Friday, October 28, 2016

Needs

Grettislaug

Following is the second instalment of Sascha's visit to Iceland. 

Whereas the previous posting foussed on the country's southwest, what follows concentrates on 4 soaks accessed from the north.

One of our globes majestical soaks is up first, that in Viti crater's lake which forms part of the Askja caldera. Then it's a great find at the nearby hot spring of Laugarvalladalur.
  • Lake Viti 
Lake Viti is a special hot spring in many ways. It is a long but very beautiful way to get there. An offroad car is not only recommended but mandatory, otherwise it is not possible to pass at least two rivers. However, a small Offroader like a Suzuki Jimny or a Dacia Duster are sufficient, no need to hire a big and expensive offroader to go to Lake Viti. The alternative is to book an organized tour (which is not my thing). 
The best is to stay one night at the camping site or the lodges at Drekagil. The facilities are comfortable but be aware, this place can be often crowded. I went there in September which is used to be the beginning of the off-season, but I had the impression to be in high season which means waiting time for preparing your meals in the kitchen, etc. 
Start early in the morning to lake Viti, it is an easy 40 minutes trip by car or a much longer hike from the camping site. After parking your car, a 30 minute walk though a beautiful lava landscape and suddenly the clear blue lake Viti appears, surrounded by snow-covered mountains. The scenery is fantastic, and as usual even more if the sun is shining. The way down to the lake is a bit muddy, but is not a serious problem as long as you don’t come along with flip flops. 


Unfortunately, lake Viti is not really hot, I measured 23°C. Closer to the hot spring on the left side of the lake the water was warmer but never really hot. I read, that there are other hot springs on the bottom of the lake that can be extremely hot, but this seems not to be true, the temperature was almost constant on each part of the lake. Although the water temperature is low, it is definitively worth to go there because of the scenery, the way itself and the unique experience to swim in crater. 

 

My evaluation for Lake Viti: 4 stars (of 5). 
  • Laugarvalladalur 
One of the best hot springs I visited during 2 weeks in Iceland. Easy access, but not easy to find. However, Jon Snealand’s “Thermal Pools in Iceland” provides the GPS coordinates. It is quite far to the next town, better bring some food and water with you. As the hot springs are neither located in a national park, nor on private land, wild camping is permitted. Even for Iceland it is rather exceptional to camp close to a perfect hot spring. 


The temperature of the pool is around 40°C, just right to stay longer in the pool, to watch the landscape, to take a hot shower by the waterfall or just to relax. The pool is not a secret, do not expect to be alone, but due to the remote situation the pool is not (yet) overcrowded. 


My evaluation for Laugarvalladalur: 5 stars.
  • Vallarlaug 
Further in the north, there is a fantastic hot spring that is definitively recommended. Drive to the town of Varmahlid and ask in the tourist office (that is at the same time gas station and supermarket) for the right way. A friendly German girl will explain you the way but she pointed out that the town wants to avoid mass tourism to the hot spring and this is also the reason why the hot spring is not further described in the hot spring bible for Iceland written by Jon Snaeland.


However, the hot spring is definitively the thing to do in this town. It is located on private land and you have to pass some cattle barriers before walking 10 minutes along the river to reach a beautiful waterfall where the hot spring is situated. Ok, there are waterfalls in the South that are more stunning, but this one has clear blue water and there is a chance that you are alone. The pool is completely natural with a temperature of around 42°C, perfect for bathing and switching over into the cold river. The bottom of the pool is muddy and camping is of course forbidden (2 camping sites exist in town). 


My evaluation for Vallarlaug: 5 stars. 
  • Grettislaug 
More popular than Vallarlaug, but also great because two pools with different temperatures are waiting directly at the seaside. You are requested to pay an entrance fee (1000 krona per adult). From Saudakrokur, you need to drive 14 km to Grettislaug, the way is well described. At the location, there is also a beautiful camping site with seaview and a bar. 


The small pool has a temperature of 41°C. The bigger pool of 44°C is rather for serious soakers…Both pools have a gravel bottom. If the weather is beautiful (like it was during my visit), Grettislaug is a place worth to stay the whole day and meet people from the whole world (mainly Canadians, Germans and British when I was there). 


My evaluation for Grettislaug: 4 stars

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Victims

Hveravellir 
 
It's off to Iceland for a two part Sascha special. No less than seven hot springs are up for evaluation. 

Starting off in the southwest of Iceland, closer to Iceland's main port of entry and capital Reykjavik. Note that these Icelandic hot pots are also some of the best visited due to ease of access from Reykjavik. Thus more people to share the soaks with ...

In the evaluations Sascha often refers to the Icelandic soaking bible by Jon Snaeland (Thermal Pools in Iceland) a trusty companion to your Iceland travails. 
Note that internet knowledge is getting ever better and you may well be better off seeking advice here (or I mean on internet in general, f.i. Hotpot Iceland), but heed, that once in Iceland's backcountry, there's little mobile reception, so the book will prove to be of more value.

Over to Sascha, who starts off with his harsh opinion on the hot spring by the name of Klambragil, which is very often (if not more often) referred to as Reykjadalur; it was previously highlighted on this blog two years ago.

  • Klambragil 
Klambragil was definitively a great place in the past, but is it still the case today?

Klambragil is more a river than a hot spring with different temperatures. 

To get here, head first to the town of Hveragerdi, drive through the town and park your car at a big parking place (free of payment). In the town, there are gas stations, a bakery, a supermarket and a tourist office that seems to explain 500 times each day the way to the hot river. Then follow the masses of tourists (that are often coming here by buses from Reykjavik) on a hiking path for about 40 minutes to reach the place where the river is accessible and has the right temperature (around 35°C-45°C depending on the place). There are changing facilities and a wooden path. 

Klambragil is a good example, which shows that Iceland is becoming more and more a victim of its own success. 


My evaluation for Klambragil: 3 stars (of 5).

Rush
Let's continue as Sascha has another couple of hot pots, coming up with Hrunalaug first, again prior blogged here. 
  • Hrunalaug
Before Jon Snaeland published Hrunalaug in his book (according to locals, he forgot to inform the landowner), the hot spring was unknown for most of the people and in particular for tourists. This changed completely, so better get there early in the morning when you want to stay alone. 
Today, the spring is part of tour operators and the landowner requests a donation that helps to keep the place clean. Not sure, if many people put money in his box, in any case the place was no littering when I visited the hot spring. Overnight camping strictly forbidden. 

To get here, head to [the village of] Fludir and then drive to Hruni where the hot spring is indicated. Hrunalaug has two pools, the smaller one at the grass covered hut is colder, around 35°C but with a better view [see photo below] than the bigger one which is around 38°C. In former times, the pools were used to wash the sheep, today it is a good place to start or finish the Iceland trip because it is not too far from Reykjavik. 


My evaluation: 4 stars.
  • Hveravellir 
This hot spring is quite popular because it is situated close to road F35 that crosses the island over the highlands and is a common stop for tourist buses. A camping site and a lodge with a restaurant are nearby. 

Nevertheless and apart from the fact that the hot springs can be overcrowded, it is nice to soak inside because the pool is quite deep and the temperature varies from 30°C to 44°C. On one side of the pool, 80°C hot water flows in and it is advised to mix the water to get the right temperature. Guests of the lodge are permitted to use the changing rooms, all other tourists have to change their clothes outside or have to pay 500 ISK, around 3,50 EUR. 

About one hour drive to the south is the Kerlingafjöll hot spring that looks interesting on pictures, but has only a temperature of around 32°C. As it was snowing I was not really in the mood to try it out.

 
My evaluation for Hveravellir: 3 stars. 

Next week: part 2 of Sascha's Icelandic soaking saga.

Euro soaks visited