5 minute read
Spas & hot springs
Every town in Iceland has at least one local swimming pool, featuring hot tubs referred to locally as heitir pottar (literally “hot pots”). It’s common for Icelanders to visit every day after work and chew the fat.
- Read more in our guide to Iceland’s hot springs and geothermal pools.
It goes without saying that you haven’t truly experienced Iceland until you’ve visited at least one spa, natural hot spring, or swimming pool. But where are the best ones? We’ve rounded them up for you here.
Best spas in Iceland
An Iceland spa experience is unlike any other. Stew under the open sky in warm, naturally heated waters. Get treatments based on Iceland’s unique minerals. Or just soak up the ambience, it’s up to you.
- Blue Lagoon (Grindavík, near Keflavík Airport) – Opened in 1993, the Blue Lagoon was the first spa of its kind in Iceland and is still the most popular today. Best known for its milky blue waters set in a dramatic lava field, and its silica mud treatment.
Facilities: Heated lagoon, sauna, steam bath, spa treatments, in-lagoon bar, café, restaurant
- Sky Lagoon (Kópavogur, near Reykjavík) – The only geothermal spa in the heart of the Reykjavík area, Sky Lagoon is nestled on the coast overlooking the North Atlantic Ocean. A wide range of bathing experiences is on offer in surroundings inspired by traditional Icelandic turf houses.
Facilities: Heated lagoon, cold pool, sauna, steam bath, spa treatments, in-lagoon bar, café
- Hvammsvík Hot Springs (Hvalfjörður, near Reykjavík) – Off the beaten track, these hot springs hug the coast of the stunning Hvalfjörður fjord. Here you can alternate between warming in the hot pots and taking a refreshing dip in the sea.
Facilities: Heated pools, steam cave, in-water bar, outdoor changing facilities, restaurant
- Gamla Laugin (aka Secret Lagoon, Flúðir, South Iceland) – Opened in 1891 and short detour off the Golden Circle route, Gamla Laugin offers a chance to bathe in warm waters under the open sky. Less of a spa experience, but offers the chance to get closer to nature. There’s even a mini geyser nearby to keep you entertained.
Facilities: Heated lagoon, café
- Fontana (Laugarvatn, South Iceland) – Also on the Golden Circle route, the Fontana spa sits on the shores of Lake Laugarvatn. Here you can stew in the hot pots before taking a refreshing dip in the lake (which is itself partially heated). Great for contrast bathing with a fantastic open view.
Facilities: Heated pool, hot tubs, sauna, steam bath, heated beach
- Forest Lagoon (Akureyri, North Iceland) – On the outskirts of the charming town of Akureyri you’ll find Forest Lagoon. This is the only place in Iceland where you can bathe surrounded by trees, and admire the spectacular view over the town and Eyjafjörður fjord.
Facilities: 2 heated pools, cold tub, sauna, in-lagoon bar, restaurant
- Mývatn Nature Baths (Lake Mývatn area, North Iceland) – Around an hour’s drive from Akureyri, the capital of Iceland’s north, Mývatn Nature Baths are nestled in a hillside overlooking a beautiful valley. One of the most tranquil geothermal spas in the country, near the Lake Mývatn area.
Facilities: Heated lagoon, hot tubs, steam bath, in-lagoon bar
- Vök Baths (Egilsstaðir, East Iceland) – These unique baths are located in Lake Urriðavatn and are the only floating pools in Iceland. Here you feel like you’re bathing in the lake, but without the freezing cold water!
Facilities: Floating heated infinity pools, hot tubs, steam bath, in-lagoon bar, restaurant
Best swimming pools in Iceland
Swimming pools are a great way to mix with the locals in Iceland. They’re also the most wallet-friendly way to experience Icelandic bathing culture.
If you’re planning on a longer stay or multiple visits, you can save big by buying tickets in multiples of 10.
- Sundhöllin (Downtown Reykjavík) – Charming pool in Reykjavík built in 1937, recently expanded.
Facilities: 25m outdoor pool, 25m indoor pool, children’s pool, hot tubs, cold tub, sauna, steam bath
- Vesturbæjarlaug (Vesturbær, Reykjavík) – Family-friendly pool in residential area, near the famous Vesturbæjarís ice cream shop.
Facilities: 25m outdoor pool, hot tubs, cold tub, sauna, steam bath
- Laugardalslaug (Laugardalur, Reykjavík) – Reykjavík’s only Olympic-sized pools. Great for a dip after a visit to the botanic gardens or zoo next door.
Facilities: 50m outdoor pool, 50m indoor pool, children’s pool with slides, hot tubs, cold tub, saltwater hot tub, steam bath
- Laugaskarð (Hveragerði, South Iceland) – A quiet local pool with a great view over the town of Hveragerði.
Facilities: 25m outdoor pool, hot tubs, steam bath
Icelandic bathing etiquette
It’s true to say that bathing in outdoor pools and natural hot springs is a pastime dear to many Icelanders. There’s an established etiquette around pools and hot springs.
Follow the simple steps below to make sure you respect the local culture.
- Have a shower naked before entering the water. Skipping this step is a big no-no and surefire way to rile locals. There are low levels of chlorine in Icelandic pools in part due to the strict showering rules. Private cubicles are available in spas and larger pools. Make sure you use soap and clean all your crevices!
- Take your shoes off as soon as you enter a changing room. Walking in outdoor shoes around the changing room is considered unhygienic.
- Bring your towel with you to the shower area. There are handy storage racks where you can leave your towel so you can grab it as soon as you come out of the water.
- Put the rest of your belongings in a locker. They are free in most pools. In spas, they are often linked to your contactless-enabled wristband.
- Feel free to use flip-flops. You might want to bring a clean pair of flip-flops for walking around the changing room or to the water. This is perfectly fine and something many locals do.
- Say hello as you enter a ‘hot pot’. For Icelanders, hot pots (hot tubs) are social spaces and a place where you can freely talk to strangers. Don’t be afraid to say hæ or góðan daginn as you enter!
- Bring phones or cameras into the pool. In spas like the Blue Lagoon, you’re generally allowed to take pictures. In local pools though, photography is strictly prohibited. This is a sacred space for locals and Icelanders value their privacy.
- Bring food & drink. You can bring a bottle of water if you get thirsty, although at most bathing facilities there are water fountains. Don’t bring anything likely to make a mess, such as hot drinks, soft drinks, or food. It’s fine to bring a book or magazine though if you want to read in the hot pot!
- Wear lotions or creams, or use soaps in the water. This will contaminate the water for everyone else.
- Wear valuable jewelry in spas. The water in spas like the Blue Lagoon can discolor certain metals. Also, because the water is murky, it would be very hard to locate your jewelry were it to fall off.
Although some of these rules may seem strict compared to your home country, they’re in place to maintain a high level of cleanliness and enjoyment for all bathers.
- Check out Iceland’s hot springs and swimming pools on a self-drive tour.
- Related: Sky Lagoon vs Blue Lagoon – Which One Should You Visit?