Like a Geyser Which Never Stops: Gunnuhver Hot Springs in Iceland — With Video
At first, approaching Gunnuhver Hot Springs on Highway 425 appears to be nothing more than a typical hydroelectric plant with steam emanating from it…
…but driving on the access road around the Reykjanes Power Plant reveals the obviousness of the hot springs in the form of a huge white plume of steam. The steaming of the grounds of this portion of the Reykjanes peninsula increased significantly as a consequence of a pressure drawdown in the geothermal reservoir upon the start of production from the reservoir in 2006.
Once I parked the rental car — again, with no one else around — I used one of the two wooden boardwalks to get closer to the main hot spring. One ramp is located close to Gunnuhver itself, where you can look down to the boiling water of the spring and hear its roar and feel its power — as though it were a geyser which was continuously spouting uninterrupted. In fact, the main hot spring has grown to the point that it destroyed the old boardwalk, as shown in the video above.
Kísilhól — which is a hill comprised of silica — is where the other ramp is located which offers a good view…
…but prepare for when the wind shifts, as I was suddenly enveloped in hot steam for a moment — which can be welcomed when the ambient air is cold; but not so much when the weather is mild, as it was on the day I visited.
A closer look at the main hot spring resembles a major disaster zone, which does not even include the other hot springs that dot the area.
Legend claims that Gunnuhver was named after a female ghost named Guðrún Önundardóttir, whose nickname was Gunna. When she failed to pay rent, a lawyer named Vilhjálmur Jónsson took away a cooking pot, which was her only property.
Gunna became so mad with fury that she had caused great disturbance and refused to drink holy water before she then dropped dead. One story claims that on the way to the cemetery, the men who carried the coffin containing her body noticed that it became suspiciously lighter in weight. While digging the grave, people heard “No need deep to dig; no plans long to lie.” These were thought to be the words of Gunna — who at that point was a hateful spirit — talking.
The body of Vilhjálmur Jónsson was found — blue with broken bones — on the heath the next night, which is explained as a sign of the revenge of Gunna.
Another story suggests that she was laid there. A priest set a trap for her and she fell into the spring approximately 400 years ago.
The mud pools take form where steam from boiling geothermal reservoir water emanates and condenses and mixes with surface water. Accompanying gases — such as carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide — transform the water into acid, which causes alteration of the fresh lava rock to clay.
The largest mud pool in Iceland is 20 meters wide across a rim of mud — and continuously boiling vigorously.
Gunnuhver stands in the heart of the Reykjanes UNESCO Global Geopark where the North Atlantic ridge rises from the ocean, you find 100 different craters and lava fields, bird cliffs, high geothermal areas, black sand beaches, The Bridge Between Continents, geothermal power plants, lighthouses, and exhibitions.
Mentioning that Gunnuhver Hot Springs is open 24 hours per day may initially seem ridiculous; but if you are visiting sometime in the middle of the night during the months flanking the summer solstice, the sun will be out — albeit low on the horizon — which means potentially interesting lighting for your photographs and even less of a chance of other visitors joining you.