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  • Writer's pictureEinar Páll Svavarsson

Hveragerði the geothermal town in Iceland

Updated: Sep 4, 2023


The swimming pool in Hveragerði town
The swimming pool in Hveragerði town

The town of Hveragerði is different and like no other town in Iceland. Hot springs and hot water coming from the ground are the origins and the premise of the town's existence. For this reason, the livelihood of the residents is also different. It is a town of greenhouses, a health spa, and flowers. It is a town of warmth.


South Region on the map of Iceland
South Region on the map of Iceland

Geothermal Wonderland

The flower village Hveragerði
The flower village Hveragerði

One could argue that the first five decades of the 20th century were a kind of laboratory for the utilization of energy in Hveragerði. In 1902 the small waterfall Reykjafoss in the river Varmá, which runs through the town today, a small hydroelectric power unit was built. The power was utilized to operate a wool factory. In the years following this experiment, more opportunities started to appear, also taking advantage of the hot springs as a power source. In the third decade of the 20th century, a small geothermal power unit was built and utilized for a small-scale dairy industry. Soon after, someone discovered how hot water could be used for greenhouses. Heat a house made of glass with hot water from the ground, and you can grow tropical fruit and vegetables in the frozen winter, and all year round, for that matter. Soon after this discovery, greenhouses popped up, and Hveragerði became the gardening center in Iceland. The story of the many experiments initiated over forty years is quite fascinating, from small hay-drying ventures to larger-scale operations in the emerging dairy industry.


A town of energy, greenhouses, and culture

Greenhouses in Hveragerði town
Greenhouses in Hveragerði town

The first homes started to appear around the third and the fourth decade of the 20th century when experiments grew and demanded more people. At the same time, small service companies emerged, and the town started to grow. For many years Hveragerði was the primary producer of flowers and vegetables in Iceland. In recent years the town has seen a considerable decline in this production as most of the new development has moved to the upper part of the southern region, to Flúðir and Reykholt, as those districts offered cheaper energy and more affordable land. Hveragerði is also the home of Iceland's largest spa and medical clinic, founded in 1955. It is a wonderful town to live in, except for the reason that it is literally built on hot springs and in an area quite vulnerable to earthquakes.


Stripmall town center at Hveragerði village
Stripmall town center at Hveragerði village

The town offers typical services to its residents. A preschool, primary and elementary school. A sports center and a community center. It also has a great swimming pool and an art museum, the L.Á. Art Museum. It is a town of culture as it has been the home of many writers, poets, and artists. Most of the houses are single-family homes built in the fifties up to the eighties. In recent years, more people have moved to Hveragerði and built new houses, and partly the town has become a suburb of Reykjavík as the distance is less than an hour's drive and homes much cheaper.


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