Looking to explore Iceland’s natural beauty with a trip to Reykjadalur Hot Springs? Hiking into a steam-filled valley and bathing in a hot river makes for the perfect combination of active adventure and relaxation. It’s no surprise this hike is a favorite among locals and tourists alike. Iceland is full of natural wonders, and Reykjadalur Hot Springs is no exception.
You’ll be excited for the hike to Reykjadalur Hot Springs before you even get to the trailhead. You can see the valley as your car descends the hill headed into the nearby town of Hveragerði. The valley lures you in from above with its majestic views and steam-laced surfaces. This is one of the best stops along the Ring Road in Iceland and you really shouldn’t miss it!
The experience only gets better as you begin the hike. So, befriend some sheep, lace up your boots, grab a few friends, and with these tips for maximizing your experience at Reykjadalur Hot Springs, head into the valley for an unforgettable adventure.
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7 Things To Know Before Visiting Reykjadalur Hot Springs
#1. Read The Signs! Not All Bodies Of Water Along The Hike Are Suitable For Bathing
Iceland is a hot spot for geothermal activity, and that is evident throughout the valley that encompasses Reykjadalur Hot Springs. Reykjadalur roughly translates to “smokey valley,” and throughout the entire hike, steam is released from the ground in the surrounding hills. This makes for a beautiful landscape, but with geothermal energy and steam comes boiling water.
While the steam is safe to approach, the boiling water for obvious reasons is not. As you approach the section of the Reykjadalur Hot Springs that is safe for bathing, you’ll walk across a bridge. On either side of the bridge is an abundance of holes and depressions in the ground gurgling with boiling water and mud. The water is fascinating to watch, but whatever you do, do not touch it!
Many tourists, with the expectation of bathing in a hot river, see the boiling water, smell the sulfur, overlook the signs and think they have arrived. They are close, but such a mistake could prove costly.
Posted along the path leading to the Reykjadalur Hot Springs are signs with thermometers on them indicating the water is dangerously hot. These signs are important to watch out for. You have not reached the section of Reykjadaulur Hot Springs that is safe for bathing until you arrive at the wood platforms and crisscrossed wooden boards acting as changing rooms along the side of the river.
#2. The Best Spots For Bathing In Reykjadalur Hot Springs Varies By Time Of Year
The best spots for bathing in Reykjadalur Hot Springs vary by time of year. The wood platforms where people keep their belongings and get changed, generally mark the stretch of river suitable for bathing.
Throughout that area, the river is divided into sections with a short build-up of rocks marking the end of each section. This is your cue that you’ve found a spot within the Reykjadalur Hot Springs that’s optimal for bathing. Right up against the rocks is the deepest point of each section of the river.
While it’s certainly possible to bathe in the shallower sections, it’s not ideal given the constant chill of the air around you. When you find a rock wall that catches your eye, you’ll be rewarded with a pocket of warm water of comfortable depth just waiting to be enjoyed. This is the ideal spot in the summer.
As the weather gets colder, so does the water. The section of Reykjadalur Hot Springs that’s lined by the wood platforms becomes the temperature of a heated swimming pool at best, sometimes colder. When this happens, hike further up the river, past the initial platforms. At that point, you’ll have to stick a leg in and test out the water. If it’s still not warm enough keep working your way up the river until you hit a spot that’s a comfortable temperature.
A word of warning though, in these upper sections of the Reykjadalur Hot Springs, the hot and cold water don’t always mix as seamlessly as the lower section of the river. There are spots too hot to withstand for an extended period of time, and occasionally waves of cold water will sweep through for a split second. This is because this section has actual hot springs in the river. There are still ideal bathing spots upriver, it’s just a game of trial and error trying to find them.
#3. The Summer And Early Fall Are The Best Times To Visit Reykjadalur Hot Springs
Reykjadalur Hot Springs is best enjoyed in the summer months for the highest probability of decent weather and the greatest number of daylight hours. In the winter, particularly once it begins to snow, the hike becomes more dangerous. Iceland’s weather is fickle, and the hiking conditions can be deceptive.
Though it may look ok at the trailhead, you never quite know what it will look like deeper in the valley. Just as in winter when Iceland is filled with darkness for much of the day making way for the possibility of the brilliant northern lights, the summer months bring about endless daylight and the glorious midnight sun.
If you’ve never gone hiking at midnight when the sky is still light, I suggest adding it to your bucket list. There is nothing quite like venturing into the beauty of nature late on a summer night and soaking in the Reykjadalur Hot Springs under the midnight sun.
If you’re not up for a late-night adventure, you’ll want to arrive at the Reykjadalur Hot Springs sometime around 8-9 in the morning (or earlier if you’re feeling extra peppy that day). As the late morning and afternoon roll around, the parking lot fills up and people start parallel parking along the street, stretching quite a ways up the road.
This means there are a lot of people on the trail, and more importantly a lot of people bathing in the river. While you can likely find some spot to bathe in the river, the prime locations are usually occupied later in the day.
If you arrive in the morning you can enjoy the hike to Reykjadalur Hot Springs without heavy foot traffic and can relax knowing you’ll likely get an ideal bathing spot where you can soak for as long as you’d like before trekking back.
#4. There’s Very Little Privacy for Changing Clothes At The River
At Reykjadalur Hot Springs, the bathing section of the river is lined with a wood pathway and wooden partitions, splitting each platform into 4 sections. Place your belongings here on the platform of one of the quadrants so they’ll stay dry. You can hang your towel over the wall so you can grab it immediately when getting out of the river.
It’s also a good idea to place the clothes you’ll be wearing on the hike back, in an easily accessible spot. The worst part of bathing in Reykjadalur Hot Springs is having to get out of the river at the end of it all, and standing in a wet suit in the cold. You’ll be glad to have your towel and clothes at the ready for a quick change.
There is no bathroom here. The only available bathroom is the one at the start of the trailhead. Unfortunately, the platform is not covered, so if it rains, you’re out of luck. Everything is definitely getting wet.
If you don’t wear your bathing suit during the hike to Reykjadalur Hot Springs, you’ll have to change when you arrive at the river, and there’s not a lot of privacy to do so. The back two quadrants of each platform face away from the river and therefore have more privacy, but even then they can be seen from the hiking path.
If you need more privacy you can always have someone hold a towel in front of you or wrap yourself in a towel while changing. Ultimately though everyone has to change, and no one really cares that you’re doing it out in the relative open. If you’ve ever been to a swimming pool in Iceland, you know that it’s a requirement to shower naked in open communal showers before entering the pool. For all Icelanders, this is normal.
Therefore, they also won’t be fazed by you changing in the middle of nature. No one at the Reykjadalur Hot Springs wants you to feel uncomfortable, and everyone’s good about respecting your privacy despite the openness of the changing stalls.
#5. The Hike To Reykjadalur Hot Springs Is Not Too Difficult And The Views Are Incredible
The hike to Reykjadalur Hot Springs is roughly 45 minutes. For most people, the entire experience ends up being around 3 hours to include hike time and time spent soaking in the river. The hike is easy to moderately difficult. It starts with a relatively steep uphill climb but levels out at the top as you hike back into the valley.
After it levels out, there are a few ups and downs along the way, but nothing too strenuous. The path is clear and well maintained, though it does get narrow in some parts with steep drop-offs on the sides, so be sure to stay on the path.
Though the hike can be done in regular tennis shoes, hiking boots are definitely encouraged, both for better grip on slippery gravel and for hiking through the mud. If it’s raining or has recently rained, parts of the path as you get closer to the hot springs become muddy. Even if you manage to walk around the main puddles of mud, your shoes will undoubtedly get very dirty.
The views along the hike to Reykjadalur Hot Springs are incredible. About ¾ of the way through the hike is a beautiful waterfall down below. There are plenty of spots from above perfect for viewing the waterfall and taking pictures.
Particularly in the summer when the weather has calmed down enough to allow for growth again, the valley is a luscious green with grass and small wildflowers lining the hills and riverbank. There are numerous plumes of steam in the valley early on in the hike, and as you get closer to the bathing section of the river there are bubbling pools of water and mud.
When you cross the bridge by the bathing section of Reykjadalur Hot Springs, you’ll start to pick up the distinct smell of rotten eggs courtesy of the sulfur in the boiling groundwater. It’s well worth it for the experience you get as a result!
#6. Be Prepared To Share The Valley With The Sheep And Icelandic Horses
The hike to Reykjadalur Hot Springs is through the highlands. This means you should be prepared to see lots and lots of sheep! In the summer, farmers release their sheep into the highlands to graze freely out in nature.
Sheep love the grass in the valley and on sunny days they love to suntan down by the river. You might have to fight the sheep for a “changing room” quadrant because the wood platforms are their prime nap/sunspots. And who can blame them?
What a place to suntan and nap! In the spring the valley is full of adorable baby lambs as well, trailing behind their mothers. While it’s rare to see them on the actual trail to Reykjadalur Hot Springs, they’re easily visible just off the path.
Many tour companies run Icelandic Horse Riding tours through the surrounding town of Hveragerði, and up into the valley all the way to Reykjadalur Hot Springs. The Icelandic horses are beautiful animals and are a very pure breed within Iceland as they are allowed out of the country, but once out, they are never allowed back in.
It’s a treat to see them along your hike. The horses ride the same path as you though, so if you happen to pass a tour group, share the trail with the horses and step to the side out of their way until the whole group passes. Unfortunately, they do leave poop along the trail, which sometimes attracts flies, but it’s really a minor inconvenience and doesn’t happen in consistent enough intervals for it to be a problem.
#7. Reykjadalur Hot Springs Is A Quick 45 Minutes From Reykjavik
Reykjadalur Hot Springs is just 45 minutes from the center of downtown Reykjavik making it very accessible by car or bus. If you have a car you’ll take Route 1 (the Ring Road) all the way to the small town of Hveragerði. At the roundabout leading into Hveragerði, you’ll take the 3rdexit onto the road Breiðamörk.
This will take you through the middle of town, with signs pointing you towards Reykjadalur Hot Springs. If you don’t have the luxury of using a car, there are buses from Reykjavik to Hveragerði. If you visit the website https://www.straeto.is you can see the bus routes and timetables. Once you get off the bus you’ll have to walk through Hveragerði to get to the trailhead of Reykjadalur Hot Springs. This is not a difficult walk, but it will add a bit to your total hike time.
The ease of getting from Reykjavik to the Reykjadalur Hot Springs makes it a perfect day hike. You can hike to the hot springs in the morning and be back in the capital city for lunch. Or inversely you can enjoy a day in the city and finish off the evening with a hike under the midnight sun.
Because the Reykjadalur Hot Springs are along Iceland’s south coast, another option is to make the hike part of a more extended road trip down the south coast. Other major tourist attractions further down the coast include The Golden Circle, Seljalandsfoss, Skogafoss, and the Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. It is the perfect Day Trip From Reykjavik!
If you go even farther you’ll hit Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. None of these other sights require hiking to view them, making them good compliments to the more physically taxing Reykjadalur Hot Springs hike.