If you have watched Game of Thrones, which most people with even a remote interest in Icelandic landscapes probably have, then you may remember an intimate scene from season three in which two young lovers elope in the depths of a cave’s natural hot spring. The scene takes place in winter, adding to the stunning effect of being taken to a place of mystery and relaxation.
Very well hidden in Iceland’s northern landscape, this secrete fissure in the ground is called Grjótagjá and has been used as a popular bathing spot for many centuries, at least by those who recorded their venture to the cave pool. Located close to Lake Mývatn, the waters are geothermally heated by volcanic activity happening deep below. With comfortable bathing temperatures and a sparkling mirror effect to gaze up at on the ceiling of the cave, this is a very popular place indeed, especially in winter.
Legend has it that the cave pool was also a hideout for the 18th-century Icelandic outlaw, Jón Markússon. When visiting the pools, however, it is best to check with local guides before taking a swim. The reason for this is because the geothermal water supplying the cave pool comes from an unstable force and therefore has fluctuating water levels as well as temperatures. A steady and expected temperature for the pools is around 45 degrees Celsius. In fact, Iceland has an abundance of geothermal energy pumping through its ground and the phenomenon provides over 25%t of the country’s electricity and heats over 87% of Iceland’s buildings and water.
If you have been to the Blue Lagoon and the Mývatn Nature Baths and are looking for something a lot more raw, secluded, and simply more magical, then Grjótagjá is the place. If you are venturing at night, be sure to bring a headlamp as it is located inside a cave, which means there is no changing room facility or electricity nearby. Also, don´t be surprised if locals join you in the nude, as is custom.