Iceland Fav: Hiking Reykjadalur (Steam Valley) And Bathing In Hot Springs


Our trip to Iceland was totally incredible.  It was just…wild.  The hiking was mind-blowing, the vistas awe-inspiring, and there’s no doubt in our minds that Icelanders know how to live it up (especially in the summer).  I have so much more to share about our trip, but I wanted to start with one of our top experiences:  hiking Reykjadalur.

Reykjadalur, literally translated, means “steam valley”.  You hike roughly an hour through rolling hills, and as you get closer to the river, steam eerily rises out of the ground.

Once you arrive at the river, it’s time to bathe.  Seriously.  I’m a huge baby about cold water (like I never EVER go in), but this river is honestly hot.  In fact, the hottest part of the river was too hot – even for me – to stand in.  (The boys died laughing as they watched unsuspecting people stroll into the hottest part, all casual, only to see the split-second of realization on their faces before they came tearing out of there.  It was a good way to learn curse words in many languages, haha.)

As you move downriver, you can easily find cooler places to bathe.  In non-scientific terms, the geothermal river seems to range from fire hot, to very hot, to nice and hot, to warm, to – I don’t know.  I don’t bother with less than warm.

This hike was recommended by several locals – and still seems to be very much a local’s place.  Yes, us tourists have discovered this little gem in recent years, but I’d hardly call it crowded (at least by my East Coast standards).  We decided to go during the week – my understanding is that it can get a little more crowded on the weekends.

Once we started hiking, it took us roughly an hour to arrive at the river….but the return trip was much faster.  That initial climb is pretty steep!  Our youngest is six, and while he was able to do it….it was tough at times.  (We swear by having him carry his own small Camelback pack.  I swear it makes a huge difference.)

Reykjadalur is only a 40 minute drive from Reyjkavik.  And?  The drive itself is gorgeous.


Once you get to the town of Hveragerði, go down the main drag and follow the signs to Reykjadalur (the road is paved the whole way).  Once you arrive, you’ll find a parking lot and bathrooms.  It’s pretty straightforward from there.

reykjadalur hike
reykjadalur hike with kidsreykjadalur hot springreykjadalur hot springs with kids

reykjadalur hot springs

reykjadalur hot springs with kids

iceland steam valley


A couple of things to note:

  • You basically change into your swimsuit on the side of the river.  Don’t wear your bathing suit while you hike – it’s long enough to be verrrry uncomfortable.  And everyone changes right there in front of the whole river.  There are a few screens, but they only block, like, one or two sides so while they may provide some coverage, there’s still a bunch of full moons out, if you get my drift.  We were worried the boys were going to freak (or just be loud and obnoxious), but Pax took one look around and then dropped trou, shrugging.  “DON’T THINK – you just gotta do it” he told his brother.  This ended up not being a big deal at all.
  • Bring a waterproof tarp or sheet or something to protect your stuff.  It didn’t really rain the entire time we hiked up, nor while we were in the river, but five minutes after we changed back into our clothes it POURED.  And then we realized why everyone had their stuff under tarps.  If the rain had started 15 minutes earlier, we would’ve happily bathed through it…..then had to change into soaking wet clothes.  Ugh.


Once you’re done, everyone will prob be tired, hungry, and in need of hot chocolate.  One the way out of town, you’ll pass this place.  It. Has. CAKE.

And hot chocolate, coffee and tea….which we ordered to-go with an Icleandic “flower cake”.  Or maybe “flour cake”.  Something was lost in translation I think.  But in any case, delicious.

More soon!