The waterfalls may get the most hype when it comes to Iceland, but there’s another natural phenomenon that will have you just as awestruck: geysirs. A physical representation of the tensions happening underneath our feet, geysirs can be found all around the Land of Fire and Ice. If you’re looking to find a field full of them, head to the Geothermal Field. Here, you’ll find the simply named Geysir, the king (or queen) of all geysirs in the country with its reliable spout of boiling-hot water.
Located in Haukadalur, the field is nestled into an area called the Southern lowlands — it’s also where you’ll find a neovolcanic zone, in other words, a place with regular volcanic activity. (Remember: Volcanic activity can refer to more than just massive eruptions that we’re used to seeing in movies.)
The Geysir Geothermal Field is a must-see for anyone visiting Iceland. Although touristy, it’s such a beautiful reminder that there’s a lot going on right underneath our feet. Ahead, you’ll find everything you need to know, from planning your trip to seeing all there is to see.
The springs of water housing the main Geysir and the smaller Marteinslaug and Gufubadshver springs are evidence of a much larger body of water that used to exist in this area. You can still see the outlines of an ancient basin that used to cover much of the field, but the remaining springs of water are believed to be the oldest. If you look carefully — and you’re lucky — you may even find plant fossils in the area. The earliest account of Geysir dates back to 1294, but the water flow eventually tapered off due to the movement of the tectonic plates in the area. In 2000, it was back in action after nearby earthquakes sparked new movement.
The Geysir Geothermal Field is considered part of the neovolcanic region, meaning there is a form of volcanic activity happening, but not in the traditional sense. In other words, you won’t be seeing any volcanoes shooting spouts of lava into the air here. But the water you do see shooting into the air has been heated from deep within the Earth, making it a part of a volcanic system.
According to Extreme Iceland, you can find very physical evidence of this area’s importance in history: Konungasteinar, or three stones that house the initials of three kings who have ruled Iceland and visited Geysir (Christian IX in 1874, Frederik VIII in 1907, and Christian X in 1921).
What to See and Do
Visiting the Geysir Geothermal Field is about one thing: Seeing a lot of water catapulted into the air from small holes in the ground. It’s just as majestic as you would think, especially if you’re not expecting it. While you can find other places around Iceland with bubbling basins of water, this is one of the most impressive. It’s home to the aforementioned Geysir, which sends boiling water flying up to 100 feet in the air every 10 minutes or so. You’ll also find Strokkur in the same field, which shoots water upwards of 32 feet in the air every 15 minutes.
You can visit the Konungasteinar stones, as well — there’s a pathway that will take you to them from a panoramic viewing area in the field (there’s a map at the entrance that will mark out points of interest).
What to Expect
Expect lots and lots of people. Given Geysir’s location on the Golden Circle, tour buses visit this area every day and even more people take advantage of the easy driving from Reykjavik to take a day trip out of the city. If you want to avoid the largest crowds, come early in the morning (think: 8 a.m.) or later at night (go as late as possible during the summer months and take advantage of the Midnight Sun).
There are clear walkways and a large map at the entrance which not only points out where you can find Geysir and Strokkur, but also the science behind the natural wonders. Be careful if you’re going right after or while it’s raining: The area can get quite muddy and there are some steep walks to the panoramic view.
How to Get There
It’s very easy to get to the Geysir Geothermal Field from Reykjavik. By car, it’ll take you about an hour and 45 minutes along Þjóðvegur 1. The drive time is worth it: You can check out Geysir, Gullfoss, and Silfra Fissure all in the same afternoon.
If driving on your own isn’t part of your plan, there are plenty of tour operators that offer Golden Circle bus tours. I recommend checking out the Golden Circle and Silfra Diving experience from Iceland Adventure Tours if you’re looking to take in all of the sights and do something a bit adventurous with your day.