Reykjadalur, the Valley of Steam, is a beautiful geothermal region close to the southern town Hveragerði. It is a popular place for hiking and hot spring bathing.
Photo above by Regína Hrönn Ragnarsdóttir
Reykjadalur is best know for the heated river that runs through it. Water boiling out of dozens of hot springs in the hills trickle into one body, which is also fed with glacier and rainwater.
The result is a wonderfully warm, gentle stream. Depending on how hot you want the water to be, you can go up- or down-river for the perfect bathing temperature.
Photo by Regína Hrönn Ragnarsdóttir
The hiking route to Reykjadalur can be reached by driving through Hveragerði (which is about an hour’s drive from Reykjavík) along the Ring Road travelling South. A gravel road leads to a carpark, where the trail begins.
From there, you will cross a river, then start a gentle ascent. The path goes up, down and along the faces of hills; and though it sometimes gets quite steep, is manageable for anyone comfortable on their feet in reasonable health, so long as the weather is fair.
For forty minutes or so, you will hike passed many steaming vents and bubbling springs, while enjoying the beautiful views around Reykjadalur. You will then reach the warm river and can walk along it for twenty minutes or so to the perfect spot for bathing.
In summer, you will also see a wealth of flora blooming on the hills and in the valley, particularly lupins. Around the hot springs, the chemicals rising from the earth provide even more colour, dying the soil pinks, blues, greens, reds and yellows.
While it is viable to visit the hot springs alone, many tours also run to them so the area can be enjoyed with a group and a guide. These tours can be done on foot or horseback, and alone or alongside other excursions, such a sightseeing around the Golden Circle.
As with all hiking trails in Iceland, it is important to stick to the paths throughout. This is for your safety—considering the steep slopes, change of rockfalls, and boiling water—and for the protection of nature. Iceland’s flora is very delicate, and with the boom in tourism, strict rules are in place to protect it.
Hveragerði has all modern services and amenities visitors may need. There is a supermarket, gas station, information centre, and several cafes and restaurants.
Interestingly, some of these restaurants utilise the geothermal forces in the preparation of their plates. By burying food into the boiling water under the earth, it cooks throughout.
Because of these forces, however, Hveragerði has gotten the nickname ‘the Earthquake Town’.