Your Guide to Haukadalur Valley
In Haukadalur Valley, nature dances to the tune of geothermal energy, with the iconic Geysir and Strokkur geysers stealing the show. The area is also renowned for its mesmerizing smaller geysers, hot springs, and bubbling mud pools. Haukadalur is one of the three main attractions of the Golden Circle, Iceland’s most popular scenic route.
Where is Haukadalur?
Haukadalur is located in South Iceland, about 72 miles (116 km) northeast of Reykjavík (coordinates 64°18′40″N 20°17′2″W, for the GPS savvy). The roughly 1.5 hour drive from the capital makes the area an easy-to-reach destination for day trippers. It’s an ideal spot for anyone wanting to experience some of Iceland’s most spectacular geothermal wonders. Situated to the north of Lake Laugarvatn, the entire region is surrounded by awe-inspiring landscapes.
Haukadalur is also close to some of Iceland’s other most popular destinations. These include the breathtaking Gullfoss waterfall and the historic, picturesque Þingvellir National Park.
What’s included in the Geysir geothermal area
The landscape in Haukadalur Valley is a striking canvas of colors. The surrounding hills showcase a vibrant palette thanks to the volcanic activity below. The geothermal field extends from south to southwest, aligning with Iceland’s tectonic plates.
The centerpieces of Haukadalur’s geothermal display are, without a doubt, Geysir and Strokkur, the two most renowned geysers. However, the area features around 40 hot springs, fumaroles, and geysers, which have developed on the Laugarfjall rhyolitic dome. Mud pots bubble and simmer with a mixture of geothermal water, dissolved minerals, and rocks.
Geysir has made its mark on geothermal history, lending its name to geysers worldwide. The name Geysir stems from the Icelandic verb að geysa, meaning ‘to gush.’
Despite its fame, Geysir now erupts infrequently, stopping for years at a time. Visitors can expect to see its 59 ft. (18 m) diameter steaming calmly, surrounded by colorful minerals. However, on the rare occasions when eruptions do occur, they are spectacular, shooting boiling water up to 230 ft. (70 m) in the air!
A little to the west of Geysir and Strokkur lies the beautiful Blesi geyser. Divided into two thermal springs, Blesi is commonly likened to a pair of eyes or glasses.
The northern spring appears to be a brilliant milky blue, while the southern spring is more clear. Though currently dormant, it is one of the most photogenic sites in Haukadalur.
Konungshver, which means the ‘king’s geyser’ or ‘royal geyser,’ lies at the western end of the geothermal area, just north of Geysir.
Although it was named after the Danish King Christian IX, who visited Geysir in 1874, Konungshver did not appear until more than 20 years later, in 1896. Mostly dormant, Konungshver can appear to be shades of green, blue, or mostly reddish brown.
Litli Geysir and Litli Strokkur
Other geysers include Litli Geysir (‘Little Geysir’) and Litli Strokkur (‘Little Strokkur’), smaller versions of their more famous counterparts. Once active, Litli-Geysir now bubbles and boils rather tamely.
Mt. Laugarfjall, also known as Laugarfell, is a rhyolite dome volcano that rises above the geothermal field. At just 577 ft. (176 m), it’s worth the hike up the hill for fantastic views over the hot springs and landscape below.
Best Way to Explore Haukadalur Valley
Splash through river crossings, rumble down bumpy roads, and feast your eyes on breathtaking views of Haukadalur Valley, the majestic Langjökull Glacier, and the towering Skjaldbreið Volcano. The Geysir Buggy Adventure provides a year-round thrill of off-roading in the heart of the Golden Circle.
Available from June through September, this 2.5-hour journey will have you navigating challenging trails, zipping past the world-renowned Geysir, following the course of the Tungufljót River, and taking in awe-inspiring vistas of the Langjökull Glacier and Skjaldbreið Volcano. The ride back through the lush Haukadalsskógur forest, a testament to Iceland’s reforestation efforts, offers a tranquil finale to the tour.
The electric mountain bikes, equipped with full suspension, are primed to conquer tough terrains and slippery surfaces. So, pack your adventurous spirit, hop on, and ride into an unforgettable Icelandic journey!
Amenities around Haukadalur
Amidst its rugged natural beauty, Haukadalur offers the necessary amenities to ensure a comfortable visit for all travelers.
There are several hotels and guesthouses available to stay at, providing a cozy retreat after a day of exploration.
For the more adventurous, we recommend camping in the Golden Circle. In between Gullfoss and Geysir is Skjól. It is open all seasons, has electricity stations and a restaurant.
Your culinary needs are taken care of with a variety of dining options. From local Icelandic delicacies to international cuisine, the restaurants nearby have something to suit all taste buds.
In the heart of Haukadalur is Skjól Bistro & Bar. A cozy country restaurant serving homemade pizzas and Icelandic beers.
The Geysir Center, situated near the geothermal field, provides ample information about the area. It includes a multimedia geology museum that offers insights into the geothermal activities and the nature of the geysers.
You can pick up souvenirs and locally handcrafted items from one of Iceland’s largest gift shops as well as other stores in the area.
Haukadalur travel tips
To make the most of your visit to Haukadalur, keep these tips in mind:
- Wear sturdy shoes. The paths can be slippery in any season.
- Stick to the designated paths for safety – geothermal areas can reach very high temperatures.
- Consider a winter visit. There’s something magical about the pale winter sun illuminating the steam from the geysers.
- Pay attention to the wind direction to avoid soaking from the geyser spray.
- Be patient when trying to capture the perfect geyser shot. Eruptions are quick, and catching them on camera requires good timing.
- Watch for the bubbling before the big blow, and switch your camera to continuous shooting mode to avoid missing the moment!
The history of Haukadalur
Geological research indicates that the geysers of Haukadalur have been active for approximately 10,000 years. Historical records dating back to 1294 describe the valley’s geysers, documenting an earthquake that activated them.
The first mention of Strokkur was in 1789, after an earthquake helped unblock its conduit. Its activity fluctuated throughout the 19th century and stopped in the early 20th century after another earthquake blocked it again. In 1963, locals followed the advice of the Geysir Committee and cleaned out the blocked conduit, reviving the geyser’s activity.
The 18th century marked the beginning of tourism to Haukadalur. Its sites drew visitors from far and wide, including two Danish kings. As the years passed, the image of the Great Geysir erupting became symbolic of Iceland, helping to draw more international attention to the country.