Viktória Komjáti

Viktoria has recently been travelling around Europe, most of the time with only a single backpack and a tent. Hiking on Iceland's less known paths and volunteering on farms have led her to decide to settle down in the country.  

6 minute read 26 Apr 2017

Hiking in Reykjadalur, the hot river valley trail

When I first landed in Iceland, I left the capital as soon as I arrived and headed to Hveragerdi, the small town located 40km from the Reykjavík to the southeast. I knew that I could make one of my biggest dreams come true there. “To bathe in a hot river in the middle of the wilderness”. No wonder why this location is on many people's bucket list. Let me guide you along one of the most amazing walking trails in Iceland!

Bathing in the hot river

How to get to Hveragerði by car or by bus

The trailhead of the hot river valley can be easily reached from Reykjavik either by car or by public transport. Take the bus number 11, 12 or 17 from Hlemmur bus station to Mjódd. Get off and change to the bus number 51 to Hveragerði - Shell (the petrol station). From here follow the main road 3,5 km long that leads you out of the village to the trailhead.

If you are by car, get on Vesturlandsvegur/Route 49, then follow the road no1. (Þjóðvegur) to the south.  After 40 km you arrive at a roundabout where you have to turn left and follow the main road that leads you through the village to the parking lot. (There are plenty of signs leading you to Reykjadalur)

Hot river hike Hveragerdi

Astonishing hiking route to the hot river

Grab a refreshing cup of coffee and a piece of cake 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 along the way.

Hiking in the hot river valley between hot springs

The hike to the hot springs is approximately 3km long and takes about an hour or so, could be a bit more if you are not in a good shape, walking with young children, carrying a heavy backpack, or if you are (or hiking 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 and Colourful mountains. Steam rises in every direction with the North Atlantic Ocean sparkling in the distance. There is no need to hurry.

Mudpots above the river in the valley

Walking on the rumbling ground between the hot springs

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 easily happen. The power of the Earth is phenomenal: 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.

The bridge across the river makes the hike a bit easier.

Iceland´s most unique natural spa

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 is somewhat unstable. If you find it too chilly, walk a little bit further against the stream. The higher you go the hotter it gets. However, sometimes 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 Celsius and is dangerously hot around the upper area. Always test the water with your hand before going in.

Iceland hot river tour

 

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 the 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 surround 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

Safety notes

The path can be slippery when it’s wet and even dangerous when it is icy or snowy. Good hiking boots are necessary for summer and you might need 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 8-10 years.

Bathing in the river in winter is very relaxing.

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 an 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 behavior. Wild camping in this area is strictly prohibited.

Extra tips

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:

Your adventure in Iceland starts here

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