Where does one go when you only have one day off from work this week, but you’re long overdue for an adventure, something to remind yourself that you are actually in the Iceland that you fell for? Dramatic landscapes, geysers and waterfalls? We say Laugarvatn. Only 50km past the traffic-jammed confines of Reykjavík, we found the small lakeside town, enveloped by nature.
Laugarvatn is situated along the Golden Circle. The lake has geothermal springs under its surface, which has attracted crowds since the first people settled in Iceland. The weather started out pretty foul, but that was not going to stop us, and as Icelandic people love to say: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing,” we made sure to come prepared.
The way there is smooth sailing, but if you are using Google Maps, be aware that it will often try to find a shortcut. When you are using a small electric car, without four wheel drive, faster is not better. From Reykjavík you take Route 36 towards Þingvellir and then Laugarvatn. As you get closer, to your left there’s an unassuming, safe-looking road. Follow your survival instinct, that little voice saying ‘hmm, maybe not,” drive another five minutes, and turn left on Route 365 (an easy way to remember this is 365 days per year of smart decisions). Spare yourself the nightmare of accidentally travelling on what appears to be an unmarked F-road—aka FU-road. Rant over.
The Cave People is a guided tour of a restored home dug into the soft volcanic rock on the side of a mountain. It is in Laugarvatnshellir and has been open to the public since 2017. Over the past 100 years it has been a home to many sheep, and two separate families, one of which even gave birth to two of their three children inside the cave.
Driven by their passion to preserve Icelandic history, the staff spent a year researching and renovating, making this a very unique stop that should definitely be part of your Golden Circle tour. The staff will entertain you with true tales of those who lived in the cave, as they dealt with freezing winters, harsh living conditions, and encounters with the hidden people, often referred to as elves.
It’s also a great chance to try the local delicacies in the section of the house where sheep were kept, now the Cave Café. Have a hot beverage with your kleina (Icelanders’ favourite pastry), or some traditional lamb soup.
The caves are open every day from 10:00 to 18:00. We highly recommend you go on the 25 minute tours, which are available every half hour.
With full, happy stomachs we headed to another of Laugarvatn Adventure’s tours just ten minutes down the road: paddleboarding. Our guide was knowledgeable, patient, and very helpful, especially when it came to putting on the dry suits which are a challenge in itself. Paddleboarding was surprisingly easier than expected, and even if the weather was not on our side, we were not going to let it spoil our fun.
The beautiful scenery and patches of warm water of the shallow lake helped too. We recommend going with a large group of friends, so you can play some bolder paddleboarding games, such as running across lined up boards, or trying to form a pyramid. Or try your hand at some paddleboard yoga—but be prepared to fall in the water several times.
Nothing beats treating yourself to a spa following your afternoon of splashing around the lake. Fontana harnesses the geothermal waters underneath the lake to create natural hot pools and steam vents. It also has a lovely little pier, from which you can access the colder waters for a dip. Thankfully it is close enough for you to give your Wim Hof life a try, but then run back to the comfort and safety of the bubbling tubs.
Laugarvatn makes for the perfect day away from the hubbub of the city, allowing you to reconnect with nature and the wondrous and magical side of Iceland that we love. We cannot wait for our next day off, rainy or not.
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