A convenient stop after a visit to Into the Glacier is Húsafell, home to Husafell Hotel. And if you’ve been on the 10-hour tour (takes about 3-4 hours), you can perfectly time your lunch at Húsafell Bistro.
In addition to an à la carte menu, the bistro offers a daily hlaðborð (or buffet) for lunch where you can help yourself to kjötsúpa (Icelandic lamb soup) and vegetable soup, as well as pizzas and dishes from an extensive salad bar (chicken salad, pasta salad, sweet potato salad, and tomato and mozzarella salad—and more) with a variety of dressings and oils. It’s a great place to refuel after your morning’s exertions or even to refuel before the activities that await you next.
And what better to do then than to visit Húsafell Canyon Baths? These man-made geothermal pools are located in the highlands of Iceland and set in a surreal canyon landscape.
Entrance to the Húsafell Canyon thermal baths cannot be done without authorization, but you can buy tickets at the Húsafell hotel in an office next to the bistro for an exclusive minibus visit that includes transport with a guide, access and the time to devote to it.
Trips are made with fairly small groups that are taken on a short ride of around 10 minutes. Along the way, our guide told us about the area, the settlement of the Vikings around 940-950 AD, and the family that owns the Húsafell Hotel that dates back seven generations. We also learned about the region’s cold springs (which produce enough water to support half a million people daily) and the geothermal energy that allows the region to produce 40 liters per second of water hot at 70 degrees centigrade. enough to heat the hotel, the swimming pools and 200 houses, as well as the surrounding agricultural areas.
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The parents of the family who now run the area were rural tourism entrepreneurs – other farmers in the area thought they had ‘lost their minds’ killing their sheep and started ‘farming’ with tourists at the square. They built a swimming pool and a camping area and began to rent small recreational houses during the summer months. But it turned out to be the right decision, and that’s why Húsafell thrives to this day.
As we got closer to our destination a dark hill to the right was reported and the patches of snow on it. It was the shield volcano named ‘Ok’ on which the Okjökull glacier was downgraded as a glacier in 2014. (To be classified as a glacier, the snow had to have a certain thickness as well as some movement.) There is snow snow there all year round, but it doesn’t behave like a glacier. A plaque was installed in 2019 and a ceremony was held attended by Katrín Jakobsdóttir, the Prime Minister of Iceland, and other dignitaries.
After hearing this sad story, we took a tour and drove through the middle of three canyons, where we parked and took a short walk to the Húsafell Canyon Baths. Although the land here is private, there are no “do not trespass” signs – people are welcome to hike and enjoy the nature of the area as long as they respect the environment and don’t litter.
The last part of the descent to the geothermal pools is via a long wooden staircase.
And once downstairs, there are men’s and women’s changing rooms, as well as an outdoor shower – you have to shower before entering the pools (but don’t worry, it’s hot!).
Wood-clad changing rooms are simply furnished, with benches and upturned horseshoes repurposed as clothespins.
The baths setting is as spectacular as it is tranquil – it’s good that they only take small groups as it makes for a more intimate experience. There are two tubs – the taller of the two has a large rock just below the water surface that you have to negotiate when getting into the water, so it’s best to enter upside down to avoid falling .
The pool closest to the bridge and changing rooms is easier to reach by a few steps and has large rocks where you can sit and relax in slightly above body temperature water. If you want to experience the cold water, you can lie in the creek (but beware, it’s freezing cold!).
A surprise on the way back to the minibus, which I didn’t expect, was a short walk to a wooden viewing platform.
From there, we were able to admire the two-tiered Langifoss waterfall. Normally, we would then have descended the valley on foot to be picked up by the lower minibus. However, as can happen in Iceland, the weather deteriorated (I could have sworn it was trying to snow…in July!) and we instead took the most immediate route back to our transport.
On the way back we heard of Reverend Snorri Björnsson who moved to Húsafell in 1747 at the age of 37. He was already famous for saving many lives as he grew up in the west fjords of Iceland and learned to swim on his own (at a time when Icelanders couldn’t swim). He was very strong and a foreman on a ship, and when small fishing boats capsized, he saved many fishermen. In Húsafell he is perhaps best known, however, for the Stone of Húsafell, a legendary lifting stone which weighs 186 kg (410 lb) which he used as the entrance door to a stone sheep pen and goats he built. This very stone can still be seen at the Húsafell paddock today and has been used in the World’s Strongest Man competition in 1992 as well as several Iceland’s Strongest Man competitions since .
Are you planning a trip to Iceland yourself? You can watch a video of our trip to Iceland here: