Those of you who have been following my Icelandic adventures lately will have noticed I’ve taken quite a liking for the hot pools! When visiting Iceland there’s a clear winning choice highlighted in all the guidebooks and in fact in the corridors at the airport when you arrive – the Blue Lagoon. It’s got a lot to offer, particularly when it comes to luxury, and you can have a great experience there with treatments, lunch, and a huge pool boasting the skin-boosting qualities of silica and lava. Take a look at this: –
The lava, the porous red and black rocks, form the landscape and the silica, the white stuff, comes from the water. The Blue Lagoon is a place everybody should experience.
Personally I like to visit early in the morning and try to be the first in the water, which in the winter means it’s still dark for most of the morning! The entry to the facility is controlled and the pool is pretty huge so there’s usually some privacy, however it’s so popular that you can often find it crowded like this: –
Yes, that is a bar in the water. So in my apparently never-ending quest to explore and have new experiences, particularly with nature, I’ve found a fondness for the far lesser known hot pools of Iceland. The thing is, it’s not called the land of fire and ice for nothing. Iceland sits on a fault line which bisects the country diagonally from the south-west to the north-east, one half being a part of the North American tectonic plate, the other on the Eurasian plate. This is why the country is riddled with active volcanoes and the landscape bears scars of lava flow from not so long ago. The magma underground contributes to the geothermal activity which causes a lot of the water under the land here to be heated. And when I say heated, I mean really heated. Not warm – hot!
These of you who feel more at-one with nature will prefer the other kind of hot pools. Often unmarked and always owned by someone (don’t forget that part!), these things are all over the place in some form or another. It could be as simple as a bubbling, muddy spring, or it could be something more customised and deliberate. I’ll show you two here, with coordinates to find them yourself.
First up, Gudrunarlaug.
This spring is actually a reconstruction of a historical hot pool. Mentioned in the Sagas, there’s been a pool here for over a thousand years. There’s a good chance you won’t be alone here, but bathing is a social experience in Iceland anyway. To get there from Reykjavik you need to head towards the Westfjords, turning left off the ring road onto Route 60, then left again on road 589 until you get to Hotel Edda. The hot spring is up the hill behind the hotel.
The other one I’ll show you is Hrunalaug.
Located near Fludir, this spring lies fairly well hidden. It’s maintained by the farmer who owns the land and there’s a place to leave a donation towards the upkeep (bear in mind the 9,000ISK price tag on the Blue Lagoon, 500-1500ISK will suffice). The water flows down the valley, steaming as it goes, and the water is directed through to a pool with high sides to shield from the wind too.
The abundance of hot water in Iceland is appealing and can be very tempting, but be careful! Make sure you always stay hydrated – the sweat pouring from you in the water could cause you some problems if you don’t replace that fluid. Secondly, not all hot water is for swimming in! The water in these pools is cooled to that temperature. Yes, you read that right – cooled! Take this pool for example: –
The water in this cave is hot. Too hot for bathing. It’s been off limits to bathers since the 1970’s when the level of geothermal activity in the Myvatn area meant the water was simply too hot. It’s starting to cool now but it still fluctuates dependant on the volcanic activity on any given day.
Gudrunarlaug – N65 14.470 W21 48.200
Hraunalaug – N64 07.965 W20 15.295