In Iceland, every community has its swimming hall and Hveragerði is no exception. Although they are typically quite simple affairs with basic changing rooms and showers, most swimming halls include a pool and hot tubs, which (depending on the size of the community) oftentimes become the de facto social clubs in town. Local swimming halls are, indeed, a quintessential Icelandic experience.
Fortunately here in Hveragerði we have fantastic swimming hall known as Laugaskarð, which has been a point of pride for the village since it opened in 1938. For a long time it was the largest swimming pool in Iceland and is still fed by the ample geothermal water generated in the hills around Hveragerði.
In 2008 southwest Iceland experienced an earthquakes registering a magnitude of 6.1 with its epicenter not far from Frost & Fire and the village of Hveragerði. Luckily no one was killed during the quake, but the locals were (pun intended) quite shaken up! There is a small exhibition on the earthquake in Hveragerði where visitors can see footage from the quake and even step into an earthquake simulator to experience what an earthquake of similar magnitude might feel like. The exhibition is free although there is a small fee to use the simulator.
Venice has its canals. Las Vegas has its casinos. And Hveragerði has its hot springs. Hot springs have become synonymous with Hveragerði. Literally. The village’s name means “hot spring garden”.
The springs are not just a quirky remnant from a bygone era, but very much a living part of the daily life in Hveragerði. The hot springs have given rise to some of the most sophisticated geothermal horticultural systems in the country (and beyond), a local culture that relishes bathing and soaking in geothermal waters and even a rich tradition of hot spring cooking, including the region’s time-honored “hverabrauð”, a dense, slightly sweet rye cake cooked in the springs.
In fact, the Varmá restaurant in Frost & Fire is proud to be one of the few kitchens that preserves this heritage method of cooking, creating innovative dishes characterized by hot spring cooking and featuring local ingredients.
Just beyond the hotel further inland is the Hveragerði Golf Course at Gufudalur, whose name literally means “steam valley”. The 9-hole course is popular for its beautifully bizarre landscape flanking the Varmá thermal river and for some unusual hazards like open hot springs and plumes of steam.
For more information contact Hveragerði Golf Club at +354 483 5090.
The area around Frost & Fire has long been a center for geothermal gardening and horticulture. With its warmed earth and plentiful hot water and renewable energy, the ground is an ideal place to cultivate produce, flowers and other vegetation in an otherwise somewhat inhospitable environment. Not only is Hveragerði home to the horticulture department of the National Agriculture University, but the home gardens of Hveragerði are also said to be the envy of the nation.
One of Iceland’s most popular tours is known as the “Golden Circle”, combining a number of truly remarkable sites in a relatively small area. Although there are a number of variations on the itinerary, the three most important stops are:
Þingvellir national park – The only UNESCO World Heritage site on the mainland and is remarkable not only for its history as the birthplace of Iceland’s ancient Alþingi parliament but also for its tectonics, including the Almannagjá rift valley.
Geysir geothermal area – Geysir is the original erupting hot spring and the namesake of all “geysers”. Although it only rarely erupts, the adjacent Strokkur hot spring erupts dependably every few minutes. The entire area is rife with geothermal activity like fumaroles, bubbling mud pots and thermal pools.
Gullfoss waterfall – Gullfoss is an incredibly powerful waterfall that visitors can view from a variety of vantage points. During the summer, you can walk right up to the cascade, getting close enough to feel the spray of mist on your face.
You will be within easy reach of major sights
Some of South Iceland’s most notable tourist attractions are not far from Hveragerði, for instance Gullfoss Falls, Geysir Hot Springs, Skálholt, and Þingvellir National Park. The environment around Hveragerði is pristine, a true paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.
Near Hveragerði is the State Horticultural School located at Reykir in Ölfus, an ancient farmstead that many famous chieftains called home, including Gissur Jarl and Hálfdan the Lawspeaker.
Many nationally known artists have now made Hveragerði their home, so in addition to being called In Bloom, Hveragerði is often spoken of as an artists’ centre.
It is easy to enjoy life in all its splendour in Hveragerði. Salmon and trout swim in the Varmá River, berries grow wild in fields to the west of town, and innumerable walking trails wind through the beautiful countryside.
The area immediately around Frost & Fire is ideal for casual walks along the thermal river, to a small waterfall and the cliffs overlooking Hveragerði village.
There are also longer signposted hikes into the geothermally active area around Mount Hengill volcano, including hikes to mountain lakes, small historical sites and geothermal formations. The valleys just north of the hotel — Reykjadalur and Gufudalur — are popular among hikers and sightseers, especially when they stop for a dip in the thermal pools where the hot springs run into the Reykjadalsá river. Reykjavík Energy maintains the hiking paths in the area and publishes a map of the trails and sites in English.