June 29, 2012
Who are these masked marauders? Don't worry, they're not viking invaders, just a large group of tourists on a horseback tour of the excellent hot springs of Hveragerði!
The hot springs are an easy hike into the nearby hills. I'd recommend going on a guided tour on your first excursion, mostly so you know where to go (and step) and where to avoid. Take a wrong turn and you could find yourself scalded in the geothermal heated waters!
Our destination was not far from where this photo was taken. You can see the steam rising from the nearby geothermal stream. Upstream from this location, a glacial fed stream and a geothermal stream meet and flow downhill. As our guide suggested, if you find the temperature too hot, simply wander downstream until the water temperature cools to your liking. He estimated the water temp. at 42 C, pretty toasty!
The area of Hveragerði was one of the first areas in Iceland to harness geothermal heat. Settlers built their homes nearby (and sometimes above) geothermal heated waters. I'm sure the appeal of using naturally heated water for warming their homes, washing, baking and cooking was hard to resist. There are many greenhouses in the area, which harness the natural abundance of heat, the first of which date back to 1929.
Visiting this area was one of the highlights of my trip to Iceland. If you find yourself in Iceland, do yourself a favour and check it out!