Reykjadalur Valley – the Best Hot Springs in South Iceland

Reykjadalur Valley - the best hot springs in south iceland

Have you ever dreamt of swimming in natural hot springs in the middle of breathtaking Icelandic nature? Yes? And have you ever heard of Reykjadalur Valley? No? Then continue reading, because this is your dream coming true. Reykjadalur Valley in South Iceland is located just 40 minutes drive from Reykjavik, and it is one of the most magical places I have ever visited. In fact, every time I go to Iceland I start and finish my vacation there.

The Land of Ice and Fire has the reputation of being a hot springs country, with numerous places to soak. The milky waters of the Blue Lagoon are an iconic image of Iceland, but for something less crowded and more natural, make for the Steam Valley, which is what Reykjadalur means in Icelandic.

You will have superb views already along the way from Hveragerdi to the parking place at the foot of Reykjadalur valley

Why should I visit Reykjadalur Hot Springs?

Where should I start? Let me see. First of all. Reykjadalur hot springs are just 40 minutes drive from Reykjavik, but as you descend from the Hellisheiði mountain pass, you will feel like you entered another world. Hveragerði might be a small town, with a population slightly over 2000, but it is an extraordinary place. Throughout the year, pillars of steam from the numerous hot springs in the town may be seen rising out of the ground.

Hveragerdi, or the “flower village”  has the highest concentration of greenhouses in Iceland and provides the country with much of its homegrown produce. The reason for this is simple – the town is run on geothermal energy. The surrounding mountainous area is breathtaking and is easily accessed via well-marked hiking paths and riding trails. You can take a short hike through this extraordinary landscape and take a bath amongst steaming hot-springs in the warm creek in Reykjadalur valley. The walk is easily doable without a guide and bathing there is free of charge!

Reykjadalur valley
Beginning of the hiking path up to the Reykjadalur Valley.

When should I visit the Reykjadalur Hot Springs?

All year long! I was in Reykjadalur five times, out of that four times in the summer. I was curious how is it going to look like in the winter. Will there be fewer people? Will it be cold? How is it to sit in the hot springs when it is snowing around? And It was just as perfect as in the summer. To be honest, the hike up the valley was a little bit more demanding, because the path was extremely icy in some parts. What is more, we were hiking it in the pitch darkness only with headlamps. Also, I was swearing a bit, when I was undressing from several layers of winter clothes. But the feeling of sitting in the hot river, drinking a beer and watching the milky way was something indescribable.

Reykjadalur Hot River in the Winter. A wooden boardwalk has recently been built along the creek with simple changing "room".
Reykjadalur Hot River in the Winter. A wooden boardwalk with simple changing “room” has recently been built along the creek.

The hike to Reykjadalur Hot Springs has, in recent years, gone from being a little-known sheep trail to the star attraction of the area. While a few years ago it might have been a hidden gem, nowadays it can get a bit crowded there. I would recommend you to get up super early and start the hike before everyone else. Then there is a high chance, that you will have the hot springs just for yourself. In my experience, the first tourists show up around 10 am.

Reykjadalur Hot Springs on a not so busy day. It is an old picture from 2014 before the wooden pathways were built. Most of the people sit at the confluence of the hot and cold stream

An attractive alternative might be to head there later in the evening when most tourists are leaving. I had the most spectacular night there at the end of August when we were watching northern lights dancing in the sky while sitting in the hot springs. (Please take a note that I am not encouraging anyone to go hiking there at night. I felt very comfortable doing it as I walked this path several times before, but it can be dangerous at some parts of the trail!)

Imagine watching the northern lights above the mountains, sitting in a hot creek and drinking a cold beer. That is my version of paradise 🙂

How do I get there?

By Car

If you have a rental car, take advantage of your freedom and just drive to Reykjadalur!  Leave Reykjavik on Road 1 heading southeast. In about 40 minutes, you will reach the town Hveragerði. At the first roundabout, take the 3rd exit (left) and follow that main street (Breiðamörk) north, towards the Reykjadalur valley, north of Hveragerði. Keep driving on that road until you reach the parking lot at the foot of the valley.

If you are still unsure if you should rent a car in Iceland or not if you need a 4WD or 2WD or which insurance do you absolutely have to have, then check our article about the most asked questions about renting a car in Iceland!

By Bus

You can take bus no 51 from Reykjavik. It leaves from Mjodd bus station, and here you can find timetables. The bus stop is however about 4km walk from the parking place, where you start the hike up the valley. Be aware of it that you need to add some extra time to your trip then.

Join a tour

Numerous tours are going up the Reykjadalur Valley that you can join. You can either hike or enjoy the views from the saddle.

How long time should I plan?

The hike to Reykjadalur Hot Springs takes 45 – 60 min each way. The time will depend a bit on your physical condition. It is mainly uphill so if you are a total couch potato, count with some breaks on the way to catch a breath. If you are in top condition, still count with some extra time for photo breaks 🙂 Just to be sure, count with at least 3 – 4 hours for the trip in total. The total distance is 7 km.

The more upstream you go, the hotter the creek is. Do not celebrate just yet, that you have found a lagoon without any tourists. It might be because it is just too hot there 🙂

What should I bring with me?

Bring good hiking boots and clothing and dress for the weather. Do not forget that the weather in Iceland is unpredictable and it can change anytime.  Pack your backpack comfortably for a moderate 2-hour hike. The path goes up the hill, so forget about carrying stuff in a plastic bag or a purse. Make sure you bring a swimsuit, towel, a plastic bag to wrap your wet swimsuit into, and of course your camera, as the scenery will give you plenty of opportunities to get great photos. You should also consider bringing some snacks and water with you. Just please take any garbage with you back to Hveragerdi. And maybe be so kind and clean after other tourists too.

Steamy river close to Reykjadalur Hot Springs

Where should I stay overnight?

There are numerous places, where you can stay overnight in Hveragerdi. I would recommend Frost and Fire Hotel or Iceland´s Guesthouse. You can also use the search box below to find the offer that fits your budget. I used to love to camp right in the Reykjadalur valley, but recently the camping was forbidden there. In Hveragerdi, there is a campsite situated in the field by Fagrihvammur.

Frost and Fire Hotel – cozy hotel in a superb location right next to the river. If you are lucky enough, you can enjoy watching the northern lights from an outdoor hot tub.

Iceland’s Guesthouse – Guesthouse located on the hill above town, with great views, excellent breakfast, and outdoor hot tub!



Booking.com

 

How does the hike look like?

The hiking path starts at the parking lot at the foot of the valley.  There is a restaurant with the parking lots and toilets. The trail is relatively wide in the beginning, rising the hill along several hot springs and mud pools. It has some steep sections as well and at some parts will get fairly narrow. But there is just one place that can be a bit difficult for people, who are afraid of heights.

Map of the hiking trails in Reykjadalur Valley close to Hveragerdi in South Iceland
Map of the hiking trails in Reykjadalur Valley. Letter B shows the bathing area.

 

The hiking path is well maintained and marked. It ascends gently at first, passing some bright blue fumaroles and furiously bubbling mud holes.

 

Djúpagilsfoss waterfall on the way to Reykjadalur Hot Springs in the South of Iceland
The route soon steepens, climbing rapidly into a dusty mountain pass that yields spectacular views of Djúpagil canyon and Djúpagilsfoss waterfall.

 

Backpacker standing on a bridge above hot river in Reykjadalur Valley, close to Hveragerdi in South Iceland
Suddenly the valley opens up, and you can see hot steam rising from numerous places. You walk across a small wooden bridge and continue on the path on the other side of the river along more fumaroles and mud holes.

Is there anything interesting besides the bathing area?

Yes! You should take a walk further up the stream, away from all the bathing tourists. It doesn´t take more than 5 minutes before you reach the Klambragil canyon, where the hot stream originates. It is a beautiful area with numerous fumaroles and mud pools with bubbling mud. Right behind the small wooden bridge, there is a place in the stream, where the water is boiling! (We tried to cook eggs there successfully 🙂 🙂 )

You can also continue up the narrow trail there and enjoy the view of the Reykjadalur valley from above. There are numerous signposted walking routes. It is possible to take about an hour long hike back to the Reykjadalur valley. Or we continued hiking to the Thingvallavatn Lake.

Boiling eggs in the stream is possible:)

 

Go up the hill to enjoy the view of Klambragil canyon and Reykjadalur valley from above.

 

You can make a circuit around the valley hiking in the hills above. It takes about an hour.

You will find tourist information in Sunnumörk Shopping center in Hveragerdi, where you can get not only free Wi-Fi but also big map and information about hiking trails etc. In the same building, you can find the exhibition about the earthquake in Hveragerdi in 2008. There you can experience a powerful earthquake (+6 Richter) in an earthquake simulator and also see an earthquake crack in the floor thought to be 4-5,000 years old.

Can it be dangerous to visit Reykjadalur Valley?

The Reykjadalur Valley is a high-temperature geothermal area with an abundance of boiling springs and hot pools. Use extreme caution at these sites. In 2011 there was a French tourist who fell into a hot spring while taking photographs. He suffered first and second-degree burns to his legs and abdomen. In 2017 a young Canadian woman stepped into a hidden geothermal vent and suffered second and third-degree burns. Also keep in mind, that you should never hike alone, and remember to check the weather forecast.

Thank you for reading this post about the hot springs in Reykjadalur Valley.  If you find it useful, please share it. If you have any questions or comments, do not hesitate to write us! 

R+I 

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