Plumes of steam rise up around me like smoke rising from a fire. One step in the wrong bubbling pool, and the soles of your shoes could literally melt. But not to worry; the dangerous pools are marked with signs and so long as you stick to the well-trodden trail, Reykjadalur is a beautiful spot to hike in Iceland.
Reykjadalur, which literally means Smoky Valley, is just a 45 minute drive from Reykjavik and a popular spot for the locals to head out for a half day trek. It’s located near Hengill, an active volcano, though it last erupted over 2000 years ago.
The steaming fumaroles and bubbling mud pots are a reminder that hot lava is flowing somewhere beneath our feet. A local even tells me of a family in the area that has a new hot spring that erupted right through their kitchen. You’d think it’s a bit scary, especially since Bardarbunga was rumbling and spewing lava in the center of the island nation during this particular visit, but I’m fascinated.
The hike can be done in just 2.5 hours and ascends past bubbling mud pools that are clearly just short of reaching boiling. As we ascend, we have to use chains drilled in to the rock to help us up the narrow and slippery ledges. But the bit of scrambling is worth the effort just for the views alone. Even though the clouds look like they are about to burst at any second, we can still see all the way to Lake Þingvallavatn.
The descent leads to the Reykjadalur valley where a hot, steaming stream has warning signs that the water is 100°C (212°F). I watch it gurgle, spurt and steam while wishing I’d brought an egg. How often can you boil an egg in nature?
This water is too hot, but as we head downstream a cold river merges with the hot, creating the perfect temperature for a natural hot pool. You’ll want to wear your swimsuit on this hike and take a dip. It’s otherworldly with the steam from the fumaroles rising around and the scent of sulfur floating on the air.
The hike then ascends again out of the valley, creating a loop back to the gravel road near the power plant where you can park. After, head to the nearby Sundlaugin Laugaskarði swimming pool for a shower and a soak in the hot tub with electronic massage. There is also a natural sauna, lap pool, and a shallow sitting pool. Trust me – it’s like heaven after the muddy Reykjadalur hike.
While Reykjadalur is a perfect taste of hiking in Iceland, especially on shorter trips like a 5-day Iceland itinerary, the trek will no doubt lure you back for more Iceland hiking adventures. Long on our own bucket list is hiking the Laugavegur Trail in Iceland’s Highlands, which is a hike that offers up a multitude of natural hot springs and mud pools over 5-6 days in one of the least visited parts of Iceland.
Know Before You Go
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