Iceland is one of the Earth’s hottest countries – literally. Brimming with volcanic activity, the country is blessed with a huge range of hot springs and geothermal spas, and a hot soak under the Northern Lights has become central to Iceland’s cultural identity.
Iceland is famous for it’s hot tub culture, and swimming pools have always been a hub of social activity, even in winter on a dark, frosty night. But with a huge range of swimming pools, hot springs, and spas, where do you even start?
While the country has an incredible range of natural hot springs, today we’re going to focus on Iceland’s thermal spas. The difference? Thermal spas are a cross between a man-made pool and a natural spring.
While natural springs are usually in rural locations, where the journey there is an adventure in itself, thermal spas offer the same natural water, but you’re surrounded by man made facilities.
At thermal spas you’ll have access to showers, restaurants, toilets, and storage to keep your things dry; much more than your typical hole in the ground filled with water!
The Best Geothermal Spas in Iceland
The Secret Lagoon
Flúðir, South Iceland
Located in the small village of Fludir, the Secret Lagoon pool is not the only thermal pool in this area, as the whole region is famous for geothermal spots. It is, however, the oldest in the country, and by far the most untarnished and quaint.
While the pool is manmade, it’s kept very natural, true to the Icelandic feeling. You can watch a nearby geysir erupt while bathing (it goes off every 5 minutes), and in winter the Northern Lights often dance above the Secret Lagoon.
Opening hours differ depending on the season, though the water itself stays at 38-40 Celsius all year round. During winter (October – May) the pool opens at 11 AM and closes at 8 PM. Summer months (June – September) sees extended hours from 10 AM to 10 PM.
Although reservations are not necessary, it’s strongly encouraged to book tickets in advance since the pool has a limited guest capacity. It’s not as busy as the famous Blue Lagoon, but it’s still a very good idea to pre-book, especially in the summer.
Getting here is a piece of cake – it’s very close to the popular tourist route of the Golden Circle, so you can either rent a car (the drive from Reykjavik is an hour and a half), or look for a tour operator who has organized excursions to the lagoon and surrounding attractions.
The Blue Lagoon
Grindavík, Southwest Iceland
There are probably very few places in Iceland that seem as otherworldly as the Blue Lagoon. Not only is it famous for its milky blue water that stands in stark contrast with the black lava formations, it’s also highly beneficial for its healing properties.
The Blue Lagoon is one of the busiest tourist attractions in country, but if you want to escape the crowds and have the lagoon almost entirely for yourself, nighttime in the Blue Lagoon is the best time to visit (it’s open late).
This isn’t the only perk of the night swim though. During winter you may be lucky to spot the celestial phenomenon known as Aurora Borealis. You can only imagine how magical it all looks once the strokes of bright yellow or green appear in the clear night sky above the steamy lagoon.
Pro tip: LATHER your hair in conditioner before you go in (there is free shampoo and conditioner in the showers). The high sulpher content of the water is fantastic for your skin, but can really damage your hair. Using liberal amounts of conditioner helps avoid this.
Regardless of the time of day you’re visiting, pre-bookings are absolutely essential. A basic entrance costs ISK 6 990 (56 USD) and includes entrance, a silica mud mask, a towel, and a drink from their in water bar.
The Mývatn Nature Baths
Mývatn, Northern Iceland
Lake Mývatn area is possibly one of the most famous regions when it comes to geothermal activity. Steam baths and heated pools are aplenty and they are brimming with minerals, ideal for alleviating skin and respiratory conditions.
Ever since it was opened in 2004, Mývatn Nature Baths has become one of the biggest highlights for travelers to Iceland, and a lot of people have started heading here instead of the Blue Lagoon (it’s the northern equivalent).
There’s a large lagoon, not dissimilar to the Blue Lagoon, two steam-baths, and a hot tub and a separate pool for young children, as well as a restaurant. The temperature of the water is around 36 to 40°C (97 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit).
The water in the pool is drawn from fissures in the earth’s surface and it abounds in silicates and minerals that work against skin conditions. This valuable property of the water is also great for those who simply want to relax and cleanse their skin.
The price for adult entry is 4,500 ISK (36 USD) in winter and 5000 ISK in summer (40 USD). Don’t wear any jewelry into the lagoon, as the sulphur levels can be really damaging to materials like brass or silver.
Krauma Geothermal Baths
Reykholt, Southwest Iceland
The Geothermal baths at Krauma get their water from Europe’s most powerful hot spring – Deildartunguhver. Before the water reaches the pools it’s mixed with the chilly water from Ok, Iceland’s smallest glacier, and that’s how it achieves the perfect bathing temperature.
This is an open air luxury spa type setting; a modern facility with a total of six outdoor baths. There are five warm baths, and then a cold baths of 5°C to 8°C for those who want to jump start their blood circulation.
There are also two steam baths in a separate building, and a relaxation room to maximize the experience. It’s ISK 3800 (30 USD) to get in, and then an additional cost if you need to rent towels, swimwear, or bathrobes.
Visiting Krauma will also provide you with the opportunity to explore the highlights of West Iceland before or after the swim, including the tallest waterfall Glymur, Breiðafjörður archipelago, and Mount Kirkjufell.
Geosea Sea Baths
Húsavík, Northern Iceland
This geothermal spa is located in the far North, around 480 kilometers away from Reykjavík, but definitely worth the drive for it’s epic infinity pools that overlook the sea.
This is one of Iceland’s newest hot springs; a super fancy spa built into a cliff overlooking the ocean. It’s unique from other hot springs around the country because the water that fills the baths is actually naturally heated from the sea (as opposed to freshwater bubbling up from the earth).
The pools are 38 to 39 degrees Celsius, and during season (April to October with the peak season in June, July and August), you can often catch sight of whales swimming in the ocean below.
The spa offers a bar, changing rooms, and showers (it’s mandatory to shower before the swim). The price of entry is 4700 ISK (37 USD). Just like with other spas, opening hours differ depending on the season and though not obligatory, it is advisable to make a reservation.
If you’re based in Reykjavik and want to visit this brand new spa in Húsavík, make sure to save a few days for getting there. It’s a 6 hour drive to get there along the Ring Road, but you’ll also want to account for stops to admire the surroundings along the way.
On the route from Reykjavík to Geosea Spa, the landscapes are simply breathtaking and some of the most popular attractions include Hraunfossar Waterfalls, Godafoss Waterfalls, and Lake Mývatn with its own natural baths.
Swimming pools and thermal spas in Iceland are a serious business, so it’s really important to be aware of swimming pool protocol before you strip off for a soak.
The main thing to know is that it’s mandatory to wash thoroughly before you enter a hot spring or pool – and you have to use soap. While this isn’t required at a hot spring you find off the side of the road, all spas have showers and locker rooms, and staff members standing guard to make sure you’ve washed your bits.
Also, you have to shower naked. This is no better way to offend and disgust the locals than to jump in dirty.
Obviously, Iceland is home to some of the most captivating natural hot springs and spas in the world. Though it might seem tempting to hop straight in any remote pool you may find, it is highly recommended that you still stick to those that have been officially stamped as safe.
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