Hiking in the valley of joy – Reykjadalur trail
When I first decided to visit Iceland, the country itself was not even on my bucket list. However, there were some items on my list that seemed to refer to Iceland . I wanted, of course, to see the Northern lights but I had some less usual wishes like “to bathe in a hot river in the middle of the wilderness”. Don’t ask me why, dreams are just without any reason sometimes.
So the day when I landed my first trip led to Hveragerdi, the small town located 45km from the capital to the southeast and next to the ring road. I knew that I could make my dream come true there. It’s called Reykjadalur.
Even the way from Reykjavík to Hveragerdi is amazing. I was living in this town for two months but I am still impressed every time when I drive through this breath-taking landscape. Hveragerdi is, of course, just the town where the hiking trail starts. You will find the starting point approximately 4 kilometers northwest from the centre.
After you have had a refreshing cup of coffee and a piece of cookie at Dalakaffi - the adorable café next to the parking place - from there you continue on foot. The trail itself is not technically demanding, however, it can be challenging for those who are not used to working out regularly. One might find the first two kilometres quite trying as the path rises more than 200 metres and is fairly steep. The trail is well marked and properly constructed, and you will probably meet many hikers here.
The hike to the hot springs is approximately 3km long and takes about an hour or somewhat more if you are not in a good shape, carry a heavy backpack, or if you are (or hike with) a photographer. Around the second kilometre you will pass a canyon with a picturesque waterfall called Djúpagilsfoss. There are beautiful moss fields around, a panorama of the infinite wilderness, colourful mountains, and steam rises in every direction with the North Atlantic Ocean sparkling in the distance. There is no need to hurry.
Continuing the hike, you will arrive soon at the geothermally active zone. Watch your step here and do not leave the marked path. It is a dangerous area and accidents can happen easily. Bubbling mud, acidic hot springs, steaming ground, and boiling water is everywhere! After passing the hot springs, you will also see the geothermal river ahead, probably with other visitors in it, enjoying the warm water.
There are no changing facilities, only a few folding screens to hide behind. It’s a good idea to take a drybag on this tour, so you will keep your clothes dry while bathing, even if it rains.
The temperature of the water can be somewhat unstable. If you find it too chilly, walk little bit further against the stream. The higher you try the water, the hotter it is. However, it can happen that after a period of heavy rain the river gets colder than usual, because many swollen creeks find their way to the river and cool it down. But normally the temperature in the bathing area is between 35-45 degrees, and is dangerously hot around the upper area. Always try the water with your hand before entering it.
Most of the tourists finish their hike here, but I recommend taking a walk further up into the valley. There are marked paths in two directions. Either you head to north-west or to north-east, shortly you will find many more hot springs and fumaroles surrounded with sulfur-rich minerals painted rocks and ground. There is also a completely hidden waterfall in the rift of the hill-side. The most amazing view will be the prize for your efforts if you climb up one of the hills that surrounds the valley.
Map of the hike
What will you see on the hike?
- Mount Hengill
- Hengill geothermal area
- Hveragerdi village
- Dalakaffi café
- Djúpagil canyon
- Djúpagilsfoss waterfall
- Reykjadalur valley
- Klambragil valley
What do you need to bring with you?
Hiking boots, waterproof gear, first aid kit, towel, bathing suit, drybag, food/snacks
Winter: crampons, warm thermal clothes, gloves, cap
The path can be slippery when it’s wet and even dangerous when it is icy or snowy. Good hiking boots are necessary in summer and crampons in winter.
The trail leads you next to a deep canyon with some dangerous edges on several locations. The hot springs are very close to the track, in fact directly next to it. I wouldn’t recommend this tour for children that are younger than 10 years.
Please note that this is a very popular hiking trail, tens of thousands of people are walking here every year. We kindly ask you to stay on the marked trail, do not disturb the fragile flora elsewhere (even when it looks like there is no flora there). Do not step on the moss and do not walk on unmarked lane that other people started. Respect the nature and do not leave garbage - not even dissolvable. Do not disturb the nature and other hikers with party behaviour. Wild camping in this area is strictly prohibited.
If you would like to avoid the crowd during the summer, use the benefits of the midnight sun and start your hike in the late evening.
Combine this amazing experience with horseback riding!
Guided hiking tours to Reykjadalur
You can use our search engine to find a guided tour to Reykjadalur. Here are a few exciting ones for instance:
- Hiking in Reykjadalur - short version
- Hot spring hunt - Reykjadalur hike extended version
- Reykjadalur Hot Springs and Hengill Volcano
- Walking Through Ice & Fire - Glacier hike and hot spring tour
- Reykjadalur horseback riding tour
- Two or three days long MTB adventure including Reykjadalur