The sun was already slowly setting on our first day in Iceland. We had spent the entire day exploring Þingvellir National Park and were on our way to Vík, where we were sleeping over that night. However, a quick detour into the mountainous valleys on the south coast in search of the secret Seljavallalaug geothermal pool turned out to be one of the best, most special little excursions of our travels yet.
This little destination is not in any of the travel guide books (yet), and so we relied on a myriad of directions from multiple travel blogs. Some described it as a 10 minute walk, others account of how they trudged around through thick snow for 40-odd minutes. Expecting anything between an easy 10 minute and a confusing 40 minute walk, we plugged the exact location into Google Maps and followed the road as far as we could.
FINDING THE SECRET SWIMMING POOL
Turning left off the main road, we followed the road as it bent to the right, past a couple of lonely houses on the bottom of the mountain slopes. We parked our car at the end of the road, in what seemed like an indiscriminate dirt ‘parking lot’, feeling a little surreal as we bundled our swimsuits, some beers and a towel in our backpack in the 4°C weather. We headed towards the valley, crossing a stream or two on the way. The trick is just to follow the river upstream into the valley, as you can’t see the pool until you’re right by it. It’s a short and easy walk – 10, maybe 15 minutes – and it is so worth it when, all of sudden, the pool materialises before your eyes, set against Iceland’s snow-capped mountains, mossy greens, and crystal-clear, cyan-blue water.
You can see the steam rising from the rocks as it trickles into the pool, its water ranging between 30 and 40°C (like between lukewarm bathwater and nice & hot bathwater), depending on how close you are to the pipe that leads most of the water into the pool. We changed into our bathing suits in the handy little changing rooms, and shivered as we tiptoed to the pool ladder. Then we submerged our freezing bodies in the wonderfully (and naturally) warm waters with big sighs of relief.
It is something so simple, yet so extraordinary – wading around in geothermal water in Iceland’s oldest pool (built in 1923 so that the locals could learn how to swim), secluded in the quiet solitude of a gorgeous valley that is just breaking into Spring. We will never forget this experience, and we love Iceland for it.