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Krýsuvík - Seltún geothermal area

Seltún geothermal field, Iceland
Seltún geothermal field / Andrew Bowden, Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0.

Main characteristics

Coordinates: 63.8919 N -22.0665 W
No:336        (list of all attractions)
Category:Geothermal fields, Springs, Thermal springs
Values:Geology, Visual
Address:Europe, Iceland, Suðurnes, some 30 km long drive SSW from Reykjavík
Alternate names:Krísuvík

It takes just half an hour to drive from Reykjavík to the spectacular Krýsuvík - Seltún geothermal area, where the volcanic heat has formed thermal springs, steam vents, mud pots and solfataras.

Mid-Atlantic Ridge and volcanoes

This geothermal area has formed on the great divide between Europe and America - fissure zone of Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Several geothermal fields - Seltún, Hverahvammur, Hverahlíð and Austurengjar - here are located close together, each with its own charm and specifics.

Several eruptions have taken place in this area since the arrival of people to Iceland. Large eruption of Ogmundargigar volcano took place several kilometres from Krýsuvík in 1151. Lava reached the ocean then. Last eruptions in this area took place in the 14th century.

Boiling mud pots in Krýsuvík, Iceland
Boiling mud pots in Krýsuvík / Steve Hicks, Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

Sulphur mine

The site is well known for practical reasons: sulphur mining started here in 1722 - 1728 and was renewed in the 19th century. Krýsuvík has left its impact on the science - German scientist Robert Bunsen visited this site in 1845 and, basing on research of solfatara, proposed a hypothesis on formation of sulphuric acid in nature.

Maars and geothermal energy

Near the geothermal fields are located several maars - rounded lakes. They were formed by explosions, caused by the overheated steam of groundwater. The largest among them is Grænavatn - up to 46 m deep and 350 m wide, emerald colored lake. Somewhat smaller is Gestsstaðavatn - another maar.

Grænavatn, Iceland
Grænavatn - lake with the weird color / Rosino, Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0.

People would be glad to harness geothermal power that close to Reykjavík - but this is not easy at all. Some exploration boreholes have been made in the early 1970s - but the rebellios geothermal forces sneered at explorers. One such borehole has turned into a geyser - it started irregular eruptions in 2010.

Another borehole blew up itself in 1999 - now here is a crater with 30 m diameter. The explosion blew away a small building - cafe for tourists. Happily no one was there.

Since this spectacular accident the appetite for exploration and energy production has decreased here. No one is sure what will happen here next.

Colorful attraction

This place is dangerous - but beautiful and amazing (albeit smells a lot).

Krýsuvík - Big Sulphur spring, sometimes around 1900
Krýsuvík - Big Sulphur spring, sometimes around 1900 / Icelandic and Faroese Photographs of Fredrick W. W. Howell, Cornell University Library. Public domain

Sulphuric water and gases have created colorful deposits, the soil is colored in green, yellow and red colors. Visitors can wonder at hissing solfataras, fumaroles and boiling mud pots, where the soil is mixed with acid.

Wooden pathways have been built for tourists - it happens that land movements may damage the pathways here and there, but diligent Icelanders soon repair them. Come and see this beauty - most likely you won't stand on the pathway in the moment when a new maar is born with a spectacular explosion.

Krýsuvík - Maccalub or mud volcano, sometimes around 1900
Krýsuvík - Maccalub or mud volcano, sometimes around 1900 / Icelandic and Faroese Photographs of Fredrick W. W. Howell, Cornell University Library. Public domain


  • Augun (Eyes) (63.878726, -22.055875) - two small maar lakes in both sides of the road.
  • Fúlipollur mud spring (63.893400, -22.051638) is located south from the road.
  • Gestsstaðavatn (63.883741, -22.064374) - elongated maar with lake in it.
  • Grænavatn (63.884570, -22.055020) - maar, up to 46 m deep and 350 m wide, emerald colored lake. The weird color of the lake is caused by algae living in thermal water and small particles.
  • Krýsuvík sulphur springs (63.891986, -22.065842) - the site of the old sulphur mines.
  • Seltun (63.896115, -22.054489) - spectacular solfataras, colored soil, boiling mud pots.


See Krýsuvík - Seltún geothermal area on the map of Iceland!


  1. Good quality image of artificial geyser by mdetay, taken in July 2000. Accessed on July 12, 2011.

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