Iceland is, hands down, one of the most beautiful places that I’ve visited. And, while there are a number of great natural wonders along the so-called “Golden Circle” route, I enjoy taking the less-touristy far-southern route along the coast on the Highway 1 ring road. There are a number of beautiful hidden gems that used to be truly off-the-beaten-path but, with wonder of the Internet, they have become much more accessible to all. One of those sites is Seljavallalaug, one of the most beautiful man-made swimming pools in the world.
Seljavallalaug is not the easiest place to get to, but it’s not difficult either. Your main risk is a plunging your feet into some freezing water, depending on the time of year, or maybe slipping on some rocks. And, thankfully for prospective visitors, it’s now marked accurately on Google Maps:
Seljavallalaug is located about 150km from central Reykjavik. The drive is choked full of scenery. If you wanted to, you could pull off every 10 minutes to take photos of something new and amazing: beautiful views of the water, an active volcano, cute little houses or seemingly infinite fields of flowers:
To get there, you must pull off onto an access road that leads to a farm. From there, it’s about a 20-30 minute walk to the pool, depending on the time of year and the flow of water in the mountain stream and river that protect the area. When you start walking toward the valley that contains the pool, you’re greeted with an amazing world all around you.
As you continue walking down the path, you’ll notice that there are waterfalls as far as the eye can see. I can only imagine how many there are during the spring thaw.
You’re then greeted with a small stream, followed by a small river. You can probably make it across the stream by hopping on rocks, if the water level is low. Be aware, though, that even in July, the water temperature was freezing. You can see the small river in to the left of me:
At this point, you have two options: Wade across the cold river or turn left and take the rockier route, which is more dangerous. I chose the latter, which wasn’t too bad at all.
As you make it across and around into the valley, you see the pool from a distance:
It’s basic, to say the least, as are the rudimentary changing rooms. The facility isn’t maintained by anyone, except for the one time a year that locals come out and scrub the algae down off the walls. The water, however, is crystal clean and warmed by geothermal heat, as most of Iceland’s water is. If you’re lucky enough to get some time to yourself, the entire experience is just serene:
Sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery…
Finally, a few tips: Bring a change of socks and shoes in case your feet do take a plunge into the river. Also, a pair of flip-flops are nice to have when walking around the pool area and dressing rooms, which are covered with dirty and algae.
Is it worth it? Undoubtedly.