Iceland has no shortage of natural beauty or geothermal activity. Imposing mountains, valleys, canyons, waterfalls, lush fields of grass, and hot springs are found everywhere across the country, each more beautiful than the last. We managed to get a taste of all of these in one place when we visited the Reykjadalur Hot Springs.
Getting to the hot springs requires a bit of a hike, but you won’t be disappointed with all the natural wonders you’ll get to see on the way. Also, this isn’t a paid facility with any fancy amenities, so be ready to immerse yourself into the great outdoors.
If you’re new to wilderness exploration or hiking in remote Icelandic locations, don’t worry because we’ll tell you all about our experience, the details of the hike, and some tips to help you make the most of your trip to Reykjadalur Hot Springs.
Iceland Hot Springs and Lagoons Tours Quick Book
- Reykjavik: Sky Lagoon Entrance Pass With 7-Step Spa Ritual
- Iceland Secret Lagoon Admission Ticket
- Husavik GeoSea Geothermal Baths Entrance Ticket
- Vök Baths: East Iceland Geothermal Baths Entry
- Myvatn Nature Baths Admission Ticket
- 1-Hour Helicopter Tour in Iceland: The Geothermal Tour
- Husafell Canyon Baths Soak with short Highlands Hike
- Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal Baths Entry Ticket
All About the Reykjadalur Hot Springs Hike
Pronounced “ray-kya-da-lure,” these hot springs near the town and municipality of Hveragerði, located 45 kilometers east of Reykjavik on Iceland’s main ring road, Route 1.
These are natural hot springs and no man-made development has taken place here like you would find at the Myvatn Nature Baths, Blue Lagoon, Sky Lagoon, Hvammsvik, Vok Baths, or Forest Lagoon. That means you won’t find any amenities like a private changing room, toilets, showers, swim-up bars, or restaurants.
What you do get, however, is some incredibly beautiful scenery in the lush green highlands of Iceland, with a dip in some hot springs to cap it all off. Also, there’s no entry fee, and in return, you get the true natural hot springs experience in incredibly beautiful surroundings.
One of the main reasons we decided to stop here was because of its location in the starting part of the Route 1 ring road. With the chance to see Iceland’s natural beauty up close and soak in a natural hot spring, it seemed like a great way to start our trek across Iceland.
How to Get to the Trailhead
The drive from Reykjavik to Hveragerði takes about 40 minutes and, if you go by bus, the journey takes about an hour and a half. You’ll also find tour companies offering group tours of the town and hot springs.
You should know that a lot of sights and attractions in Iceland don’t have direct access to buses and other public transport. Without a car, you’ll find yourself having to hitchhike or walk a lot.
If you’re driving, just search for “Reykjadalur Café” in Hveragerði. The cafe is at the trailhead of the hike that leads to the hot springs. It’s paid parking here so make sure to remember to enter your details and pay before you pull out.
We decided to stop at the cafe to get some breakfast and it was the best decision. The food was pretty good, which we enjoyed on a picnic table outside the cafe while taking in the view of the mountains. It was the perfect way to start the trip to the springs!
It’s a Bit of a Hike
Breakfast wasn’t just a good idea for the views. There’s a moderate hike to the hot springs, taking between 45 minutes to 1.5 hours to reach Reykjadalur Hot Springs, depending on your pace.
For experienced hikers, you’re looking at a trail of easy/moderate difficulty, stretching a total of 8km, there and back. It’s not a flat hike either, since you’ll be experiencing an elevation gain of 340 meters.
For novice hikers, the trip isn’t too challenging, but make sure you’re wearing the right shoes and have a bottle of water with you. Also, make sure you’ve eaten before you start. Hikes can be fun, but they do take a lot out of a person, so make sure you don’t fall low on energy. You’ll not only take the fun out of your trip but could injure yourself as well.
Throughout the hike, Cameron and I stayed vigilant and cautious of where we stepped and we found the hike to be very enjoyable.
The Walk To The Springs Is Spectacularly Beautiful…But Stay Vigilant
Hiking technicalities aside, the trek is incredibly beautiful! Our trip on the ring road was off to a brilliant start with views of the lush green Icelandic countryside and highlands.
The trail is easy to follow and very well-maintained, but there are some steep drop-offs along the trail. You’re in a hilly area after all, so watch your step, especially whenever you stop to take pictures or appreciate the beautiful surroundings.
We got incredible views right at the start, with a deep valley to the left of the trail. We went on to see vibrant green hills, multi-colored springs, bubbling mud pots, and even some cute flocks of sheep grazing some beautiful lush fields.
Interesting Iceland fact: the word ‘Reykjadalur’ translates to “steam valley”, and the place lives up to the name. During the hike, you’ll come across a patch where you’ll find steam rising from the surrounding hot springs which in our view added to the mystique and rugged beauty of this place.
In fact, at times there’s so much steam you might not even be able to see much in front of you. But there’s no need to panic. Just stay calm and make sure you move forward slowly and carefully. This way you can ensure you stay on the trail, and in a short while, you should be able to make it through this steamy patch.
There Are Incredible Waterfalls
Iceland has an abundance of waterfalls, and you get a taste of them right away with your visit to Reykjadalur Hot Springs. At the beginning of the trek, you’ll come across two small waterfalls, which are still beautiful despite their size.
Almost halfway on the way to the springs, however, you’ll get the chance to see Djúpagilsfoss Waterfall, a magnificent sight of water cascading into a canyon below. There’s even a waterfall at the end of the trail, a little ahead of the hot springs.
The “Reykjadalur Hot Springs” Is A River
After about an hour’s hike, we reached a wooden bridge over a river that leads to a boardwalk with some privacy dividers. Once you see this, you’ve officially reached the Reykjadalur Hot Springs and can start soaking in the river’s hot water.
The privacy dividers along the river edge do provide some privacy, but the entrance to each stall is uncovered, still leaving a fair bit exposed while you’re changing. We had planned ahead though and had worn our swimwear under our clothes, but still had to change back into dry clothes using the dividers. Bring a towel and use it to wrap around yourself while changing.
We entered the river right from the boardwalk and quickly found a spot to relax. We spent a lot of time just soaking in the water and taking in the views of the grassy hills around the river. There is no swim-up bar here, as it’s completely natural, so make sure to bring some drinks and snacks on your hike.
If you’ve never had a cold drink in a natural hot spring while surrounded by beautiful scenery, definitely try it out! It’s a very unique feeling, both physically and on an emotional level. The tranquillity and peacefulness of the surroundings, combined with the relaxation the hot river water has to offer, just made for an incredible start to our journey on the ring road.
Always remember to Leave No Trace. There are no trash bins here, so you must pack everything out what you bring in.
What is the Water Temperature?
The river’s temperature around the boardwalk stays close to 104°F, or 40°C, but, since this is a completely natural hot spring, the temperature can fluctuate a bit. It’s best to dip your toe into the water to make sure it’s at a comfortable temperature and then slowly wade your way in.
We found the water the most lukewarm at the “front” of the hot springs, right when you first walk up. As you walk further along the boardwalk and further upstream you’ll notice that the hot springs get much hotter. Almost unbearable in some spots – even during an Icelandic summer!
During the winter time, from October to April, the water around the boardwalk comes down to a very lukewarm temperature. This is when you move a bit upstream where the water is a bit hotter and more comfortable. Be careful though, because if you stray too upstream, you might reach waters that are at scolding temperatures.
When is the Best Time To Visit?
The best time to visit the Reykjadalur Hot Springs (and all of Iceland, in fact) is during the summer. The skies are clear, the sun shines more, the surroundings are greener, and the overall temperatures are bearable. This is also the time when the hiking trail is covered in wildflowers.
The sun barely sets in June too, this is when we completed this hike. The neverending daylight allowed us to start this hike around 9pm! The later in the day that it gets the fewer people you will see on the trail!
If you decide to visit during the winter, make sure you exercise a lot of caution. The trail can get very icy and covered in a lot of snow at times as well, which could put a stop to the hike, even on the return journey, which could cause a lot of issues. The winter days are also very short, so you’ll have to time your visit accordingly so you aren’t hiking in the dark (unless this is what you intend to do).
The Hike Doesn’t End At The Springs
If you’re feeling a little extra adventurous, you can choose to continue on the hiking trail past the Reykjadalur Hot Springs and see some more of the natural beauty that Iceland has to offer.
A little further ahead is Klambragil Canyon, another set of steaming hot pools, and even a little waterfall.
The Hike to Reykjadalur Hot Springs Can Get Crowded
Since the Reykjadalur Hot Springs don’t have an entrance fee and are located practically at the start of the ring road, and less than an hour from the capital, it can often get crowded with tourists. The area is also quite popular with locals, which just means more people.
To avoid the crowds we always recommend starting this hike before 8am, or in the evening after 7pm.
There Are A Lot of Bugs
The only thing that dampened our experience were the flies and insects in the area. While we didn’t have a lot of trouble thanks to some insect repellant we borrowed from another set of tourists, a lot of other people weren’t as lucky. Also, we were told that the insects can get pretty bad during pretty hot days.
What To Bring On The hike to Reykjadalur Hot Springs
When thinking of a swimsuit, pick one that you don’t mind getting slightly muddy. You’ll be sitting on the riverbed during your dip, so wear something you won’t be too upset about if it gets dirty. Also, bring a few extra bags to store all your wet clothes and a towel to dry yourself after your dip.
Your shoes should be appropriate for hiking and remember a waterbottle, two staples that should already be on your Iceland packing list. Of course, don’t forget some snacks.
Things To Do Near Reykjadalur Hot Springs
We also took the opportunity to visit the nearby town of Hveragerði and stayed there for a night. It was very charming and picturesque, and we were pleasantly surprised at how many things there were to do. A quick online search showed us there’s the Geothermal Park, a horse farm, botanical gardens, hiking trails, campgrounds, and plenty of restaurants.
For some culture, you could visit the Árnesinga Art Museum and, if visiting during August, you can even attend an annual culture and family festival. You’ll also find a lot of other small towns and villages nearby, all offering a glimpse into Icelandic life. We decided to head on over to the botanical gardens just to see some pretty flowers.
If all else fails, you could just come back onto the Ring Road, and carry on your journey on Route 1 to all the beautiful sights Iceland has to offer. You are not far from famous sights like Skogafoss, Svertifoss, and Seljalandsfoss.
If you want to call it a day after visiting the Reykjadalur Hot Springs, then head on over to The Greenhouse Hotel for an overnight stay in one of the best hotels in the area.
Is A Trip To Reykjadalur Hot Springs Worth It?
Reykjadalur does offer the natural hot springs experience, and you also get the chance to hike through Icelandic country with some incredible views for free. It’s a pretty easy to moderate hike as well, meaning most visitors should be able to complete the hike without issues. If you don’t mind a few insects and some clothes changing in the wilderness, Reykjadalur could be a great way to start your trip in Iceland, after you’re done exploring Reykjavik.
That being said, you could get a more manicured hot springs experience at other places. Iceland has no shortage of hot springs, either natural or manmade, and you can find some gems that are not so crowded. Sky Lagoon for example is located closer to Reykjavik, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland, and has a lot of amenities making for a more comfortable experience. Though Iceland is not cheap, and the Sky Lagoon reflects that.
There are also a lot of other hiking options and no shortage of beautiful sights either. That being said we really enjoyed our evening spent at Reykjadalur Hot Springs, and found it to be a a worthwhile hike for relatively low effort. The hot springs were free, beautiful, and natural – all pluses! If you hiked this in the early morning or late evening, you also stand a chance at a pretty quiet experience.
Whether it’s a day trip from the capital or you are just starting out your Iceland road trip, we definitely think you should add Reykjadalur Hot Springs to your Iceland bucket list.
Reykjadalur Hot Springs FAQ
Are there any bathrooms or showers?
There are no bathrooms anywhere along the hike, besides at the trailhead, so make sure to go pee before you start hiking. There are no showers.
Where can I change in and out of my swimsuit?
At Reykjadalur Hot Springs, a wooden pathway runs along the bathing section of the river, accompanied by wooden partitions that divide each platform into four sections. Use one of these platforms to safely store your belongings and keep them dry. You can conveniently hang your towel over the partition wall for easy access as you exit the river. It also wouldn’t hurt to have your clothes out and ready, as there’s nothing worse than exiting a hot spring in the cold, and standing around wet while you search for your dry clothes.
How challenging is the hike?
The hike is 8km round trip, and gains around 350 meters gradually on a well maintained trail. We found it to be a pretty cruisy and easy hike in Iceland that anyone physically able should be able to complete. This hike is also suitable for children.
Helpful Iceland Travel Tips
- Icelanders speak Icelandic, but every single person I came across spoke English.
- The local currency is the Icelandic króna (ISK). ATMs are found throughout the country
- Have I mentioned Iceland is expensive? Well, it is! Save money by eating in and cooking for yourself. Check out our Iceland grocery store guide for all the tips!
- Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world; however, it’s always important to use common sense when walking alone at night.
- Tipping is not customary in Iceland.
- Iceland has strong internet infrastructure and you should be able to easily stay connected.
Get Around Iceland
One of the best ways to get around Iceland is with a campervan. This allows you to explore on your own terms. Cook when you want, sleep when you’re tired, and take in the views all at once. A campervan is your car rental, accommodation, and kitchen! We always rent with Happy Campers when we travel Iceland, as they provide some of the most comfortable campers in Iceland!
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