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Throb’s Trip To Iceland 2011

This trip was planned around two people, but one of those people bailed, so I went alone. The plan was to visit as many hot springs as I could within two weeks. I researched a few places before I flew into Keflavík, but read online of the existence of a hot spring guide that is sold in bookstores in Iceland. The first bookstore I went to was sold out, but the guy working there told me they probably have it at the Eymundsson down the street, he was right. I picked it up for 3,990 Krona which turns out to be about 34 dollars. This book is organized by region and has driving/hiking directions as well as GPS coordinates to all of the hot springs. Be warned though, not all directions are spot on. A few places I had to drive back and forth to find. The guide is called “Thermal Pools in Iceland” by Jón G. Snæland & Þóra Sigurbjörnsdóttir. It looks like this.

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I wish I was in Iceland for the whole summer so I could explore all the places in the book, but I only had two weeks, so I quickly got to work on designing my itinerary. I wanted to hitchhike to all these spots, but with lack of time and the large distance between each spot, this seemed unreasonable. So instead I rented a car. I got the cheapest car, a two-door Toyota Yaris. It still cost me $700 for one week, but it came with a GPS which made navigation a little easier. Had I split this price two ways or even better four, it would have been worth it, but I had been in Reykjavík for three days already and was determined to leave. I bit the bullet and forked over the cash.

Day 1 on the road.
I drove about 45 minutes east from the main city to a little town called Hveragerði. Three kilometers from here is the parking lot at Rjúpnabrekkur. I had to ford the Varma river in my tiny Yaris to get there. I parked and began hiking the two miles into the mountains. I can not express how magical this place is; not through words, pictures or video. The whole place seems explosive, kind of like the Long Valley Caldera east of Mammoth or Yellowstone. Like at any moment the earth around me was going to explode like Mt. St Helens. Right near the parking lot are three pools that are fed by the hotspring the flows through the valley. Two of them were too hot for me but the third was just perfect. They are all muddy bottom pools no deeper than 2 feet.

The trail begins in the parking lot south of the Ölkelduhàl ridge and up the slopes of Rjúpnabrekkur. It is around a thousand foot elevation gain up the mountain Dalafell and into the valley of Klambragil. Once you get over the ridge, a hot river runs through the valley floor with many spots dammed up along it to soak. The trail stays about 30 feet above the river but you can descend at any point to take a soak. Many hikers and families were already soaking, but most were leaving because it was 9pm when I arrived. Since night never falls in the summers of Iceland, I had the whole evening to explore this magical place. A few people stayed to camp, but I pretty much had this place to myself. On the other side of the river were a few boiling pots where you would die instantly if you fell in. The line between beauty and death is always very thin.

I stayed for a few hours, soaked, ate dinner then hiked back and slept in the car.

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My rental at the parking lot of Rjúpnabrekkur.

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Pool near the parking lot.

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Pool hiding off the side of the trail near the parking lot.

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Source pools for the two soaking pools.

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Waterfall along trail to Klambragil.

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Pools along the hot river.

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The pool I spent the most time in.

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Scalding hot pots near the river.

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Day 2.

Woke up around 5 am in the car and drove past the town of Flúðir to a little hot spring called Hrunalaug. I got there around 6 am and had the whole place to myself for five hours. An older couple walked up and took a look at the place but drove away shortly after. This place used to be a sheep’s bath. It has a rectangular concrete tub that extends out from a small shack. The shack has a bunch of hooks to hang your clothes up. There is another pool between the shack and the hill. I soaked in both for a few hours. I laid out my towel, stretched out naked and soak up some sun when it popped out between the clouds. Ate some lunch here and took off to check out some other spots.

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Hrunalaug.

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Pool carved out from the side of the hill.

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Gettin some sun.

After I left Hrunalaug I attempted to drive to Landmannalaugar. The book and the road map both said the road, although long and rocky, was passable by passenger car during the summer. I got about 3 kilometers away from the parking area before I got stuck in the mud. I spent the next 2 hours in the rain digging out the undercarriage with a broken piece of bumper I found lying on the ground. I reversed out and drove back defeated. There was no way my tiny Yaris was gonna make it the rest of the way. Instead I drove a hundred something kilometers back down the highlands to check out Geysir.

Geysir is a big tourist spot, basically the Icelandic version of Old Faithful. I stopped to take a few pictures then drove to a couple hot springs about 2 kilometers away. One of the spots called Marteinslaug was too hot to soak, the other spot Kúalaug was soakable. Kúalaug is a little hole dug out from the ground, maybe 99 degrees fahrenheit. I was getting destroyed by bug bites, so I wrapped up my soak and took off back to Reykjavík to resupply and sleep at a friend’s house I met off CouchSurfing.org.

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Geysir.

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Marteinslaug.

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Kúalaug

Day 3.

I woke up and made some breakfast then drove north a few hours to the Snæfellsnes peninsula. I stopped at a place called Landbrotalaug. When I got here a couple was soaking, so I sat in the car and ate some snacks while waiting for them to get out. Twenty minutes later they did and I went to check it out.

Landbrotalaug is a very small hot spring, it can fit maybe four people, and that’s if you don’t mind someone’s leg all up in your junk. I had it all to myself for three hours. The water was the perfect temperature, I’d say around 102ºF. You have to rock hop across a tiny pond to get to it. The source of the pond is a valve that spouts hot water into a small tub then drains into the pond. You can lie in the tub and let the spout massage your body parts if you’re into that sorta thing. After I soaked here I drove to a spot called Guðrúnarlaug.

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Landbrotalaug.

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Spout and source of the pool.

I drove a few hours north heading toward the Westfjords. On the way I stopped at a place called Guðrúnarlaug. This pool was kinda hard to find. The directions in the book were not very descriptive. I relied on my GPS to get me close then looked at the picture in the book and tried to find the building with the green roof. Then I found out where the pool was in relation to it.

There is a parking lot right below this pool. You park and walk through a gate into a “Modesty Shack” where you can change into your swimwear. There were many people hiking around this area so I wore my trunks.

The craftsmanship of this pool is amazing. Apparently, the city spent a good amount of money rebuilding this pool because of its historical significance. I don’t know the whole history but it’s probably pretty cool. The water temperature was about 101ºF, I sat in the spot where the water came in and it was a bit warmer there. I soaked here for a few hours then drove up to Flókalundur on the southwest side of the Westfjords.

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Guðrúnarlaug.

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Changing shack above the pool.

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Watching the clouds drift by.

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Once I got to Flókalundur I asked the cute girl working at the visitor center where I could find the hot spring Hellulaug. Again the description in the thermal pool guide was not accurate enough to get me there. The girl knew exactly where it was, pointed me in right direction and I found it less than a minute later.

This pool is off the side of the main road, below a cliff next to the ocean. There was a couple soaking when I got there, but the pool was large enough to accommodate about ten people comfortably so I said “Fuck it,” dropped trou and hopped right in. They hung around for another ten minutes before they got dressed and left. Again I had this whole spot to myself for hours. The pool was around 102ºF but much warmer where the hose shot the water in. I soaked, took some pictures and left to set up my tent at the campground in Flókalundur.

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Hellulaug.

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Looking out into the Atlantic Ocean via Breiðafjörður

Day 4.
Woke up, ate breakfast then drove to a small bathhouse off the side of the road called Gjörvidalslaug. This little shack is very unnoticeable, if you drove by it you would have no idea it was a bathhouse. Again, I was the only one there. The rectangular concrete tub is about 3 feet deep and 104ºF and can fit four people comfortably. There are windows cut out of the shack to let cool air come in because it can get really hot in there. The source pool for this place is right behind it. It is a small pool maybe 2 feet across and very shallow. After soaking for a bit I took off to another spot called Nauteyrarlaug.

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The bathhouse.

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The source pool Gervidalslaug.

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Perfect crop job.

When I drove up to Nauteyrarlaug hot spring I was alone again. It was kinda strange that I was alone most of the time at these places. I almost WANTED others to be there so I could talk to someone. But the chances of other soakers speaking English would be unlikely.

Nauteyrarlaug is right near a church in Langadalsströnd, deep in Ísafjarðardjúp. The water is fed through a hose into a large pool that can fit about twenty people. There is a changing shack next to it. The water flows out of the hose at about 101ºF and cools off to around 98º in the rest of the pool. Then the pool drains out through a small channel. After soaking here for a few hours I noticed it was getting late. It’s super hard to tell the time because the sun never sets. I got dressed and set off to another pool called Snorralaug.

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Nauteyrarlaug.

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I got to Snorralaug around 4 in the morning. It is located in the small town of Reykholt. Everything was closed and it was twilight out. I parked the car and walked up toward the abandoned boarding school, right next to it sits the historic pool of Snorralaug. There is a door that leads to a tunnel through a hill right next to the pool. I went inside to change into my swimsuit, is smelled like the Log Ride at Knott’s Berry Farm in there. I wore my shorts because this spot is right in the middle of town, and even though no one was around, I didn’t want to take my chances. The water was not too warm, around 95ºF. I only soaked for a bit before I went to the car and fell asleep.

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Snorralaug.

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Day 5.
I woke up in the car, ate some Muesli and headed back into Reykjavík. It was a very long drive back. I went to lunch in the city then went to the hot spring beach in Nauthólsvík.

This place has two hot spring pools. There is a large circular tub in the ocean where one can soak during low tide, the other is a long rectangular concrete tub next to the changing room and showers. There were a lot of people soaking here, I found it difficult to relax because all the little crumb-crunchers were splashing around making noise. One little farthead even had a whistle and kept blowing it in my ear. His parents could see the frustration on my face and took the whistle away.

I soaked in the ocean pool for about five minutes, laid in the sand for a few hours, then went back to my friends place on the other end of the city and chilled out for the rest of the night.

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Upper concrete tub.

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Lower tub that gets submerged during high tide.

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Day 6.
Woke up, ate some breakfast and drove toward Bláa Lónið. On the way I stopped at a spot called Skátalaug. This place lies south of lake Kleifarvatn right off road 42. It was just slightly out of the way to Bláa Lónið.

Again I had this spot all to myself. It is fed by a small pipe into a foot deep tub about 99ºF. This drains into a large pool full of these crazy plants. I soaked here for a bit, laid out for an hour, read a book and drank some orange juice. I then drove off to Bláa Lónið or what most tourists call it, the Blue Lagoon.

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Skatalaug.

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Very rare sunny day.

My final stop before I returned the car to the rental place was the Blue Lagoon. This place is what everyone imagines when they hear about hot springs in Iceland. Don’t get me wrong, this place is beautiful, but there is a lot more to Iceland than just this place. I payed the 30 Euro to get in and soaked for a few hours. I took a break, ate some snacks and read some more. Then soaked again before leaving.

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I would go back to Iceland anytime. It’s super depressing making this post because Iceland is so expensive and so far away. One day I hope I’ll have enough time and money to check out all the places in the book, and others that have not been cataloged. I hope you enjoy the pictures.

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Peace and Love.

13 replies
  1. mo
    mo says:

    I couldn’t think of a better way to spend 6 days. expensive, yes, but worth every penny I’m sure. there’s a quiet simplicity to your pictures that just match the whole experience. (looks like target didn’t lose your film?) the video is the icing on the adventure cake – rad

  2. Trisha
    Trisha says:

    Duuude, I’ve stubbled upon your blog a couple of weeks and have been following you ever since! Great post! These pictures are great!

  3. David
    David says:

    Hey man, Great write up on your trip. Wow the spots you went to looked amazing.Hellulaug spring looked great with the sea views. I like the part of your story when you had to ford the Varma river in your tiny car and when you had to dig it out with an old bumper….lol that sounds like an adventure.Hope you get to use that book again in the future!

  4. losangelesswimmin
    losangelesswimmin says:

    Thanks so much. I would totally be back there if I had the money. I want to go in the winter and rent a GIANT lifted truck with snow tires and hit some of these spots when it’s snowing and dark as hell. Shoot some long exposures, catch the northern lights. Maybe sometime soon.

  5. Kevin & Liz
    Kevin & Liz says:

    Thanks for the great shots and inspiring blog! Whereas most tourists’ videos of Iceland come across at hackneyed music videos yours is truly personal and really captured a sense of self that’s really refreshing – great underwater footage BTW! In addition, there’s something about the shots of your gear in the passenger-side carry-all bag that totally encapsulates the ‘okay, here we go’ (nervous & excited) feeling of setting out on any adventure.

    My girlfriend and I are currently near Akureyri, Hrísey actually, and will be heading out for another week road trip on the east and south coasts on Monday (Aug 29). Does that book of yours have any hidden gems that might not have made it online or into the more common travel guides? We’re hitting Mývatn and Seljavellir for sure, but don’t have info for many others on those sides of the country. We know they’re not as geothermally active as the west, but worth a shot.

    I couldn’t agree more that it’d be worth returning here in the winter, in a big-ass 4×4. Those ‘F’ roads are mighty tempting and even more seductive when rockin’ a Yaris. Good on ya for trying though, looks like your cajones are bigger than ours!

    Bless Bless,
    K&L

    Ps what’s the song in the video? It’s great!

  6. Kyle
    Kyle says:

    Thank you for sharing your trips with us. I recently went to Bagby Hot Springs and I loved the experience so I’m trying to incorporate them into my trips more. I’m planning on an international trip next year and Iceland has now shot to the top of the list of places I want to visit. Sounds like it was expensive, but worth it. Thanks for the blog, you’ve inspired me.

  7. losangelesswimmin
    losangelesswimmin says:

    I pretty much dont go anywhere unless there is water ha. Iceland is amazing and totally worth the ticket. Rent a car and get out of Reykjavik, it’s way cheaper with more people. If you do get out there I wanna see pix!

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