The island boasts plenty of natural wonders, and one of its pride and joys is the geysers. But exactly what are they and which are considered to be some of the must-visit geyser spots? We reveal all in our best geysers in Iceland guide.
What is a Geyser?
A geyser is probably the most animated and charismatic spring you’ve ever encountered. A geyser is a vent in the Earth’s surface that lets out water/steam as if the planet itself is letting out an exacerbated sigh. Or burst out laughing after having taken a sip...
It is truly a sight to see, but it can also be a pretty dangerous one. Standing next to boiling hot water being blasted hundreds of feet into the air might not be such a great idea. Luckily, there are more than enough safety measures and precautions in place to ensure visitors’ safety.
Where it All Began
The very concept of a geyser actually originated in Iceland. There is, in fact, a Geysir. Also known as The Great Geysir today, it was the very first to be discovered in the 1800s and the introduction of the concept to Europeans. Geyser is actually a derivative from the Icelandic word geysa, meaning “to gush”.
The Best Geysers in Iceland
If you are planning on going to spectacular geysers in Iceland spotting, then use this list to map out your itinerary:
The Great Geysir
You cannot have a list of the best geysers in Iceland and not have the origin story come out on top. Although the Geyser is mostly dormant these days, it used to spit out boiling hot water of almost 125 degrees Celsius 70 meters into the air! Its highest eruption which occurred in 1845 clocked in at a staggering 170 meters!
This geyser is located in the Haukadalur Valley in the Southwestern part of Iceland. As it is so close to the popular Golden Circle route, it still sees its fair share of visitors.
Strokkur is one of the most active geysers on the island, so it should come as no surprise that it’s such a famous geyser in Iceland. When visiting this geyser, expectation builds as the water starts to bubble and boil right before it spits out its steaming hot water every 8 to 10 minutes. Strokkur is just a short walk from The Great Geysir, so many tick off both of these must-visit Iceland geysers on the same day.
It might not be quite as impressive as the “old man” in his heyday, but Strokkur still manages to reach eruption heights of up to 40 meters. What makes this geyser especially interesting is that it also became dormant for a while in the 20th century. Ironically, it did the opposite of most geysers and after an earthquake became less active. But once a blocked conduit was cleaned out in 1963, it has almost made up for lost time with its number of eruptions!
Any Iceland local will be able to tell you about the famous TV ad for Uncle Bens’ rice. In this ad, a boil-in-bag rice is being advertised. A man is shown patiently waiting next to the Stokkur geyser, and along with its eruption comes the man’s delivery; a bag full of perfectly cooked rice. You can watch the Uncle Bens ad here.
Gamla Laugin may not be the biggest geyser in Iceland, but it can still pack some punch. The other name for Gamla Laugin is one that you might recognize: the Secret Lagoon. Yes, that’s right, this famous geothermal pool in Iceland boasts its own small geyser. But don’t be too quick to make judgments based on its size. This small little geyser still manages to erupt almost every five minutes!
Gamla Laugin is located just outside the village of Fludir. It’s not too far away from both The Great Geysir and Stokkur, so many visitors try to cram in all three on the same trip.
Litli? More like little. No, really, its name literally translates to “little geyser”. There are plenty of spectacular geysers in Iceland, but there’s definitely just one this cute. This geyser reminds one more of a little pot of boiling water bubbling away on a stove turned down to a lower heat.
The last time this geyser actually erupted was in the 1900s. Litli is also a geyser that one can easily visit on a trip to Stokkur as it’s just around the corner from this famous geyser in Iceland.
How Many Geysers are in Iceland?
It is estimated that Iceland may actually have between 20-29 active geysers. Unfortunately, we have no way of actually pinpointing them. Some are simply too small to spot easily, and others have actually been covered by concrete and buildings.
Geysers often get triggered by earthquakes, and once triggered it doesn’t mean that they exist indefinitely. Geysers can actually exist for a very short period of time.
Taking a Geyser Snap
As you can imagine, an erupting geyser can make quite an impressive photograph. But it can be extremely challenging to get that “money shot”.
You might have a general idea of how often a geyser erupts, but these Icelandic natural wonders are not on timers. You might be sitting on the edge of your photographer “seat” waiting for the big crescendo. And with so many moving parts during an eruption, it’s easy to end up with a nice picture of a blur.
Reading the Geyser Signs
So, firstly, you’ll need to be able to read the “signs” and be ready to start clicking away. One of the tell-tale signs that you need to get your finger on the trigger, so to speak, is when the water of the geyser starts bubbling more intensely. If you take this sign into account whilst timing the geyser based on its “average stats” you’ll at least be guaranteed one shot of the water spewing out of the earth.
In terms of not ending up with a blurry snap of what looks like a ghostly mist hovering over the ground, you will have to come prepared with a bit of knowledge and skill when it comes to action shots. What are the settings on your phone or camera to capture the spectacular geysers in Iceland best?
A Few More Things to Consider
And finally, there are a few other things to consider to ensure you walk away with the best geysers in Iceland photos:
There will be people. Well, it is one of Iceland’s most renowned tourist attractions, after all. So, if you’re not planning on having any humanoids in your shot, you’ll need to figure out an angle or a diplomatic way of coming to an arrangement with the rest of the visitors.
Take the height of the eruption into account. It’s not much of an eruption photo if half the eruption is happening off camera.
Consider the sun when deciding on your angle. Especially when it’s a slightly overcast day and the sun might come out to surprise you at the most inopportune moment to spoil the perfect photo opp. Having the sun behind you is always a good call.
Ensure that you are standing upwind. If not, you can be sure that you’ll be looking like a drenched cat the moment that eruption happens.
Tips When Visiting the Geysers in Iceland
Before you set off on your adventure of viewing some of the best geysers in Iceland, please keep the following in mind. These will ensure your safety and that you have a memorable experience (for all the right reasons):
There are very few geysers in Iceland that have water temperatures suitable for humans. Unless you’re planning on eating that specific body part, there’s no reason to boil it, so stay out of the water. There are plenty of hot springs in Iceland where you can go and take a dip without ending up looking like dinner.
Steam can also cause serious burns. Don’t think that by staying away from the water, you have free-range to move around the geyser and the steam emanating from it. You will end up with the same results as if you actually took the plunge (literally).
Do not stray off the designated paths. There’s a reason why these paths were made in the first place. And whilst you may think that it’s fun to take a stroll on “the road less traveled”, it’s not going to be so fun anymore when the ground suddenly gives way beneath you.
Be careful of overcrowding, especially during the Iceland summer months. Pushing and shoving is something you definitely do not want to be a part of, a mere couple of feet away from what is essentially a boiling pot of water.
Places to Stay When Visiting the Best Geysers in Iceland
If you intend to make the best geysers in Iceland stops along your road trip whilst doing the Golden Circle, we recommend considering the following places as overnight options:
Visit the Geysers in Iceland the Budget-Friendly Way
Visiting the geysers of Iceland to either marvel at its power and beauty as one of Iceland’s top 10 highlights or take the perfect photo will leave you with memories and an impression that will last a lifetime.
If you’re planning on taking in most of the geyser sights on your Golden Circle road trip, we suggest that you go the budget-friendly route and rent a campervan in Reykjavík. That way you will save on accommodation expenses, not be bogged down by pre-bookings, and easily make use of the campsites mentioned above.