Icelandic Language Blog

The Gusher and the Churn. Posted by on Sep 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

gc089Let’s take one last look at summer – I forgot one important part of our south Iceland camping trip! Situated in the area known also as Golden Circle is the hot spring site that includes f.ex. Geysir (= gusher), the geyser that gave its name to all geysers in the world. Another, nowadays more interesting geyser right next to it is Strokkur (= churn), famous for the short interval eruptions. No matter when you arrive you’re very likely to see it go several times.

The area has reputation of being “touristy” and while this is undeniable, it’s that in all the good meanings of the word. There are very few places in the whole world where you can see something like this, the countryside all around is unbelievably beautiful, there are interesting pathways up the small mountains nearby and there is a restaurant/museum combination right next to the place, which means that there’s also a large parking lot. This may sound a bit unusual thing to brag about but in Iceland it’s rare to have a good parking area near the natural wonders, they are simply too far removed from civilization for that. Often the only way to reach them is by a dirt road that closely resembles moon surface, and perhaps even a river sans a bridge, so actually a sight that’s easy to reach and parking lot next to is exceptional!


Most of the immediate surrounding area looks like this. The small, warm streams trickling down the side of the pathway are harmless, but do not venture past that rope because they very soon turn to boiling hot – literally so.


Litli-Geysir – the little gusher. A cute hot spring that mostly bubbles and boils like a pot of potatoes. 😀 By the way, it’s a good idea to prepare for the smell: Iceland often smells like sulfur, especially around water. Hot springs smell strong to the unaccustomed but they’re nowhere near the worst offenders – try a hot mud spring for some really unbearable stench!


The hot springs come in many shapes…


…sizes and…


…colour. This photo does not lie, one of them really is astonishingly blue!


This being Iceland you get to go really close to the hot springs regardless of the fact that they’re so hot that falling in would kill you almost immediately. Take good care of pets and small children, there’s nothing aside of that little rope to stop people from wandering too far.


Here’s that same hot spring. It’s so large that it didn’t fit in one photo, so I took two and put them together for a panorama image. 🙂

By the way, although there can sometimes be seen occasional coins in these springs it’s actually forbidden to throw them in. They may upset the workings of these springs, in case of the erupting ones they may shoot up boiling hot and land on somebody, and besides there’s always the danger that they’ll lure in a child to try to retrieve a coin, so never, ever throw coins into these springs. It’s pretty futile too, since geysers and hot springs don’t make dreams come true (unless your dream is to see them, which they’ll be happy to grant you without any payment).


Here’s the view up the mountain. As you can see it’s a tiny one, you’ll climb it in no time. There’s a viewing platform roughly 10min climb from the hot springs that’s easily accessible to anyone, from there on up I don’t recommend the routes to anyone with bad legs. The path is well kept but the climb turns a bit steep at times.


This is the view you’ll see from up there. Well, this and so much more. 🙂


Here’s Strokkur getting ready.

Strokkur erupts often, as mentioned. The usual info says in roughly every 7 minutes, but that can differ a lot. The eruptions vary too, the maximum I’ve witnessed it erupt is thrice in one go. There are signs that you can watch out for while you wait, though it can’t ever be told exactly when it’s going to erupt.

First sign is that the surface of water will slowly grow lower and lower as it packs inside the geyser. When you see this, get your camera ready and point it to the right direction. You may still have to wait for one more minute, or even two – Strokkur is a bit of a diva who decides exactly when it wants to show off and when not. The next stage, right before the eruption, is the bubble I managed to capture in the above photo, a split second later there’ll be lots of water in the air! At this point you will find out if you chose your waiting place wisely – a friend’s advice: don’t stand where the ground is wet. 😉

Don’t worry if you missed the eruption because in less than ten minutes there’ll be more. Take this into account as you plan your schedule, getting a good photo of Strokkur may take even half an hour.


But what about Geysir then, the hot spring that has at its best spat water over 100m high? This old postcard has a great photo of what Geysir’s eruption looked like back in the day, although its water column’s height has greatly varied through its history. Well, at the moment Geysir is, alas, dormant. This is nothing new. Silica build-up and earth quakes change Geysir’s activity all the time, but in the recent years it has erupted but sporadically.


Here’s another old postcard that aptly compares the size difference between Geysir and Strokkur. Geysir on the left vs. Strokkur on the right, even at best Strokkur can at most reach 40m.

The last time Geysir was erupting was in the beginning of the 2000’s after the large earthquakes that shook south Iceland and broke all those old glass bottles at Húsið, The House museum. Apparently it also rearranged Geysir a little, because for a short while it activated again.

This was actually witnessed by a friend of mine who visited the site with her SO, expecting to see Strokkur erupt as usual. Except that it did not.  They waited and waited, but nothing happened. Eventually they got bored of waiting and decided to leave, and then –


Geysir erupted right next to them. 😀

I’d like to point out again the size differences in both height of water column and amount of water being spat up. I believe that more than made up for not being able to see Strokkur erupt!

Here’s some more photos that I’ve takes of the area and two videos too! One’s of Strokkur’s eruption and another one of Litli Geysir bubbling away. 😀

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About the Author: hulda

Hi, I'm Hulda, originally Finnish but now living in the suburbs of Reykjavík. I'm here to help you in any way I can if you're considering learning Icelandic. Nice to meet you!