The Hveravellir Nature Reserve ranks among the top geothermal areas in the world. This highland oasis is filled with steaming fumaroles, hot springs, and a natural sky-blue hot pool. Based between two large glaciers and lying right on the edge of a massive lava field, this unique place is the best example of fire and ice coming together to create something extraordinary!
Hveravellir, or the Hot Spring Fields, is one of the most famous geothermal areas in Iceland. They are located in the central highlands, standing 650 meters above sea level. This unique nature reserve is a luscious oasis that can only be reached after driving through endless barren lands. One of the top attractions at Hveravellir is a large hot pool. It invites travelers to take a relaxing dip while reveling in the incredible views of a vast lava field and two of the largest glaciers in Iceland. The pool is surrounded by multi-colored steaming fumaroles and roaring mud pools.
Hveravellir is open all year round. Along with a relaxing soak in the pool, the geothermal paradise also offers outstanding hiking and horse riding trails. Thrill-seekers will be excited to try out all-terrain vehicle (ATV) rides in the area or snowmobile tours at the nearby Langjokull Glacier!
The first mentions of Hveravellir date back to 1752. Travelers Bjarni Pálsson and Eggert Ólafsson described the area in their travelogue. They said that the Öskurhólshver hot spring made such a loud roaring noise they could hear it for over a quarter of a mile!
However, there’s a good chance that people had already been enjoying the natural geothermal pools for quite some time.
The ancient Kjalvegur road runs through the area. This road is referred to in the Viking Sagas and the first mentions are from around year 900. For many years, the road was a sort of highway of those times. People with horses and carts used it to travel between the North and the South of Iceland. Hveravellir is located around the halfway mark, making it very likely that travelers stopped at the hot spring area along the way.
Hveravellir is a truly extraordinary geological sight. The area has a very high silica ratio, so unique forms of geyserite accumulated around some of the hot springs. Yellow, emerald, and white rocks contrast with the colorful hot springs and create distinct views. Some of the springs even have names that refer to their tincture. For example, Bláihver, Grænihver, and Rauðihver are the names of blue, green, and red hot springs.
The Hveravellir Nature Reserve has been protected since 1965. Visitors are asked to stick to the designated paths and respect this beautiful geothermal area.
One of the most famous stories that include Hveravellir is the legend of Fjalla-Eyvindur (Eyvindur of the Mountains) and Halla. It’s a dark and dramatic story of two lovers who chose to live as outlaws in order to stay together. The story is so popular in Iceland that it was turned into a play by Jóhann Sigurjónsson and later into a film by a Swedish film director Victor Sjöström.
According to the legend, in the 18ᵗʰ century, Eyvindur moved to a farm in northern Iceland looking for work. Here he met a widow, called Halla and fell in love with her. However, their love was blocked from flourishing by accusations of Eyvindur being a thief.
The couple fled the farm and became outlaws. They stayed in various locations in the highlands and one of them was Hveravellir. Surrounded by hot springs, the lovers survived the harshest winters. Even now, a short hike away from the springs, you can find Eyvindarhellir Cave, where the two lived. While the cave looks small from the outside, it was the perfect hiding place, as it’s surprisingly large once you step inside. They cooked food on the hot springs and kept sheep in a large natural lava mound, now called Eyvindarrétt.
Eyvindur and Halla lived in the wild for around 20 years. One of the most famous Icelandic lullabies Sofðu unga ástin min, or Go to Sleep My Little One, originates from the story. It is said that the couple got married and had a child. However, one night they were attacked by men who were looking for Eyvindur. In order to save the child from suffering, the mother put the baby to sleep by singing the lullaby and threw it off a steep cliff into a river.
The tragic story of forbidden love left a strong imprint on the area. One of the hot springs is even named after the man and is called Eyvindarhver (the Hot Spring of Eyvindur). In 1998, a monument was erected at Hveravellir for Eyvindur and Halla. It’s called Fangar Frelsisins, or Prisoners of Freedom, and features two stone hearts placed behind steel bars.
Hveravellir is located in Iceland’s central highlands. They lie just off Kjölur or Kjalvegur highland road (route F35) that connects the North and South Iceland. The geothermal area is nestled between two glaciers, Langjökull and Hofsjökull. These are the second and the third largest glaciers in Iceland. Right by the side of the nature reserve is the 8,000-year-old Kjalhraun lava field. With such a diverse terrain, the place is perfect for hikes and nature sightseeing.
If you’re traveling from Reykjavik, prepare for a 130-mi (215-km) drive to the Hveravellir hot springs. On your way, you will drive past the Geysir Geothermal Area and the Gullfoss Waterfall, both part of the iconic Golden Circle.
There is only one road that goes to the Hveravellir geothermal area, F35, and it’s not the easiest one to drive along. However, it will reward you with mesmerizing views of mountains, glaciers, and lakes.
Kjölur is an ancient mountain road that runs for around 105 mi (170 km) from Gullfoss Waterfall almost all the way up to the Ring Road (there’s a short ride along route 731 before the road merges into the Route 1 highway). The distance between Geysir and Hveravellir is around 60 miles (100 km). F35 is a rough gravel road and driving it is challenging. The road is only suitable for medium 4x4 vehicles, but not smaller cars. Driving a small car would be more stressful than fun and could even break the car. During the winter months, Kjölur is only open to 4x4 Super Jeeps. Regardless of the season, you’re not allowed to use a rented two-wheel drive on any F roads for insurance reasons.
Whenever you’re traveling, make sure to check the road conditions online beforehand, to avoid any disappointment. Also, there’s no gas station along the route, so make sure you’ve got enough fuel before jumping on this bumpy road!
The hot springs at Hveravellir all function in their own way. Öskurhólshver spouts stream while Bláhver and Grænihver contain still water. Bræðrahver and Eyvindarhver spout little jets of water. Some of the springs are very hot and reach 158-212°F (70-100°C). Be careful not to get burnt!
One of the highlights of Hveravellir is a unique hot pool in a geothermal river. To create this pool, in 1950, a small dam was built. It fits around 20 people and the water temperature varies between 65-103°F (18.3-39.4°C). It’s much hotter in the intake pipe, almost boiling, so be careful. Both hot and cold water come into the bath through the pipes, so the water temperature can be regulated. The fast water flow keeps the dam clean and makes sure it’s always full of freshwater.
The mineral-filled water has scientifically proven medicinal qualities and it’s a great pleasure to dip into the pool after a hike or a horse ride around the area.
The Hveravellir Nature Reserve is the perfect place for outdoor activities and there are plenty of them to choose from.
The geothermal area is located right next to the Kjalhraun lava field which offers many walking and hiking trails. The field covers 70 mi² (180 km²), has impressive lava caves, and even a massive circular crater that you can visit. This ancient field is otherworldly, with lava rocks of all shapes and sizes, and steaming cracks in the ground.
A few hiking routes take you to the second largest ice cap in Iceland, Langjökull. From here, you can take a snowmobile tour and explore the glacier, or even walk inside it!
Horse riding is also a popular activity around Hveravellir. Some old trails are best navigated with horses. Explore these from the back of a charming Icelandic horse!
ATV rides are also an exciting way to travel around the area. They allow you to cover more ground and visit the most remote corners that are otherwise difficult to reach. ATVs can be rented at Hveravellir.
If you visit Hveravellir in the winter months, you have a good chance to catch sight of the Northern Lights dancing in the sky above the steaming hot springs. Just imagine soaking in a steaming hot spring as you watch mesmerizing green lights paint the sky above you!
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