Uncovering ancient geothermal pools and dipping into free waters surrounded by magnificent views. Two pools that you should not miss deeply in the mountains and on the valleys of the glacial volcanos.
Iceland is located on one of the earth’s hot spot resulting to the high level of geothermal activity. It is surprising to discover that there are glaciers in the island. Most of the tourists aim to find themselves taking a dip in the Blue Lagoon when you are in the south of Iceland. You will need the assistance of tour guides or rangers to locate the Seljavallalaug or Seljvavellir pool- an artificial pool constructed into a mountainside with breathtaking natural surroundings.
When you are driving from Reykjavík, heading south on the main ring road, a couple of hours (2-3 hours) you will go past Hvolsvöllur and Selfoss. Before you reach Skógafoss you should not miss the left turn that leads to ‘Seljavellir.' It is quite easy when you have a tour guide or have a ranger to locate the place. This is where you have an entire hot spring swimming pool if you are lucky not to find other visitors.
The Seljvavellir pool is a free pool to those who can find this hidden facility. Most visitors miss this spot when they focus on highlights. The infrastructure was built in 1923 along a narrow valley. It is fed by the infamous Eyjafjallajökull (Eyjafjallajokull). Some visionaries built the pool to show the locals how to swim since many of them lived off fishing. The temperature of the water that trickles into it is about 20-30°C- not that warm but well for a swim.
One of the four walls of the pool is a mountainside rock which provides the natural hot spring water from the melting of the volcano. The size of the pool is 25 meters long and 10 meters wide. Unfortunately, there are no showers by the pool, but the builders thought of dressing rooms. The pool is maintained by volunteers and donations so there is no entrance fee. Since there is no lifeguard, then you become responsible the moment to visit the pool- that’s why you may need a tour guide in case anything happens.
The real adventure starts from the Seljavellir car park. If you fancy a 15-30 minute walk then you will enjoy the experience of locating the pool at the bottom of the valley. The trail is uneven and at a certain point, you will have to cross a little stream. The landscape surrounding the pool is pretty intense, it gives you a natural view of the valley as you enjoy a hot swim in the pool.
In 2010, the Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted starting on 14 April which filled the area with ash. During this period, the pool was covered by ash and could not be accessed. Donors and dedicated visitors provide assistance in keeping the pool clean from volcanic ashes and safe for use. Its waters are believed to be good for the skin. Even in a fog and rainy atmosphere, the water remains warm enough for skinny dipping- might be a bit cold on a sunny day.
Another geothermal pool that is within the same driving hours from Reykjavík is the Strutslaug. It is also called Holmsarbotnalaug- a super cool hot spring that neighbors a glacier river. There is more adventure to reach this spot if one fancies a 1-2 hour walk from the road, over black sands and through green valleys. The track to the pool is well marked from the road so accessibility is guaranteed. This also means that there are no facilities such as changing rooms so be prepared for a natural experience.
The pool is split into two by a natural stone that forms a wall to the pools. The pool is about 8.5 meters long, 5 meters wide and a maximum depth of about 50 cm. you cannot resist taking a bath when you see the rising steam from the pool. The
The water is quite muddy so it is necessary to avoid movements in the pool to prevent the water from turning brown. Taking a dip in the cold river after bathing in the pool is quite relieving. The breathtaking landscape with spotted green fields makes a hidden gem. The Icelandic highlands makes it a suitable place for enjoying the tranquility and serenity as you enter into a relaxing mode. In fact, the temperatures of about 30 -45 °C makes the bath refreshing.
The source of the hot spring waters might be from the Torfajokull glacier or the Mýrdalsjökull glacier volcano since the pool is located in between these two natural features. For decades and centuries, this geothermal pool has been used for bathing. These spots are free and no admission fee is required. Your need to shed some sweat and clean up in the geothermal pool – a free warm bath.
Most people do not get the chance to visit these places due to the lack of super jeeps to take them through the uneven roads that lead to these hidden heavens. However, local tourism company can make it easy for you if you need an extra hike or trek in the highlands. These places are less know because they are included in some of the outdoor mountainside adventures.
When visiting these unknown places in the south of Iceland, you get to only leave your footprints and carry memories with you. Knowing the benefits of taking a dip in the geothermal pools will give you an upper hand in maintaining a youthful skin. This gives you the ability to enjoy solitude, especially when the popular spas are crowded.
When you get to understand the importance of bathing in a natural hot spring pool then you will be determined to embrace more than the warmth but the adventure of discovering the hidden gems of South Iceland.