You could say that enjoying a dip in one of the many geothermal natural pools around Iceland is unofficially a national sport. Hot pots are everywhere - from the center of Reykjavik to the far, lonely peninsulas of the Westfjords - and they are not only relaxing, but also provide a great opportunity to meet the locals or to recover from a long night out. The famous Blue Lagoon is definitely the crown jewel among the Icelandic pool, the steaming thermal baths are located close to Kevlavik airport on the Reykjanes peninsula and offer the perfect farewell relaxation before returning back home. But thanks to the Mid-Atlantic ridge and the geothermal activity related to it, you will find the most wonderful hot pots and natural swimming pools all across Iceland and you will find our favourite choices below.
Landmannalaugar, South Iceland
The stunning wild area of Landmannalaugar in Iceland's Highlands is characterized by colourful mountains, endless lava fields, clear blue lakes and soothing hot springs. You will find the second largest geothermal field outside the Grímsvötn crater on Vatnajökull in the Landmannalaugar area. Hot and cold water springs flow from the grounds of the Laugahraun lava field and create a well tempered natural pool close to the Landmannalaugar mountain hut. A short walk over the boardwalk takes you to the hot spring to enjoy some of the most picturesque and surreal panoramic views over the colorful mountain range while relaxing in the hot water. The water gets warmer as you move towards the black lava rock, so there is the ideal bathing spot for everybody.
Húsafell canyon baths, West Iceland
Húsafell is a large farmland and estate in the Borgarfjörður region of West Iceland. It's a popular recreational area among Icelanders and offers plenty of opportunities for hiking, glacier exploration or snowmobiling. Besides the abundance of outdoor activities, you will find unrivalled nature like the dense birch wood forests or the stunning Hraunafossar Waterfalls. The Húsafell area is also home to Iceland's largest lava tube cave Víðgelmir.
Locals turned the natural hot spring into an unobtrusive and sustainable bathing experience by using local, natural materials for the construction and recycling the age-old methods used to create the historic heritage site pool of Snorralaug in the 10th century.
A short hiking tour from the Husafell activity center will take you through a natural and geological wonderland with waterfalls, glacial streams and black lava formations. Once you arrive to the canyon baths, you can choose from two geothermal hot pools and a cold water spring with temperatures around 10 degrees. After a day filled with explorations and outdoor activities, there is no better way to relax than soaking in a well tempered geothermal pool and enjoy the spectacular views of the surrounding canyons, mountains and glaciers.
Mývatn thermal lake, Northern Iceland
Sitting in the midst of the beautifully rough and moonlike thermal Myvatn area, the natural Mývatn lake is Northern Iceland's answer to the Blue Lagoon. The pools are smaller and by far not as famous, but it is a heavenly feeling to dip into the blue, milky, mineral rich water. After enjoying the fabulous views from the lake, you can relax in one of the natural steam baths.
Mývatn sits right on the mid-Atlantic rift and the geological activity in the area formed an amazing landscape with bubbling mudholes, bizarre lava formations, steaming fumaroles and extinct craters. A 36km long ring road takes you around the lake and the whole area around the lake can be explored in a day if you are traveling by car.
Drangsnes Hot Pools, Westfjords
You will find the small coastal village of Drangsnes on the northern shores of the Steingrímsfjörður. The eastern coast of the Westfjords in northwest Iceland is characterized by remote villages, high mountains, impressive fjords and a quiet, peaceful way of life.
The coastal road takes you along the calm waters of the fjord from the local center of Hólmavík to Drangnes, a small remote village looking onto the northern coast of Iceland and the small, uninhabited island of Grimsey. The village is overlooked by the menacing Kerling rock, which mythology and legend say to be the remains of a Troll lady turned to stone at sunrise. You can find her stone-turned bull Uxi in the bay besides the island of Grimsey.
The enchanting highlight of this little village are the hidden geothermal hot pools, which have been built into the coastal rock besides the main road. You will find the little hot pots opposite the local church, overlooking the coast, fjord and sea. The setting and views over the North Atlantic and the fjord are unrivalled, making the hot pots a popular spot for after work bathing. And in case the weather is too rough, there is always the option to relax in the hot tubs at the local swimming pool.
Viti Crater Lake, Askja, Highlands
A gigantic eruption in 1875 caused the collapse of the magma chamber of the Askja volcano, creating a 11km2 crater 300m below the original volcano crater. Over time, the crater in Iceland's Highlands filled with water and turned into the sapphire-blue Oskjuvatn, the second deepest lake in Iceland.
While it is not possible and indeed dangerous to swim in the Oskjuvatn lake, the neighbouring Viti crater lake is filled with geothermal water. The lake was formed in the course of the 1875 eruption when a volcanic vent exploded on the northeastern corner of the lake. Even though the waters are slightly cooler than some of the more accessible thermal bathing spots, the Viti lake is well-tempered for a swim and the raw dramatic crater scenery certainly adds to a very special bathing experience.
Seljavallalaug, South Iceland
Seljavallalaug swimming pool was built in 1923, making it one of the oldest swimming pools in Iceland. It was purpose built with the intention of teaching the Icelandic people how to swim! With a reasonable size of 10 meters in widths and 25m in length it was also Iceland's largest swimming pool until 1936.
Set on the foot of a mountain in South Iceland, the historic pool was made from concrete and is fed by a natural hot spring. The structure and setting hasn't changed much since it first opened, so it feels a bit like traveling back in time to the 1920s.
To get there, you can park your car at the Seljavallalaug car park beside the farm and from here, it is a 10 minutes walk along the riverbed to reach the pool. The pool is not maintained for most parts of the year and only cleaned once a year. Algae grows in the pool especially over the summer, giving the pool a glowing shade of green. The setting in the valley on the foot of the mountain is wonderful, but it must be noted that even while Seljavallalaug is a popular bathing spot is not Iceland's most hygienic place to swim due to the lack of maintenance.
Best with kids
Fontana Laugarvatn, Golden Circle, Southwest Iceland
Located in the center of Iceland's famous Golden Circle route, a visit to the Fontana Laugarvatn Lake makes a great addition to every trip along the famous trail. People in the local area have been using the hot water from the ground for heating their houses, cooking and bathing since 1929. The once simple sauna over the hot zone has now been extended with three hot pools and a steam room sitting on top of a steaming hot pot. The Laugarvatn Lake is close by, offering a less busy and cheaper alternative to cool down, even in wintertime. Further, you can also heat your picnic on the warm sand between the bath and the lake.
Secret Lagoon, Golden Circle, Southwest Iceland
Also known as Gamla Laugin, the Secret Lagoon is the oldest swimming pool in Iceland and was constructed in 1891. The man-made pool is conveniently located along the Golden Circle Route and its thermal waters are powered by Hverahólmi, the geothermal area next to the village of Flúðir in Southern IIceland.
After it was abandoned for years, it was renovated and then reopened in 2014. The pool is like a large hot tub and is well worth a visit for the scenery alone. You will find bubbling hot springs, steaming fumaroles and other geothermal activity right next to the Secret Lagoon.
GeoSea Sea Baths, Húsavík, Northern Iceland
Offering fantastic views over the Skjalfandi Bay, the North Atlantic and the mountains, the GoeSea Sea Baths in Húsavík in northern Iceland make for a very special bathing experience. It is also unique for the fact that the pools are fed by geothermally heated seawater rather than spring water, making the water mineral rich and healing.
Located around 3km after Nordurfjoerdur, the Krossneslaug thermal pool in Iceland's eastern Westfjords lies at the end of the Road 643 on a wild black pebble beach. It is a long drive, but the pool offers fantastic views over the ocean and it is an unforgettable experience to view the midnight sun from the thermal waters.
Blue Lagoon, Reykjanes, Southwest Iceland
Not to visit the Blue Lagoon when coming to Iceland is like leaving the Louvre without seeing the Mona Lisa. The Blue Lagoon might have a reputation of being too popular, too busy or too expensive, but everybody not visiting this unique thermal bath will definitely miss out on something special.
The milky-blue thermal pool sits in the middle of a craggy black lava field on the Reykjanes peninsula. The Blue Lagoon is fed by water coming from the geothermal power plant Svartsengi and the futuristic looking towers in the backdrop and the steam rising from the water create a somewhat out-of-this-world atmosphere. Around the lagoon, you will find hot pots, steam rooms, a sauna, a whirlpool, a steaming hot waterfall and lots of outdoor space to relax. If you are lucky, you might get a hand on one of the air mattresses to float around on the mineral-rich water.
Hot spring etiquette
Last, but not least, out of respect of local hot spring etiquette, nature and other guests, it is important to stick to some rules when enjoying the thermal waters. Iceland's hot springs are places that are meant to be healing and peaceful and they serve as a getaway to those who need it most:
take a shower without bathing suite before entering any hot spring
hot springs are meant to be places to relax, so please don't go wild and noisy
bathing in the hot springs is not recommended if you are pregnant or have a heart condition
do not enter a hot spring on an empty stomach and drink lots of water
please keep and leave the place tidy and clean
the salty thermal water in the Blue Lagoon oxidizes silver and gold, so please leave your jewelry in the locker