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Seljavallalaug

A geothermal pool in the mountains

Seljavallalaug is an incredible geothermal pool in the Highlands on the South Coast in Iceland. Hiking to the pool only takes about 20 minutes and is relatively easy and the experience when bathing in between glaciers and volcanoes in the middle of nowhere is truly a memorable one!



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 but you are asked and expected to treat it with care and respect.

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, with the help of some visionaries who wanted to provide the local people of Seljavellir with a place where they could learn to swim.

From 1927 swimming lessons were conducted in the pool as a part of compulsory education and for many years after, Seljavallalaug was a ‘secret spot’ known only by the locals and tourists who wandered too far.

During the infamous Eyjafjallajökull eruptions in 2010, the surrounding landscape and the pool was unfortunately but not surprisingly, filled with ash.  However, by the next year, the pool was cleaned and opened again for use, with the help of volunteers and some heavy equipment.

Recently this truly unique quiet spot has started to attract the attention of thousands of travelers.


Seljavallalaug Pool

GPS 63.5655° N, 19.6079° W

The location of Seljavallalaug helps to make it so special. Even though the pool is situated relatively close to Seljavellir and the Ring Road, it gives off an impression of a middle-of-nowhere, end of the world location. Seljavallalaug in the South, in a quiet valley below the infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano, surrounded by hypnotizing mountains.


Hike 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 for Seljavellir.  Take this road and you get to a new pool with an adjoining parking lot.

The access to the pool changed a bit since and because of the 2010 eruption but 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 hope to see the pool hiding behind a corner.


Guesthouses

  • Welcome Guesthouse Edinborg
  • Guesthouse Drangshlid
  • Welcome Holiday Homes
  • Guesthouse Drangshlid
  • South Iceland Guesthouse

Hotels

  • Hotel Skogafoss
  • Welcome Hotel Lambafell
  • Umi Hotel

No, but here are some suggestions which are relatively close by:

  • Skógar Campsite
  • Vik Camping
  • Hamragarðar campsite
  • Skogafoss Camping

  • 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.

Seljavallalaug Pool

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.

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!

Between late autumn and early spring the water is usually colder, sometimes reaching just below 68 degrees, which for most people is too low to enjoy – most but not all! It’s not unusual to find Icelanders traipsing through the snow, smashing through the ice and taking a celebratory Christmas or New Years dip in the pool during the depths of winter!