There are many highlights to our trip to Iceland. Volcanoes and glaciers, waterfalls and the northern lights (Aurora Borealis), beautiful Viking literature and lore, exotic foods (puffins, reindeers and whale) all about a backdrop of mountains and lakes, beaches and seas. One of the experiences that stood out was a 3km hike up steam valley, in cool 10°c weather, and having a warm bath in a thermal river, all in the great outdoors!
Reykjadalur or “Steam Valley” is located in the innermost area of Hveragerdi Town. A geothermal spring pours from atop the mountain and cools as it runs down to the foothills. There’s a wonderfully scenic hiking route up to the hot spring valley itself, and is a great place to have a relaxing dip in the rich variety of hot pools, geothermal springs and river.
Hvergerði Town, in South Iceland is about a 40min drive from Reykjavik (capital of Iceland). When you reach Hveragerði, drive straight through the town, past a golf course to reach a gravel road that leads to Reykjadalur. At the end of the gravel road is a café and a small parking lot which marks the start of the hiking route. (There’s an information office in the shopping mall as you enter the town, where you can grab free maps and any other information you might need for the hike).
All hiking routes are meticulously marked out in Iceland. With signposts and yellow/red stake markers along the routes. The first 30mins of the climb was the steepest and at first I thought that maybe I had bitten off more than I could chew, but once we cleared the first ascent, there wasn’t anything steeper after.
The fickle Icelandic weather blew clouds in as quickly as it took them away. Where you’d be walking in a dreamy fog of clouds one minute, the next would be beautiful clear skies.
Our path took us above and along the river and in the distance we could see the steam rising out of a valley. We assumed that was our target.
About an hour into the hike, we realized why they called it steam valley, warm sulfur steam poured out from patches of earth. We circled the patches to avoid the rotten egg odor. Another 15mins and we hit the met with the river again. We dipped our hands in to test the temperature and it was still chilly. Further up river to find our perfect bath temperature!
Along the way we passed pools of thermal water, some boiling (avoid those!) and some cooler. Some hikers had already taken up residence in the cooler pools, their own outdoor Jacuzzi.
We walked along the river looking for our own special spot, passing sheep grazing and a group of men singing, what we assume was a German song, as it echoed back from the mountain sides.
We finally found a nice private spot, stripped down (chilly being naked in the 10°c breeze!) and jumped in. Ahhhhh. We soaked for about 45mins, enjoying the tranquil scenery immediately around us, whilst waiting for the sun to come back out again. Dried off and had our picnic lunch on the turf.
Full and refreshed we packed up and headed back down the same way we came. Downhill was a lot quicker. All in all it took us about an hour and half up and a mere 45 mins down.
Some Things to Note:
1) Dress appropriately. Proper hiking shoes.
2) Travel light. It is an uphill trek.
3) Bring refreshment, and stay hydrated. All in all it took us under 3hours to and fro.
4) The weather is finicky, wear a waterproof outer shell, in case it rains.
5) If the water is boiling, DO NOT go in. Test the water before jumping in at all times.