If you were to ask me what my favourite thing about Iceland was, wallowing in a Geothermal pool would certainly pip my top three.
These naturally heated pools are said have health benefits and are a great social activity; a core part of Icelandic culture, and honestly, have you even ‘done‘ Iceland if you didn’t at least tick off one of these?
I’m still meeting other travelers at Keflavik airport who remain oblivious to the wonders of an Icelandic hot pot. When I tell them I’m on a repeat trip, they always press me on what I’d recommend – what keeps bringing me back; “Oh, the pools – for sure!” I’d say without hesitation. But then they tell me that they didn’t pack a swimsuit or that swimming ‘isn’t really their thing’, and I can’t help but feel as though they’ll be really missing out…
You could consider this your ‘starter pack’ of Icelandic pools, the Blue Lagoon is world famous, and when the majority of people plan a trip to Iceland, this pool will undoubtedly sit on the top of their itinerary. Around 700 thousand visitors wallowed in this milky lake last year, making it one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country, and for good reason.
In recent months, I’ve been hearing a few mutters that ‘travelers’ have started to shun the Blue Lagoon believing it to be an ‘overpriced, tourist trap’. Guys! No!
Sure, the Blue Lagoon entrance price is steeper than most, but after visiting a third time in three years i’m convinced that it’s still totally worth it.
The Blue Lagoon is post-flight heaven. There’s not many places in the world where you can drag yourself off an plane, drive a few minutes down the road, through a lava field and slip into a warm silica mud bath.
Prices start around 40 Euro for a basic ticket, this gains you entrance to the Blue Lagoon, a free silica mask from the Silica Bar, the cascade fountain, steam room and sauna. And even though they recently expanded the lagoon to meet tourist demand, there are only a finite amount of time slots available for each day, which means the pool is never over-crowded, ensuring that they maintain the lagoon as this perfectly tranquil space. For that once in a lifetime experience, baby soft skin, to be the envy of your friends (The Blue Lagoon was one of Facebook’s top 20 most ‘checked in’ places in the world in 2013), and for the best introduction to Iceland?
Come on, that’s fantastic value.
Iceland’s ‘not-so-secret’ Secret Lagoon can be tagged onto the end of a self-drive Golden Circle tour, so make sure that after one exhausting, incredible day, lusting over geysir’s and waterfalls that you check into Gamla Laugin in Fludir to restore the balance and sooth your soul!
This is a more ‘authentic’ experience than the Blue Lagoon. They have tried to keep the area ‘stripped back’ and natural, with un-fussy changing huts and a simple geothermal heated lake with pebbles beneath your feet. A natural hot spring continuously feeds into the bath, keeping the water at a toasty 38-40 degree Celsius all year around, and they even have their own mini-geysir in the corner of the lagoon erupting every few minutes.
The entrance fee is 2800 isk per adult
Another one that can be slipped in the middle of a Golden Circle tour is Laugarvatn Fontana.
This is for those who like a little bit of luxury to their geothermal bath experiences. Laugarvatn Fontana’s set up is more like a traditional ‘spa’, with tiled hot pools, wooden saunas and beautiful views across the neighbouring lake. Its price reflects the slightly more refined complex (around 3,800 isk for adults), so it’s a bit more costly than the ‘local’ baths, but it’s still very affordable when compared to the Blue Lagoon.
We visited on a very snowy February afternoon, the pools were empty apart from us and we were able to soak undisturbed whilst gazing out across the misty white landscape.
It was a welcome interjection into our Golden Circle drive! So after an hour or so, we were energised to hit the road again to continue on to Geysir and Gullfoss and lap up some of Iceland’s best sights!
Image Credit: Fontana.is
Okay, now here’s my ultimate favourite. Nautholsvik is Reykjavik’s Geothermal beach, and I can’t tell you how much I just want to build a little hut right next to this place and live here forever. This place makes me so happy!
This simple hot pot on a beach is ultra central to Reykjavik, located just next to the domestic airport, and honestly, this was a gem of find for us when we first visited in 2014.
Googling ‘things to do in Reykjavik’ back in my hotel room, up popped ‘Reykjavik’s geothermal beach’. Jamie had just settled in for the night and wasn’t worried about going, but after some puppy dog eyes and a lot of pestering we were lolling around in Nautholsvik’s shallow hot pot, with low-murmurs of Icelandic conversation and quiet lapping of the ocean around us, watching the gorgeous winter sun set across the bay. Best decision ever.
Best of all, Nautholsvik is free in the summer months and a mere £600 isk (around £4.30) in winter. Check opening times on their website.
Laugardalslaug is the main pool complex in Reykjavik and can very loosely be compared to that of a leisure center, but don’t let that utterly lame description put you off. Instead of that sticky dry, slightly icky chemical feel you might get after bathing in a pool somewhere else in the world, pools in Iceland are geothermal and have little or no chlorine in the water which means the water feels totally clean and silky. You simply just feel utterly rejuvenated.
Whenever i’m in Iceland, this place is my go-to pool. It’s got long opening hours and has everything I need, all in one place. Spend a good couple of hours here, hopping in and out of the hot pots and in and out of the steam rooms, doing a few laps in the outdoor pool or just messing around with foam woggles. 🙂
Every time I leave, I think I spent the rest of the evening in a fuzzy bubble; I have never felt so relaxed… In. My. Life. It’s certainly a case of don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, and for only 900 isk per adult, why wouldn’t you!
image Credit: Reykjavik.is
For uber-hardcore geothermal hot pot fans, here’s one for you. This one is quite a drive away from Reykjavik, but possible to visit in a day trip along with a self-drive tour to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula and back again.
When we stopped by, it was tagged onto the end of a road trip, so by the time we’d found this place we were stiff and exhausted and couldn’t have done with anything better than to soak our limbs in a 44 degree pool in the middle of no-where!
Picture this; It was a perfect September day, sunny with a slight chill in the air, over the past few hours we’d wowed ourselves with waterfalls, towering volcanic formations, black beaches and vast lava fields. Now we’d stripped off in a field in Iceland, behind an abandoned farmhouse and were simply chilling out in a tiny hot pot made for two, whilst goggling at the mountain-scape around us.
So wonderfully surreal, completely free, and only in Iceland.
Image credit: HotPotIceland.com (where you can find a record of all hot pots in the country!)
There’s so much more, this is only a tiny handful of what Iceland offers! For more information on Iceland’s geothermal baths, head to VisitIceland
Have you ever been to Iceland, have you been to any pools? Have I missed your favourite?
Don’t forget to also check out my top things to do on a budget in Reykjavik!