Seljavallalaug is one of the best swim spots in Iceland, a magical hot tub in the wild nestled between two mountains which is the last place you'd expect to find a pool!
Iceland is full of hot springs, each more pleasant than the last: the hot water rivers as in Reykadalur, the full-scale spa resorts like the Blue Lagoon, Myvatn Nature Bath or the Secret Lagoon, and sometimes pools built in a remote natural environment that seems like an oasis in the lunar landscape. This is the case of Seljavallalaug.
There are almost too many geothermally-heated swimming spots scattered all over this icy island (see our hot springs map) and Seljavallalaug is one of the most interesting. It's located very close to the famous Skógafoss waterfall, so you'll have to go off the beaten track of Road number 1.
Check out our dedicated article for a glimpse of the best hot springs in Iceland:
To get there, when driving on Road number 1 in the direction of Skogafoss, turn left on Roaf 242 towards Raufarfell.
The road will take you straight to the Seljavellir swimming pool where you can park your car. But this is not your destination, this is a standard swimming pool. To get to the secret pool in its wild and natural setting, you'll have to put in a little effort!
If you look around you'll see you're on a mountain flank with the infamous Eyjafjallajökull rising in the distance. From the car park, head due north up the mountain for just under 20 minutes to reach the Seljavallalaug pool.
This walk is a breeze despite the wild rocky landscape, all you have to do is keep the river on your left side until you reach the basin. You can't really mess it up, there's only one path, and it leads straight to the secret pool.
You will however need to cross a stream on foot at some point. A small wooden bridge makes this fairly easy most of the time without getting your feet wet. But when the snow melts in late winter, the small bridge can become partially submerged and you'll have to get your feet wet.
Seljavallalaug was built in a record-breaking 2 days of construction in 1923, making it the oldest swimming pool in the country. This remote location in such a wild setting makes it quite the legendary experience for many travelers.
Interestingly, until 1936 the Seljavallalaug swimming pool was the largest ever built in the country. It was originally intended as a kiddie pool to teach children how to swim, then quickly the locals got into the habit of coming to swim there with the whole family.
In 2010, the eruption of the nearby Eyjafjallajökull rained ash onto the site, making the pool a toxic mess until the following summer. A group of dedicated volunteers took up the challenge to clean and restore this prized local family favourite. It remains very well maintained by locals and access is free.
The pool is 28 meters long by 10 wide and next door there is a small cabin where you can change. The water is around 36 °C and the basin is fed by the hot spring that flows along Eyjafjallajökull, the famous volcano, so you'll be bathing in the heat of that infamous dragon.
The place is open all year round, being free and unstaffed, but sometimes difficult to access in winter due to snow. In summer, your best bet is early in the morning or in the evening to avoid the crowd, as it's increasingly well-known and tourists love it. Seljavallalaug has become a must-see when visiting the south of the island in recent years.
Swimming there is just a fantastic experience, and many locals get together in its waters after a long day to unwind with friends and family.
Seljavallalaug - Ross Hughes@Unsplash