The hidden pool that's worth a visit

Magazine The hidden pool that's worth a visit

The Seljavallalaug pool is one of the oldest in Iceland. The trip there is half the experience and here are some good tips you need to know.

Seljavallalaug is a 25-metre outdoor swimming pool, that was was built for the community of Seljavellir in 1923 by Björn Andrésson. In 1927 swimming courses were initiated at the pool as part of the Icelandic compulsory education. Seljavallalaug was the largest swimming pool in Iceland until 1936 and is one of the oldest in the country.

Today the people of Seljavellir have another pool to take their swimming lessons in and Seljavallalaug is not in regular use. It is only maintained once every summer. During the Eyjafjallajökull eruptions in 2010 the pool – like the rest of the surroundings – was filled with ash, but the next year with the help of volunteers and some heavy equipment, the pool was cleaned again for use. Visitors can use the pool and dressing booths for free, but there is a box where you can leave some money to ensure the pool’s upkeep.


Now, what to know before going to Seljavallalaug:


1. Driving along the route one, if you are coming from the direction of Reykjavík, keep an eye out for Raufarfellsvegur after the Eyjafjallajökull Visitor Center. Turn left there and keep going until the road turns into Seljavallavegur and go all the way to the end to the parking lot.

If you are driving from the direction of Vík, keep an eye out after the Skógafoss watefall. Because Raufarfellsvegur is a valley-round going ring road, you should take the SECOND Raufarfellsvegur that will come to your right. You will get there a bit faster that way.


2. There is about a 1,5 km walk/hike to the pool from the car park. You need good shoes and most likely some wind and waterproof outdoor gear. You will cross a river and rocky areas. The river is not deep, but in sneakers you’ll get soaked.


3. The dressing rooms are not heated. There is no running water other than in the pool so you will not be able to take a shower. There are no boxes or shelves, nor separate changing booths in the dressing room, but  a few hooks for your towels.


4. The pool is not a hot tub, so the water is basically lukewarm. This is good info if you were thinking of going there to soak after a cold or action-packed day (like we were!). The pool is still a nice and refreshing experience, but on the day we went, the only way to feel warm there was to stand in the icy winds for a bit while wet and THEN get in again.


When we drove up to the pool on a stormy March day, the weather was out to get us. The wind felt like it was slapping us across the face in violent gusts and we basically had to hike up to Seljavallalaug in a 90° angle just to get ahead in the winds. We were already cold and soaked when we got up there and changed into swimsuits in the dark changing rooms with muddy floors. It was not an idyllic experience, it was a rugged outdoorsy lets-do-this-now kind of vikingesque mission that really paid off when we got in the pool. Even though not a hot tub, the feeling of swimming in a historic, preserved and now protected pool, with mountains towering right beside you, is an experience I never would have wanted to miss. So go prepared and enjoy the experience – you’ll never take a dip like this anywhere else in your life!

Seljavallalaug  Seljavallalaug

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