Yesterday I took some time to write about the Grjótagjá hot springs cave in northern Iceland, which I felt was so amazing that it deserved its own post. Of course, there are far more hot springs in Iceland than this one.
The most famous one by far is the Blue Lagoon, which has extensively been used in many marketing campaigns and has been written about thousands of times. Given the surfeit of information available about it, I’m not going to spend much time on it here. Rather, I’ll leave it at this:
If you have time, it’s a fun yet expensive ($40) way to relax. While it is man-made, the striking blue color of the water is natural, and forms a beautiful contrast with the black basalt rock walls. However, if you are looking for an authentic Icelandic experience, this is not it. The only Icelandic people here are the staff. And unlike most other hot springs in Iceland, the atmosphere inside the pool is loud and raucous with free-flowing alcohol, a contrast to the serenity of other hot springs. But given its proximity to Keflavik airport, it can still serve as a fun welcome to Iceland, or one last way to relax before getting on a plane. If you are planning on going, advance tickets are a must regardless of the time of year. You will almost definitely be turned away if not.
Myvatn Nature Baths (pictured above)
If you like the pretty milky blue color of the water at the Blue Lagoon but hated the feeling of being overrun by tourists, this is the place for you. Located an hour or so east of Akureyri (and very close to Grjótagjá), admission is half the price of the blue lagoon, and provides a much quieter atmosphere, with the bathers consisting mostly of Icelanders and German tourists (the Germans really leave no stone unturned when traveling).
The beautiful mountain landscapes provide a great backdrop which one can look at for hours on end. On top of that, the cafeteria inside serves an unspectacular yet filling lunch for a very reasonable price (hard to find in Iceland if you want to eat something besides hot dogs). You also might see them selling something called “geyser bread”, which is bread that has been cooked in a volcano. It is extremely dense and bland. Don’t be tempted.
Despite its proximity to the famous Golden Circle, this is rarely mentioned in conjunction with the various stops on the Golden Circle. Given its name, this is probably somewhat intentional, and I wouldn’t mind keeping it this way either.
It can be a little hard to find (especially in the winter when road conditions are less than ideal), but once you get there, you have a beautiful outdoor geothermally heated hot spring. Unfortunately, I didn’t get many pictures because there was so much steam everywhere:
Nonetheless, this is a great way to relax after a long day of driving around the Golden Circle, as you can dig your feet deep into the squishy mud below you. There is also a small boardwalk that goes around the pool where you can see mini geysers “erupting”, but I wouldn’t recommend dipping your feet in any of these, as the water is around boiling temperature.
Seljavallalaug Hot Springs
I would recommend this only for people looking for a true “off-the-beaten path” adventure. While geographically its not very far from the main Ring Road that encircles the highland, and quite close to the famous Skógafoss waterfall, it does take a little bit of (easy) hiking to get to. Thankfully, unlike Grjótagjá, Google Maps is very accurate for directions to Seljavallalaug:
Depending on what kind of car you have and what time of year it is, you should be able to follow pretty far up the road (Highway 242) until you can’t go any further. From there, all you have to do is stay on the path above, and you will eventually come to it.
On one hand, it’s not much more than a concrete pool fed by the runoff of volcanically heated water. On the other hand, part of what makes it so special is the feeling of accomplishment you get when you’ve been hiking for a while and come across something like this, not to mention the views of the nearby mountains aren’t too shabby:
I was quite at ease, and as you can see, you certainly don’t have to worry about being overrun by tourists.
While there certainly is more to Iceland than hot springs, it certainly is one of the country’s more unique attributes, and provides a great way to relax as you tour the country. Happy bathing!
The above is in no way meant to be a complete rundown of all the hot springs in Iceland; rather, it’s just my attempt to highlight a few particularly noteworthy yet different ones. There are many many more ones in Iceland that could be explored with enough time, and I’m sure there are even more that have yet to be discovered!