The Hot-springs and Pools of Iceland

The Bathing and Swimming Experience

As you probably know already, Iceland is a volcanic island, sitting astride one of the so-called "hot-spots" in the earth's crust, whereby molten lava and magma can find it's way from deep within the planet up to the surface. Underneath the big continents the earth's crust is generally quite thick, on average 20-30 miles, whereas underneath Iceland, it's much thinner, only 6- 12 miles on average but in certain places, mainly in the vicinity of volcanos and along the continental rift, it can be as thin as only 2- 3 miles. In such areas, the groundwater, made up of rainwater and cold melt-water from glaciers, can seep deep into the ground and come into contact with the molten magma, be heated up and therefore seek to rise back up to the surface again and creating a variety of geysers, hot-springs and various similar phenomena. In Iceland, these hot-springs are classified according to the temperature to which the water has been heated, into HIGH- MEDIUM and LOW temperature areas. For the present purposes, we will only take that last category into consideration.

So far, about 250 of these low-temperature zones have been identified (by definition: water temp. 100C/212F at a depth of 1'000 meters/330 feet) in Iceland, commonly known as "hot-spring" zones or areas, and in most of them or nearby, one can generally find a place where it's nice and comfortable to take a bath or have a little swim, in water, swelling from the ground, at the comfortable temperature of 25C -> 40C // 77F-104F).

The number of these places where it's possible to take a nice, warm bath in Iceland has never been accurately established, but they are generally thought to be roughly 700 for the whole country. But although they exist in all parts of the country, they are by no means evenly spread throughout: some regions have an abundance and great number of them (The Western fjords, the South-West), other have them in quite respectable numbers (the West, the North-East, the Central Highlands), whereas in some regions (the North-West, the East) they are few and far between.

For centuries, the local people, the Icelanders themselves, have loved to take a bath in such hot-springs and pools, they actively sought them out and in places put in a considerable amount of work to improve them: 13 such places are mentioned in the Icelandic Sagas, and, although some of theses old pools have survived up until the present day, many, given the volatile and precarious nature of these natural phenomena, have disappeared or can no longer be located. However, there is no shortage, since new one's, especially after volcanic activity or earthquakes, have regularly been born and taken their place..

In all the cities, towns and villages where such warm water from hot-springs is available, like for instance Reykjavik and all the towns of the south-west and west of the country, it has been put to use in good modern swimming pools, with all the amenities, dressing rooms with lockers, showers, Jacuzzis, etc. For our own purposes, we can create a little classification, and call them (Class .I.) facilities. Outside the built up zones, in the rural areas, during the first half of the XXth century, a great many small swimming pools were built around hot-springs, often by volunteers from youth clubs or sporting associations: One or two small dressing rooms, a shower or two, nothing fancy or sophisticated but simply adequate, we can call those sort of facilities (Class. II.). Last but not least, we come to the category which most interests us are the most simple and primitive hot springs and bathing places, it can be an extinct volcanic crater or a spring where warm water guzzles out of the ground, is collected into a tub or a basin, or it can be a warm stream which only needs a small dam to make it operational, or other similar contraptions. No dressing room of course, no showers, just this warm water which people delve into as fast as they can, and getting out can be quite frisky indeed. But a wonderful and unforgettable experience. We'll call these last one's (Class. III.),

Our main goal with two tour we are proposing below, is to introduce you to a few of the Class II places and as many of the Class III as possible .
We have organized two different kind of tours, one of a 4 days duration, the second 5 days.:

A: The hot-springs and bathing places in the West and the Western fjords
B: The hot-springs and bathing places in the South and in the Central-Highlands.

The hot-springs and natural baths in Iceland
Bathing and swimming
A: in the West and the Western fjords
B: in the South and in the Central-Highlands.

Duration: 4 days // 3 nights,

Duration: 5 days // 4 nights,

Minimum number of participants: 2 people

Minimum number of participants: 2 people

Departure at 8:30 A.M., by request

Departure at 8:30 A.M. , by request

Price per person:

Price per person:

Services included: (4x4) transportation and guidance. Small comfortable hotels, farm accommodation or similar, in double rooms, usually with "en suite" facilities. Full board: all meals, (big breakfast, quick lunch, three course dinner), starting with lunch on first day and ending with lunch on the last day. Alcoholic Drinks/minibars not included.

Services included: (4x4) transportation and guidance. simple lodgings in farm-accommodation, mountain cabins, and similar, in sleeping-bags (Valtours will provide you with one if you don't have your own), full-board: all meals, (big breakfast, picnic- lunch, full dinner), starting with lunch on first day and ending with lunch on the last day.Alcoholic Drinks/minibars not included.

Operated during: May - end of September

Operated during: July - end of September

Necessary Gear: Goodmoutwear and boots, rainwear. Swimsuit. We will provide you with towels.
NB: Bathing and swimming in the (Class II) places which we will be visiting is usually done by wearing swimsuits, whereas in the (Class III)
places it's often undertaken in the nude "au naturel", without swmisuits. People who are susceptible or have an aversions to nudity are adviced not to participate in the abovementioned tours.
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