Iceland Mag

11 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag


Hidden geothermal pool closed due to disrespectful and littering tourists

By Staff

  • Closed Thanks to disrespectful visitors the popular secret pool has been closed to the public. Photo/Ólöf HAllgrímsdóttir

  • Inside the cave The secret pool inside the cave has an otherworldly feel. Photo/Ólöf Hallgrímsdóttir

The secret geothermal pool Kvennagjá in Grjótagjá cave in North Iceland has been closed to visitors to protect the unique and beautiful geothermal pool in the cave from damage. The landowners say that conditions in the cave and around the pool have deteriorated rapidly with growing numbers of visitors: Too many visitors leave trash and waste, including bodily waste and toilet paper in the cave and around the pool, brush their teeth and wash their clothes and shoes in the water, leaving soap and filth in the water. People have left litter, glass bottles and beer cans in the cave and the water. 

To protect the site from permanent damage the landowners have closed the fissure to all traffic.

Closed after being open to the public for decades
Grjótagjá cave has been a popular, if secluded and somewhat difficult to reach spot, for decades. Locals have been stopping at Grjótagjá cave to bathe in the warm geothermal water which fills the fissures in the cave. The heat in the cave spiked in the 70s and early 1980s due to seismic and volcanic activity in Krafla, reaching more than 60°C (140°F). The fissures in the cave are part of the Krafla system which sits on top of the boundary of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates: You can bath between the continents in Grjótagjá.

As the temperature dropped again in the 1980s visitors returned to the cave. Grjótagjá cave has two different pools, Kvennagjá and Karlagjá. The latter is still too hot for bathing. In 2004 the temperature in Kvennagjá had returned to the comfortable levels, allowing people to enjoy the otherworldly feel of bathing in a all-natural "spa", created by volcanic activity and the movement of the tectonic plates.

Complete lack of respect
However, as tourism took off in 2010 visits to the cave increased dramatically. Several hundred people visit the cave each day, up from a few dozen at most. The owners of Vogar farm, whose land Grjótagjá is located on, tried to manage the growing numbers by building a new parking lot, improving the paths and installing information signs with instructions and directions on how to behave. But despite signs in four different languages visitors continued to litter and treat the place with what Ólöf Hallgrímsdóttir, one of the owners, describes as "complete lack of respect."

"The lack of respect is total. People are defecating in the cave, washing their their camping gear, hiking boots or dishes, brushing their teeth, and we have even discovered people camping out inside the cave. We didn't see any other option than to just close the entrance to the cave."

It goes without saying that the kind of behavior described by Ólöf is beyond disrespectful. 

A permanent guard the only solution
Ólöf told the local newspaper Morgunblaðið that it was only as a last resort that the landowners decided to close the cave and the natural pool, and that they would re-open the cave once a better, and more permanent solution was found. The ideal solution, she says is to post a permanent guard who could ensure visitors behave in a civilized manner.

"It's a fascinating and beautiful place, and it's just heavenly to bathe in the cave. But we don't want the place to be destroyed. We love this place and hope want it to continue to be a popular destination."

It is still possible to view the cave and the pool and to take photos, although it is impossible to get into the water.

Please, don't leave anything behind - not even footprints
We at Iceland Magazine kindly ask every visitor to Iceland to treat nature with the respect it deserves: Don't behave in a thoughtless and selfish manner. If you litter, drive off-road, trample down the delicate vegetation or otherwise vandalize and damage the unique natural beauty of the places you visit you are not only damaging or destroying nature, you are also making it impossible for others to enjoy this natural beauty.

ALWAYS pick up your own trash, take care not to leave any permanent damage and remember that vegetation grows very slowly in the cold and wet conditions in Iceland. A responsible traveler will also make an effort to clean trash left by other less civilized tourists.

We at Iceland Magazine would also like to add that anyone who has washed his hiking boots, brushed his teeth or littered in Grjótagjá: It is YOUR fault the destination is now closed to the public.

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