Hvammsvík Hot Springs opened just over a year ago, a family owned nature resort in the middle of Hvalfjörður, a beautiful fjord in West Iceland that used to have the main road from West Iceland to Reykjavík before the tunnel under the fjord opened in 1998. With the tunnel, Hvalfjörður became more remote and peaceful. Birds, sheep and cows probably sounded a collective sigh of relief when the last car drove through on a main road, peace at last. It was really like Hvalfjörður was forgotten as soon as the tunnel opened, erased from the public memory. Back then, people were all hyped about the tunnel and how it shortened the route from Reykjavík to Borgarnes by 42 kilometers:
Think about the collective time it saves per year!
Imagine the wear and tear it saves for our beloved cars!
Think about the warm tunnel in the winter vs. the icy roads of Hvalfjörður!
All valid points of course in terms of time, economy and efficiency. But not in terms of seeing nature and feeling tranquility. Growing up in West Iceland, I drove through Hvalfjörður with my parents countless times as a kid to visit my grandparents and other relatives in Reykjavík, looking through the windows at endless mountains, waterfalls, rivers and animals. Sometimes the fjord was mirror-smooth but it could also be wavy and wild, all depending on weather conditions.
Hvammsvík Hot Springs tapped into the forgotten gem of Hvalfjörður. The estate was first discovered by vikings 1000 years ago, according to the Icelandic Book of Settlements (Landnámabók). Later, in World War II, it was a site of British and American military activity and some ruins from that period can still be found there. The facilities in Hvammsvík were built on barrack foundations constructed by allied troops in World War II.
The hot springs merge with the shoreline and look like a natural construct but are mostly man-made based on the idea of founder Skúli Mogensen. The water levels and temperature in the pools by the sea vary based on tide and for those into sea bathing, the option is there to dip into the cold sea before warming up again in the hot pools. The concept was inspired by the old hot spring that has been on the property for ages, but also rock formations along the coastline in Hvammsvík. The pools were formed using rocks from the surroundings.
There was a strong emphasis on design for the facilities, with a rustic style inside at the restaurant and changing rooms. Booking beforehand is necessary, as the capacity is not the biggest. Hvammsvík is not intended to be a spot for the masses, rather small groups at a time so that each individual can enjoy the experience and surroundings more. I heard that in the summer, some people have seen sheep hanging around by the pools, just adding to the experience of being in nature.
I went there for the first time the other day with a group of people by bus. It was cold, windy and dark meaning the warm pools were appreciated. There are eight pools with temperatures ranging from ocean temperatures (around 10°C) to 42°C in the old original hot spring. The hottest pool is furthest away from the changing rooms, which makes perfect sense in cold weather. After walking to it in the cold, you can warm up properly for a while. The path to that is made of pieces of driftwood while the rest of the steps between the pools are made of rocks, both examples of the rustic style. I tried all but two of the hot springs, so I have a reason to visit again. To be honest, I skipped the coldest spring by sea level because I felt it was too cold outside for that. Visiting Hvammsvík in daylight will be a completely different experience due to the view and I will probably try that next time I visit. This time I could just imagine the view based on what I saw through the car window as a kid. But the darkness also has its charm and gives you the chance to see northern lights.
In the first year of its operations, almost all Hvammsvík’s guests have been arriving by car but two weeks ago, it became possible to book a return bus transfer for Hvammsvík, with two daily departures from BSÍ Bus Terminal, one in the morning at 10:30 and another one in the evening with departure from Reykjavík at 17:00.