Laugarvellir: A geothermal pool and naturally warm shower
Laugarvellir is probably the best and most impressive natural geothermal pool in Iceland. The temperature in the pool, around 39 to 41 degrees Celsius, is perfect (although you should put your hand into the water and check the temperature before jumping in). If you are visiting Iceland's northeast region and looking for something to do, you must visit this fantastic place. Although situated at an altitude of approximately 600 meters in the Icelandic Highland, Laugarvellir is considerably green. It has more vegetation than usual and deceptively looks like a place 300 meters lower. In high contrast to most of the vast area surrounding the valley, you will find endless sand and spreads of volcanic ashes from the many eruptions from neighboring volcanos. The heat that comes from underground and the short distance to the sleeping magma produce heated water, which changes everything. This small creek at Laugarvellir farm is warm, and before merging with other streams, it falls down a small hill and forms a warm shower—a rather unusual shower.
The farming experiment that ended in disaster:
During hard times in Iceland's history, small farms developed near the Highland at a higher altitude. These were, of course, more complicated farms to cultivate than other good and valuable estates. One poor farmer built a house and moved to Laugarvellir in the beginning of the 20th century. This was rugged land to farm and proved a difficult place to stay during the whole year. The decision was devastating, and after only a few years, the farmer took his life. He and his wife were the only people that ever tried to live at Laugarvellir. Their houses are still standing.
Access to Laugarvellir is quite simple, although a 4X4 vehicle is preferred. From the town of Egilsstaðir in the east, drive south on Road Nr. 1, i.e., the Ring Road. About seven kilometers south, turn to the west to Road Nr. 931 all the way over the bridge and take a turn to the south again on Road Nr. 933. Then, drive a short distance on Road Nr. 933 and turn to Road Nr. 910 and drive all the way to Hálslón, the new reservoir in Kárahnúkar. Once you pass the dam, the distance to Laugarvellir is only about seven kilometers. Since the road from Egilsstaðir to Hálslón is paved, you can drive a small car almost all the way to Laugarvellir. The rest, if you prefer, is a five-to-seven-kilometer hike.