Seljavallalaug Hidden Pool in Iceland: Have a Bath in the Mountains

Two people bathing in Seljavallalaug hidden pool in Iceland

Seljavallalaug hidden pool is a real gem in Iceland. It is hard to find a geothermal pool built in an equally secluded valley surrounded by such magnificent mountains. What would you say about having a bath in such a picturesque setting?

Seljavallalaug is one of these swimming pools that always astound travellers. Not only is it filled with pleasantly warm geothermal water, but also its open-air location is one of a kind. It is hidden in jaw-dropping mountains. It would be difficult to find a more dramatic corner for bathing! Seljavallalaug confirms the opinion that Iceland is a paradise for everyone who enjoys spending time in the water.

Seljavallalaug: the oldest swimming pool in Iceland

Seljavallalaug pool is the oldest swimming pool in Iceland. It was built in 1923 very close to the fields of Seljavellir. That’s why it is sometimes also called Seljavellir pool. It was meant to be a place where locals would be able to relax and above all learn to swim. Icelanders not always have been great swimmers. Before they became great lovers of swimming pools and began to build them literally in every village a lot has happened.

At the beginning of the 20th century, only a small group of Icelanders could swim. It was a huge problem because they constantly had a contact with water – many people made a living from fishing.

Quite many fishermen died in the raging ocean. Icelanders started to wonder if anything could be done about this situation. Soon the whole nation was encouraged to overcome their fear of the water and start to learn to swim. Seljavellir swimming pool initiated the Icelanders’ love to spend their free time swimming and splashing around.

We even had a chance to meet a person who learned to swim in Seljavallalaug. The atmosphere at the pool was completely different then. At that time there were almost no travellers in Iceland, so bathing in empty Seljavallalaug must have been something amazing.

A couple in the mountains around Seljavallalaug pool in Iceland

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Hidden gem in the mountains

The location of Seljavallalaug makes it so special. Even though the pool is situated not so far away from the Ring Road, it gives an impression of a place at the end of the world.

Seljavallalaug gives an impression of a place at the end of the world.

Seljavellir pool is located in a quiet valley surrounded by hypnotizing mountains. It’s just a fantastic place to relax and forget about all earthly problems. There is only one disadvantage of this intriguing location. During your visit at Seljavallalaug you can get so lazy that you will have problems with leaving this enchanting area.

Growing popularity of the pool in Seljavellir

For many years Seljavallalaug was a secret spot known only by the locals. The information about the pool located in such an intriguing location rather did not spread that far.

Recently this truly unique place has started to attract thousands of travellers. In the summertime, especially on sunny days the pool often gets completely overcrowded. It measures only 25 × 10 m, but sometimes you can find inside a crazy number of people. You start to think, how did they manage to fit here.

We had our own method to avoid the crowds and enjoy the bath, as well as incredible views on our own, or at least in a much smaller group. Last year we lived for six months at Thorvaldseyri, just a few kilometres from the pool. It’s easy to guess, that we were quite frequent visitors of Seljavallalaug. We usually went there at night, around midnight or even later.

Remember that from mid-May till mid-August it’s bright all the time, that’s the season of the midnight sun. If you aren’t a night owl like us, you can visit the pool early in the morning or in the winter.

Foggy mountain view from Seljavallalaug swimming pool Iceland

How hot is the water in Seljavallalaug pool?

The water in Seljavallalaug hidden pool has a pleasant temperature of around 34-35 °C. We don’t like when the water is too hot, so it’s an optimal temperature for us. It’s a little bit too warm to swim in the pool, but perfect to relax.

That’s the average temperature of the water. The closer to the hot spring, the warmer it gets. At the opposite corner of the swimming pool (next to the changing rooms), the water might be colder than 30 °C.

Keep in mind that from late autumn to early spring the water is usually colder. Sometimes it has just over 20 degrees, which for most people is too low to enjoy it.

Mountain view from Seljavallalaug hidden pool in Iceland

Is the water in Seljavallalaug pool clean?

Dear adventurers, you should remember that Seljavallalaug swimming pool is a wild place. No one is checking the quality of water and no one is maintaining the pool. Well, once a year volunteers clean everything. No wonder, you might have some doubts whether it’s safe to bath here.

In our opinion, it is worth going wild here J Just don’t be oversensitive about the water’s cleanliness. For some people it might look rather ugly – it is green and full of algae and other stuff. But remember that the water in the pool is circulating all the time. Hot spring goes in from one side, and the water goes out from the other side.

The hidden pool is so incredibly popular that if anyone ever had any health problems after bathing, then the information about it would spread all around the country immediately. Nevertheless, everyone with any dermatological problems should think twice before jumping into the water. We also don’t recommend bathing in Seljavallalaug to little children.

Mountain view from Seljavallalaug hot spring in Iceland

All that glitters is not gold

Seljavallalaug, like everything, has its good and bad sides. Many people visit the pool in the evening. They bring some beer and the pool transforms into a party. It all would be acceptable if everyone took their garbage. But unfortunately, not everyone knows how to behave. And empty bottles, cans and other garbage don’t look so picturesque. And you can always find them here.

The worst are the changing rooms. It seems that some people took them for trash boxes.

You can find there everything – cans, swimsuits, old towels. All covered with mud. We don’t recommend going inside. Change your clothes by the pool instead.

Seljavallalaug is located in a private area. We wouldn’t be surprised if one day the owner decides to close the area.

Despite its enormous popularity and its unpleasant consequences, it’s definitely worth to visit this hidden gem in the mountains. We hope that everyone will start to take care of their personal belongings. Don’t let this unique hidden pool change into a garbage heap. We keep our fingers crossed for it.

Bathing in the winter

If you want to bath in Seljavallalaug hot spring in the winter, you should keep in mind a few things. First of all, you have to prepare for a quite unpleasant clash with the cold before you dive into the water. Well, we know that running almost naked on a chilly day is not so fun, but we’re sure that you won’t regret it.

Apart from this small inconvenience, bathing in the winter has many advantages. First of all, you won’t see any crowds. That means you can come here whenever you want – even around noon.

We think that a good idea would be to come here in the evening when it’s already dark. If you are lucky you could splash in the water and observe northern lights dancing over the mountains. That’s a tempting scenario, don’t you think so? Just remember to bring a good torch or preferably a headlamp.

There is one big disadvantage though. In the winter the water can be not so warm sometimes. But even if you decide not to bath, it is still worth coming here.

Thorvaldseyri farm close to Seljavallalaug pool in Iceland. Eyjafjallajokull volcano in the background.

The famous farm of Thorvaldseyri, located at the foot of Eyjafjallajökull volcano. We were lucky to spend here half a year.  When you pass it, it’s a sign that you are getting close to Seljavallalaug, and soon you’ll be turning to road no. 242. That’s a tip if you are travelling from Reykjavik. 

How to get to Seljavallalaug hidden pool?

Seljavallalaug geothermal pool is located in the southern part of Iceland. Even though it is so popular, it is still a little hidden and off-the-beaten-path attraction. When we stayed at Thorvaldseyri, we worked in Eyjafjallajokull Erupts Visitor Centre. The second most popular question after ‘how to pronounce the name of the volcano’ was ‘how to get to Seljavallalaug swimming pool’. We heard it at least a dozen times every day.

At the crossroads, there are no signs, which will lead you to the pool. And on the way, you will see one sign with the name of Seljavellir, but that’s it. You just have to know where it is, and then it’s very easy to get there. Just follow our tips.

Travelling from Reykjavik

When you are heading to the pool from Reykjavik, keep your eyes wide open when you see the famous Thorvaldseyri farm at the foot of Eyjafjallajokull volcano (see the picture above, it will be on your left). The farm is located 20 km (around 20 min drive) after Seljalandsfoss waterfall.

When you pass the farm, after around 1 km, you will drive over a little bridge and get to a crossroads with Raufarfellsvegur (no. 242). You will see a sign Raufarfell. Turn left. By the way, that’s the first road on your left after passing Thorvaldseyri. When you get to road 242 just drive straight ahead all the time (don’t turn right to Raufarfell), and you’ll get to the end of the road, where you will find the Seljavallalaug parking. The parking is situated just 2.5 km from the Ring Road.

Travelling from Vik

If you are heading to Seljavellir from the opposite direction, that is from Vik, you will get to the pool soon after your stop by the famous waterfall Skogafoss in Skogar. Continue to drive on the Ring Road. 4 km from Skogar you will see a cave building called Drangshlid on your right (it’s worth stopping there too).

After around 3km you will get to the crossroads with the road 242. Don’t turn here, just continue driving for another kilometre until you get to the second crossroads with the road 242 (it’s a loop). You will see a sign with a name Raufarfell. Turn right and drive straight till the end of the road – 2.5 km.

Condition of the road to Seljavellir

The paved road no. 242 after around 800 m turns into a gravel road called Seljavellir. The condition of the road has been changing in front of our eyes. During our 6-month stay at Thorvaldseyri, we travelled around Iceland in a small and well-known city car –Toyota Yaris. Yes, we know that it’s not the best machine to conquer Icelandic roads 😉

The road to Seljavallalaug has never been in a perfect condition. Keep in mind that it’s not a public road. When we went there for the first time in May 2017 we had no problems with getting there. There were lots of holes, but nothing of the extreme.

Unfortunately, month after month it was getting worse and worse. During just a few summer months the road has changed completely. Because of the growing popularity of the pool and increasing traffic more and more holes appeared on the road. And they were getting deeper and deeper.

During our last visit at Seljavallalaug at the beginning of November, we barely managed to get there. We’ve never seen such a bad road anywhere. Neither in the Westfjords nor even in India. Roads in India compared to this one are fantastic.

If the road condition doesn’t improve and the holes aren’t patched, then soon not everyone will be able to visit the pool. For sure travellers renting small city cars will have problems with this. Well, you can always leave your car at the end of the paved road and walk there. It’s just 2 km to the parking. But if you are renting a 4×4, then you will, of course, have no problems with getting here.

Mountain view from Seljavallalaug thermal pool in Iceland

Trail to Seljavallalaug pool

The pool is not situated right next to the parking. Before you jump into the water, a short walk awaits you. Reaching your destination will take you approximately 15 or 20 minutes at a slower pace. The path leading to the pool it is not marked but trodden. You will have no problem with finding the path unless you want to go there in the winter. But even then you shouldn’t have any bigger problems. Just follow the river upwards.

The trail is far from demanding, so even not so fit travellers will be completely fine here. There is no climbing on the way. You walk uphill slightly all the time. There are two small stream crossings on the way. The first one is completely negligible, and the second one is not difficult at all. There are a few stones you have to walk over and that’s it. You are on the other bank.

You can’t see the swimming pool until you are almost there.

Seljavallalaug hidden pool in Iceland

Seljavallalaug swimming pool: Map

Seljavallalaug: practical info

  • How to get to the pool: To reach the hidden pool, turn from the Ring Road to road no. 242 (Raufarfellsvegur). Read our detailed directions above.
  • 4×4 or normal car: You can still get there with a regular car, but it’s more and more demanding. Read our in-depth explanation above.
  • Opening hours: The pool is a wild attraction so you don’t have to bother with opening hours. It is open 24 hours a day.
  • Lifeguard: The pool is wild, so there is no lifeguard.
  • Prices: It’s free.
  • Parking: Parking at Seljavallalaug is free.
  • Time: We recommend spending here around 1.5 or 2 hours (the walk included).
  • Food: There is no store near the pool. Remember to bring something to eat and drink with you.
  • Visit with children: The stream crossing shouldn’t be difficult for children, of course, if you help them. When it comes to the cleanliness of water, read the part above.
  • Changing rooms: There are changing rooms, but it’s not a good idea to use them. They are quite disgusting, so it’s much better to change your clothes behind the building or somewhere else.
  • Showers and toilets: There are no showers and toilets.
  • Footwear: When you are planning to visit Seljavallalaug swimming pool, remember to bring good hiking shoes.

Have a great bath in the mountains!

Bathing in Seljavallalaug hidden pool Iceland

Marta with our book about Iceland called “Shark and Ram”, enjoying her bath in Seljavallalaug. 

Liven up those empty walls!

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