Icelandic Bathing Culture and Geothermal Guide


Introduction to Icelandic Bathing Culture

Iceland is known not only for its breathtaking nature and beautiful scenery but also for its abundance of geothermal energy, where over 90% of the hot water in the country is heated by geothermal sources. Therefore, hot water in Iceland is incredibly accessible and is widely used to heat the country’s geothermal pools and spas, which play a large part in Icelandic bathing culture. The bathing culture, the hot springs and geothermal pools can be traced back to a time in history when communal bathing played a vital role in socialising and connecting with nature.

See here Iceland Reviews article on the Icelandic swimming culture.

As bathing is ingrained in Icelandic culture, hot springs and geothermal pools can be found all around the country. Below is our guide to the country’s bathing culture and information on the hot springs, spas and geothermal pools in Iceland.


The Geothermal Public Pools of Iceland

The public pools of Iceland can be found all around the country, most of them being geothermally heated. The pools of Iceland are open all year round, and guests visit the pools in almost any weather condition.

Visiting the geothermal pools of Iceland is not only done for the purpose of exercising.  The pools are also a social place and have become a hotspot for people to gather and discuss topics such as politics, the weather, and other cultural matters. Below is information about some of Iceland’s geothermal swimming pools.


Sundhöll Reykjavíkur 

Sundhöll Reykjavíkur is the oldest public pool in Iceland and the only one in downtown Reykjavík. However, many more are located in the area. Sundhöll Reykjavíkur is located at Barónsstígur and consists of pools both inside and outside, hot tubs, a children’s pool, a cold tub and a sauna.

Sundhöll swimming pool Reykjavík seen from above
Photo: Golli – Sundhöll Reykjavíkur


Sundlaugin Hofsósi 

The award winning swimming pool at Hofsós is in northwest Iceland. It is unique since it has an infinity pool overlooking the beautiful landscape of the Skagafjörður fjord. The pool was donated to the community of Hofsós by the two businesswomen Lilja Pálmadóttir and Steinunn Jónsdóttir on Women’s Rights Day in Iceland on June 19, 2007.


Laugaskarð Swimming Pool

The swimming pool at Laugarskarð is located in the town of Hveragerði in South of Iceland. The drive from the capital area to Hveragerði is only about 30-40 minutes. Hveragerði is a large geothermal area with multiple natural hot springs all around, where it is possible to bake the famous Icelandic rye bread or boil eggs.


Krossneslaug Swimming Pool

The Krossneslaug swimming pool is situated remotely in the western fjords of Iceland. The pool is an infinity one, overlooking the ocean where it is often possible to spot whales whilst looking over towards the North of Iceland.

Note: Due to road conditions, Krossneslaug can only be reached from mid-May to the end of August.

Krossneslaug swimming pool in Westfjords.
Photo: Golli. Krossneslaug swimming pool in Westfjords.


Akureyri Swimming Pool

The Akureyri swimming pool is in the North of Iceland, in the country’s second-largest city, Akureyri. The pool is located in the city’s centre and consists of heated swimming pools, hot tubs, a children’s pool, a cold tub, saunas and three waterslides. 


Iceland’s Geothermal Spa Experiences

In addition to the many public pools in Iceland, the country also exhibits multiple geothermal spas, with one of the most well-known ones being the Blue Lagoon. Over the past years, the popularity of geothermal spas has increased, and you can find them in multiple areas of Iceland. Below are some of Iceland’s famous geothermal spas.


The Blue Lagoon 

The Blue Lagoon was founded in 1992 and was named one of the 25 wonders of the world by National Geographic in 2012. The lagoon offers a unique spa experience where the beneficial powers of the geothermal seawater come from the water’s primary elements: silica, algae and minerals. Since its opening, the lagoon has become a top-rated tourist attraction. Some guests come for the water’s healing powers while others visit for relaxation and beautiful nature. 

The Blue Lagoon is located near the town of Grindavík. The town is in about a 40-minute drive from Reykjavík or about 20 minutes from Keflavík airport. 

Blue Lagoon Tours can be purchased here.

A woman and her child relaxing at the Blue Lagoon
Photo: Reykjavík – Blue Lagoon round-trip transfer. Relaxing at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland.


Sky Lagoon Geothermal Spa

Sky Lagoon opened in 2021 and is only about a ten-minute drive from Reykjavík’s city centre. The thermal bath offers a heated infinity pool where you can relax while overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Sky Lagoon offers a unique spa experience, including a seven-step bathing ritual where guests can fully immerse themselves in the Icelandic bathing culture. 

Sky Lagoon Tours can be purchased here.


Skógarböðin – Forest Lagoon Geothermal Spa

Skógarböðin, or the Forest Lagoon, is a geothermal spa located in Vaðlaskógur forest in the North of Iceland. As the name suggests, the lagoon is surrounded by trees, such as birch and pine trees, while also overlooking the ocean and nearby fjords. The way to Forest Lagoon is only about a 5-minute drive from Akureyri city centre.

Tickets to the Forest Lagoon can be purchased here.


Hvammsvík Spa and Hot Springs

Located in Hvalfjörður fjord, in southwest Iceland, is Hvammsvík Nature Resort & Hot Springs. The spa is secluded, surrounded by beautiful landscapes of tall mountains and black beaches. The spa is easily accessible from Reykjavík city centre as it takes only about 45 minutes to drive. 

Hvammsvík Tours can be purchased here.


Iceland’s Remote Hot Springs and Pools

Iceland’s natural hot springs can be found all around the country, which stands as a testament to the country’s geothermal richness. The country’s geological activity manifests in multiple ways. The activity ranges from powerful geysers, bubbling mud pots and relaxing natural hot springs readily available for guests to bathe in.

The hot springs do not only come in the form of luxurious spas or public swimming pools; many more remote hot springs can also be found in Iceland. Below are a few of the many natural remote hot springs in Iceland.


The Secret Lagoon Geothermal Pool

The Secret Lagoon, or Gamla Laugin, is located in the South of Iceland in the Flúðir village. It is the oldest pool in Iceland, made in 1891. The pool offers guests a relaxing experience in warm water coming from hot springs.

Secret Lagoon Tours can be purchased here.


Reykjadalur Hot Springs

The Reykjadalur valley is located close to the town of Hveragerði, about 50 km [31 mil] from the city of Reykjavík. Visitors must hike up a moderately easy path to reach the hot springs for about 45 to 60 minutes. The hot spring is, in fact, a creek-like river, making it very comfortable to lie and bathe in, as it is pretty shallow.

Reykjadalur Hot Spring Tours can be purchased here.


Hrunalaug Hot Spring

Hrunalaug, located near the village of Flúðir in the Hrunamannahreppur region, is a hot spring known for its relaxing properties. Visitors soak in the warm water while enjoying the beautiful natural surroundings of the Icelandic landscape.

View of Hrunalaug hot spring and surrounding landscape in Iceland
Photo: Hrunalaug Hot Spring


Seljavallalaug Geothermal Pool

Seljavallalaug pool is located about a three-hour drive from Reykjavík, in Seljavellir Valley. The valley is secluded with surrounding mountains and scenic views over cliff sides, grass hills and rivers. From the parking spot at Seljavellir Valley, visitors take about a 15-20 minute scenic walk to reach the pool.


Landbrotalaug Hot Spring

The hot spring Landbrotalaug is located on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, just off its main road. Visitors do not always easily find it, making it very remote and quiet. After turning from the peninsula’s main road, a dirt road follows. Eventually, visitors are greeted with a sign stating “Heit Laug, Hot Spring”, making it clear you have arrived at the right destination. 


What are the Rules and Etiquette When Visiting Icelandic Pools and Hot Springs?

By following certain rules and etiquettes that encompass Icelandic bathing culture, visitors can fully immerse themselves into the experience, making it a positive and respectful one for all.


Shower before entering

When visiting hot springs or geothermal pools in Iceland, it is mandatory to shower without a swimsuit before entering the pool when possible. In some places, no showers are available, such as at Reykjadalur Hot Spring. Therefore, it is not mandatory, though we do recommend doing your fellow bathers the courtesy of arriving clean. Many pools offer closed-off changing cells and showers for more privacy.


Wear a swimsuit

When visiting Icelandic pools and hot springs, it is mandatory to wear a swimsuit. However, it is important to be mindful of showering without a swimsuit before slipping them on.


Remove outdoor footwear

Guests are required to remove outdoor shoes before entering the changing rooms.


Follow facility-specific rules

Different pools and hot springs might adhere to their own set of rules and guidelines, so it is essential to read and respect the rules posted at each facility.


Respect nature

When visiting Iceland’s natural pools and hot springs, it is important to observe and enjoy the beauty of the surrounding nature and respect and take good care of it. By respecting the delicate landscapes and ecosystems ensures that future generations can enjoy these unique sites. 

Respecting nature involves staying on designated paths, refraining from soaps and other materials that might harm the ecosystem and leaving no trace by removing all waste.


How Many Pools are in Iceland?

Iceland has over 160 pools, with about 18 of them being in Reykjavík city, so travellers can easily find a place to bathe in their nearest vicinity.


What is the Most Famous Pool in Iceland?

The hot springs and geothermal pools in Iceland are most incredibly popular by locals. However, the most famous pool, spa or hot spring in Iceland is the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon was named one of the 25 wonders of the world by National Geographic. It has become an immense tourist attraction and a luxurious spa experience for travellers all around the world.


How Much is the Admission Price for a Swimming Pool in Iceland?

The average price for public swimming pools in Iceland is around ISK 1000 for adults. However, it varies vastly depending on which area you are in and which swimming pool you enter. 

Capital Area Pools Closed to Conserve Hot Water


Pools throughout the capital region will be closed today due to the cold spell affecting Iceland.

Utility company Veitur will be cutting its supply of hot water to some of its largest users, in an attempt to reduce hot water use.

In response to Veitur’s reduction, Reykjavík City has made the decision to close the city’s pools today, January 19. The closures will also affect the bathing facilities at Nauthólsvík. The closures will also be in effect in the nearby towns of Mosfellbær and Kópavogur.

Bathers will however still be able to visit the pools in Garðabær, though water temperatures may be potentially lower than usual. The Seltjarnes pool will likewise continue to be open, as it is supplied directly from a geothermal borehole.

In a public statement, Veitur hopes to not have to limit the hot water supply for any longer than today, as warmer weather is expected. Pools are expected to open tomorrow, but this may be subject to change.

The pool closures come during one of the coldest winters in recent memory. This past December was the coldest since 1973, although average temperatures have risen slightly in January. Temperatures have been especially cold in the Reykjavík area, where it has not been colder (on average) since 1916.

In light of these unusual conditions, Veitur has also asked residents to help out in conserving hot water where possible. According to Veitur, some 90% of hot water use by Icelandic households goes towards heating alone. Residents are reminded to close doors and windows to conserve energy and to ensure that radiators aren’t blocked from heating the room.

Reykjavík and Selfoss Pools to Open at 12.01am on Monday

Reykjavík swimming pool Laugardalslaug

Reykjavík pools will reopen at 12.01am on Monday morning after two months of being closed. Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson made the announcement about Reykjavík pools on his Facebook page on Friday. This will mark the first time ever that municipal pools will be open for a “night swim,” Dagur noted.

The decision to open the pools so early, Dagur explained, has been made in order to ensure that pools are able to operate at half capacity, as COVID-19 precautions require, while also making sure that everyone who wants to gets a chance to take a dip at the first possible opportunity.

Pools in Selfoss, South Iceland will also open at 12:01 on Monday morning and there’s been no less excitement there. “We’re letting in pool-thirsty residents and guests as soon as possible,” explained Bragi Bjarnason, head of the Leisure and Culture division of Árborg, the municipality that Selfoss is part of. “A lot of people have been in touch over the last week. Especially to find out what the guidelines will be.”

There will, in fact, be specific limits on the number of people who can be in each area at the Selfoss pool: a max of eight people in each hot pot (jacuzzi), and a max of three in the sauna. Pink tape will be used to demarcate where people can sit in order to help guests remember to social distance.

“Yes, this means that some people will be tired at work on Monday, but not only will they be tired, they’ll first and foremost be clean and happy,” Dagur wrote. “See you at the pool!”


Pools, Gyms, and Bars to Reopen, Within Limits


Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason has proposed a series of relaxations to the current gathering bans and closures of public spaces to the Minister of Health. His recommendations include relaxed provisions for swimming pools on May 18, as well as gyms and bars and restaurants on May 25.

When swimming pools reopen this coming Monday, they will be subject to capped capacity of 200 people at a time, or half the regular capacity. In so far as it is possible, guests are asked to maintain a distance of two meters from one another.

Gyms will reopen a week later and will also be subject to half-capacity caps. Guests are similarly asked to maintain a two-meter distance from one another when possible. It is hoped that pools and gyms will be able to return to full capacity by June 15, the date on which Iceland hopes to open its borders to travellers again, but Þórolfur emphasizes that this will very much depend on there not being a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the country. During Thursday’s press conference, Þórolfur noted that there are currently no patients being hospitalized for COVID-19 in Iceland, and May has only seen four new confirmed cases of COVID-19, despite extensive testing.

In addition to gyms reopening on May 25, Þórolfur has also recommended that bars, restaurants, and other social spaces be reopened at the same time. These places would be subject to the same two-meter distancing rules, as much as possible. May 25 would also see the gathering ban be relaxed and would allow 200 people to gather in the same place. Currently, a max of 50 people can be in the same place at the same time; at the height of the crisis, gatherings were limited to 20 or fewer.



Geosea Sea Baths Named One of ‘World’s Greatest Places’

Húsavík’s Geosea Geothermal Sea Baths have been named one of Time magazine’s 100 “destinations to experience right now,” Vísir reports.

The Geosea baths opened just last year in August 2018 and have been hugely popular since their inception. They were designed by Basalt Architects and are located right on the North Icelandic village’s harbour, offering a view of Skjálfandi Bay and the Kinnarfjöll Mountains. The spa draws its water from two sea water bore holes that were originally intended to be used for the collection of sea salt but are now used to produce a steady flow of mineral-rich saltwater for its infinity-style pools.

“Overtourism is a tremendous problem for Iceland,” reads the Time location description, “its iconic Blue Lagoon packs in visitors by the busload. But roughly 300 miles north in Húsavík…a lesser-known geothermal spa gives its guests plenty of room to breathe” and is, the publication concludes, “a spectacular way to catch the Northern Lights when swimming after dark.”

The American publication’s full “Greatest Places 2019” list includes a wide variety of destinations all over the world from the Museum of Black Civilizations in Dakar, Senegal and the Central Library in Calgary, Canada, to the Liechtenstein Trail in Liechtenstein and the Zealandia ecosanctuary in Wellington, New Zealand.