Roll up for the magical mystery trip to probably the only place on earth where your nose hair will freeze while your nipples and bum are safe and warm in a river of hot natural water, flowing directly from the core of the earth. Welcome to the hot springs in the beautiful valley of Reykjadalur.
First things first
To prepare for our adventure there are a few things to take into consideration. First, keep in mind that the trip involves hiking to get to the springs, which means that being in good shape is recommended for our intrepid explorers—it’s a great time for that bacon-and-nacho free diet (however, the hike is fairly low-intensity, so unless you go around in a walker, you’ll probably be fine).
Then, we must not forget to wear proper clothes: a warm coat, waterproof pants, a good pair of hiking boots, a swimsuit (of course), and clean undies for when we change after the hot bath. It’s wise to dress in layers so that we can take them off as we get warmer and start sweating during the hike. Think of this excursion as a kind of strip poker game, you begin with many layers of clothing and finish almost naked, while preserving your dignity.
Finally, we must be sure to have enough snacks and water for more than two hours of hiking, although we should not be too worried about this because our nice tour providers brought everyone a tasty packed lunch.
Equipped and ready, our trip begins at Laugavegur 11, embarking from the Arctic Adventures main office. The bus ride to the hot springs takes forty minutes on Iceland’s main ring road, Route 1, before we turn off at the small town of Hveragerði. From there it’s one kilometre by dirt road before we are finally able to get off the bus and admire Mount Hengill, which rises up before us.
The terrain is quite plain at first but after a while there are several difficult slopes, some of them full of stones and gravel that can be slippery if one doesn’t pay attention.
The landscape changes dramatically depending on the season. In the winter it’s completely white and almost impassable due to snow, but when the sun arrives a nature explosion surrounds us: dried and green grass, aromatic flowers, a bit of mud now and then and Vivaldi’s ‘Spring’ playing on continuous loop…
After an hour and fifteen minutes of walking, we arrive at our destination. A stream of warm crystal clear water welcomes us with open arms, making the trip well worth the effort and every callus acquired.
Feeling like a lobster
The best part of the trip has come. It’s time to immerse ourselves in the cosy hot water and relax, a pleasure well deserved after the long hike. It’s difficult to describe the wonderful feeling you get while lying in the warm water, watching the beauty of nature all around you. A light cloud of white steam emerges from the river and adds a romantic, dream-like appearance to the scene. Bravo!
Did you enjoy that? I hope so, because now it’s time for drama, for the most dangerous and tragic moment in our adventure; yes, in the end, you have to get out of water. It’s normal, for almost all humans, to fear going from 40 degrees to 3 in a millisecond. But the trick is to do the deed as fast as you can. If not, you run the serious risk of suffering from hypothermia.
After you are dressed again the return is dead easy. The path is nearly all downhill and a feeling of well-being possesses you. Therein is the magic of Mt. Hengill and its hot springs; you end your hike with a big smile on your face. A highly recommended trip.
The ‘hot springs hunt’ is available through Arctic Adventures. It costs 12.900 ISK and includes pick-up and packed lunch. Guaranteed departure for 2 persons on Wednesdays with pick up from Reykjavík between 8:30-9:00 and from N1 in Hveragerði at 9:30, from May 15-September 15. Book trip at www.adventures.is or call +354-5627000