Iceland with Kids. Part 2. Skogafoss and Outdoor Swimming Pools.
This article details an Icelandic trip we took with our two children (ages 1.5 and 4 years) for five days in August 2015. Our full itinerary (with maps) can be found here. Iceland with Kids Part 1 is here. Part 3 is here.
Iceland is a land of waterfalls. They pour off the edges of black basalt cliffs and thunder onto the rocks below before streaming out to sea.
‘Foss’ in Icelandic means ‘waterfall’, so just like you would not say Mount Rainier Mountain, you wouldn’t say Skogafoss Waterfall.
Skogafoss is accessed directly from the main Ring Road and is a busy hub of tour busses, backpackers, and casual tourists. Legend has it that a farmer buried his treasure behind the waterfall and our eldest child was eager to walk behind the falls to seek it out..until he realized how wet he was going to get. Treasure hunt aborted.
It’s worth walking up the hill and beyond the falls, although caution is needed as there are no guardrails along the swiftly moving river…..and, of course, a huge waterfall at the end!
Just ten minutes from Skogafoss is the Seljavallalaug outdoor swimming pool, one of the oldest in Iceland. The pool is naturally fed from a nearby hot springs and despite it’s rather decayed state, it was my ultimate favorite activity in Iceland.
The road dead-ends next to a small farm and from there the well-worn path meanders next to an alluvial plain for the relaxed 20 minute amble up the valley to the hidden pool. The hills close around you and far above waterfalls snake their way down the rock face from the glaciers. It is green and quiet, save for the rushing river.
We should note that one stream crossing is required. It was a pretty easy hop in August but I can’t speak to the water volume the rest of the year.
And then, around a bend, an old crumbling pool, built into the face of the rock, comes into view.
Now, a word of warning: this is NOT your average highly chlorinated public swimming pool. The water is so green that you definitely don’t want to open your eyes underwater and the bottom is cloaked with a slippery layer of algae. It gives germophobes heart attacks. The changing rooms are windowless concrete barracks with partial wooden doors. No bathrooms onsite.
But, if you can look beyond the rustic amenities and the green water, you’ll have to admit that it’s a pretty darn cool swimming pool. And if you go very early, you might just get lucky and have the place to yourself. Definitely one of my top picks for Southern Iceland. Full directions to reaching the pool are available at the bottom of this post.
If we’re talking about Iceland ‘favorites’, now is a good time to mention my favorite waterfall: Seljalansfoss
Whoa nelly, this one is spectacular. Perhaps it was because the sun suddenly appeared for the first time all day, the rain ceased, and both kids were magically awake when we pulled into the parking lot. The cool feature about this waterfall is that you can walk behind it. Suit up in as much rain gear as possible and get ready for a great view.
That about wraps up our Southern Iceland portion of the trip. Both the waterfalls and the pool can be done in one day. Next up is our time spent in the Golden Circle.
Costs of all three activities: Free (as of August 2015)
Directions to the Seljavallalaug outdoor swimming pool:
A complete map with the pool location can be found here. From the Ring Road, take the western fork of Road 242 inland towards the mountains. At the first fork, 242 curves right but continue straight up towards the mountains. After a few minutes, the road dead-ends in a gravel parking lot. From here, you walk up over the berm, hugging the left-hand side of the valley. There is a well-established foot path that parallels the river. One small stream crossing is required. The pool will not be visible until you’re practically upon it. It’s about a 20 minute walk up the valley. Bring your own towels and swimming suits as there are no amenities of any kind.