Whole-cell density gradient extractions from three solfataras (pH 2.5) ranging in temperature from 81 to 90 degrees C and one neutral hot spring (81 degrees C, pH 7) from the thermal active area of Hveragerethi (Iceland) were analysed for genetic diversity and local geographical variation of Archaea by analysis of amplified 16S rRNA genes. In addition to the three solfataras and the neutral hot spring, 10 soil samples in transects of the soil adjacent to the solfataras were analysed using terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (t-RFLP). The sequence data from the clone libraries in combination with 14 t-RFLP profiles revealed a high abundance of clones clustering together with sequences from the nonthermophilic I.1b group of Crenarchaeota. The archaeal diversity in one solfatara was high; 26 different RFLP patterns were found using double digestion of the PCR products with restriction enzymes AluI and BsuRI. The sequenced clones from this solfatara belonged to Sulfolobales, Thermoproteales or were most closest related to sequences from uncultured Archaea. Sequences related to group I.1b were not found in the neutral hot spring or the hyperthermophilic solfatara (90 degrees C).