What makes Iceland’s three National Parks so special

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Most people that have been to Iceland can agree that Iceland is a country of extraordinary nature and unique landscape. But what makes Iceland’s three National Parks: Þingvellir, Vatnajökull and Snæfellsjökull stick out from other areas of the country?

 

Þingvellir National Park:

Located only 40 km northeast of Reykjavík, Þingvellir – literally “Parliament Plains” is the location of the oldest parliaments in the world, Alþingi, established around 930 and continued to convene there until 1798.
Þingvellir also lies in a rift valley caused by the separation of the Eurasian and the North American tectonic plates and nowhere else can you see the edges of both plates as clearly as in Þingvellir.
Some of the rifts are full of clear water, and one of them called Silfra has become a popular snorkelling and diving spot. It is a once in a lifetime experience where you get to dive between the two continental plates.
Þingvellir has been “a protected national shrine” since 1930 and is held in high regards by all Icelanders. Lake Þingvellir (Þingvallavatn) located alongside the National park adds onto the areas picturesque beauty and it’s the perfect stop to catch some great photos. Þingvellir National park is one of the three stops on the popular Golden Circle tour.

 

Vatnajökull National Park

Is a protected wilderness area in South Iceland and Iceland’s largest national park and Europe’s second largest. What makes the park so unique is mostly it’s dramatic landscape. The park circles around Europe’s largest glacier Vatnajökull glacier, with a surface area of 8.100 km2 and also includes Jökulsárlón, a picturesque glacial lagoon with icebergs, and Svartifoss and Dettifoss waterfalls. Skaftafell is the gateway to the park with a visitor center, campground and hiking trails. From there are short and easy trails that lead to Svartifoss waterfall and Skaftafellsjökull glacier. Vatnajökull has many smaller glaciers stemming from it like Breiðarmerkurjökull, which ends at the popular glacial lagoon, Jökulsárlón. There are several tour companies that operate in Skaftafell that offer guided tours and hikes in and around the National park.

 

Snæfellsjökull National Park

Is the country’s youngest national park and only park in Iceland that is situated at the coast.
As with the other National Parks, it is protected due to its extraordinary landscape and natural diversity. It features sites like the mystical glacier Snæfellsjökull, an inactive volcano that is actually visible from Reykjavík on a clear day. Snæfellsjökull volcano was made famous in 1984 by Jules Verne in his popular science fiction book ‘Journey to the center of the Earth’ as the featured volcano in the story.
Djúpalónssandur or the black Lava Pearl Beach is located in Snæfellsnes park. There you will find peculiar rock formations, one which has a large hole in the middle and by looking through it you will see Snæfellsjökull..great place to stop and take a photo.
Mineral springs can be found at various places, such as at the farm Ölkelda and at Lýsuhóll, which has a thermal pool with naturally-carbonated water. Learn more about Snæfellsnes peninsula in our previous blog: “Explore the majestic Snæfellsnes Peninsula”.

Thermal pools and hot springs in Iceland without breaking the bank

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When you think about hot springs in Iceland, the Blue Lagoon is more then likely to be what pops into your mind. Well for a reason, it is the most famous geothermal lagoon in Iceland and it’s incredibly cool and worth the visit…if it’s in your budget.

With entry fee starting at 6990 ISK / 55€, it may not be in everyone’s budget to visit this famous lagoon. So we’ve decided to come up with a list of less expensive alternatives.

 

LOCAL SWIMMING POOLS

Visiting a local thermal pool is a quintessential thing to do while on a family vacation in Iceland.  Many of them offer water slides and shallow pools for kids and variety of hot tubs and steam baths for adults. A great and affordable alternative for those on a quick family stopover in Reykjavík or on a road trip around Iceland with the family.

 

LAUGARDALSLAUG

Laugardalslaug is Iceland’s largest thermal pool and the most popular amongst travellers.
It is located in Laugardalur valley, only a quick bus ride away from downtown Reykjavík and has a large outdoor pool, outdoor children’s pool and paddling pool, water slides, numerous hot tubs and a steam bath. The entry fee is 980 ISK. for adults, 160 ISK. for children 6-17 years old and free for children younger than 6.

After your soak it’s important to stop by the hot dog stand located outside the swimming pool because having an Icelandic hot dog is a crucial part of the whole Icelandic pool experience.

 

ÁLFTANESLAUG

Álftanes peninsula, a suburb of Reykjavik has an impressive local swimming pool, a whole lot of fun for kids. It has two large hot tubs, a kiddie pool, Iceland’s biggest waterslide and a wave pool (the only one of it’s kind in Iceland).
After playing and soaking in Álftanes pool we suggest you stop by Bessastaðir, the official residence of the President of Iceland, also located at Álftanes peninsula.

 

Vesturbæjarlaug

A small pool in close vicinity of downtown Reykjavik. The pool is one of the older once in Reykjavik and is popular amongst downtown locals. It’s a no frills swimming pool without slides or a fancy wave pool but just a nice and friendly local pool with great hot tubs, sauna and a steam room.

 

NATURAL HOT SPRINGS AND LAGOONS

Experience the magical feeling of floating in a natural hot spring in the beautiful Icelandic nature without spending a fortune.

 

Seljavallalaug

This remote pool was built in 1923 and is Iceland’s oldest man made pool. It is located close to the famous Eyjafjallajökull and the hot water comes from a natural hot spring near by. There is no entrance fee but there is a donation box  where you can leave some money to ensure the pool’s upkeep.

 

Landbrotalaug

Approx 1.5 hour from Reykjavík on Snæfellsnes peninsula you will find (if you look very carefully) a small hot spring called Landbrotalaug. The reason it’s not easy to find is because it’s tiny and only fits 2-3 people max at a time. It is worth the visit though, especially with a loved one as there is just something majestic about Snæfellsnes and soaking in this cozy little hot spring in the middle of the Icelandic wilderness. There is no entry fee but be prepared that there are no changing facilities at the location.

 

Nauthólsvík beach

A geothermal beach located in Reykjavík. On the beach you will find a man-made lagoon where hot water is pumped into so seawater and hot geothermal water mix so you can comfortably splash away. There is no entry fees to use the lagoon or other facilities at the beach which is also equipped with a large hot tub, steam-bath, changing facilities and showers.

 

Reykjadalur / Steam Valley

A popular hiking trail located 45 minutes from Reykjavík city.  It’s located on a geothermal area and the valley is filled with hot springs and mud pools. It is a beautiful and scenic hike and once you reach a certain point you will find a warm stream that runs down the center of the valley that you can bathe in. The higher up you go the warmer the water gets. A great place to rest your muscles after a good hike, and maybe have a beverage or two. Just make sure to pick up your empty bottles and garbage before heading back down.

 

Secret Lagoon

The Secret Lagoon is a geothermal area near the small town of Flúdir. It was formed in 1891, making it one of the oldest geothermal pools  in Iceland. Today the pool area has all the modern facilities that a modern person may need, however the lagoon has been kept to stay natural and unique and the pool’s natural surroundings and steam rising into the air gives the place a magical feeling. The fee to enter the Secret Lagoon is 2800 ISK for adults and free for children under 14.

Let’s not forget how vulnerable our nature is so let’s treat the land with respect by sticking to the beaten paths and not leaving our garbage behind.  

Enjoy!