Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Gem hunting
Few soaks come better than those in the hinterland of Hveragerði.

The village of Hveragerði, which is located 45 km's due west of Iceland's capital of Reykjavik, is a minor hot spot in it's own rights. Those just passing by on Highway 1 can notice the greenhouses all running on geothermals, while on the river which flows north of the village, one sees quite a bit of steam rising.

The local website tries to entice more of those passing by to stop:
'Without doubt, Hveragerði´s, most precious gem is it´s geothermal park'.
The park has it's own Facebook page. 
Especially during summer, the village highlights it's geothermal background, there's even a geothermal oven to bake bread! It's good to see that the inhabitants take pride in their village and it's geothermalism.

However, despite Hveragerði having it's own hot swimming pool, those tourists with non-fixed programmes can seek the hills yonder. 

Alternatively the area where I am heading is named as Reykjadalur (which means steamy or smokey valley), Hengill (after the volcano), Klambragil (one of the springs) or Rjúpnabrekkur, probablt the most accessible site. The former is explained:
' ... named so because of the winter population of ptarmigans in the area'.
With the possibility of mixing these up, let me start at the trail to Reykjadalur valley, the starting point which may or may not be called Rjúpnabrekkur. To get here, from the main highway one turns into the village itself and takes a left once the main drag has come to an end. 

Looking back at the car park

Then follow the river (named Varma), the asphalt surface runs out where a loop around grassland one comes to a parking spot near a bridge over the now much smaller river. 

Beyond the bridge crossing the river, are a number of hot springs, though it's not here that tourists are heading. Instead avid soakers zig-zag through the springs up the steep hill.
Note though that Throb of LA Swimming also mentions there are some hot soakable springs near the parking lot. Other mentions are made of luke-warm springs.

This way up

Beyond the steep ridge, more ridges are to be traversed but after a good half an hour hike, the path rejoins the river once more. That's not before a couple of great vista's have come and gone: behind one, out towards the ocean or of the valley itself with a rather big waterfall.

Once back near the stream itself, there are a number of hot springs, on the west bank, it's very evident by the steam. One can bypass these boiling hot pots including a few muddy ones. If into mud take a sample to use once cooled down!

This is easy soaking territory. You predecessors have already enhanced the soaking opportunities with the construction of small dams, making small pools up to half a meter deep.

Small world

My visit was on an eery snow laden day. The track up was do-able, but once beyond the ridges, the track was barely visible under the snow. And out to sea more snow threatened. So taking the trail up, soaking and heading back down it was all done in a rush.
Despite the adverse weather conditions, there were still a few other soakers in Reykjadalur. 

All that was needed to make a great soak, was to make a choice of pool: your predecessors have constructed small dams making 30-50 cm deep pools. Helped on by differing temperatures, one could take a soak in the white landscape.

Despite the lack of gawkers, todays dress code was well-dressed? 

If one continues onwards, a left turn brings one to the hot spring of Klambragil. Further up the valley a shelter used to exist, while the other valleys nearby also have their own springs, not sure what their soaking qualities are though.

In summer many tour companies organize activities in the hills above the village: cycling, hiking, horse-riding. Naturally all expecting to finish with a soak!

There's plenty of info on Reykjadalur and the other hot springs nearby, fear not. For instance has a couple of photo's plus a link to a walking track, great to download on your mobile whatever electronic device: if need be, you can seek advice.

Other good resources (and reads) are besides already mentioned Throb's trip account are those from Unlocking Kiki and alavigne which describes a good and entertaining entry on a hot spring hunt. 

Note that Reykjadalur is rated as one of Iceland's best soaking sites (source).

Finally, in Snaeland & Sigurbjörnsdóttir's Icelandic soaking bible, the authors have separate chapters on Klambragil and Rjúpnabrekkur / Varma. 
They describe ways of getting to both (they note an alternative way from the Hellisheiði power station) and have pointers on temperature; in Klambragil these of course they can vary, while at Rjúpnabrekkur temperatures are a little low, 33C.

Snaeland, J.G. & Þ. Sigurbjörnsdóttir (2010) Thermal pools in Iceland. Skrudda, Reykjavik, Iceland

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