Reykjadalur Hot Springs: Everything You Need to Know about this Thermal River in the Icelandic Highlands

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Rolling green hills. Dramatic waterfalls. A hot spring nestled in the mountains. The Reykjadalur Hot Springs are one of the most incredible experiences in Iceland, offering you the opportunity to soak in a cozy thermal river as you drink in the stunning natural beauty of the Land of Fire and Ice.

But to soak in these springs, you’ll have to do a little bit of work- the river is only accessible via a hike through the Icelandic highlands. So if you want to experience the magic of Reykjadalur Hot Springs yourself, here’s everything you need to know. 

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About the Reykjadalur Hot Springs Hike

  • Length: 5.0 miles (or 6 km) roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 1,138 feet (or 346 meters)
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Where are Reykjadalur Hot Springs?

The Reykjadalur Hot Springs, which is pronounced ​​“ray-kya-da-lure” and translates to “steam valley”, is located in the town of Hveragerði, approximately a forty-five minute drive southeast of Reykjavik and located en route to other popular stops on the Ring Road, like Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach or the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. There’s a coffee shop right by the trailhead, Reykjadalur Café, that serves as an excellent place to plug into your GPS to navigate to the parking lot and grab a coffee or snack before you hit the trail.

If you don’t have access to GPS while you’re in Iceland, follow Route 1 about 40 minutes southeast of Reykjavik. You should see signs for the town of Hveragerði and you’ll reach a round-about that intersects with the main road in the town, Breiðamörk. Take the third exit of the round-about onto this road (right after you pass the Orkan gas station) and continue straight until you reach a gravel road, with Reykjadalur Cafe on your left hand side. 

One of the best things about it is that you don’t need to have a permit or pay admission for this trail- it’s totally free! Just snag a parking spot along the side of the road and you’re good to go!

Don’t have a car while you’re in Iceland? You can still book a tour to the hot springs here.

What to expect on the Reykjadalur Hot Springs hike

To actually reach the hot springs, you’ll hike into the impossibly green Icelandic highlands. The trail is well-maintained and easy to follow, but it is hilly and exposed with steep drop-offs in a few sections, especially towards the beginning.

Regardless of some of the Reykjadalur Hot Springs hike’s drawbacks, this trail is truly the perfect example of “it’s all about the journey, not the destination” (although, given we’re hiking to a beautiful hot spring… it’s also about the destination)- it’s spectacularly beautiful!

Woman overlooking Djúpagilsfoss Waterfall along Reykjadalur Hot Springs trail

You’ll start the trail hiking along a ridgeline, with a deep valley to your left. You’ll pass a couple of smaller waterfalls at the beginning of the trek (it’s Iceland- there’s magical beautiful waterfalls EVERYWHERE), but approximately 1.4 miles in, you’ll reach a hill jutting into the valley overlooking the massive Djúpagilsfoss Waterfall, cascading into the canyon below. 

After you’re done gawking at these impressive falls, continue on the trail, which will eventually start to even out.

The ground surrounding the trail will become blanketed with dozens of bubbling mud pots and colorful hot springs, including some that have the same milky turquoise color as Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon.

Woman hiking past steam on Reykjadalur Hot Springs trail

In fact, while my husband, Justin, and I hiked here, there was a section that had so much steam from all of the hot springs, we weren’t able to see in front of us for a short period of time. If that happens to you, just walk slowly and carefully, be sure that you’re staying on the trail with each step, and you’ll get through it just fine.

The Reykjadalur Hot Springs hike is so picturesque and colorful along this section- the vibrant green of the hills, adorably weathered sheep friends grazing in the fields, and the rainbow-colored springs are a feast for the eyes.

Eventually, you’ll reach a wooden bridge that crosses the river and see a wooden boardwalk with some privacy dividers along the river’s edge. You’ve officially made it to the Reykjadalur Hot Springs! 

Icelandic sheep on Reykjadalur Hot Springs trail

In total, you can expect the hike to take from an hour and a half to three hours roundtrip, depending on how fast you hike and how many pictures you take along the way!

What to expect at Reykjadalur Hot Springs

The boardwalk along the river will have some wooden dividers to provide bathers some modicum of privacy while they’re getting in and out of their swimsuits- the dividers are not very effective, though, from stopping strangers from seeing your bum while you’re changing. So, if you’re not a fan of getting naked in front of strangers, I’d highly recommend wearing your swimsuit under your hiking clothes on your way to the springs.

You can also store your belongings along this boardwalk while you’re enjoying the river. In fact, I’d recommend having your towel and change of clothes within arm’s reach when you get out of the spring- the worst part of the Reykjadalur Hot Springs experience is getting out of the warm, cozy river into the frigid air while soaking wet!

Reykjadalur Hot Springs thermal river

In terms of where you should soak in the river, anywhere along the boardwalk should be a safe place to enter (although, to be on the conservative side, I’d recommend dipping your foot in rather than plopping your whole body down, in case it’s too hot).

The temperature in the river is not consistent- the farther upstream you go, the hotter it will be and the river’s temperature fluctuates, depending on the season.

While the water in the main boardwalk area is a toasty 104° May through September, it cools to a barely lukewarm temperature in the winter time. So you’ll likely want to try some place further upstream if you visit during the cooler months (although, again, please be careful- the river can reach scalding temperatures in some of the sections upstream!). 

Unless you visit the spring at a very strange hour, like at 4 AM during the midnight sun (i.e., a phenomenon places near the Arctic Circle experience during summer with extended daylight hours and sunsets that seemingly last forever) or in the dead of winter, it’s likely you’ll be sharing the hot spring with other people. For example, when we visited, there were several dozen other people enjoying the springs when we arrived at the river.

The awesome thing about Reykjadalur, though, as compared to some of the other hot springs we’ve been to, is how many people it can accommodate- despite the number of people around, we were easily able to find a spot that was both a comfortable temperature and reasonably private. 

People bathing at Reykjadalur Hot Springs

When you’re looking for a spot in the river, you’ll also notice that the portion of the river along the boardwalk has been divided into sections with small walls of river rocks.

Each section’s deepest (and warmest) part is right up against the wall, with each portion becoming shallower as you head downstream. So unless you want most of your body sticking out of the river (which, given Iceland’s unpredictable and usually chilly weather, is inadvisable), I’d try to snag a spot cozied up against a rock wall.

While we were sitting in the springs, it started gently hailing, pelting small bits of ice at the parts of our bodies that weren’t submerged in the river. While getting hit in the face with tiny pieces of ice while my body was submerged in geothermally heated water was one of the most memorable parts of our trip (Land of Fire and Ice indeed!), I’m definitely glad we were able to snag a deeper section of the river to soak in!

Woman sitting in Reykjadalur Hot Springs

When to visit Reykjadalur Hot Springs

The best time to visit Reykjadalur Hot Springs is during the summertime (June through September) when you have the best chance of having reasonably dry skies, the days are long (with spectacular sunsets and sunrises during the midnight sun), and the ground lining the trail will be blanketed with small wildflowers.

While the trailhead is generally accessible year round, use extreme caution while trying to reach the river in the wintertime (November through April). The trail can become very icy, which, coupled with the steep drop-offs, is a recipe for disaster and snow usually accumulates along the trail’s higher elevation.

If you try this hike in the colder months, I’d advise bringing along crampons and trekking poles– both are light and pack down small enough to fit into a carry-on and will help provide better traction on the slick trail.

Tips for Reykjadalur Hot Springs

So what else should you know about visiting Reykjadalur Hot Springs? Here’s some tips to make the most of your visit to this incredible place:

  • Hopefully, this one is common sense, but don’t step in or touch any of the other hot springs and mud pots along the trail. Most of them are close to or at boiling temperatures and are hot enough to seriously burn you.

    On a similar note, be sure to stay on the trail throughout the hike– there are hidden geothermal vents and fragile soil covering underground springs throughout the area, which could seriously harm you if you accidentally step on it.

    In fact, a Canadian tourist sustained third degree burns in 2017 when she accidentally stepped on a geothermal vent when trying to enter the river. So stay on the trail and remain burn-free!
Colorful hot spring at Reykjadalur Hot Springs
  • Be sure to dress like you’re hiking through Iceland and not like you’re hanging out on your couch at home.

    Due to the muddy and slick nature of the trail, hiking boots (like these for men and these for women) should be worn and, with the the unpredictable weather, I’d recommend wearing a rain jacket (like this one for men and this one for women) and waterproof pants (like these for men and these for women. We bought a pair of these halfway through our trip to Iceland, given the intermittent showers that rained on us every day. Game. Changer.).

    When we hiked this trail, it was cold and drizzly throughout the day and, on our way to the springs, we passed a guy wearing sneakers and jeans. He was drenched from head to toe and we could literally hear the wet squishing in his shoes and the rubbing of his soaking jeans with every step he took. He looked ABSOLUTELY miserable- don’t be that guy! 

    Similarly, there’s nothing to shelter your belongings from the elements while you’re storing them on the boardwalk as you enjoy the river- if you can, I’d recommend bringing along a dry bag (or honestly, even a plastic grocery bag) to shove your clothes, towel, and electronics in, in case it (inevitably) starts to rain.
Couple hiking on Reykjadalur Hot Springs trail
  • As mentioned above, unless you come at a really oddball hour, there will likely be other people in the springs. If you want to have your pick of soaking spots and snag some photos without a bazillion people in them, I’d recommend showing up to the trailhead fairly early (e.g., before 9 AM), to get your best chance of getting the springs mostly to yourself. 
  • Okay, okay- so this isn’t necessarily a tip for the hot spring itself, but given that it involves pizza, I think it’s still worth your consideration. Once you return to your car, consider stopping at Ölverk Pizza & Brewery in Hveragerði before you head out of town.

    This place makes incredible pizza, including some offerings with Icelandic seaweed as a topping (I promise, it’s AMAZING) and brews its tasty beers using geothermal energy. It’s the ultimate spot to carb up after your hike!
Pizza at Olverk Pizza and Brewery in Hverageroi

Where to stay near Reykjadalur Hot Springs

If you want to make your trip to Reykjadalur Hot Springs an overnight adventure (perhaps you want to enjoy the springs under the midnight sun?), there’s several charming accommodations nearby in Hveragerði.

Consider a stay at the adorable Backyard Village guest house, located just a four minute drive from the trailhead, which offers a barrel sauna and a wooden hot tub.

If you prefer staying at hotels, the Greenhouse Hotel offers a hip restaurant (with an indoor food-truck!), eco-conscious furnishings, and even a pool if you need more time in the water after the hot springs.

The Reykjadalur Hot Springs are one of my favorite things I did in Iceland and I hope you have an amazing time exploring them as well. Do you have any questions or anything I missed about visiting them? Let me know in the comments below!

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