Geysir and Strokkur are two geysers in the Haukadalur Geothermal field located in the Golden Circle within the southwestern region of Iceland. While Geysir has been dormant since 2005, Strokkur continually blows about every 5 to 10 minutes, spraying water over 20 meters (65 feet) into the sky. Spectators have been visiting this location since the 18th century and the excitement of this natural phenomenon continues with thousands of visitors each day. It’s about 65 kilometers (40 miles) northeast of Reykjavík and a 1.5 hour drive on Route N1, the “Ring Road,” and Route 35, which takes you directly to the site. A visitor center is open 10:00 to 17:00 from May through August and 12:00 to 16:00 from September through April, and there is a short multimedia exhibition about the geology of the region, a small café serving refreshments, and a souvenir shop.
This area is a primary demonstration of Iceland’s natural geothermal energy. Haukadalur sits on the lower slopes of Bjarnarfell (the nearby mountain) surrounded by an Icelandic tree planting project that has been forestry initiative since the 1940s. The field comprises of several dozen hot water blowholes, mud pots, and fumaroles with distinct names and features. Volcanic activity far below the surface builds up pressure and heat in underground hot springs, which forces superheated water up through vents to the surface. Upon contact with cooler water, a cloud of steam erupts in a bubbling and explosive event that pushes a showering spout high into the sky. There are colorful mineral deposits all around these blowholes as a result of sintering, the compaction of materials by heat and pressure without melting to the point of liquefaction. While the oldest accounts of this area date back to 1294, the research of the sinter alludes to the geysers having been active for approximately 10,000 years. Earthquakes influence the waning and waxing of activity over the centuries, and in years such as 1630, records claim that these geyser eruptions were so violent that they caused the valley to tremble.
This was the first geyser ever known to modern Europeans and historically one of the main features of Haukadalur. Its name is responsible for the term "geyser" which originates from the Icelandic (Old Norse) verb "geysa" meaning "to gush." While today it is dormant, it has a history of going through periods of silence and suddenly reactivating following earthquake occurrences. For example, before 1896, Geysir was down to a low bubble, but the earth shook and suddenly it began to erupt again several times a day. It would burst water as high as 60 meters for up to an hour at a time. This regularity eventually decreased, and they geyser returned to dormancy in 1916. In 1935, a man-made channel was dug through the hardened silica rim around the edge of the vent that caused the water table to lower and resulted in a revival of activity. Over time, geyser channels can become clogged with deposits, as was the case with Geysir. The channel was cleared in 1981, and a soap product was added to the surface water throughout the 1980s to force an eruption. This process has since been banned due to environmental concerns. Again, in 2000, another earthquake revived Geysir with an eruption that reached 122 meters for two days: It became one of the highest known geyser eruptions in history! By July 2003 the activity had stopped again, but it may only be a matter of time until Geysir gushes again.
Today visitors are fortunate to be able to see this geyser erupt every few minutes in a soft sounding burst of steam that reaches 15 to 30 meters (49 to 98 feet). Between eruptions you can see the clear blue water burbling and sinking as the pressure builds in preparation of the next eruption. While Strokkur's activity has also been affected by earthquakes, it hasn’t been as variable as Geysir.
There is a beautiful set of twin pools located up a small hill behind Geysir. One has a deep blue color created by colloidal silica and varies in temperature between 40° to 50° C (104° to 122° F). The second pool is clear and about 100°C (212°C). These two water bodies are separated by a thin rock wall and the difference in their composition is striking!
This clear, blue water body sits in a depression of orange-red rock. Following earthquakes in June 2000, the spring began a vigorous boil that reached 0.5 to 1 meters high. The vent is full with boulders, and if they were removed, a geyser might begin to gush. Earlier travelers would wash their clothes here in the hot water.
This boiling hot spring is along the pathway from the entrance to Geysir. It was artificially dug out by a carpenter in 1907 before the visit of the Danish King Frederik VIII. Past treatments with soap have sometimes resulted with eruptions between 3 and 7 meters (10 and 23 feet) high.
There is sign designating Litli Geysir on the walkway the leads from the entrance to Strokker. In 1855 and 1871 it was one of three active geysers in the area next to Geysir and Strokkur. It is recorded to have been very noisy and violent with “beautiful feathery eruptions” that reached up to 9 meters high. Today it is a slushing muddy pool that bubbles with steam.
This is a dormant geyser that can still be seen bubbling and churning.
Tour buses are regularly available from Reykjavik’s BSÍ Terminal. The SBA-Norðurleið bus service also passes by Geysir on a daily basis on its highland route toward Akureyri and takes about 2.5 hours. There is a campground a short walk from here with hot showers, pool access, and a common cooking area. It is operated by the Hótel Geysir which also features posh suites with huge hot tubs and luxurious beds. Another accommodation option is the Guesthouse Geysir, which has single, double, and triple rooms, as well as sleeping bag accommodations and free breakfast in the summer months.
The Golden Circle hosts many other points of interest for you to travel to and explore: Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss, the Kerið volcanic crater, the Nesjavellir and Hellisheiðarvirkjun geothermal power plants, and Laugarvatn Fontana geothermal baths.