's throw away, a beautiful powder blue hot spring, and the whole area around it was hissing and boiling, and steam was coming from the ground.
The silence in this area was eerie with only the sounds of the boiling water.
Boiling water and melted clay create bubbles on the surface, which I have always loved photographing. The details in geothermal areas can be so beautiful
Be careful when visiting geothermal areas as the sulfur fumes can be poisonous and you can get a nasty headache and feel dizzy.
That happened to me once in the Hverir geothermal area up north when the wind was so strong that it blew the fumes straight at me. I had a bad headache for 2 days afterward!
Bubbles in the blue hot spring
The path went on further into the valley, but here we returned back as it was getting late and the sun was disappearing behind the mountains.
And we don't want to be stuck in geothermal areas at the dusk or after dark, that is for sure. One false step in the dark in geothermal areas can be fatal.
Alone in a beautiful geothermal area
My husband had left me to get the car, which we had left by the information signs at the beginning of the hike to Reykjadalur valley, so I wandered around alone and visited yet another hot spring.
This one was also powder blue, but much larger than the other ones.
This was a beautiful area, my favourite one on this hike. And of course, the setting sun added magic to this geothermal area.
Here I can see 2 fairytale figures kissing - and my shadow
I was absolutely mesmerized by this sight and the stillness.
Yet, I was fully aware that we were losing the light and that I had to hurry so I wouldn't be stuck there in the darkness.
I walked to the end of this geothermal area as something drew me to this spot in the photo above.
I could see two faces and I can clearly see a woman in a long dress and a man in a cape about to kiss. I don't know if you can see it.
This was the highlight of my day and I sat down for just a moment and breathed in the stillness and the beauty.
On my way back to the road I saw an old sheep pen called Ölkelduhálsrétt.
This old pen was built in 1908 and the information sign says that it stands on the boundary line of Grafningshreppur and Ölfushreppur rural districts.
Here sheep were rounded up thrice in the spring from the surrounding mountains. The sheep pen was in use until 1930.
Ölkelduhálsrétt sheep pen
Ölkelda means mineral spring and the name refers to a couple of mineral springs in Ölkelduháls.
I didn't see them, as they were on the opposite side of the road and it was getting dark. I would love to spend a whole day in this area and explore it better.
We hurried back on the coarse road and all of a sudden we saw heavy fog creeping in on us!
There is often fog on Hellisheiði heath, but this looked plain right creepy. What if the fog would have reached us when we were still visiting the geothermal area!
Geothermal landscape lit up by the setting sun - Ölkelduháls to the left
So we drove fast on the road jumping up and down as there are so many potholes on this road. We wanted to reach ring-road 1 before the fog engulfed us!
We manage to reach ring-road 1 just in the nick of time and drove in the fog all the way to Hveradalir valley, where the fog lifted as we descended from the mountain.
Visiting this geothermal was such a wonderful experience, but as I have mentioned then the road is very bad. Next time around I am going to hike up to Reykjadalur valley and hike from there to Ölkelduháls.
I zoomed in on the information sign - do you see all the bullet holes which make it difficult to see some of the names :(
The location of Ölkelduhnúkur and Ölkelduháls on Map.is
Here is a map of the Hengill area so that you can see this area without the bullet holes.
I have shown you other geothermal areas in the Hengilsvæði area, which has got so many interesting hikes:
And another steaming area I visited at sunset: Beautiful sunset at Eldvörp Row of Craters on the Reykjanes Peninsula in SW-Iceland
Have a lovely time in South Iceland :)
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