Iceland is known for its mesmerizing landscapes, glaciers, and ice caves. Little would you expect this small Scandinavian country way up North to have year-round access to outdoor bathing facilities, hot springs, and heated pools!
Well surprisingly enough, swimming in geothermally heated water is a top favorite activity for both locals and tourists alike. You’d be amazed to find out that you can find hot springs in pretty much every corner of the country.
What are hot springs and why are there so many in Iceland
Hot springs are bodies of water that are heated through geothermal energy. They greatly vary in shape and size. Some take the shape of geysers, shooting hundred-degree waters up high into the sky. Others consist of fumaroles or bubbling mud pits. Due to their extremely high temperatures, however, they’re not suitable for bathing purposes.
The ones we’re looking at are hot springs whose waters have been cooled down to a reasonable temperature, usually around 38 degrees, allowing a comfortable bathing experience. These are dotted all around the country and include the geothermally heated pools in Reykjavík, man-made as well as naturally occurring hot springs.
The answer as to why there are so many in Iceland is quite simple. The country is entirely heated by geothermal energy, coming from magma chambers deep within the earth’s core. This energy provides electricity and heating to the whole country as well as protrudes out on the surface through the form of hot springs. Most bathing hot springs are a natural occurrence however, some have been ‘humanly molded, an example of that being the Blue Lagoon.
The benefits of soaking in Hot Springs
Apart from their relaxing and calming effects on the mind and body, bathing in the waters of hot springs certainly has a number of other beneficial properties.
They do wonders on muscle aches. If you have any type of inflammation in your body, be it a bruise or painful tendon, dipping your toes in the warm waters of hot springs will eventually alleviate your pain. In addition, the calcium found its composition helps to increase your flow of oxygen whilst lowering your blood pressure. Last but not least, the sulfur and sodium combined aid with battling skin imperfections, from blemishes to eczema and all in between.
Code of conduct
Although Icelanders are in general extremely friendly, they take their bathing rituals quite seriously. Before hopping in any hot spring, pool, or Jacuzzi you must shower in your birthday suit, that is shower fully naked. Not a lot of harsh chemicals are used to filter the water out in public places, hence why following this rule is a must. In addition, try to keep your voice down and avoid screaming, splashing, or creating any disturbance. Littering is also a big no. Whatever you bring, you need to take it back with you.
Follow these simple rules and you’re guaranteed to have a blast!
Here’s a list of our top-rated Hot Springs and Pools in Iceland:
We cannot make a list of our best hot pools without mentioning the Blue Lagoon. Set in between Keflavik International Airport and Reykjavík, the Blue Lagoon is by the most popular Icelandic attraction, winter and summer alike. Idyllically set in a lava field near Grindavík, this 5-star spa retreat is the perfect place to relax after a day of exploring Iceland’s natural wonders. Its geothermal waters come from Svartsengi geothermal power station nearby and are cooled down to the ideal temperature of 37-39 degrees Celsius, allowing for a comfortable and relaxing bathing experience.
Mývatn Nature Baths
Found in the North, just 73km from Akureyri, lies Mývatn Nature Baths. A set of geothermal pools filled with beneficial minerals for the body and soul welcome visitors all year round. The water has an average temperature of 38 degrees Celsius, ensuring a comfortable and relaxing experience. Guests also have the pleasure of having two steam baths; a youth pool and a hot tub set just a few steps away from the main attraction. During summer, tickets sell out quickly therefore it’s always best to book in advance.
One of the oldest man-made pools in the country, Seljavallalaug is a true ancient gem. Set in a remote location on Iceland’s South Coast and encompassed by towering mountainous ranges with a waterfall or two in the distance, this hot spring is a top favorite. After the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull Volcano, the whole area including the pool was covered in a thick layer of ash, requiring a handful of volunteers to help restore it to its previous state. Its waters are rather murky, with a greenish tint to them, due to the large build-up of algae but this certainly should not put you off! Modest changing rooms are also available right near the pool’s edge.
Constructed in 1981, Lýsuhólslaug hot pool and two hot tubs are the perfect spot to spend an hour or so, after exploring the wonders of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Their vividly green colored-water is the result of algae and natural silica mud attached to the walls of the pool and hot tubs. Although the amenities are fully drained and cleaned once every eight days, it’s worth mentioning that these natural types of microorganisms and minerals can only be beneficial to the skin and contain a great number of antioxidants.
Near the Secret Lagoon, close to Flúðir lies another beautifully set hot spring named Hrunalaug. Its stonewalls and small turf house provide visitors with a chance to soak in the geothermal warmth whilst fully immersing in Iceland’s natural wonders.
Hrunalaug is located on private property, like most of Iceland’s natural attractions, and was once used as a sheep showering facility. Today, the area is solely given to locals and tourists to enjoy.
As the land is private, littering or camping is absolutely forbidden. You should also take the utmost care of the surrounding nature to make sure others can enjoy the experience as much as you!
The Secret Lagoon
The Secret Lagoon, also known as Gamla Laugin, is a true gem when it comes to location and cultural popularity. Found in one of Iceland’s most geothermally active areas, and only a stone throw away from Gullfoss waterfall, this man-made pool is the perfect addition to any Golden Circle road trip. The landscape nearby, which can well be appreciated from the pool itself provides a fairy-tale-like setting with moss-covered lava fields, its own little geyser, and sprouts of steam coming up from below. It’s worth mentioning that due to its popularity, hundreds of guests visit the pool on a daily basis, making it rather crowded during busy periods of the year.
Found in the northwest part of the country, Grettislaug hot pool is definitely a one of its kind. Named after ‘Grettir’ presumed to be the strongest man in the Icelandic Sagas, Grettislaug and its neighboring pool named Jarlslaug can be found 40 km from the ring road making them the perfect off-the-beaten-path bathing spot. Its close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean makes it possible for you to try and take a dip in its freezing waters and thereafter thoroughly enjoy the warmth of Grettislaug’s geothermal ones.
Newly opened and a local favorite, the Sky Lagoon can be found only a stone’s throw away from the country’s capital. An infinity pool overlooking the Atlantic ocean merged with the surrounding untouched nature makes it a treat to bathe in winter and summer alike. The spa’s facilities are one of their kind and boast a steam room, sauna, waterfall, and last but not least an outdoor pool bar. Grab a drink and hunt for the northern lights all in the comfort of warm geothermal water.
Reykjadalur is by far one of Iceland’s most popular natural hot springs. Set just a forty-minute drive away from Reykjavík, it’s the perfect activity for those short on time wanting to experience the warmth of naturally occurring geothermal heat.
The valley is filled with steam and mud pots, allowing visitors to have an authentic and memorable experience. It takes a little less than an hour to hike up to the springs from the car park, and caution must be made when hiking during winter, as the path may be extremely slippery!
Perhaps a local favorite, Horghlid hot pot is definitely worth a visit, should you find yourself exploring the country’s Westfjords. This man-made 2x6m geothermal pool is beautifully set by the sea, not far from Hörgshlíð farm. Two hot hoses and one cold allow for a constant temperature of just under 40 degrees, ensuring a pleasant bathing experience. There are small changing facilities nearby that visitors are free to use. Although the hot pot itself is free to use, it’s always polite to ask the farm for permission, since it’s on their land.
Apart from its exceptional hiking trails and uniquely colored mountains, Landmannalaugar also boasts a much-prized hot spring. Positioned just nearby the camping site and washing facilities, it is nowadays mainly used by hikers in search of some much-needed relaxation after a long day on the trails. The road to get here is quite problematic therefore you can either take a bus or a 4×4 to reach the hot springs. As with most roads of this difficulty, access is only available during summer and even then, the road conditions must be carefully checked.
Nestled in the North of the country, on top of cliffs overlooking Skjálfandi bay and surrounded by unparalleled beauty lay the GeoSea Sea Baths. These three pools merged together, idyllically blending in with the surrounding nature are the perfect spot to relax after a long day of exploring the country’s northern territories. What’s special about these baths is that, unlike many others, they contain mineral-rich seawater instead of geothermal water. During summer, they are open until midnight whereas come winter, they close at 10 pm. If you are lucky enough, you might even spot the Northern Lights dancing above from the warmth and comfort of the pool.
The small town of Djúpivogur, quietly sitting on the shores of Berufjörður fjord in the eastern part of the country boasts a beautifully hidden geothermal pool. Although it’s only about 100 meters or less from the main road, or Iceland’s Route 1, the pool can easily be spotted by looking out for a algae green-colored spring pipe. It’s the ideal spot to catch your breath in between explorations.
Víti by Askja
Víti (meaning hell in Icelandic) by Askja is a uniquely shaped geothermal crater lake, found in the Icelandic highlands, which are one of the most active volcano regions in the country. Although the most recent eruption at Askja occurred in 1961, the Víti crater was formed earlier, in the late 19th century after a series of volcanic eruptions that, after filling with water, formed a 200-meter deep lake called Öskjavatn. Although the lake mostly has a temperature of 25 to 30 degrees celsius and bathing in its milky blue waters might be rather tempting, it is known that the temperature in some spots could go up to 60 degrees, therefore extreme caution must be taken if you decide to take a swim in Hells waters, quite literally.
A 90-minute drive from Reykjavík takes you to the ever so active geothermal area of Reykholt where Krauma Baths are found. Overlooking Deildartunguhver – Europe’s most powerful hot spring, Krauma features a total of six hot pots whose waters get constantly renewed by Deildatunguhver’s powerful forces. The site also features two steam rooms, a relaxation room, and a restaurant using Iceland’s finest local ingredients.
About an hour and a half drive from Reykjavik takes you to one of the country’s geothermally active regions, with the Laugarvatn Fontana Spa built on top of it. This wellness center provides all the services one could ever imagine. From steams rooms to geothermal pools and all in between, this wonderful hot spring is the perfect spot to relax and blow off some steam, quite literally. Its proximity to the Golden Circle makes it a great addition to any road trip or tour around that region.
If you’re looking for a truly unique experience look no further! The hot pools found in Hauganes are only a shorts drive away from the country’s Northern Capital of Akuyreri. A set of four hot pots and a boat transformed into another hot pot are strategically placed on the town’s black sand beach only a few meters away from the North Atlantic Ocean. If the water’s temperature gets a bit too hot to handle, you can easily make your way to the Ocean’s edge to cool off. Bear in mind that the ocean’s temperature is around seven to ten degrees Celsius during summer, so you might be in for a cold surprise!
Landbrotalaug Hot Pot
Landbrotalaug lies north of Eldborg Crater on the mesmerizing Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Its off-the-beaten-path location makes it the perfect place to soak in geothermal water without having to worry about visitors nearby. Bear in mind that due to its small size, you might have some initial difficulty finding it.
The picturesque fishing village of Drangsnes in the Westfjords has by far one of the best hot pots that you could possibly find on the island. Placed just a short distance away from the main road on the shoreline overlooking the mountains, the Drangsnes hot pots come as a fantastic addition to the already mesmerizing natural scenery. All three hot pots are of different temperatures to make sure everyone fully enjoys themselves. There’s also a small changing room just across the road that allows for a more comfortable experience. As the town itself has a population of just over 100, it goes without saying that these hot pots are definitely the hit of the town for locals as well!
Found just 20km away from the southeast town of Höfn, the geothermal hot pools of Hoffell are the perfect place to relax and recharge after a long winter’s day of driving around the area. A total of five tubs deep-set into the ground offer a breath-taking view over the mountains and Hoffellsjökull glacier. A plethora of hiking trails is available nearby, for those wanting to experience the glorious Icelandic wilderness!
Vök Baths can be found idyllically sitting on the banks of Urriðavatn Lake. It’s worth mentioning that it’s the largest geothermal spa in the eastern region of the country boasting multiple pools, a restaurant, tearoom, and a sauna.
Integrated into Iceland’s natural landscape, you can barely distinguish human-built structures from the surrounding untouched nature. Although this area is geothermally heated, the water used at the Spa does not contain any Silfra or Silica unlike the Blue Lagoon for example. Its visitors get to benefit from the healing power of geothermal waters without having to endure that particular and not so appeasing egg smell.
A dip in Kvika’s geothermal foot pool is definitely guaranteed to leave you relaxed and wanting more. Found on the northern tip of Seljalternes peninsula, near Grotta Lighthouse and a short 5-minute drive from the city center, the size of Kvika is just enough to fit two to three people sitting comfortably on its stone edge. On a clear day, you can enjoy the sights of Esja or even Snaefellsjokull in the distance! A must for those short on time yet who want to experience something unique.
The geothermal valley of Hveradalir in the Kerlingarfjöll mountain range is by far one of the most scenic places in the entire country. Steaming outlets, bubbling mud pots and hot springs make up this dramatic yet fairy-tale-like landscape. Apart from it being a hikers mecca, with numerous trails of all lengths and difficulties crafted nearby, this region also offers visitors a chance to bathe in pretty much, paradise. Kerlingarfjoll is the perfect natural hot spring to soak and relax after a long day of hiking the mountain ranges nearby. It’s worth mentioning that access to this area can only be gained by driving on Highland F-roads therefore a suitable 4×4 vehicle is a must!
Hot Springs in which you cannot bathe in
The geothermal area in Haukadalur Valley, in the southwest part of the country, is home to the ever so prominent Geysir Hot Spring. It’s worth mentioning that although the term geyser derives from Geysir, it is Geysir’s big brother Strokkur that is nowadays the star of the show. Frequent eruptions occurring every five to ten minutes at Strokkur, throw liters of boiling hot water and steam high into the air, for all spectators to observe from a safe distance. You might be tempted to put a foot or hand out to touch the water but bear in mind that the water in this geothermal area can easily reach a temperature of a hundred or so degrees!
Found at about an hour and a half drive from Akureyri, is Grotagja hot spring cave. Once a hidden gem, this lesser-known location rose to international stardom after being featured in the Game of Thrones saga. After all, no one can forget the steamy scene between …. The entrance to the cave consists of large boulders that have fallen onto the ground resulting in you having to climb over them. Although the cave itself is relatively small, it can comfortably fit three to four people with others having to wait their turn. Once inside, you can admire the mesmerizing crystal clear blue water of the hot springs below. Due to its unstable nature and sometimes-extreme temperature, it is forbidden to bathe in its waters but nevertheless is still a sight worth to be seen. As the majority of natural attractions, Grjótagjá is set on private land and unfortunately, due to the misconduct of visitors, the cave has been closed. It’s worth mentioning that it can reopen at any time so if you’re in the region, it’s best to ask ahead.
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