Why does Iceland have so many hot springs?
Iceland's unique location at the meeting point of the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates makes it a hotbed of geothermal activity, leading to an abundance in hot springs. Its location on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge gives it grand volcanoes, which also means that the country is prone to seismic activity — although rarely to detrimental or dangerous effect. Some of the most beneficial and luxurious by-products of this geothermal activity are the glorious natural springs and spas — along with free and entirely clean geothermal energy. The naturally heated water gathers in pools that make for an extraordinary and unique bathing experience all year round.
The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon, just a 45-minute drive from Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, is the most prominent geothermal spa and one of the most iconic. The spa was created in 1976 after the establishment of a nearby geothermal power plant, and the unique chemical makeup of the water is known for its healing properties. Recognized as one of the natural wonders of the world, the Blue Lagoon is 100 percent powered by clean energy and is also a center for research and development in microbiology and minerals.
If you're seeking something less controlled and more authentic, a trip to Reykjadalur is a must. Literally translated as "steam valley," Reykjadalur is a comfortable 45-minute drive from the capital. Hike up the riverbanks and bathe in one of the lovely heated pools that pepper the river. While there are no changing or shower facilities, this spring is free to visit and is set among the rolling Icelandic countryside, letting you really unwind in style as you get back to nature.
Set amid the wide-open landscapes of Iceland, Landmannalaugar is famed for its excellent hiking routes and naturally occurring hot springs. Only accessible by private vehicle, it's definitely a good idea to hire an experienced driver, as you'll have to traverse some rough terrain to reach this natural beauty spot. Despite the challenging trip, the rewards are more than worth it.
Set amid the iconic Westfjords area in the far north, Hellulaug was formed amid rocky outcrops, making it quite unusual compared to most of Iceland’s other hot springs. The 100°F water is ideal for soothing weary muscles after hiking in the striking scenery of the Westfjords.
Discovered by English students in 1938, these hot springs, located in the Grjótagjá lava caves, have become popular with intrepid visitors and film producers alike for their marvelous setting. It’s also worth exploring the neighboring countryside. Who knows, you might even discover unknown treasures!
The Blue Lagoon is the most accessible and popular spring in Iceland, and it's well worth a visit. But if you've got time, driving to the more remote locations and taking a dip against the backdrop of the serene Icelandic landscape in summer or winter is an experience you'll never forget.