This geothermal pool may well be the hidden gem of Iceland. Seljavallalaug is not just another naturally sourced swimming pool, but a secret one hidden away in a secluded valley surrounded by mountains and a natural hot spring.
Seljavallalaug is not the biggest pool in Iceland at 25 meters (82-foot) long and 10 meters wide, but it was the largest pool in Iceland until 1936! The pool is free, with no entry fee. Of course, you’re asked to treat it with care and respect.
History of Seljavallalaug
Despite the majority of people making a living from fishing at the beginning of the 20th century, only a small group of Icelanders knew how to actually swim. Naturally, this was a problem needing a solution.
Seljavallalaug pool is the oldest swimming pool in Iceland. The pool was built in 1923 by Björn Andrésson and others who wanted to provide the locals of Seljavellir with a place to learn to swim.
Since 1927, swimming lessons were conducted in the pool as a part of compulsory education. For many years after, Seljavallalaug was a ‘secret spot’ known only by locals and tourists who wandered too far.
During the infamous Eyjafjallajökull eruptions in 2010, the surrounding landscape and the pool was unfortunately filled with ash. However, with the help of volunteers and some heavy equipment, the next year the pool was cleaned and opened again for use.
Where is Seljavallalaug located?
The location of Seljavallalaug helps to make it special. Even though the pool is situated relatively close to Seljavellir and the Ring Road, the area feels like you’re in the middle-of-nowhere. Seljavallalaug is in South Iceland in a quiet valley below the infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano. It’s surrounded by hypnotizing mountains.
GPS coordinates of Seljavallalaug: 63.5656° N, 19.6076° W
How do I get to Seljavallalaug?
To get to the nearest parking lot to the pool from Reykjavík, you take road 242 marked Raufarfell when you turn off the ring road (No.1). You have to pass Þorvaldseyri so make sure you keep a lookout. Keep driving until you see a sign for Seljavellir. Take this road and you’ll reach a parking lot.
From the car park, take a short 15-20 minute hike towards the bottom of the valley (there are no signs), cross over a small stream and you’ll see the pool hiding behind a corner.
Accommodation near Seljavallalaug
- Welcome Guesthouse Edinborg
- Guesthouse Drangshlid
- Welcome Holiday Homes
- Guesthouse Drangshlid
- South Iceland Guesthouse
- Hotel Skogafoss
- Welcome Hotel Lambafell
- Umi Hotel
Can I camp at Seljavallalaug?
Unfortunately, there is no campsite at Seljavallalæaug. Please note that wild camping is forbidden along the entire South Coast. Campers of all types are obligated to use the designated campsites. Here are a few places that are relatively close by:
- Skógar Campsite
- Vik Camping
- Hamragarðar campsite
- Skogafoss Camping
Tips for visiting Seljavallalaug
- Sometimes it’s busy sometimes you’re the only ones there, be prepared to share and don’t go with the expectation of a private pool!
- Alcohol consumption is strictly forbidden (obviously)
- There is no lifeguard! Swimming is at your own risk!
- No one checks the quality of water and no one maintains the pool (apart from volunteers who clean the pool once annually) but the pool is constantly circulating, so it is safe – don’t worry!
- It is basic. There are (basic) changing rooms but there are no showers
- Bring bathing suits, towels and flip flops for the pool, but also hiking boots and appropriate clothing for the short hike from the car to the pool
- Sometimes the pool is crystal clear and others it is green and full of algae. Don’t panic! The water in the pool is circulating all the time. The hot spring goes in from one side (conveniently the side with the ladder) and then flows through to the other side and leaves.
How deep is Seljavallalaug?
If you enter from the shallow end the water will probably be about waist height. The shallower end is roughly 4 feet and the deepest point around 6 foot.
What is the temperature of Seljavallalaug
Seljavallalaug is not a hot tub. The pool is definitely a little cooler on the shallow end but noticeably warmer nearer to where the hot water enters. The water will probably feel lukewarm, measuring around 68°-86°F or 20-35 °C depending on the season.
In the summer it may feel too warm to physically swim in the pool, but the perfect temperature to just float and relax. This is less so in the winter months when it’s not the temperature of the water you should be worried about – but the getting changed in the wind and or snow!
Seljavallalaug in Winter
Between late autumn and early spring the water is usually colder, sometimes reaching just below 20°C (68°F). However, it’s not unusual to find Icelanders traipsing through the snow and taking a celebratory dip in the pool during peak winter.
Places of Interest near to Seljavallalaug
- Eyjafjallajökull Erupts Museum
- Skógafoss Waterfall
- Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
- Gljúfrabúi Waterfall
- Sólheimajökull Glacier
- Sólheimasandur Black Sand Beach
- Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck
- The Fimmvörðuháls Trail
- Dyrhólaey Cape
- Vík Coastal Village
- Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
- Hjörleifshöfði Cape and Yoda Cave