Snowy hot spring

Geysir The Geyser – Central Iceland

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To Gush or not to Gush

Geysir is a hot location in South Iceland with many active hot springs and geysers. The name of this location actually gave us the word ‘Geyser’. In Icelandic, ‘Geysir’ means ‘to gush’… and indeed, that is what they do. This compelling attraction is only a couple of hours drive from Reykjavik, so Geysir is a great choice for a day trip.  Geysers are formed when ground water seeps into cracks and tubes that run deep in rhyolitic rocks.  If Magma is close to the surface, the water in the deeper tubes gets super heated until it has to release energy.

Strokkur eruption at Geysir
1/2000-second shutter to catch flying droplets. Click to order a print!

The Great Geysir

Geysir the Geyser used to be the star attraction. The “Great Geysir’ rarely spouts these days. When it does, it is among the largest geyser eruptions in the world.  It now happens less than once a year, and you would be extremely lucky to see it. The eruption of Geysir used to be a regular show. Soap powder was able to wake the geyser.  This meant you could trigger an eruption at will.  This practice was reserved for important visitors until Geysir finally quit. 

It was believed that a local earthquake could have changed the shape of the geyser and that another earthquake could bring it back to life.  There is a story, more than 100 years old, that once a cow fell into the large geyser and was ejected 10 minutes later, fully cooked.  This legendary incident is reported in Sabine Baring-Gould‘s book ‘Iceland’ (1863).

Blue Bubble

Strökkur is considered to be the Great Geysir’s little brother.  Strökkur eruptions are frequent and occur around every 15 minutes. The photo challenge is to either capture the blue bubble which occurs just before eruption or to capture the full height of a large eruption. Strökkur eruptions are very brief, lasting just a second or so. The scene just after the eruption is just a misty veil of steam. Camera settings to capture and freeze the movement are usually very fast shutter speeds of at least 1/125, but sometimes I have experimented with slower shutters to achieve slightly more original shots.

Strokkur bubble
Blue Bubble in Burst mode. Canon EF 135mm Lens.

Geysir is often the coldest spot in Iceland, as Arctic winds blow straight over the glaciers in Iceland’s interior. The area is very close to Gullfoss and has a hotel, restaurant, and gift shop (selling dead animal fur, ugh!) that are open during regular hours.

Blue Geothermal Pool and winter sun.

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Photo tips

Photo tips: Use a wide lens (17–24 mm) to shoot the full Geysir eruption. Use a short lens (70–100 mm) to shoot the blue bubble. Adjust iso to 200–400 to get a fast shutter. Capture the action. Try shooting into the sun to get dramatic back lighting; don’t forget to compensate because the eruption will introduce a lot more white into the scene.  On the other hand, it will block out the sun that is in your frame.  Don’t worry about the crowds; you won’t see them when Strökkur erupts.

Strokkur geyser eruption.
Strokkur with a one-second exposure.

Geysir Safety

Don’t try to test the temperature of the water in the hot springs.  The tiny streams usually have cold water in them, but the water in the hot springs can scold or even cook your skin.  Don’t stand downwind of the geyser.  The steam tells you the wind direction, so if the steam is coming at you, make sure you are not too close to Strökkur.  An eruption will give you a lovely, warm shower.  This sounds nice, but in freezing temperatures, your wet clothes could give you hypothermia.

Where to stay

There is a campsite right next to Geysir, but this will be heavily booked. There is another campsite just 15 minutes away near Faxifoss waterfall.


Geysir Hotels

Use the sponsored links below to book a hotel close to Geysir and Gullfoss.
Geysir Square #Iceland

Tours, Including Geysir

All Golden Circle tours include Geysir.

Private Golden Circle

These private tours will give you the best opportunity to capture a full Strokkur eruption.

Golden Circle minibus

These minibus tours will spend time at Geysir and the souvenir shop.

Geysir Facts

  • The Great Geysir hasn’t erupted regularly since 1950.
  • Stokkur Geyser erupts every 4–10 minutes
  • The Great Geysir is the largest geyser in Iceland (3rd in the World)
  • There are 16 geysers in Iceland.
  • Strokkur is 998 years old
  • Strokkur eruptions are 80 meters tall.
  • Strokkur was first observed 250 years ago.
Strokkur eruption #Iceland

Activities Close to Geysir

There are many farms in the area that offer horse riding tours and more. Two significant waterfalls are just a short drive from Geyser. Faxifoss is about a 15-minute drive on the Selfoss road south. Iceland’s largest waterfall, Gullfoss is just a 10-minute drive to the east of Geysir. At Gullfoss waterfall, it is possible to connect with skidoo tours, which will take you up onto the Langijokull glacier.

Geothermal pool at Geysir
Blue hot spring without winter sun.
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