The gorgeous geothermal pools of Iceland are by far one of the best perks when traveling around this amazing country. The pools range in a variety from off the beaten path swimming holes to clean public city pools, rest in the luxury of the Blue Lagoon Spa & Resort types or strip down and jump in a smaller more private outdoor experience. Here are my favorite 6 so far and a few tips for visiting each.
Most towns in Iceland have a public swimming pool with gym and workout facility with public showers and even hot tubs. When we rented our Camper Van from GO! Iceland the company gave us a booklet outlining all the Iceland Swimming pools and campsites acoss the whole Island broken up into geographical areas: North, South, East, West Fjord and West Iceland. This was great for anyone trveling the country in a camper van or camping or just wants an experience the local culture and stay clean!
Everyone is required to wash off, naked, before putting on their swim suit and proceeding to either the public pool or even hot tub/springs. This is to help ensure our bodies/bums are clean prior to getting into the public facilty.
I’ll admit I was caught off guard the first time I went to shower at the gym facility and it was in a giant community shower. Am I totally prude? Am I the only one who gets embarrassed in front of strangers? Dressing in secret and pretending we all don’t have the same parts and shy away from so much as someone catching a glance of our cellulite or God forbid our thighs! In most european cultures I have exprienced the people are free, they are proud of their bodies and the women don’t body shame each other, even in a glance. It is a community and people are friendly and helpful… and they shower in one big room. So I quick had to get over it. We are all beautiful!
Grindivik Swimming Pool
Our first day in Iceland, after sleeping in the camper van for a couple hours in the Blue Lagoon parking lot, we stopped at the Grindivik Swimming Pool just south on Route 43. The facility is similar to a really nice YMCA, very clean showers and locker rooms, the people were very friendly and it was a perfect place to refresh! To our surprise you remove your shoes when you go inside these types of Pools and leave them by the front door on the racks. Then pay for the services you want to use at the front desk, you can even rent a towel, and then proceed to the locker rooms.
The lap pool, hot tubs and sauna are located outside on the back deck. We met several locals in the hot tub and had nice conversations with each person about their life in Iceland, the changing community and growth of tourism. The people of Iceland are so welcoming and calming, they love their country and we have so much respect for them.
The showers are communal and everyone showers with eachother so be prepared to undress/shower/dress around others of the same gender and all ages.
Cost: 470 Kr = $4.00
The Blue Lagoon
Perhaps the most visited place in Iceland, the majestic Blue Lagoon is a gorgeous geothermal spa, hotel, and pool located past a vast lava field and conveniently right by the airport. The waters range from about 98-104°. These days you’ll need to reserve a space online well in advance to bathe in these therapeutic waters and it is quite an experience any time of day, I still recommend going if you have never been.
The first time we visited we did not need a reservation, we showed up and paid our way, got our magnetic locker wristband, showered and partied our way through the lagoon for over 3 hours finally exiting to pools soggy little lima beans. The waters were amazingly blue and the bottom was surprisingly black lava sand! Each area of the pool was delightful and don’t forget about the silica mud masks and algae cream. For the second visit we made a reservation online days in advance for a good 3 hours before heading to the airport, as I recommend this as a perfect way to leave Iceland!
The third time we arrived at 8am and were first in line for ‘those without tickets,’ and was sadly turned away pretty quickly. They were still super nice about it but no more walk-ins were allowed. We learned that lesson and so the fourth time we made an online reservation, again for right before heading to the airport to Amsterdam. As much as we love this place, and it will always hold such great memories… we did also enjoy some of the smaller pools more out of town just as much.
The Lagoon changed a lot in a year and for the best I am very sure… the hotel is gorgeous, they have a world class restaurant, and an ever-expanding black-sand-bottom, perfectly blue healing geothermal waters pool. The silica masks, algae mask and mini bar are just a bonus.
Cost: check out updated prices here
Grettislaug & Jarlslaug, West Iceland
We planned on making it here for one night, drove through the night, a sky full of clouds, no chance of northern lights, and loved it so much we went back for seconds. We knew we had to get to camp and find a place to park the van, in the dark, and we were ok with that. As we drove down the last road, we crossed a cattle guard and were then totally and utterly surrounded by sheep! Sheep everywhere! On the sides of the road, in the road, up on the hill, sleeping, scrambling, chilling out. It was awesome. (They were there when we arrived and when we left the next day and when we returned). The road stretched right down the middle of several farmer fields and ended at the far reaches of North Iceland, a secluded summer camp and hot springs.
The gate was open but buildings were all locked up except for the bathrooms. We stayed the night in our van during a very windy, very cold night. At that point we were still on Texas time and woke up really early the next morning. The sun was not even up and he was out taking pictures of the water and I was inside taking pictures of him out the window taking pictures, just so excited to be back in Iceland.
The pool area is set back along the coast, away from the camping areas but has a small parking lot close in. If you’re camping it’s first come first serve on the grass and lot areas. I can only imagine this place packed in summer! When we arrived there was an older man already in the Jarlslaug pool, naked, who eventually told us the ‘less hot’ side was where he was, got out and changed and then left. One side is absolutely hotter than the other. You either enter down the stairs into boiling hot or on the rock side where its just really hot.
If you arrive in the winter there is a donation box right by the pool. You can rinse off at the shower behind the pools, and there are actually two pools, Grettislaug and Jarlslaug.
The maps I’ve seen online for this special pool are generally showing the wrong, placing it in the West Fjords… its more east and north here: Reykjastrandarvegur, Sveitarfélagið Skagafjörður, Iceland. Overlooking the bay you can see Dragney Island across the bay. Stories say that the old man of Dragney Island still roams around the Grettislaug grounds today. We bought an audio CD of North Iceland folklore at a N1 gas station… Couldn’t help but think about the man at the pool who mysteriously turned up and then left.
Seljavallalaug Geothermal Pool – South Iceland
We visited this pool a couple years back when I like to think it was still an off-the-beaten path pool. You questioned if you were allowed on the property, you worried your tiny car wouldn’t make it down the road, and you kind of wandered for a bit before finding your bearings and then the path to the pool. When we arrived 4 people and a dog were there. That quickly shifted to us being there alone for a while and then a small group of 4 new comers showed up. Only one other person spoke English and it was delightful to meet a few people while also soaking in the solitude of Seljavallalaug.
The view here alone can change your soul. Surrounded by the sloping moutain behind you, the rushing river beside you and the hot to warmish waters below you, this 25-meter outdoor pool is magical. The facility was built in 1923 and there is an outdoor changin area where you can store your personal items. The Geothermal water is pumped to it constantly and you may expect it to be really hot but, spolier alert!…. it’s not. In fact, when it’s freezing outside you are warm in the water by the pump but the rest is rather luke warm.
The white building is a changing room and provides a small amount of shield from the wind and rainy weather in the middle of October. If a black dog decides to escort you out, you’ve been visited by Hepni, a name I gave him, our good luck prince. And don’t be surprised when he also waits patiently for any food to fall out of your car. He’s a sweetie!
Myvatn Nature Baths – North Iceland
Stopping at the Myvatn Nature Bath was a beautiful mid-way stop on our camper van trip around North Iceland. This seculuded Blue Lagoon has been an oasis in a vast Volcanic and mountainous territory since 2004. The pool temperature vary from about 100-104 °F in the main pool areas and seprate sauna and hot tubs available outside. You’ll find little enclaves tucked around every corner and the in-pool showers are perfect for beating out any shoulder tension or neck pressure.
The folks at the facility were so nice and provide you locker tokens where you can stash your stuff or keep your personal items while you’re in the pool. There is also a small cafe in the front to grab a snack after. Be sure to rinse off before putting on your swimmies, the staff should remind you and the showers have curtains if you want a little privacy. Don’t take your towel out to the pool. You definatley won’t need it in the winter.
Cost: 3,800 Kr – 4,300 Kr = About $32.00 -$38.00 Adults, $10-$13.00 Kids
Akureyri Thermal Pool
The northern most populated city in Iceland boasts a year round geothermal pool in the heart of the city. This facility is also much like a very nice YMCA and offered a beautiful and clean shower facility with lockers, two outdoor lap pools, water slides, hot pots, steam rooms and saunas. We had popped in and out, using the facility for the showers to refresh before heading out for an adventures night in search of Northern Lights so I was too slow to grab a photo but you can tour the facility here.
Cost: varies with the season, bring krona, euro or major credit card
Pools for next time:
Secret Lagoon – Gamla Laugin
Hofsos North Iceland
Hot Streams of Reykjadalur Valley
Highlands Strutslaug Hot Spring
West Fjord’s Norðurfjörður, Krossnelaug
Landbrotalaug Hot Pot