The Geysir Geothermal Area is a steaming and bubbling center of geothermal activity in the South West of Iceland. It is situated along the world-famous Golden Circle sightseeing route, which can be driven in a day from the capital city of Reykjavik. You won’t be able to jump into any hot springs at The Geysir Geothermal Area, as the geothermal water is hot enough to burn. Visiting the geysers, fumaroles, and mud pots is an exhilarating experience nonetheless. This is one of the few places in the world where you can watch boiling water and steam erupt from the earth on such a regular basis. If you are thinking about visiting The Geysir Geothermal area during your visit to Iceland, this article will tell you everything you need to know. From driving directions to where to stay and tips for escaping the crowds, we have got you covered!
How To Get To GeysirGeysir is situated in the Haukadalur valley in the South of Iceland. The best way to get there is to take a self-drive tour of the Golden Circle. This will allow you to take things at your own pace, and give you the flexibility to stop off at your favorite places along the way. It is also possible to take a guided bus tour to Geysir. This normally works out more expensive than renting a car, but it’s a good option for people that don’t feel confident to drive in Iceland or who prefer the social aspect of a group tour. It is about 100 km from the capital city of Reykjavik, which takes about 1.5 hours to drive. We recommend that you leave as much time to drive as possible, especially in the wintertime when there is frequent snowfall.
Driving Directions From Reykjavik to GeysirThe driving directions to Geysir will depend on which other parts of the Golden Circle you would like to visit, and what time of day you would like to see the different stop-offs. You may want to read the Golden Circle guide to help you plan this. Whether you complete the sightseeing loop clockwise or counterclockwise, the driving time to Geysir is almost the same.
Gullfoss (about a 10 minutes drive from Geysir area)
Heading North Out of ReykjavikIf you decide to drive the Golden Circle clockwise, you will take the Northbound Ring Road (Route 1) out of the Reykjavik. After Lagafell, you will exit the Ring Road and take up Road 36. Follow Road 36 through Selholt and keep going through Thingvellir, staying on Road 36 until you have the chance to exit onto road 365 towards Laugarvatn. After passing through Laugarvatn, you will take Road 37 towards Stekka. Stay on Road 37 until you get to Muli. You will hop onto Road 35 for the last short stretch to Geysir. Look out for signage. If you want to finish the Golden Circle route, you would carry on a little further up the road to see Gullfoss (about a 10 minutes drive). You would then turn around, keeping on Road 35 in the direction of Reykholt. After passing through Reykholt, you would keep going towards Selfoss, before turning right to take the Road 1 back to the city. If you have any problems finding it, online maps will be able to help you.
Heading South Out Of ReykjavikIf you prefer to head South out of Reykjavik, the anti-clockwise Golden Circle drive won’t take you much longer. Take the Southbound Ring Road (Route 1) out of Reykjavik. Just before arriving in Selfoss, you will take up Road 35 (Biskupstungnabraut.) You will stay on this road for almost the whole way to Geysir. You know you’re on the right track if you pass through Reykholt. Eventually, you will turn right to stay on Road 35. Keep your eyes open for signs now, because you are very close. If you want to complete the Golden Circle, you would carry on up the road to see Gullfoss, then turn around and head back towards Reykjavik via Road 37 to Laugarvatn. At Laugarvatn you would pick up Road 36 through Thingvellir National Park, before taking up the Ring Road (Route 1) South for the final stretch to Reykjavik. If you have any problems finding your way, just look at the maps online.
Facilities at GeysirOnce you arrive in Geysir, you will find all the facilities that you need. The Geysir Center is right next door, with toilets, shops, restaurants, and accommodation. There is both a luxury hotel and a simple campsite available, depending on your needs. You don’t need to spend the night there to visit the shops or restaurants, most people spend around an hour at Geysir. There is no charge to enter the Geothermal Area anymore. It was bought from a private owner by Sigurdur Jonasson, who gifted the thermal field to the Icelandic people. It has remained in public ownership ever since, and you do not have to pay to walk around and enjoy the amazing Geysers and Fumaroles. Like a lot of places in Iceland, the products and cuisine at The Geysir Center might seem expensive for people unused to Iceland’s prices. If you are traveling on a tight budget, you might want to consider bringing along a packed lunch to eat as a picnic. For tips about cheap things to see and do when you are in Iceland, you can check out this article.
Staying Safe In The Geysir Geothermal AreaIt is really exciting when the steam and boiling water comes bursting out of the ground. Make sure you keep a good distance from the geysers, respecting all barriers and pathways that have been put in place for your safety. The bubbling pots of boiling mud might capture your attention too. Stay on the paths, and do not try and walk right up to them! Take it from international pop star Ed Sheeran, who wandered away from the main path and found his foot plunging into a boiling mud pot. He was lifted to the hospital in an air ambulance, but the skin on his foot was seriously burned. Luckily, he has recovered with nothing but scarring now. You need to keep a close eye on children and make sure they don’t wander off the path and hurt themselves. Do not throw anything into the geysers, mud pots, or fumaroles. If you follow this advice, there is nothing to worry about! You can find lots more information about staying safe in Iceland in this article.
How To Escape The Crowds at GeysirIt’s not possible to completely avoid the crowds at Geysir. Iceland welcomes over 2 million visitors every year, compared to just 350,000 residents. There are more visitors in the summer than the winter, though the winter tourist industry is catching up. If you do want to visit at a quieter time, it’s a good idea to come before 10 am or after 4 pm, when most of the organized tour groups will not be running. This is easier in the summertime when Iceland experiences very long hours of daylight (the midnight sun.) In the winter, the nights are very long, and there are only a few soft hours of sunlight every day. So even though there might be fewer tourists overall, they are more likely to be concentrated into the same short window of daylight. The good thing about visiting Iceland in the wintertime is that you have the chance to go ice-caving and to see the Northern Lights.
What to Wear At the Geysir Geothermal AreaYou don’t have to wear anything special to visit the Geothermal Area. Summer or winter, it’s a good idea to have a good quality waterproof coat with you and warm mid-layers, because Iceland’s weather can be cool and unpredictable. If you are visiting in the cold months, you may want to consider buying or hiring some crampons from a camping shop. These are spikes that go over your normal shoes, preventing any slips on the ice. People wear them all the time in Iceland’s winter, including around the capital city.
What is a Geyser?The word geyser comes from the Old Norse for ‘geysa.’ This means to gush or to rush forth. The word was first used to describe The Great Geysir, which is currently going through a dormant period. The Great Geysir of Iceland gave its name to all other geysers. It was the first geyser to ever be described in literature back in the 13th century. Geysers are like a vent in the earth that releases boiling water and steam. They occur when there is
- a source of water
- a source of heat (from magma close to the earth)
- a difficulty for water to drain away
Which Geysers Are Active In Iceland?The world-famous Geysir is currently going through an inactive period. When it does erupt, the explosion is enormous! It regularly goes up to 70 meters (230 feet). In 2000, after being reawakened by seismic activity, it erupted to an unbelievable 122 meters (400 feet)! Over the years, people have used different methods to try and trigger Geysir to erupt on demand. For example, people have tried throwing in rocks, adding soap, or digging trenches to feed it more water. Adding soap worked pretty effectively, but this has now stopped for the sake of the delicate local ecosystems that were being polluted. Digging trenches also worked for a time. The trenches encouraged more water to flow into Geysir so it would fill up and need to explode more regularly. However, the channels would quickly get silted up. Rather than trying to manipulate Geysir to explode, the authorities have realized that natural processes should be left alone. It is now strictly prohibited to throw anything into a Geysir! Smiður and Litli-Strokkur are two other active geysers in the area. Strokkur is a geyser right next to Geysir, and it regularly erupts. It usually goes off every 10 minutes. It isn’t the largest geyser in the world, but it is still very exciting to watch.
What is a Fumarole?As well as the explosive geysers, you will find lots of fumaroles in the Geysir Geothermal Area. Fumaroles are rising columns of steam and gases that drift out of the earth. They are named after the Latin word ‘fumus’, which means smoke. They are a lot less dramatic than geysers, but they are still beautiful and intriguing. Just like with geysers, you should keep your distance! Fumaroles can contain gases that are toxic to people, but they are generally good for soil fertility. They appear at active volcanoes, around small cracks in the earth and on the surface of lava flows.
What is a Mud Pot?Mud pots are rather less beautiful than fumaroles. They are bubbling pools of boiling mud that can be found in geothermal areas, including around Geysir. What is dangerous about mud pots is that they melt the rock and earth beneath the surface. Inquisitive people might leave the path to get closer and find their foot going through the thin crust surrounding the mud pot. This is exactly what happened to Ed Sheeran. The mud is extremely hot and will give lifelong burns if you step in it. If you stick to the path and respect the barriers in place, you do not need to worry about safety. Please make sure the little ones understand the risks and keep a close eye on them!
What’s that smell?You may notice an unpleasant, eggy smell and yellow stains on the ground near fumaroles and other hot springs around Iceland. This is due to sulphuric gas which crystallizes on the ground. Although not pleasant, you don’t need to worry about it from a safety perspective when visiting a managed hot spring or walking on the paths around Geysir. In high quantities, the gases from fumaroles are toxic. This is why you should keep to paths, and you should not jump into any random hot springs that you do not know to be safe. To find out more about the hot springs and swimming pools of Iceland, you can check out this article.
What to do in the Area?Geysir is only 10 minutes down the road from Gullfoss (The Golden Waterfall) so you can easily see them both whilst you are in the area! Gullfoss is a spectacular waterfall. A fine mist comes rising from the crashing water, which is filled by tiny rainbows when caught by the midnight sun. It is also considered one of the founding places for feminism and environmentalism in Iceland, due to an extraordinary woman that refused to let it be destroyed by a hydroelectric dam. Here are some more ideas for what to get up to during your visit to Geysir Geothermal Area.
Golden Circle RouteAs we mentioned before, Geysir can be found along the Golden Circle sightseeing route. This is often completed in a day from the capital city of Reykjavik. The other main attractions on the Golden Circle route are Gullfoss waterfall and Thingvellir National Park, the home of Iceland’s Althing. The Althing was Iceland’s first parliamentary body, which came together in Thingvellir over 1000 years ago. The parliamentary processes have stayed largely unchanged right up to this day! Lesser-known stops on the Golden Circle include:
- Skaholt Town
- Kerid Crater
- þórufoss waterfall
- Faxi waterfall
- Fontana Thermal Baths
- Fakasel Horse Baths
- Thjorsardalur Valley
- Langjokull Glacier