Hot springs, saunas, plunge pools and steam rooms have been part of Icelandic culture in one way or another for centuries. Hangs at the pool remain popular with all age groups and every neighbourhood, village and small town has at least one pool, all with its own feel and character. If you’re hiking, there’s no better way to soothe tired muscles and achy joints than a relaxing soak. But where to soak? Below we’ll run through some of the options, from the democratic neighbourhood pool to the exclusive bond villain hideout experience.
It all started in 1981 when a patient suffering from psoriasis bathed in the curious turquoise-coloured run-off pools of the Svartsengi geothermal power station. The water alleviated their symptoms and it caught on. In 2017 the attraction recorded a whopping 1.3 million visitors and a turnover of over a hundred million euros annually. The wildly popular and photogenic Blue Lagoon is located 50 minutes west of Reykjavík and 20 minutes from Keflavik airport. The Blue Lagoon is located on an 800-year-old lava field on the Reykjanes Peninsula and is so popular reservations are required. The water, a combination of fresh and seawater from the nearby geothermal plant, is about 98 degrees, slightly cooler than your average hot tub. There are grottoes, steam rooms and an on-site restaurant, so spending at least a half-day at the lagoon is recommended. Influencers will need to opt for the mud and algae mask option. If you are travelling with your family, you can easily spend a full day at the Blue Lagoon with your kids.
Krauma is a natural geothermal spa next to Deildartunguhver, Europe’s most powerful hot spring. It’s located in West Iceland, in the valley Reykholtsdalur. Krauma is open year-round and has space for 140 guests. It has five hot tubs and one cold bath, a relaxation room and two steam baths. The perfect water temperature is reached by mixing glacial water with water from the hot spring. When you’re in the pool, you can order drinks that are brought to you straight in the hot tubs. If you’re longing for a bite to eat after bathing, there’s also a restaurant serving local produce. Krauma is open every day from 11 AM – 9 PM.
Opened in the summer of 2021 and just fifteen minutes from downtown Reykjavík, the Sky Lagoon was constructed in an impressive 15 months during the pandemic. The vibe is stylishly luxurious and expensive, unsurprising at a reported cost of $50 million. A traditional herringbone turf facade gives way to Bond villain aesthetic within and a great sea view from the sauna through the biggest window in all of Iceland. ‘Norse bathing culture fused with modern Nordic design’ says Vogue. The spa’s experience is built around a seven-step ritual after which there’s a cafe, bar and restaurant should the spirit move you. Booking in advance is advised.
Hvammsvík is a family-owned estate consisting of 1200 acres of land. It is situated in the middle of Hvalfjörður, a historic and remote fjord in the southwest of Iceland. Mentioned in the Book of Settlements as an early settlement, it also became an important location during the Second World War when the Allies occupied Iceland. Hvammsvík is only a 45-minute drive from Reykjavík city centre and an easy drive to many of Iceland‘s biggest attractions, such as The Golden Circle, Glymur, Þingvellir, Esjan, and many more. The spa offers eight geothermal pools built into the sea. They are open 10 AM – 9 PM year-round. You will also find a bistro and accommodation, and there is a direct bus transfer that can take you from Reykjavík to Hvammsvík.
Located in the middle of the Golden Circle, Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal Baths offers several hot pools, a steam room, and more. Locals have been enjoying the healing power of the natural steam baths by Lake Laugarvatn since 1921. You will find three pools – Lauga, Sæla, and Viska – that are connected outdoor mineral baths that vary in temperature, depth, and size. Around the pools is the playful stone artwork by Icelandic artist Erla Þórarinsdóttir. Fontana also has an authentic, Finnish-style sauna, perfect for relaxing after a long day of hiking and sightseeing. For a truly Icelandic experience, you can move between the hot pools and the icy waters of Lake Laugarvatn, as the cold temperature is believed to have beneficial health effects. Next to the spa, there is a geothermal bakery where they bake their bread using the natural heat from the earth! Laugarvatn Fontana is open every day year-round, 11 AM – 9 PM.
Created in 1891, Secret Lagoon – known in Icelandic as Gamla Laugin (the old pool) – is one of the oldest swimming pools in Iceland. It was abandoned for years but was renovated and reopened in 2014 with brand-new showers and changing rooms. The pool is a comfortable 100-104 F (38-40 C) and may not be as much of a secret as it once was. Located next to a spouting geyser, the Secret Lagoon is a much quieter, simpler (and cheaper) alternative to the Blue and other spa-style lagoons. Nearby is a geyser, bistro, and a beautiful geothermal area. The Secret Lagoon is typically open 10 AM – 7 PM, but it will be closed May 15 – 26 for renovations.
GeoSea is the name of the geothermal sea baths by Húsavík in North Iceland. It combines mineral-rich seawater with geothermal energy, overlooking Skjálfandi Bay and the Arctic Circle to the north.
Forest Lagoon opened in May 2022 in the small forest on the other side of the fjord (Eyjafjörður) from Akureyri. The view is over Eyjafjörður fjord, and the spa is surrounded by birch and pine trees.
Vök Baths opened in July 2019, a collection of geothermal floating pools on Lake Urriðavatn in East Iceland. The geothermal water used in Vök Baths is unique in Iceland, being the only geothermal water certified for drinking in the whole country.
Mývatn Nature Baths
Mývatn Nature Baths were ahead of the trend although not as old as the Blue Lagoon, opening in 2004. They are slightly similar to the Blue Lagoon but smaller, with milky blue water drawn from 2500 metres deep borehole.
Húsafell Canyon Baths
The baths are designed to blend seamlessly with the environment, using age-old methods used to create Snorralaug in nearby Reykholt.
Located at Langisandur beach by the town of Akranes, Guðlaug Baths has a viewing platform where you can enjoy the views over the sea and to Reykjavík if conditions allow.