Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Soaking sources of Iceland

Swiftly becoming one of Iceland's main attractions: an out of the way hot spring, Hrunalaug.
'Paradis bien au chaud! #hotsprings #iceland #icelandtravel'

The last months have seen a series of entries on personal experiences with Icelandic hot natural springs. 
But only on just a few. 
There are way many more ...

For those of you, who want to explore further, this post will seek to give a good overview of information available.

In print
There's no doubt about it, there's just the single publication which any soaker will need when visiting Islan and that is Snaeland, J.G. & Þ. Sigurbjörnsdóttir's (2010) Thermal pools in Iceland
Surprisingly this publication is only available from the webshop of Skrudda and priced at 3990 Icelandic krona, which with today's exchange rate works out to be just under 26€.
The authors present details on roughly 80+ Icelandic soaks, mostly undeveloped hot spring sites; by no means complete but if wishing to visit all 80 mentioned, I would suggest taking a couple of months of holiday! 
All complete with GPS data, the book hopes to highlight the need to visit and respect thermal pools as especially tourists are highly motivated to seek out wild thermal pools.

Top sites
And though there is this book on hot springs in Iceland (soaking enthusiasts will be surprised that there is at least a book) us aficionado's know that printed work on hot springs is usually very scarce. 

Not so with internet web sites.

Your first address to consult would be swimminginiceland. It lists more than 100 thermal swimming pools, all developed as well as a dozen or so, more natural / wilder soaks.

The English / Icelandic islandihnotskurn has a neatly set up website, offering information and photo's on nearly 50 of the nations hot springs. Comes with a Facebook page.

The enjoyiceland website has an overview of 20+ natural hot springs, though not necessarily all soakable.

Beggi and Magga maintain a photographic website, kjoarnir. With their own photo's on nearly 20 hot springs.

Selka Kind on her website whatwegotuptoiniceland notes her best and worst hot pools. In the same mode c'est christine plugs her best places to swim in Iceland: Blue Lagoon, Hofn, Seljavallalaug, Hrunalaug and Hveragerði.

Popular haunt for wild soaking: Rekjaladur / Hveragerði. Source

Much in the same flavour as this website, LA Swimming goes international and Throb's lengthy and entertaining entry counts trips to 13 soaking sites on Iceland.

Then there is a site on Icelandic hot pots; it seeks to explain the love affair between Icelanders and their hot waters.

In town
Away from the uncivilised hot springs (sorry ...), Reykjavik has made taking a hot pot at one of their public swimming pools a trendy thing to do. 

Some swimming pools are old and weary but thus novel whereas others are very modern affairs. 
The Reykjavik Grapevine has an article on Sundhöllin, Reykjaviks oldest and most central swimming pools. It's a great place to experience a night time hot pot.
The Icelandic Times has an extensive article on Laugardalslaug, probably the biggest of Reykjavik.

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

Friday, May 2, 2014


Reykjanes peninsula, the southwestern promontory, is just hanging on to Iceland rather than tumbling in the North Atlantic. Through the blizzard I can see the lighthouse of Reykjanesviti which equally warns ships for land and visitors for the surrounding geothermal fields. And the end of terra firma.

The geothermal fields are noted as Gunnuhver:
'The mud pools and steam vents on the southwest part of Reykjanes close to Reykjanes lighthouse are collectively named Gunnuhver after a female ghost that was laid there. She had caused great disturbance until a priest set a trap for her and she fell into the spring. This happend about 400 years ago'.

A number of look outs have been built which afford an overview of the steaming cauldrons. As well as Iceland's largest geothermal mud pool.
On the far side of the boiling pits, partially obscured by the blizzard, are a number of futuristic buildings apparently belonging to the Reykjanes power station.

Driving around the geothermal field to the geothermal power plant itself, we're a bit surprised that the Power Plant Earth exhibition, run in the geothermal power station is closed. Closed for the winter.

Somewhere I had seen some photo's of soaking possibilities nearby but whether it's the poor visibility, the snow covered land or simply being at the wrong place, soaking is not so obvious. 
After studying the landscape, I notice that a cement covered culvert is not covered by snow and yes the culvert is transporting hot water away into the blizzard. Knowing that the coast is nearby, we continue to follow the culvert.

Warning: no swimming

Three hundred meters on, we come to the end of the culvert where the hot water bursts from a pipe to the ever cold North Atlantic ocean. Elements are at work, the blizzard, steam from the water, crashing waves, well maybe it's not such a nice soak. Warning signs abound as well. Maybe when the tide is out?

 Where to soak?
Well, first to the left, there a couple of small petri-dish size rock pools. However they are either too small, too hot or too cold. Well, that's a no-go.

To the right though the situation is unclear. Clambering over rocks through the mist, we come to a large and deep pool. Testing reveals that closer to the inlet the water is too hot, however, seawater from crashing waves is coming over the rocks. 

Temperature is not bad. 

Well here goes. 

Strip quickly (very quickly!) and lower oneself carefully into pool. First the welcome heat, however after 30 cm of depth or so, the water gets cooler. A few kicks and the waters start to mix, the hotter water cooling, the cold water doing the opposite.

It may be a cold, blizzardy day, but this is a bath fit for a king.

Life on Mars?
Despite the great soaking opportunities, the origin of these steaming waters is less clear. 
The company-speak by the Power Plant Earth website:
'Power plant earth is an exhibition located in Reykjanesvirkjun, a geothermal power plant owned by HS. Orka hf. The power plant is not far from the edge of Reykjanes, the Reykjanes lighthouse and Bridge between two Continents.
The location is in one of the most beautiful lava fields in Iceland and its natural surroundings make it an extraordinary place to visit; Gunnuhver (one of the largest hot springs in Iceland), the continental rift, rows of craters, Mount Sýrfell and Rauðhólar Hills (landscape like on Mars) are among the many magical sites to see'.
The facts by Wikipedia which adds more background:
'The Reykjanes Power Station is a geothermal power station located in Reykjanes at the southwestern tip of Iceland. As of 2012, the plant generates 100 MWe from two 50 MWe turbines, using steam and brine from a reservoir at 290 to 320°C, which is extracted from 12 wells that are 2700 m deep. This is the first time that geothermal steam of such high temperature has been used for electrical generation'.
Then the truth? Saving Iceland has an extensive report on Iceland's geothermal exploitation and it notes that for the Reykjanes  power station:
'Further extraction in the already exploited area would simply be unsustainable and decrease the area’s capacity. Geologist Sigmundur Einarsson actually believes that the field is already over-exploited. His claim is based on studies from 2009, by the very same NEA, which state that the area’s long-term sustainable production capacity is hardly more than 25 MW'. 
It also details the parents company efforts to obscure direct Canadian ownership, which contravene Icelandic laws.

Other info on this soak is not readily available, so maybe this find will remain obscure?

Euro soaks visited