Hveragerdi (Hveragerði) - The Geothermal Town

Hveragerdi (Hveragerði) - The Geothermal Town

Hveragerdi, population 2,318, began to develop in the early 20th century as Icelanders looked at ways of utilizing geothermal water and steam. 

Early projects included drying hay, washing wool, and pasteurizing milk. The first houses were built in 1929 as the greenhouse industry took off, its glasshouses fed by a constant supply of hot geothermal water and steam.

The main crops grown under glass are tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, houseplants, and cut flowers, but you can grow practically anything in these steaming hothouses including bananas, which some guidebooks erroneously claimed are commercially grown here!

Geothermal energy also heats the town.  Two-thirds of the heating uses a closed loop to heat water with steam, and one third is water piped directly from hot springs.

The town's lovely swimming pool, one of the oldest in Iceland, is steam heated and the laundry dryers run on steam heating.

Lastly, and something of a novelty, the local restaurant Kjot on Kunst runs a geothermal kitchen - a liter of water takes 10 seconds to boil and a leg of pork cooks in 8 hours. 

You can also taste hot-spring baked rye bread - steam baked for 20 hours. 

Paradoxically, you'll also find Iceland’s main ice cream factory in the town - it's mostly known for its soft-scoop ice cream.

Hveragerdi's homes have well-tended gardens that are more vibrant and interesting than anywhere else in the country. 

A horticultural college was established in 1939. The grounds are open to show the diversity of shrubs, trees and flowering plants that can grow in Iceland. Access is through the gate on the hillside above the swimming pool.

There is a shopping mall with a supermarket, bakery, craft shop, and Information Centre. While they were digging the foundations of the building, the construction company unearthed an impressive tectonic fissure. 

Instead of covering up the crack, a glass floor allows visitors to see it.

There is also an exhibition on the impacts of the 2008 earthquake, measuring 6.3, which struck southern Iceland on May 29th. 

The exhibition is free but there is a small charge for the earthquake simulator. There's CCT film of the actual earthquake and its impact on the local bottle shop!

The village’s Geothermal Park charges a small entrance fee but there are some colorful hot springs here and an informative display.

You’ll also note many hot springs on the hillside above the river Varma. These springs emerged overnight following the 2008 earthquake and some are quite impressive. 

Stay on the path for your safety.