I’ve always loved going to the zoo, but there’s nothing like spotting a wild animal in its natural habitat. In Iceland, I discovered that the same is true for hot springs!
I did love visiting the Blue Lagoon, which is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Iceland. It’s a huge pool of bright blue geothermal water, and it’s kind of like being at a spa. You can swim up to the bar and get a smoothie, or scoop out some mud mask to give yourself a facial while soaking in the warm water. As you can imagine, you leave feeling pretty luxurious.
Even better than the Blue Lagoon was yesterday’s hike up to natural hot springs where I hopped into a stream and marveled at the mountains around me. Even though I’m a pretty adventurous traveler, I never would have been able to find this on my own. I was lucky to connect with Rut (pronounced Ruth), a young Icelandic woman who started her own tour company called Lost in Iceland. She took me on a “Hot Spring Hunt” to the Reykjadalur Valley, and I made this little video so that you can come along for the ride from your own home:
As you can see in the video, the hike itself had some stunning views. There were other hikers and even horseback riders that we passed along the way, but it still felt pretty remote and very peaceful. As we walked, Rut pointed out some interesting spots, from boiling mud pools to moss growing on the rocks. She also told me stories of her experiences with outdoor adventures in Iceland. Rut is trained as a volunteer search and rescue crewmember, so she goes out looking for people who lost their way in the mountains. I loved hearing her stories, and I also felt like I was in great hands with someone who would know what to do if we encountered a problem! The area felt very safe though; most of the trails were very well maintained, until the end when we went off trail to check out some interesting rock formations by the hot springs. I didn’t mind doing a little trekking through the mud – that’s what hiking boots are for! It felt great to get a bit dirty and do some exploring. The sights were incredible.
When I looked at the stream, it looked like any old stream that you could find in New England. So, it was really funny to me to feel that it was hotter than most hot tubs I’ve been in! We had to test out different spots to find one that had a temperature that we liked. We knew a spot was too hot when we saw steam or little bubbles coming out of the bottom of the stream. We looked for the spot where the water was mixing from a cold stream coming in. Rut told me that the cold glacial water is totally safe to drink, but I didn’t try it, since I brought a water bottle with me. She also showed me the mud that you can put on your skin like at the Blue Lagoon. It was so much more amazing to see it coming directly from the ground. There was no smoothie bar in the wilderness, but Rut and I brought a few snacks, so we had fruit and cookies while relaxing in our bathing suits. After we finished, there was no locker room, so we had to make our own by covering up with towels as we changed. That was a little tricky, but it was all part of the adventure!
In the end, I wasn’t really “lost in Iceland.” Of course we knew where we were the whole time and it wasn’t really so “wild.” It still felt like a perfect little adventure, and it was magical to come upon the hot springs in nature. If you went to Iceland, would you rather go into to the Blue Lagoon or into a little stream in the Reykjadalur Valley?