Reykjadalur
13. June 2017

The Reykjadalur Hot Spring Hike on Your Own

Reykjadalur hot spring is close to Reykjavik and can very easily be done without a guide. This hot spring is without a doubt one of my favourites and the hike is very scenic.

Reykjadalur is the name of a geothermal area in South Iceland, close to the town of Hveragerdi . Abundance of geothermal heat and bubbling geysers are Reykjadalur's main characteristics. It is one of the most popular outdoor areas of the surrounding Ölfuss region.

The main attraction of Reykjadalur is without a doubt the steaming hot river that flows through the valley. The river is an ideal place for bathing and has become a popular destination for travellers, both Icelanders and foreigners.

A few years ago wooden pathways were built along the bank of the river and some stairs to make it easier to enter the hot river.

The last time I went to the Reykjadalur hot spring was in 2008. I was still in my teens and I had actually never heard about it. I remember having driven into the town of Hveragerdi to ask the locals how to go about it because I couldn’t find any information online.

There were no facilities in the area back then and no other visitors.

When I went back to Reykjadalur yesterday I was afraid that the place, that used to be a secret spot, would have lost its charm due to the pathways and that it would be overcrowded with tourists.

To my surprise, Reykjadalur was still an extraordinary place and I am definitely going back this summer.

The hike

It’s not possible to drive all the way to the hot river. You have to park your car at a parking lot and then walk for a little less than an hour to the actual hot river. The hike is just great. It’s scenic and full of vivid colours.

You’ll see a ton of hot springs (way hotter than the one you’ll bathe in) and a beautiful waterfall called Djúpagilsfoss. If you are hiking in the summertime, you’ll probably meet some sheep along the way.

I advise you to follow the path while you’re hiking, the hot springs along the way are boiling hot.

A hiker on a wooden bridge at Reykjadalur Valley, Iceland.

Two hikers looking at a waterfall in Reykjadalur Valley.

A column of steam and a warning sign.

If you walk briskly, the hike shouldn’t take longer than 45 minutes. It’s not very steep so it should be suitable for children and inexperienced hikers.

Bathing in the  river

After you’ve hiked for about 45 minutes, you’ll cross a small wooden bridge. As soon as you’ve crossed the bridge you’ll see the hot river.

The farther along the river you go, the hotter it gets. We decided to bathe in the upper part of the river since there were fewer people there. It was extremely hot, I would guess that the temperature of the water was around 105°F. I lasted for approximately ten minutes and then I took a seat on a wooden plank on the river bank.

If you can’t stand bathing in super hot water, I recommend bathing in the lower parts of the river.

There were way fewer tourists than I had thought. The “bathing-part” of the river is quite large so you never get the feeling that it’s too crowded.

There are no showers or changing rooms in the area. There are some dividing walls by the river that allow visitors some privacy while changing their clothes. If you are really shy, I recommend wearing your bathing suit underneath your clothes because these dividers aren’t solid changing rooms.

Some people were drinking beer or other cold drinks while bathing in the river. It could be a good idea to bring some refreshments along, you might get thirsty after the hike. There is a small café at the parking lot where you start the hike called Dalakaffi. There are also some supermarkets and restaurants in Hveragerdi, if you want to stock up before you go.

If you are bringing some refreshments or snacks up to the river, please don’t leave any trash behind! This goes without saying, I guess.

A bridge that can hardly be seen due to a lot of steam.

The hot river in Reykjadalur valley.

Sun shining over the hot river at Reykjadalur Valley.

Four people bathing in Reykjadalur hot river and drinking beer.

Q & A

How to get there?
Drive the Ring Road from Reykjavik until you arrive in the town of Hveragerdi. The drive from Reykjavik to Hveragerdi takes around 50 minutes.

Drive into the town of Hveragerdi. Drive Road Breiðamörk (just for a few minutes) until you reach the parking lot.

If you don’t have a rental car, just hitchhike to Hveragerdi or use public transport . Simply walk to the starting point from Hveragerdi.

When is the best time to visit?
I’ve heard that the river is somewhat colder in the wintertime. I’ve also heard that the trail can become impassable during the winter, especially in heavy snow. If you are going in the wintertime, I would check the weather conditions before you head up there. It is also dark during the winter and the area isn’t lit up. That might cause some troubles if you are visiting early in the morning or in the afternoon.

Reykjadalur is a splendid place to enjoy the midnight sun during the summer. Going there late at night in June/early July is highly recommended!

What should I bring?
If you are going to bathe, you obviously have to bring your swimsuit and a towel. Wear hiking boots if you have them. I noticed that many hikers were wearing normal sneakers and jeans and they seemed to be doing fine, so hiking boots are perhaps not a must during the summertime.

Bring some drinks or snacks if you want. It’s good to bring a plastic bag for the trash since there aren’t any rubbish bins in the area.

Should I rather book a guided tour?
You can book some guided tours to the Reykjadalur hot river. There are horseback riding tours available, I haven’t tried it but it sounds fun. I don’t really see the point in booking a guided hiking tour, it is extremely easy to do it on your own.

Is it possible to go by bike?
Yes, it’s possible. The hiking trail is ideal for mountain bikes and I passed some adventurous mountain bikers on the way up. You will need a proper mountain bike since the trail is a bit rocky.

How long is the hike?
3 km/1.9 mi.

Is it possible to camp by the river?
No, unfortunately that is prohibited. There are camping sites in the area, check this map out for more info.