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Hiking in the Hengill Geothermal Area

Hengill is a volcano that lies in Iceland’s western volcanic belt, about 20 minutes from Reykjavik. Though the last eruption was about 2000 years ago, the volcano is still active and the area surrounding it is one of high geothermal activity. In fact, a great deal of the country’s energy comes the area, and is captured at the Nesjavellir and the Hellisheiði power stations, operated Reykjavik Energy.

For tourists the area is of interest for two reasons. The first is for the power stations which offer tours to visitors. And the second is for the many hiking opportunities in the Hengill area. The rolling hills and mossy lava fields are dotted with boiling hot springs and steaming fumaroles, and are covered with over a dozen trails that ranging in difficulty from very easy and flat to steep and difficult.

It’s easy to come hike the trails on your own; there are two hiking shelters and several campsites available for those who want to do multi-day treks. However, due to the unstable nature of the environment, it’s not recommended for inexperienced hikers to come alone.

If you do hike, here are a few things to be aware of:

  • The hot springs can reach boiling temperatures. Approach hot springs with caution and always check the temperature before going in
  • Cell reception in the area is quite good, but always hike with a GPS or a compass and map
  • There are no gas stations close to Hengill (except in the town of Hveragerði) so be sure to fuel up before driving around the area
  • Off-road driving, campfires, and unleashed dogs are prohibited, and camping is only allowed in designated areas

If you aren’t up for hiking the area on your own, I check out the tour offered by My Reykjavik. On Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday evenings from May 10 to September 15, guides will lead small groups on a hike through Hengill. Departing Reykjavik around 7pm, hikers explore the geothermal area for about an hour and a half (walking about 6kms or 3.7 miles) before arriving at a small hot spring.

Here, a boiling spring meets a cold river, making for a pleasantly warm pool. Dinner and drinks are served and then the group heads back at around midnight. The tour costs 15,000 IKS per person (about $130) and includes transport, the guided hike, dinner, and drinks.

Photos by Terje Solbakk, Blue Funnies