Hiking to Reykjadalur Hot Springs in Iceland – a great day out!
Quite a lot of people who go to Iceland, immediately rush over to the Golden Circle and its sights. Which is perfectly understandable because those natural wonders you will get to see there are not something you can see in just any country. The geysers and waterfalls are just stunning and deserve all the attention they get. However if you go just a little bit further than the Golden Circle, you will find a little valley called Reykjadalur (meaning Smokey Valley) that will surprise you with its outstanding beauty. It’s truly one of Iceland’s scenic gems if you ask me. Plus, since I totally advise you to not visit the Blue Lagoon but instead visit some free alternatives, this is one of your best options to bathe in a typical Icelandic hot stream for free!
[Please note: this article was first published in January 2014 and updated in February 2019 after my most recent visit to Reykjadalur Iceland. Enjoy reading!]
Three times the Reykjadalur hike
Having been to Iceland no less than ten times over the past decade, I’ll tell you all you need to know about it! My first visit to Reykjadalur Hot Springs was in the summer of 2011 when I had completed hiking the Laugavegur, Iceland’s most famous multi day hikes. My Icelandic friend Birna (who lived in Selfoss back then) proposed we’d do a little hike to one of her favorite places in the areas. Back then, we didn’t see anyone else and had both the hike and the hot stream entirely to ourselves. The trails were narrow, there were no bridges across the streams and no sign of tourism as of yet.
Reykjadalur Hot Springs in winter
My next visit was in the winter of 2012 during a business trip to Iceland. I got the chance to explore Reykjadalur Valley in the winter and it was simply amazing. There was a fresh layer of snow that covered the landscape and guiding services were very useful, having to be careful not to step into a mud pool or something. It was hard to recognize the landscape as it was a completely different setting but definitely as stunning as in summertime. This is what it looked like back then:
Reykjadalur Hot Springs in 2019
Since my last trip to Reykjadalur Hot Springs already dated back some seven years, I was a little hesitant to go. Should I go? Or should I leave the memories for what they are? I heard that it has now become a real tourist destination and after being in doubt for a while, I decided to go for it and I wanted to see for my own whether it would still be worth hiking to.
And you know what? I still loved it! I guess we were lucky enough that the weather was more or less OK and that once again we traveled in winter but in all honesty it wasn’t as busy as I was afraid it would be.
About the Reykjadalur Hot Springs hike
Reykjadalur means Smokey Valley and you will find hot streams and boiling craters everywhere. This makes it a very interesting area but be aware: stepping into a hot stream where indicated as ‘dangerous’ or ‘do not enter’ is not a good idea. The main trail is very clear and you should not leave it.
The hike is about 4 kilometers one way and it’s quite steadily up most of the time. There for it’s not suitable for those who are not in good shape or don’t have decent hiking shoes. Sneakers are not okay, not even in summer, as the trail tends to get extremely wet and muddy. It’s not a technical nor a difficult trail. In winter there can be lots of snow and wearing crampons or spikes may be useful as the trail is not maintained for winter.
After about an hour and a half you will reach the part of the Reykjadalur hot spring where there’s a sign indicating it’s safe to bathe. The further you move up from here, the warmer it gets. There are no dressing rooms but they built boardwalks and some wooden windscreens so you can change behind them. It’s not very private though but everybody just jumps into their bathing clothes – if you don’t want to see people change or others to see you change, maybe it’s best not to go.
The hike back is the same way as you came, but then faster as it’s all the way down so you should be back at the car in an hour or so. At the car park there’s a small coffee shop but it was closed at the time of our visit. Maybe because it was in the middle of winter …
How to get to Reykjadalur Hot Spring
The Reykjadalur hot spring trailhead is located just outside of the town of Hveragerði – a 45 minute drive away from Reykjavík. Just drive into town (left at the roundabout coming from Reykjavík) and then drive straight on, signs will show you the way. The Reykjadalur hike starts a few kilometers out of town and there’s a small parking lot which can hold few cars only. However it’s not uncommon to park next to the road if the parking lot is full.
Reykjadalur Hot Springs map
You don’t really need a map for this hike as it’s pretty straightforward. The Reykjadalur Hot Springs are part of the Hengill Mountains and hiking maps can be bought at tourists shops or gas stations. At the Reykjadalur Hot Spring trailhead you will find a large map that you can take a photo of for navigation on this hike. If you wish continue on hiking further than the stream, make sure to bring a normal map of the area!
What to bring on your Reykjadalur Valley Hot Springs hike?
You don’t need a whole lot, but make sure to bring a rain jacket, decent hiking boots, swimming clothes, a towel and water because you’ll need to hydrate again after being in the hot stream for a while. Optionally you can carry snacks, a camera and flip flops.
Please do not forget: Icelandic weather can be quite horrendous and can change at any time. When we hiked it last time, we had a small bit of sunshine when going up. Soon after departure it became overcast and upon arrival at the Reykjadalur Hot Springs it started to snow. On the way down, it changed to a storm and the infamous horizontal Icelandic rain. We saw a young couple hiking up in a woolen sweater, jeans and sneakers. This is not OK! The Icelandic Search & Rescue is a voluntary organization and having to be rescued because you are improperly dressed does not make them happy. (Trust me, it happens!)
Also read: what to wear in Iceland in winter – a suggested packing list
Reykjadalur hotel options
Looking for a hotel near Reykajdalur? Then your best bet is to stay in or near Hveragerði. I stayed at Hjardarból Guesthouse, a small family run farm with amazing breakfast, comfortable rooms and free hot pools to use. I can definitely recommend staying there! Alternatively check out my blog with best places to stay in Reykjavík for any budget.
Conclusion and disclaimer
I hope you found my blog on Reykjadalur Hot Spring useful and that I’ve motivated you to go and visit. Note that this blog contains affiliate links and that I may received a small commission if you make a booking through my website, at no extra cost to you. Thanks for considering!