Geysir in Haukadalur is most likely the most famous geyser in the whole wide world, it is after all the one all the other geysers are named after. Geysers are a rare phenomenon and knowledge about them is quite limited. They were almost an unknown thing in the Western world until the 19th century.
The History of Geysir
The geysers in Haukadalur were first mentioned in literature in the year 1294 but that year enormous earthquakes shook the grounds which both created new geysers and ruined some geysers already in the area. Earthquakes have been known to restart Geysir’s activity but in the year 1630 an earthquake woke Geysir up after 40 years of hibernation and the eruption was so powerful it shook the surrounding ground. This happened around the time Geysir started getting famous and travelers and explorers made their way from all over to witness its eruptions. The name Geysir can first be found in literature from the 18th century, there described as an unusual natural phenomenon which, at this time, was already of great interest.
In the year 1845, Geysir would erupt up to 170 meters (557,7 ft) into the air but a year later it was only reaching the height of about 43-54 meters (141-177 ft). Subsequently, it went almost dormant until the year 1896 when another earthquake revived the beast which as a result would erupt multiple times a day, sometimes lasting up to an hour each time and going up to 60 meters (196,8 ft) in height.
In 1910 Geysir erupted every 30 minutes but five years later the time between the eruptions was six hours. A year later the eruptions had ceased. In the year 1935, a man-made channel was dug from the geyser causing a shift in the water level and causing it to erupt again. With time, the channel leading from the geyser became too clogged with silica and the eruptions became rarer. In 1981 the eruption was forced again but this time soap was used to do the job! In the 90’s, due to environmental concerns, the soap trick practices less and less but the government authorized for geologists to do it especially for Iceland’s National Day, the 17th of June.
The geyser was greatly affected by an earthquake again in 2000 and the eruptions reached up to 122 meters (400 ft) height and even lasted for two days. This made Geysir one of the highest geysers ever in history. Only Waimangu Geyser in New Zealand erupted higher reaching up to 460 meters (1,509 ft) in height but it stopped erupting around 1900.
From 2000 the eruptions were around eight times a day but in July 2003, the activity had decreased down to three times a day. Today Geysirs activity is very low but who knows when it will decide to erupt again, maybe you’ll get to witness it!
Strokkur geyser is the most active geyser in Iceland and erupts naturally every 4-10 minutes, it usually erupts up to 15 or 20 meters (49-65,6 ft) but in history books, you can find accounts of it having gone up to 40 meters (131 ft). Strokkur and Geysir are believed to be the same age but since Geysir was considered to be the more magnificent Strokkur wasn’t mentioned in any written books until the year 1789 after an earthquake helped to unblock the conduit of the geyser.
In 1815 Strokkur’s height is believed to have been up to 60 meters (196,8 ft). In the 20th century, yet another earthquake clogged the conduit again. In the year 1963, the locals cleaned out the conduit again and ever since Strokkur has been erupting rhythmically like a rocket into the Icelandic sky!
The timespan between spouts varies, but most people get a gut feeling just before the moment arrives. So what are the signs you should watch out for? When you see the surface of the pool boiling a little more volatile than usual, then swaying a little, this usually means that an eruption is imminent. Finally, the surface of the scalding pool will retract back a little – when this happens, Strokkur is well and truly primed for action. Set your camera to sports action mode and get ready to witness one of Mother Nature’s showstoppers!
What Causes a Geyser to Erupt?
For tourists and locals alike, we’re lucky to have a reliably erupting geyser so close to Reykjavík, sitting directly inside the hugely popular Golden Circle area. Various geological factors have to combine for a geyser to exist, making them very rare in nature. In order for a geyser to erupt, the following features must all be present:
- The molten magma has to be sufficiently close to the surface of the earth make the rock hot enough to boil water. No hot rocks = no geyser!
- A sufficient and continuous source of flowing underground water is an essential component of any erupting geyser. Drains from Langjökull Glacier pass close by on its journey to Haukadalur, and through porous lava, a constant water supply to Strokkur is achieved.
- There must be a conduit to carry the water to the ‘chamber’ or reservoir which holds the water. This sits underground beneath the opening of the hot spring.
- The vent and its plumbing system need to have a silica lining to prevent the water from draining away.
Where are Geysir and Strokkur Located?
GPS 64.3104° N, 20.3024° W
The geysers are one of the attractions of the famous Golden Circle. Situated in the geothermally active valley of Haukadalur in South Iceland 99.2 km (61,6 mi) from Reykjavík if you take the Þingvallavegur route, otherwise around 107 km (66,4 mi).
How to get to Geysir and Strokkur?
The Geysir hot spring area is easily accessible, it is located on road nr. 35 is open almost 365 days out of the year.
Driving from Reykjavík to Geysir you can take two routes. The more common one is through Mosfellsdalur, past Thingvellir National Park following road number 36. The road soon switched to road 365 and as you pass Lake Laugarvatn it turns to road 37. Continue on this road without any turns and you will soon start noticing some geothermal feature, smoke and possibly even a geyser eruption.
The second way, which many also like to take on the way back, making the drive an actual circle, is via road 1. It takes you through Hveragerði and right before you reach the town of Selfoss you make a turn left onwards to Lake Laugarvatn. This route will take you past Kerið Volcanic Crater, Skálholt historic site, Faxi waterfall as you follow road 35 all the way there.
Other Facilities near the Great Geysir
There are display boards at the entrance to the Geysir Geothermal Area showing information about the geysers and other geothermal activities found in the valley.
Fuel is available at the NI-Gas Station which also sells refreshments.
Entry to the toilets in the Geysir Center is free of charge.
There are two car parks in the vicinity of the Geysir Geothermal Area. One is on the opposite side of the road at the Geysir Center – you only have to walk across the road to get to the entrance. There is also another car park on the same side of the road as the Geysir Geothermal Area. This car park is closer to the geysers and is a better option for those with small children, limited mobility or wheelchairs.
Accommodation and Hotels near Geysir and Strokkur
At the Geysir location, just across the street from the mighty geysers, you will find two hotels and a cottage so finding accommodation should not be a problem. If you wish to stay away from the Geysir area, to possibly find more tranquility and less traffic, we will also mention cabins and other options further away. The top options are the closest ones to Geysir.
- Hotel Geysir
- Litli Geysir Hotel
- Hotel Gullfoss
- Mengi Kjarnholt
Guesthouse, B&B and Farmstays
- Jaðar The Old House
- Efstidalur II
Cabins and Cottages
- Geysir Cottage
- Geysir Hestar
- Úthlíð Cottages
- Eyjasol Cottages
- Sacred Seed
- Árbakki Farmhouse Lodge
Camping near Geysir and Strokkur
Geysir Camping Ground is located within a walking distance from Geysir. Facilities on-site include showers, toilets access to electricity, washing machines, WIFI, a golf course, and a playground. Open from the 15th of May till the 15th of September.
Skjól Camping Ground is located in between Gullfoss and Geysir. Their facilities include a restaurant, showers, WCs, WIFI, washing machines, access to electricity, a restaurant, a golf course, walking paths, and wheelchair accessibility. Open all year round.
Faxi Camping Ground is a quiet and beautiful location next to the waterfall Faxi. The facilities include cooking facilities, electricity, WCs, showers, a swimming pool, a restaurant, and walking paths. Open from the 15th of May till the 30th of September.
Úthlíð Camping Ground a charming camping sight near Geysir. Facilities include cooking facilities, WCs, showers, electricity, a golf course, a playground, and a swimming pool. Open from May to September but all year round for campers.
Facts about Geysir and Strokkur
- Visiting Geysir doesn’t cost a thing!
- There is the Geysir Center where you’ll find a nice restaurant and a souvenir shop with Icelandic brand names.
- Gullfoss waterfall is only about 10 min drive away.
- Don’t worry if Strokkur just went off the minute you parked, it will go off again in about 10 minutes.
- Geysir is one of the three stops that make up the Golden Circle, you can join a Golden Circle Tour to visit!
Geysir in Winter
The Geysir area is a fascinating attraction any season, all year round. The steam and smoke that surrounds the area take on the otherwise frosty atmosphere and a true collision of ice and fire takes place. The ground can still, get quite slippery so it is important to walk around mindful of your step. Keep in mind that even when visiting a geothermal area such as this one the temperatures aren’t high so you need to dress according to weather forecasts. Dress smart – Layers are key!
Geysir is also a great location to see the winter Northern Lights. If you seek to witness the magical aurora, check out our Golden Circle and Northern Lights tour.
What not to do at Geysir and Strokkur?
Go within the lines! The water is extremely hot and the lines have been put up after accidents have happened. Follow the rules, there is a reason for them.
Go there without visiting Gullfoss, the waterfall is only about 7 min driving distance away. You simply can’t visit the area and skip Gullfoss.
Litter! The area is greatly kept and it’s important that we do what we can to help to keep it that way.
Interesting places near Geysir
- Gullfoss waterfall
- The Secret Lagoon
- Skáltholt Churches
- Friðheimar Tomato and Horse Farm
- Faxi waterfall
- Efstidalur Farm
- Drumbó River Rafting Base
- Laugavatn and Fontana Spa
- Kerið Volcanic Crater
- Sólheimar Eco Village
- Brúarfoss Waterfall
- Þingvellir National Park
- Silfra Fissure
FAQ about Geysir
Is Geysir active? When did Geysir last erupt?
Geysir hadn’t erupted since the year 2000 before a suddenly bursting up into the air in February 2016. This shows you that it is still active although not at a frequent level.
Can you bath in Geysir or Strokkur?
No, absolutely not! The temperature is anything from 85°c to 120°c.
Is there a place to eat at Geysir?
There are great restaurant options both at Geysir in Geysisstofa and at Súpa and also at neighboring attractions and farms (Við Faxa, Efstidalur II, Lindin, Friðheimar and Héraðsskólinn Restaurant, and Bistro). For more on what delicacies this area has to offer, see our Best Food on the Golden Circle blog post.
What are the eruption times of Strokkur?
Strokkur erupts every 4-10 minutes, on a rare occasion you might have to wait 15 minutes between eruptions. The force of each burst can though vary quite a lot so you might need to watch a couple to get a high one.