Hike-in Required
No
Open Year-round
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Water Temperature
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Sensitive Habitat
No
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Brennisteinsalda Bathing Place near the Landmannalugar Campground is one of the most popular treasures of the Fjallabak Nature Reserve. This natural hot spring is located right on the edge of a 500-year-old hardened lava field called Laugarhaun and at the center of the Torfajökull caldera, a huge circular crater that stretches over 15 kilometers in diameter. The name "Brennisteinsalda" means "Sulphur Wave" and echoes the natural fragrance of the region. While the warmth is pleasant, expect slight currents to give quick rises and falls to the water’s temperature. This moderately sized swimming area is at the intersection of a cold water stream and a geothermal runoff over 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit). This combination allows you to move about the water finding the perfect mix of hot and cold. Natural convection even forms a noticeable difference between the cool water at the bottom of the pool and the hot water at the surface. There is room for over a dozen people to enjoy the water at once, although some may find it hard to resist the small waterfall pouring over the rocks at one end of the pool.

Some harmless green algae are present in the water, which you may find sticking to your body. Some studies have shown that treatment using the algae, also known as chlorella, can help with the effects of scars on the skin. Micronized chlorella has the extraordinary ability to stimulate the body’s own healing and detox powers. It may also help improve skin problems including psoriasis, rosacea and general redness. There is also a high number of antioxidants that may protect the skin from accelerated aging brought on by skin-damaging free radicals and sun damage. 

Bathe here at your own risk. This pool is classified as natural but is not recognized as a bathing area. Take note that the geothermal water is not treated with any disinfection, radiation, or other purification measures. Swimmers itch, or cercarial dermatitis, has been identified and first recorded in 2003. It is triggered by an allergic reaction to certain parasites from birds and mammals. Most people do not experience this condition.

Be prepared for all types of weather conditions in this region! In general, forecasts in Iceland are not reliable, but especially here, throughout the highlands, it is possible to experience all of the seasons within just a few hours. Everything can change momentarily, and visibility can suddenly decrease to zero.

Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar is at the heart of the Fjallbak Nature Reserve, an area home to volcanoes, hot spots, lakes, rivers, and a variety of vegetation. Many people visit here on a daily basis, but only a portion will be embarking on the Laugavegur.  A four-wheel drive vehicle is absolutely necessary to travel to and throughout this region. Upon arriving, most vehicles will need to park within site of the cabins across a small river, while high buses with large tires will plow right through to the other side.  There is footbridge to help you walk back and forth. Register with the wardens, ask about the weather conditions, and begin exploring the area. There is a large campsite and a cabin owned and operated by Ferðafélag Íslands (Iceland Touring Association, FÍ). The bathing area is located down a short walkway leading away from the bathroom and cabin area. There is a small dock and a rack to hang your clothes on.

Hiking

The entire Fjallabak Nature Reserve is a wonderful and interesting place that you will really enjoy taking the time to explore.  There are many hiking opportunities nearby across this incredibly diverse landscape:

  • Bláhnúkur (“Blue Peak”) is a steep, dark-colored mountain shadowing over the campsite to the south. A very steep trail climbs 450 meters (1,475 feet) to the summit with 360-degree views of the entire region (depending on the amount of fog).  If you choose to continue over the mountain, there is a minor stream crossing at the base on the other side. From this point, you can return to camp via the Grænagil Trail and a colorful rhyolite riverbed or via the Laugavegur in a northern direction through Laugahraun with its impressive scoria cones. 
  • Suðurnámur (“Southern Quarry”) is a rhyolite mountain approximately 200,000 years old that is over 910 meters (2,985 feet) in elevation. There is a hiking path that forms a 9-kilometer (5.5-mile) loop from Landmannalaguar and traverses Vondugil (“Wicked Valley”) and Laugahraun. The total ascent is 400 meters (1,310 feet), and it is steep and stony with a small river crossing on the descent over Námskvísl (“Wise River”).
  • Brennisteinsalda is a high mountain along the Laugavegur with fumaroles and thick sulfur steam emerging from the ground. It is a large steaming mountain that is extraordinarily colorful with dark browns and deep reds. There is a short loop that leads to the top with 360-degree views of the surrounding area, and the mountain is also split by a gorge that you can access and explore.

If you realize you forgot something, or need a chance to resupply, the Mountain Mall is on site at Landmannalugar. It is a small shop built into a series of dark green buses. You can buy a variety of trekking necessities, or relax in their small café section with tables and benches.

Laugavegur

The Laugavegur is one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring treks in all of Iceland. It is so renowned that it has been rated by National Geographic as one of the best hikes in the world. This adventure is a 54-kilometer (34 mile), one-way route that begins in the hardened lava fields of Landmannalaugar and ends in the glacial valley of Þórsmörk. It is typically completed over two to four days with potential overnights in Hrafntinnusker, Álftavatn, Hvanngil, and Emstrur. Throughout the trek, you will experience a grand spectrum of landscapes that include red rhyolite mountains, vibrant turquoise sands, bubbling thermal vents, neon green mosses, glistening white glaciers, hardened volcanic spew, cold river flows, and eroded gravel floodplains.  The terrain is a dream for volcanologists and geological enthusiasts who want to experience a raw and untouched landscape scourged and molded over millennia of explosive activity. The trail is only safe to traverse between late June and early September, after high glacial water flow, during long days of sunlight, and before consistent low temperatures. It is highly trafficked with over 100 people beginning each day. Wooden post markers are very clear along the route and the amount of people seen throughout the trek make it easy to remain on the path. While most adventurers complete this trek on southern route, many choose to travel from south to north just to have the opportunity to sit in this hot spring at the end of their long journey!

Getting there:

The nature reserves of Landmannalaugar, Þórsmörk, and Skógar are all reachable by bus during the summer. The most economical means of transport is Reykjavík Excursions Hikers’ Pass which offers a discounted round-trip ride to and from any combination of the aforementioned campsites and the BSÍ Terminal in Reykjavík. (Reykjavík Excursions and Airport Express also serve bus transportation between Keflavík Airport [KEF] and the BSÍ Terminal.) There are two or three departures per day and the bus is regularly filled, so get it is best to be in line early or wait several hours for the next ride.

Logistics + Planning

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

Not Required

Pros

Incredible location, remote, camping.

Cons

Inconsistent water temperatures, highly popular.

Features

ADA accessible
Natural

Number of pools

1

Location

Field Guide

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