Most towns in Iceland have at least one swimming pool, and there are plenty more outside urban areas. Today we’re going to talk about a particularly famous rural swimming pool, Seljavallalaug, a fairly isolated hot spring that has served Icelanders for generations. In this article, we will explore:
The history and essential measurements of Seljavallalaug swimming pool
How to get to Seljavallalaug and what you will need to take with you
What to expect when you arrive at Seljavallalaug pool
Other wild hot spring pools in Iceland
Seljavallalaug hot spring
One of the most popular activities for Icelanders is to visit a hot spring spa or thermally heated swimming pool. This isn’t surprising, considering the country’s cold temperatures for most of the year and the abundance of naturally heated water.
How deep is Seljavallalaug swimming pool?
The Seljavallalaug hot spring pool is around 1.8 meters (6 feet) at its deepest. It is 25 meters (82-foot) long and 10 meters (33 feet) wide, and dates back to 1923. In fact, it was actually the largest swimming pool in Iceland until 1936. It was designed as a place to teach people how to swim before swimming lessons became mandatory countrywide in 1927.
Like most heated swimming pools in Iceland, Seljavallalaug is fed by naturally heated geothermal waters. Depending on the season and flow, Seljavallalaug’s temperature oscillates between 20-35 °C, so the water is more warm than hot. In comparison, Reykjavík’s heated swimming pools are kept at a constant temperature of about 38 °C.
What facilities are available at Seljavallalaug swimming pool?
There are changing rooms next to the swimming pool, but they do not have toilets or showers. If you use these facilities, you'll need to make sure to take your rubbish with you when you leave. Seljavallalaug is only cleaned once per year by local volunteers, so it’s up to all of us to maintain it.
Depending on when you go, the water will be filled with various amounts of algae that naturally build up. The water does circulate, but slowly, so if you’re sensitive to bacteria it might be better to avoid going in. Interestingly, in 2010 when Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted, the pool was filled with ash. A team of volunteers cleared the pool of the volcanic debris the following summer.
One of the great things about this pool is that it is free of charge. You can enter any time and stay as long as you like, but be prepared to share it with others. Many locals go there to enjoy the peaceful nature around them and admire the view of this hidden spot. The pool is located next to a river, in between moss-covered hills, and you must hike to reach it.
How to get to Seljavallalaug swimming pool
To reach Seljavallalaug from Reykjavík, you have to travel east along the south coast, traveling along the Ring Road or Route 1. Reykjavík to Seljavallalaug is a journey of about 150 km (93 miles), which will take you around 2 hours. On the way, you’ll pass by the famous waterfall, Seljalandsfoss, which is worth stopping at. This is a 60-meter-high waterfall that you can walk behind, making it particularly unique.
After that, continue along Route 1 until you see the left turn for Route 242. After some time, 242 will veer off to the right, but you’ll continue forward to Seljavellir. This will lead you to the Seljavallalaug car park, where you can safely leave your vehicle and continue on foot.
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How long is the hike to Seljavallalaug swimming pool?
From the car park, the hike to the pool will take you about 20 minutes. Remember that you’ll need some decent footwear and warm, waterproof clothes, as well as your towel and swimming attire. Follow the path that runs parallel to the river, and you’ll eventually see the pool tucked away on your left.
Seljavallalaug is open throughout the year, but in winter the water is colder and the path may be snow-covered. A trip to this pool is best reserved for the summer months.
Not much further on from Seljavallalaug, close to the South Coast, is Skogar. This small village is home to the famous Skógafoss waterfall, a highly recommended visit if you haven't already been there.
After that, we highly recommend spending a night in Vík a little further on. This is a pleasant little town with many food and accommodation options for tourists, and it’s near Reynisfjara beach, where you will be able to see the Reynisdrangar rock formation that lies just off the coast.
Other wild Iceland hot springs and swimming pools
If your goal for Iceland is to visit as many hot springs as you can, here are some other great ideas. Some of Iceland’s hot springs are completely wild and hidden away in the landscape while others have been built to harness the water and direct it into a pool for your pleasure.
Reykjadalur thermal river pools
The Reykjadalur thermal river pools must be some of the wildest geothermal pools in Iceland. The name translates to ‘steam valley’ and it is named for the abundance of geothermal activity in the area. Hot springs, bubbling mud pools and a geothermal river are the top attractions here.
It is very important to note that most of these springs are far too hot to bathe in! For swimming purposes, continue hiking along the marked trail until you reach the designated bathing area in the river. The best bathing spot in the river is marked by a boardwalk and small changing dividers. The further up the river you go, the hotter the water is, so find a temperature that’s comfortable for you.
The journey from the car park to the river is a 3 km hike with uphill parts, taking around 45 minutes in total. From Reykjavík to Reykjadalur it's about a 45-minute drive, a journey of 50 km (31 miles). Since this is a wild hot spring, you can use it free of charge.
Krossneslaug swimming pool
When it comes to public, man-made swimming pools, Krossneslaug is about as remote as it gets. Far up in the Westfjords, located along the east side of Norðurfjörður, you’ll find this isolated spot with incredible views. You could describe Krossneslaug as an infinity pool, as it sits right near the ocean’s edge.
Maybe you’ll get extremely lucky and see some dolphins and/or whales while relaxing in the pool. Either way, it offers peace and tranquility in one of the most beautiful and least visited parts of Iceland. The entry fee is ISK 700 ($5.30) per adult, and the pool is only open during the summer months. Krossneslaug was built in 1954 and utilizes naturally heated groundwater.
Landbrotalaug hot pot
This little hot pot is found on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, north of Reykjavík. It’s a little tricky to find as it’s not well known or indicated, so here are some directions.
Follow Route 1 north out of the capital until the junction for Route 54, which you’ll turn onto. After you pass Eldborg Crater on your left, you’ll see a dirt road further on, also on the left-hand side. Follow that and take another left when you reach a junction, leading you into a small car park. Jump out of your car and follow the path to the pond, next to which two hot springs are located. The larger one is shallow and fed by a pipe, while the other Landbrotalaug is deeper and only fits three.
Seljavallalaug - A visit to Iceland's Oldest Swimming Pool
So there you go, our full guide to the beautiful Seljavallalaug swimming pool, along with a few more wild hot spring pools for you to explore.
On a final note, REMEMBER to always check the temperature with your hand before wading into a wild pool. The temperature of unregulated hot springs can and does change. Combine relaxing in a hot pool with eating ice cream in winter, and you’ll feel Icelandic in no time!
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