On our last two days in Iceland, we spent our time in the southwestern region, east of Reykjavik.
The LAVA Center is located in the town of Hvolsvöllur. You’ll get to explore an interactive exhibition on the volcanic systems in Iceland. The center opened in 2017 and is really nice. We learned all about where the volcanoes are in Iceland, how often they have erupted in the past, types of volcanoes, and what can happen when volcanoes and glaciers mix. I also enjoyed watching the movie with real footage of the volcanoes and earthquakes in Iceland. There is also a very nice gift shop and restaurant on the premises.
The LAVA Center is surrounded by some of the most active volcanoes in the country. You can see Eyjafjallajökull from there, which is the massive volcano that spewed enough ash and debris to stop flights in Europe in 2010. We spent about an hour here and it was well worth the 3200 ISK (~$27 USD).
Keldur Turf Houses
Turf houses are very common in Iceland. We saw lots of farms and country homes with sod growing on the roofs and sides to help insulate the buildings during our time in Iceland. The turf houses at Keldur are the oldest surviving turf buildings of this kind in Iceland. They have been rebuilt several times after earthquakes. Visitors can tour the inside of the houses from June 15 to August 15. We were there in September, so the insides weren’t available for us to tour. At least we were still able to walk around and see them though!
This waterfall is the most voluminous in Iceland. It’s located right off the Ring Road but is easy to miss. The river Þjórsá that leads to it is the longest river in Iceland. There’s a beautiful bridge that goes over the river leading to the falls. The falls are very wide but not tall. I hadn’t heard anything about it until our Airbnb host suggested we stop on our way to Reykjadalur.
This hike was so unlike any hike I had done before. The destination of the hike is to a hot river, where hikers can soak and relax before making the journey back.
The weather wasn’t great that day, but we were committed. It wasn’t raining but was extremely windy and chilly. There were times I felt like we might blow away! The trail is 3 km each way and will take a couple hours round trip, plus however much time you spend in the river.
The beginning of the trail climbs up the mountain until it reaches the valley. There were lots of hot springs and mud pools on the way. Careful not to go off the trail though, as the earth’s surface could be thin here. Don’t want to fall through to boiling hot water!
Once in the valley, you will see a beautiful cascading waterfall. The colors in the canyon are amazing. I was so excited when we started to see the steam rising in the Reykjadalur valley. There are boiling hot pools and so much steam that it’s difficult to see at one point on the path.
The Hot River
We finally got to the river, and there is a boardwalk along the side with a few changing walls. The walls didn’t provide any privacy really, but it did help block some of the wind when trying to get dressed after I got out of the water (that was the most miserable 5 minutes!). The reason this part of the river is swimmable is because it is mixing with a cold river. If you get in further up, it’s hotter.
The river is shallow and you have to lay down flat to be fully in the water. The temperature dropped when I was in the water. Let me tell you, being wet in a bathing suit in 40-degree F temperatures, with 40 mph wind gusts was not fun. I’m glad I brought stuff so I could change out of my bathing suit though. It made the walk back much more tolerable!
This hike was so fun and different. I highly recommend! It wasn’t a difficult hike, but my mom brought her hiking poles and was glad she did. I survived without mine.