Most visitors to Iceland will make a stop at the Blue Lagoon. While it’s milky blue waters are beautiful to look at and also so comfortable to sit and relax in, the lagoon itself is man-made. If you’re looking to relax in a hot spring in a more natural setting, the Reykjadalur Hot Spring River might be the ideal spot for you!
The Hike to Reykjadalur
They say nothing good comes easy. So while the Reykjadalur Hot Spring River is only about 40 minutes away from Reykjavik by car, there is still a hike that you’ll have to conquer before you can get to sweet, sweet relaxation at the geothermal river.
When I was reading about the hike before I went to try to gauge if I - a relatively unfit person who hasn’t done a real workout in months - would make it up to Reykjadalur Valley, the reviews were mixed. Some fellow travellers said oh, it’s a short walk while others said if you’re not a mountain goat, don’t even try! So how was it really?
It was painful at first. For the first 15 minutes or so, you’ll find yourself battling a steep incline. I’m pretty sure this part of the hike was what the person who talked about being a mountain goat was referring to. You might regret it and wonder if anything is worth that much pain in your thighs. I know I sure did! But push ahead and persevere and the trail will level off and get a lot easier. The great views will help you forget the pain in your thighs as well!
As you get closer to the thermal river, you’ll see the most idyllic sight that rings true to its name. Reykjadalur means Steam Valley in Icelandic, and here you’ll see sheep grazing against a backdrop of green hills, with steam from the geothermal water being carried by the breeze rolling through.
The hike takes about 40 minutes to 1 hour each way. If you don’t want to walk and would prefer to ride a horse up to the river, I did see some groups ride by on horseback, so that is an option. Side note: because of the horse tours that go up here, there is a fair amount of horse poop on the trail that you should try not to step in! Whichever way you choose, please stay on the marked trail to protect the environment!
Relaxing at the Reykjadalur Geothermal River
After your hike, it’s time for relaxation! The first thing you need to do is get changed into your swimsuit. There aren’t any change rooms at Reykjadalur. There is an area where you can get changed (see my very professionally edited photo below pointing out the changing area), but it’s not very private at all. If you’re not comfortable with changing out in the open, I would recommend wearing your swimsuit under your clothes on your way there, and bringing a larger towel that you can change in when you’re done!
Once you’re changed, you can leave your belongings on the side and pick a spot to hang out in! The further upstream you go, the hotter the water is. If you enjoy more lukewarm water, head further downstream. If you brought snacks/drinks, you can enjoy it while you soak in the warm water, but please don’t litter and remember to take your trash with you when you leave. If you don’t want to soak in the water, I saw quite a few people sitting on the side enjoying the sun with a book. Either way, I don’t think it’s a bad way to spend a few hours!
I so enjoyed my time at Reykjadalur. It ended up being a highlight of my trip to Iceland. The hike served stunning views, and even though the first 15 minutes were tough, I think the reward at the end of the hike made it all worth it. For me, it doesn’t get much better than hot springs with some beautiful views!
Tips for Visiting the Reykjadalur Hot Springs River
What to bring to Reykajdalur:
- Your swimsuit
- A towel to dry yourself off/shield yourself to get changed
- Clean flip flops if you don’t want to walk into the river barefooted
- Snacks and drinks if you want to munch on something
- A bag to put your wet clothes in
- Good hiking shoes for the hike
- Reykjadalur is a popular spot, so try to get there earlier or later in the day (in the summer months when it’s bright out for longer) if you want to avoid some of the crowds.
- There are no bathrooms here. There is a cafe by the parking lot that appears to have bathrooms, but it was closed when I visited.
Want to get here?
Where is it? Reykjadalur is located in the town of Hvergerði. It’s about a 40 minute drive from Reykjavik, heading south on Þjóðvegur 1 (Route 1/the Ring Road). The GPS coordinates for the parking lot is 64.022411, -21.211584 and parking is free! If you’re not driving it’s possible to get to Hvergerði by bus from Reykjavik. From there, you can walk towards Reykjadalur.
Entry cost: Free!
Estimated time to spend here: ~3 hours (hiking time included, but it really depends on how much time you want to spend relaxing!)
This post is linked up on… Our World Tuesday, and…