Near Reykjavik, actually only 45km drive from the capital, lies the town of Hveragerði. It is known for being located in a geothermally active area. The hot springs are used for heating the many greenhouses as well as for leisure. The trailhead starts directly at the parking lot just outside the town.
We prepared our backpacks for the walk and made sure to pack our swimming suits and towels. The path along the ‘smoking valley’, as the name traduces literally, leads the wanderer 4km along the geothermal area slowly gaining altitude.
Just after the first steps the name of the valley becomes self-explanatory. Steam clouds appear to the sight and are carried away by the wind giving the landscape a surreal feel. Directly alongside the path lie several hot springs with boiling mud. The mountains that surrounded us and the trail itself was covered in snow. Only around the springs and were the steam was blown by the wind the green grass that lied underneath appeared.
Continuing on our way the path led us further up along gorges with rocky cliffs. Again, we passed through clouds of steam. We could hear the water boiling in hot pools nearby. Signs along the way alerted the passersby about the water temperature not being suited for bathing.
Finally, we reached the banks of the hot creek. Wooden gangways facilitate the approach to the waterside and at the same time protect the fragile landscape from erosion. Some panels have been erected with the purpose of windscreens and for a hint of privacy while changing. In summertime, in fact, the hot river is crowded with people – locals that come her from the capital to relax as well as many tourists. In winter on the other hand we were (almost) alone – the perfect time to visit.
Quickly we changed and hopped into the 42°C warm water. We sat there for a while in the comfort of the hot water admiring the landscape covered in white. Meanwhile, our Forestia meals we had brought into the water with us were heated – hot springs are a great alternative to stoves and self-heating packs! We enjoyed our paella while the steam slowly started to freeze on our hair. With our full bellies, we gazed at the sunset and saw the first stars appearing in the sky.
As the sun already disappeared behind the mountains, we overcame ourselves and got out of the water. As we got dressed for the way back it was already dark. With our headlamps on we returned to the car.