Iceland is vast, other-worldly and beautiful beyond imagination. It’s a land of volcanoes, glaciers, mountains, waterfalls and hot springs. And during my 7 days there, we only scratched the surface of what this incredible country has to offer. Needless to say, I’ll be heading back for more!
During our week in South Iceland, we hit up many of the tourists spots, but also tried to get off the beaten path to find some lesser known gems. One of those hidden gems we stumbled across online was the hot springs at Reykjadalur.
On our second day in Iceland, we woke up to heavy rain and mist. After checking the forecast, we realised the bad weather was in for the day, so we set about searching for things to do in the rain in Iceland.
That was when we spotted a blog post about hiking to Reykjadalur hot springs. The pictures looked amazing, the hike sounded incredible and it was only a short drive from Reykjavik. The only problem was, the majority of blog posts and articles we read about hiking to Reykjadalur warned that, in wet weather, the hike could be very dangerous and slippery with steep inclines and treacherous ravines. We weren’t sure what to do, but we knew we didn’t want to sit around missing out on the awesome Icelandic landscape.
So, after deliberating for a time, we decided to throw on our waterproofs and suck it up. Reykjadalur isn’t far from Reykjavik so we figured that if we got there and found it was too dangerous, we’d turn back and spend the afternoon in the city. Either way, we had to check it out.
Hiking to Reykjadalur hot springs
What is Reykjadalur?
Reykjadalur is a valley just outside the town of Hveragerði, which is approximately 45 km, or a 40-45 minute drive, from Reykjavik. The valley opens out onto a beautiful landscape of mountains, interspersed with steam rising from dozens of geothermal pools.
Reykjadalur is part of the Hengill area and a short hike into the mountains will have you stumbling across epic waterfalls, huge crater valleys, bubbling mud pools and finally, a geothermally heated river, which is the end destination for this hike.
Facilities and parking at Reykjadalur
There is a large free car park situated at the start of the hike. You’ll also find a very small cafe called Dalakaffi and public toilets there. The cafe was closed when we visited. I’m guessing this may have been because of bad weather. There were only about five cars in the car park when we arrived but I’ve heard it gets very busy in the summer. Other than this, there are no facilities along the hiking route, so make sure you use the bathroom at the cafe and ensure you have enough supplies for 3-4 hours.
At the river itself, you’ll find some basic changing facilities along the river – basically, a wooden board you can stand behind for some privacy and somewhere to hang your clothes.
Hiking to Reykjadalur hot springs
The hike begins from the car park and follows the path across the river and a small wooden foot bridge. Follow the well-worn path and continue up the hill-side. The path inclines steadily up hill for the first 20 minutes or so. This is definitely the hardest part of the hike which means you may get a sweat on. Fortunately, I didn’t struggle with the incline as I’m fairly conditioned to hills due to where I live. But if you’re not used to hill hiking, you may find this first part of the hike a challenge.
Soon enough though, the incline peters out and the majority of the hike thereafter is fairly flat across rolling hills and through valleys, with incredible views the entire way. The landscape of this hike is truly spectacular and even more so for the low hanging cloud and rain on the day we visited, which gave the valley a mystical look. The steam of geothermal activity rises from bubbling mud pools and hot springs with the yellowing land sprawling out beyond the horizon.
About half way into the hike, you’ll come across a huge waterfall called
Djúpagilsfoss, a vast crater-like canyon ravine, and further on bubbling ‘blue lagoon’ hot springs and steam which completely covers the path, taking the term ‘eggy’ to a whole new level! The smell is strong, guys! But strangely enough, after being in Iceland for a few days, you get used to it.
Be careful where you step and stay on the marked paths as much as possible. The ground is literally boiling under your feet and you could do yourself some serious harm if you step off the path and put your foot through into a scalding mud bath.
The well-marked path continues through the valley and is very easy to follow. We didn’t have a map and had no notion of where we were headed but we followed the path easily and found the hot river with no problems.
When you arrive at the river, you’ll want to head as far up stream as you can get. The water becomes hotter the further you go, so find a place that feels good for you and enjoy!
Most geothermal springs in Iceland are far too hot to bathe in but the Reykjadalur hot springs are cool enough due to the cold water streams that meet the geothermally heated river, thus cooling it down enough for people to swim in.
Unfortunately, my phone battery died and I left my camera in the car due to the inclement weather, so I have no photos of the Reykjadalur river itself.
The hike is a 6-km round trip and takes about 45-60 minutes each way, depending on how fast you walk, and I’d rate this hike as a 2/5 difficulty for the average person.
Is hiking to Reykjadalur dangerous in the rain?
In my experience, absolutely not. The vast majority of articles we researched warned of slippery conditions and steep drops but we found no such thing on our hike. The path is gravelly under foot so could pose a problem if you don’t have the correct footwear, but in our hiking boots, we found the hike was very safe, even in heavy rain.
The path is wide and, for the most part, flat. So, if you’re thinking of doing this hike in the rain, please don’t be worried. I’ve heard this area can get really busy in the summer, but I think the bad weather had put people off as as only came across a handful of people all day and we had the river almost completely to ourselves.
My only advice would be to think twice about hiking to Reykjadalur hot springs in the snow as the trail could become quite treacherous and slippery when icy.