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This place is one of Iceland's best-kept secrets, and we understand why! Indeed, there are few places like this in the world. In Laugarvellir, hot water comes out of the ground just above a grassy jump. A small hot stream flows calmly before jumping into the vacuum, forming a small waterfall of natural hot water below which it is possible to swim.
A charming hot spring at the gates of the desert
What surprises Laugarvellir is that this green oasis is situated in the heart of a hostile landscape! The desert of the eastern highlands is only a few kilometres away, but here it's a whole different scenery. The grass grows all around the river below the small hot waterfall and gives this place a peaceful and pleasant atmosphere. Between the gentle landscape and the hot water bath, you could stay there for hours.
Swimming in the Laugarvellir hot spring
Take only the minimum necessary for swimming with you. The hot spring is only a few tens of meters below the car park and the access path is not steep. We went down there in flip flops without a problem.
If you want to change your clothes out of sight, you will see a small abandoned hut in the immediate vicinity of the car park. It is an old, dilapidated and dusty refuge. The place is not at all glamorous, but you can take advantage of it to wear your swimsuit discreetly or away from the wind.
Then follow the small path that goes down. At the end of a few meters you will see a river below. This one's cold. Just before reaching it, you will see on your left the small hot waterfall which plunges into a basin fitted out with a few stones.
The space is big enough to hold onto several without any problems. When we came here, we were 2 couples in the water without a hitch. The water is quite warm, it seemed to be at 38°C, which is very pleasant. The pelvis is also deep enough to have water up to the shoulders just sitting down. The bottom of the water is not very muddy, which makes swimming really nice. A real little paradise.
Relaxation under the hot Laugarvellir waterfall
The waterfall flow is not strong, which allows it to be positioned underneath without being pressed against the ground. But beware, because the water flowing from it is much warmer than that of the pond. Do not throw yourself under the jet of water without having tested the temperature which can vary according to the period. That day, it was very hot and we were only able to stay there for a few seconds. The water had to be over 40°C. It wasn't burning, but it was hot enough not to stay for more than a few seconds.
Nevertheless, the passage under the waterfall remains pleasant because the water massages the shoulders and makes bathing original. We particularly enjoyed this relaxing moment in Laugarvellir.
At the end of your swim, you can test the Scottish bath by cooling down in the river below. Having tested it, I found it to be a very enjoyable experience! The body is very warm after swimming, so you can then return to your vehicle without catching cold.
How to get to Laugarvellir
Access to the small hot waterfall is not easy. There is relatively little information about it and a 4x4 will be needed to reach it, unless you start a long walk. There are 2 possible accesses in 4x4, but we advise you to take the access coming from the south, which is much easier.
From the F910 towards Askja, cross the big dam. Quite quickly, the road turns into a track. Continue for another 5 km until you reach an unseen crossing.
At this point, fork to take the track on the left. This one is in pretty bad condition (large stones). Follow it for 2.5 km until you reach a ford that you will have to cross. The water level is not very high (20-30cm). After the ford, you will quickly see the car park on your right.