A place not far from me and one I’ve always meant to go to is Hveragerði which has both natural hot springs at Reykjadalur (Steam Valley) and also one of Iceland’s more famous swimming pools: Laugaskarð.
Reykjadalur (Steam Valley) Hike
So on Easter Sunday a few friends of mine and I headed off, or as they said I dragged them off, for some walking, lazing in a hot river and catching some Pokemon on the way. That wasn’t me but apparently the place is littered with Pokemon. If you’re getting to Hveragerði by bus you have a 3km walk up to the trailhead, otherwise drive up the main road of the town and past the big white sports hall until you get to the car park and a little café, which was closed because it was Easter Sunday, which I have to say I like about Iceland. A holiday is a holiday.
The first part of the hike, past some steam vents and colourful rocks and hot springs, is quite steep but one you get past the first 700m it’s much easier with some gentle ups and downs, just watch out for mountain bikers who whizz around the corners. There’s some pretty waterfalls along the way and stunning views back to the town and on a clear day even Vestmannaeyjar – the Westman Islands. There’s a horse pen and you can also go horse riding as far as this point. The last stage to the hot river above Hveragerði is the most magical – huge steam vents, which still had ice crystals around them, bubbling mud pots and finally the bathing area. Be careful near the steam – some areas are 100ºC and so quite dangerous. This is a proper natural hot river and though a boardwalk and some screens have been erected, it’s not a spa. And there are no toilets. Move upriver for hotter water, there are deeper and shallower parts. We lazed around here for over an hour under blue skies and glorious sunshine until eventually, we headed back for food and more lazing around in the not so natural hot tub.
I was worried how my knees would cope with the gradient after my Art O’Neill injury but it was only on the last descent they complained to the point where I got out the hiking poles. Apparently I was dressed for Everest with all my hiking gear. The trail is about 7km or an hour each way, but I thoroughly recommend it. It’s listed in Cicerone’s Hiking in Iceland book but the train is really easy to follow, but I was wary of doing in on my own in winter in snow and ice. It was pretty busy but given the day that was in it that was no surprise. I’d love to go back at 2am in midsummer and see it in the golden light. One thing that was annoying is the amount of rubbish there – bottles and discarded clothes. There’s an old local guy who goes up every so often to bring it all down (there are no bins), do him a favour and don’t give him extra to take back.
Laugaskarð Swimming Pool, Hveragerði
Built in 1938 by local volunteers and members of the Ölfushreppur district Youth Association, Laugaskarð was apparently the largest swimming pool in Iceland at the time. It’s only 750ISK and I stopped by one day on my way to Reykjavík, again I can’t believe I let this slide so long. There’s two hot pots, an ice-cold tub (I’ll be honest I only stuck my arms into this cos it is VERY cold), some diving boards and platforms and the steamiest steam room I’ve been in for ages. On the way in I couldn’t find the benches and on the way out I couldn’t find the door. It’s a lovely location just under the mountains and on a beautiful sunny day you couldn’t ask for better. As is usual in Iceland photography in the pool area is prohibited so instead check out some photos here.