Hveragerði is the first town people pass through when they drive south from Reykjavík towards the natural wonders of the country’s southern coast. Thousands of people trundle through every day, but few venture beyond the roadside gas stations and long terraces of greenhouses into Hveragerði’s quaint town centre. For those with some time, it’s well worth the trip—it’s a charming little place, with a surprising amount of things to do, a beautiful old-style pool that ranks amongst the best in the south, a geothermal hotspot, and several great snacking and dining options.
Stay: Hotel Örk
This 85-room hotel stands proudly by the Ring Road, towering over most of the buildings in Hveragerði. The windows of the lobby look out across the outdoor pool, complete with hot pot, sauna and slide. There’s a bar that has a cocktail happy hour (three words that should be seen together much more often), and the HVER restaurant offers a solid menu of Icelandic staples like local lamb and a succulent fish of the day.
The Reykjadalur trailhead is about a forty-minute walk from downtown Hveragerði. After an easy mountain crossing on a well marked trail, with some spectacular views, a broad valley is revealed with a hot geothermal river running down it. You’ll pass bubbling fumaroles and vivid blue steaming ponds before arriving at the bathing area, where you can spend a blissful couple of hours basking in the warm, shallow water of the river.
After a dip in Reykjadalur, nothing could be better than dropping into the Ölverk pizza joint and alehouse. They’re in the process of brewing their very own beer on site, and have a stellar beer selection featuring brews from Ölvisholt and Mikkeller. The pizzas are fire-baked in a custom-built oven. We recommend the vegan option, which comes topped with seaweed, mushrooms, chillies, and a homemade pesto so rich you won’t miss the cheese.
Visit: Listasafn Arnesinga
A hidden gem of Hveragerði is the town’s contemporary art space, Listasafn Arnesinga. This cavernous gallery runs an ambitious year-round programme showing work by locals, Icelandic artists generally and overseas visitors. There’s a permanent display focusing on Hveragerði’s historic art culture, and an interesting library of books on the subject. Well worth making a stop on any southbound road trip.
Swim: Hveragerði Pool
This retro-style swimming pool is a classic. The building that houses the changing rooms is a nice piece of architecture that overlooks the various outdoor hotpots and the large main swimming pool. It’s surrounded by trees and nestled into the hillside, so it’s sheltered from the wind. And the steam room sits directly over a natural hot spring, so you can hear the water bubbling out of the earth beneath the floorboards.
Eat: Rósakaffi, Skyrgerðin & Fiskverslun
Hveragerði has several coffee, lunch and dinner options. As well as HVER, there are three cafes to check out. Rósakaffi is an airy coffee and cake place in a beautiful greenhouse—an ideal spot for reading on a rainy day. Skyrgerðin is a warm and cosy lunch place with sofas, various dining rooms, and a tempting-looking dinner menu. Fiskverslun is a fishmonger that also makes delicious fish & chips with a light, crispy batter.
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