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When my sister Sarah started planning her own trip to Iceland two weeks before mine, we decided to have her tell you about some adventures of her own! Here’s the story of her Hot Spring Hunt with Arctic Adventures. –Kate
If there is one thing you must do in Iceland (especially if you are a city dweller like myself), it is to get out into the middle of nowhere. Luckily, Icelanders know how stunning their country is, and there are countless easy ways for visitors to get out and see it. When Zack and I heard about the Hot Spring Hunt – a trip that would allow us to hike through the beautiful countryside, and bathe in natural hot springs – we knew we had to check it out.
The Arctic Adventures office is located on Laugavegur, the main shopping street in Reykjavik, an easy walking distance from almost anywhere in town. While we opted to meet at the office, the Arctic Adventures crew will pick you up from just about any hotel, hostel or guesthouse. Our guide, Gulli, introduced himself and loaded us up in the van to pick up the rest of our group.
Our destination was a short half hour drive toward the southern part of the island. After a quick pit stop at a rest area near Hveragerði, we set out. Gulli told us to stick with him on the trail, as we were hiking in a high-heat area where the landscape was constantly changing. Due to the hot water underneath the ground as well as a 6.3 magnitude earthquake in 2008, new springs are opening up all the time – and accidentally stepping in one would be…less than fun.
“I’ve been so excited to come here, especially since we found out Game of Thrones was filmed here!” I told Gulli.
“Yes!” he replied. “We also played Nepal in Batman Begins!”
Wait a minute. I’m walking in the footsteps of Christian Bale, Liam Neeson AND Peter Dinklage? Well played, Iceland. I’m impressed.
After about 3km of beautiful, twisting mountains, valleys and streams, we arrived at Gulli’s favorite bathing spot – a perfect, nature-made hot tub in the middle of the stream. We stripped off our outer layers and waded into the toasty stream. Laying back in the water, submerged neck-deep, with nothing but quiet and steam and mythical looking ridges rising up around us – yep, this was Iceland.
After an hour of soaking and lunching, we layered up to start the hike back. That’s when we realized one very important piece of advice to give anyone else looking to try this fantastic trip: Bring spare underwear. Or don’t, and feel those refreshing Icelandic breezes in a new, special way.
On the trek back, Gulli imparted all his Icelandic knowledge and stories on us – from showing us where to spot wild thyme, to how to place the least amount of stress on your body when hiking on an incline. He even pointed out an “elf house” (apparently, 90% of the Icelandic population believes in elves. They will even change construction plans for buildings and roads if they believe it might be disturbing an elf habitat.) Gulli had recently done this same hike – which winds around high-reaching ridges – with two people, one of whom was deathly afraid of heights.
“Luckily,” Gulli remarked, “the other hiker happened to be a psychiatrist.” Gulli entertained us with stories of the intense hike he had done that weekend, as part of a wilderness guide training program – a 6 hour trek to their campsite, at night, with only a compass.
“We were in the freezing river for two hours,” he excitedly explained their rigorous river-crossing practice, “and THEN they let us put on wet suits for the next three!” Trust me, if you want to have a great hike, you need a guide like Gulli who clearly loves this stuff.
We made it back to our van and began the drive back to Reykjavik. Gulli even went out of his way to drop us off at the bus station, where we needed to change a ticket.
All in all, this was one of our favorite things we did while in Iceland. We got to see the beautiful landscape, experience the famous hot springs in the wild, and get a taste for the brand of Icelandic friendliness that we experienced again and again on our trip.
If you enjoy Games of Thrones, heroic sagas, breathtaking landscapes, and a stiff breeze through your privates, you will love this trip. I know I did!
Sarah is a secretly pretentious city dweller who loves loudly pretending to forget that sometimes stuff outside NYC isn’t open 24 hours a day. She works in production and loves volleyball, Game of Thrones, and whiskey. Sarah is a little annoyed that the guys in her neighborhood seem to have formed a casual drum circle that performs in front of the bodega on Saturdays. She lives in Manhattan.