Geysir Geothermal Area: Exploring Iceland´s Dynamic Hotspot

  • by Neil
  • Golden Circle Iceland
  • 29 Oct 2023

Geysir Geothermal Area: Exploring Iceland´s Dynamic Hotspot

Geysir is perhaps the quintessential image one congures up when one hears the word Iceland. The spectacular and frequent eruptions of the geyser here has made Geysir one of the most visited attractions in Iceland. And for very good reasons. Geysir sits on the famlous Golden Circle route, the most popular day tour in Iceland. Join us as we explore more about the geology of Geysir in this guide for visitors.

Geysir Geothermal Area Overview

Geysir Geothermal Area is a captivating natural wonder that showcases the powerful forces at work beneath Iceland’s surface. Here we explore the world-renowned hot springs and geysers that epitomize the volcanic activity of the region.

Location and Significance

The Geysir Geothermal Area lies in the Haukadalur Valley, a part of Southwest Iceland. It’s an integral component of the renowned Golden Circle tourist route, which includes other notable sites such as Gullfoss and Thingvellir National Park. This geothermal phenomenon is within about a 90-minute drive from Reykjavik, making it accessible for visitors year-round.

Strokkur Geysir

At the heart of the area is Strokkur, the most active geyser, erupting every 5-10 minutes and reaching heights of up to 30 meters. While the Great Geysir is less active nowadays, it remains a historical attraction as it has lent its name to geysers worldwide. Surrounding these are numerous bubbling hot springs and fumaroles, creating a landscape that’s both alien and mesmerizing.

When is the best month to visit Geysir

Summer and winter offer distinct experiences at Geysir. The longer days and milder weather of summer make it the peak season for visitors, ideal for enjoying the area’s attractions. However, the winter months enchant visitors with snow-blanketed landscapes and fewer crowds, though it’s vital to check road conditions and weather forecasts during this season.

Golden circle map
Geysir lies on the Golden Circle route, along with Thingvellir, Gullfoss and Kerið crater

Nearby Attractions and Landmarks

When visiting the Geysir Geothermal Area, we have the opportunity to explore several of Iceland’s most renowned natural wonders, all conveniently located within close proximity. These attractions encapsulate the essence of Iceland’s moniker, “the land of fire and ice.”

The Golden Circle Route

The Golden Circle is a popular tourist route that features three of Iceland’s most famous landmarks: Geysir, Gullfoss waterfall, and Þingvellir National Park. This convenient loop is an essential journey for any traveler wanting to experience Iceland’s unique geothermal activity and breathtaking landscapes in a single day trip.

Thingvellir National Park

Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is not only a place of geological significance due to the visible rift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates but also a site steeped in history as the location of Iceland’s first parliament. Travelers can witness the dramatic landscape characterized by fissures, such as Almannagjá and the serene Þingvallavatn Lake.

Additional Nearby Geothermal Sites

Apart from Geysir, which lends its name to all spouting hot springs or “geysers,” our explorations in the region can extend to other geothermal marvels. These include the Secret Lagoon at Flúðir, the lesser-known but equally mesmerizing Kúalaug hot springs, and the Haukadalur valley, home to various fumaroles, and mud pots—similar to those found in Yellowstone Park and North Iceland.

Through these attractions, we can truly appreciate why Iceland is often referred to as the “Land of Fire and Ice.”

Strokkur at the moment of eruption

Exploring Geysir Geothermal Area

Geysir Geothermal Area is a must-see destination for nature enthusiasts and those interested in geothermal wonders. 

Guided Tours

We recommend guided tours as they offer in-depth insights and historical context about the Geysir and Strokkur, the area’s most active geyser. These tours are part of the renowned Golden Circle Tour, which typically includes convenient tour buses, knowledgeable guides, and scheduled stops. You’ll have the chance to learn about the geothermal activity and local folklore while ensuring that you don’t miss any significant features.

BusTravel Iceland offers a range of Golden Circle tours that include a stop at Geysir. We usually spend around 45 minutes here, giving you the chance to witness several eruptions of Strokkur geysir, which can be relied upon to erupt every 5-10 minutes or so.

Exploring Geysir on your own

For those who prefer a more independent experience, self-drive tours allow you to explore at our own pace. Renting a car and driving through the area is straightforward, with ample parking available near the main attractions. Detailed information is readily accessible at Geysir Visitor Center, making it easier to understand the geothermal phenomena you’ll witness. Remember to stay on the marked paths for your safety and the protection of the fragile landscape.

Visiting Geysir is free though there has been discussions of adding an entrance fee or parking fees in the past.

Geysir Visitor Center offers a range of shopping and dining experiences

The Best Places to stay near Geysir 

Geysir can easily be visited on a day tour starting and ending in Reykjavík. But if you prefer, there are some great accommodation options nearby. After a day of exploration, relax at the nearby Hotel Geysir or Hotel Gullfoss, which offer comfortable lodging. Dining options include restaurants with panoramic views, some featuring traditional Icelandic cuisine made from local ingredients. 

The Great Geysir: The dormant giant

Strokkur is not the only geysir in Haukadalur. Geysir is the name of the geyser for which this area, and the feature itself, is named. Though it has not erupted since 2016, when active its eruptions were on a much grander scale than Strokkur. The Great Geysir, as it’s often called, is first referenced in texts dating back to the 13th century. The earliest mention in written records occurs in 1294, and recounts an earthquake that likely stimulated its activity.

Scientific examination of eruption records reveals periodic changes in the frequency and height of eruptions over the centuries. For instance, in the year 1845, Geysir’s eruptions reached impressive heights, recorded at approximately 170 meters (557 feet). However, the following year, a substantial decrease was observed, with water reaching heights of only 43-54 meters (141-177 feet).

  • 1896 Earthquake: This event rejuvenated Geysir, triggering eruptions reaching up to 60 meters (1968 feet).
  • 20th-century dormancy: Geysir experienced decreased activity, sometimes lying dormant for years.
  • 2000 Intervention: To stimulate activity, Geysir was induced to erupt for a period by the addition of soap, a practice now discontinued and considered a grave mistake.
  • 2016 Eruption: The last recorded eruption.

Research indicates that Geysir’s eruptive behavior is intrinsically linked to seismic activity. Earthquakes tend to enhance its performance, leading to phases of increased activity. This pattern underscores the delicate balance of geothermal forces at play beneath the surface.

great geysir eruption 19th century
This 19th century illustration shows Strokkur and Geysir erupting side by side

Geysers and the science behind them

In the Geysir Geothermal Area, we encounter remarkable geological phenomena driven by Earth’s heat. Geysers and hot springs provide a spectacular display, while the movement of tectonic plates deep beneath the surface influences volcanic activity which, in turn, fuels these surface features.

Geysers and Hot Springs

Geysers: Geysers, such as the renowned Strokkur, operate through intricate subterranean systems where water is superheated by the Earth’s geothermal energy. Strokkur’s eruptions, taking place roughly every 6-10 minutes, shoot water as high as 30 meters (98 feet) into the air. These powerful natural fountains are not only a testament to the geothermal power beneath our feet but also serve as natural indicators of the geothermal dynamics at play.

Hot Springs: Surrounding hot springs typify surface expressions of geothermal energy. Hot springs like those found in the Geysir Geothermal Area result from heated groundwater emerging from the Earth’s crust. Here, the water’s sulfate and silica content reflect its journey through the volcanic rock from which it derives its heat.

Volcanic Activity and Tectonics

Volcanic Activity: This region of Iceland sits atop a hot spot where the mantle plume transmits an ample supply of heat, triggering our observed volcanic activity. Though this area of Iceland doesn´t see volcanic eruptions, the thermal energy released by the Earth is a driving force for the geothermal features visible at the surface.

Tectonic Plates: Furthermore, Iceland straddles the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. The rifting between these plates leads to frequent earthquakes and is pivotal in the creation of fractures and fissures that facilitate the movement of magma and the subsequent heating of groundwaters. This dynamic contributes significantly to the geothermal characteristics that we can study and appreciate in this area.

About the author
Neil works in sales and marketing at BusTravel Iceland. He writes content and also creates private and custom tour itineraries. A native of Ireland, Neil has lived and worked in Iceland for more than 10 years. He enjoys multi-day hikes such as Horstrandir and of course Laugavegurinn.

You might like these articles