Just 67 miles north of Reykjavik, Snorralaug Hot Spring is a historical and cultural landmark surrounded by bucolic grassy fields and a farm-like atmosphere. While swimming here has been banned since 1817, it’s a beautiful stop on any road trip or city escape to learn about the past.
This quaint little thermal pool first shows up in historical documents in a book written in the 12th century by one of the country’s most popular writers and poets, Snorri Sturluson, called The Book of Settlements, or the Sturlunga saga. The property was owned by a church at the time and was host to the author’s home.
Today, Reykholt, the small hot spring village Sturluson moved to in 1206 AD, has fewer than 100 people living within the town limits. The pool was named after its famous resident who not only wrote but was a speaker in Parliament and who, sadly, was assassinated in 1241 AD.
The 10th-century stones used to line the pool can also be seen in the private underground tunnel that leads from nearby to Sturluson’s home. The set of doors covering the entrance is next to the pool and open to visitors hoping to explore the space.
Snorralaug is known as a contender for the oldest hot springs pool used by humans in the country. Its namesake, among other things, will be remembered for writing an old Norse textbook that provides the largest resource the world has on gods like Thor and Loki.
The Closed Pool (no swimming) and Other Activities
Visitors can get the best view of the single pool from a balcony set up for the purpose. It’s open 24/7. The pool itself is 13ft (4m) in diameter and 2.3-3.3ft (0.7-1m) deep with a bench lining the wall. Temperature varies widely, often going above that which is comfortable to bathe in, so you’re not missing out because of the swimming ban.
Western Iceland is a major geothermal area, and there are plenty of other springs to explore and actually get in. Multiple waterfalls are within easy reach of Reykholt. For more medieval history, guests can head to the Snorrastofa Museum next to the pool on the ground floor of a local church.
Whatever season you decide to visit, this small host village won’t disappoint. In the winter, the northern lights are often visible, and in the summer, the Reykholt Festival, an international chamber music event, is in town. Wild Icelandic horses wander freely in the area to add to the mystique.
Snorralaug is on the list of stops for several different tours if you don’t feel like renting a car. If you prefer to drive, it’s easily reachable from a trip around the Ring Road.
From Reykjavik, take Sudurgata to Hringbraut/Route 49. Follow Route 49 northwest to Vesturlandsvegur then to Þjóðvegur 1, eventually turning onto Borgarfjarddrbraut 50. This leads to Halsasveitarvegur 518 with a final left turn onto Varmalandsvegur that will lead you into Reykholt. Snorralaug will be on the left.
Address: MP75+JG5, 320 Reykholt, Iceland
Season: Year-round (not open to swimming at all)