Seljavallalaug (e. Seljvavellir pool) is one of those places many visitors in Iceland miss because they are busy checking off all the highlights of the south on their Been There Done That list. It’s nestled in a narrow valley below the infamous Eyjafjallajökull and it’s the oldest pool in Iceland that is still standing. It was built in 1923 by some visionaries that wanted to provide the locals with a place where they could learn how to swim. Unlike today, where Icelanders won’t graduate school without passing a swim test, most Icelanders didn’t know how to swim in the beginning of the 1900s which was a problem since many of them lived off fishing. It was important to get these things in order and those who built this pool knew that.
Today I believe the pool is mostly maintained by volunteers and of donations but you can still very much swim in it while enjoying the spectacular surroundings. It’s built next to a rock wall that makes up one of its four walls and the water comes from a natural hot spring close by. It’s 25 meters long, 10 meters wide, and even offers dressing rooms where you can change but no showers. There is no entry fee and you are asked to treat it with care and respect but alcohol consumption is strictly forbidden. I don’t think you want to be wasted in that location with something happening and no life guard anyway!
How to get to Seljavallalaug
When you are driving in the direction from Reykjavík you turn of the ring road (No.1) into road 242 marked Raufarfell. It’s just past Þorvaldseyri (The Iceland Erupts exhibition) so make sure you don’t miss it (like we did). You drive until you see a sign that says Seljavellir but if you follow that road you get to a new pool that was built later where you can park. From the car park you walk for 15-20 minutes towards the bottom of the valley and in the end you will see the pool peaking behind a corner. You can’t see it until you get to it so if you think you’re going the wrong way you probably aren’t. You will have to jump over a little stream and the way is a bit uneven but it’s an easy walk and everyone should be able to do it.
It’s been a few years since I was there last time and I’m sure that the access to the pool changed a bit in the eruption because it didn’t look anything like I remembered. So if you have a guide book that says it has a nice trail to it and you feel confused when you don’t find it – don’t worry about it. It’s there!