Top Pools and Hot Springs in Iceland
Updated: Dec 31, 2020
Plunging into the warm waters of a natural hot spring is a must on any holiday to Iceland. In fact you could say that it is one of the bare essentials (excuse the pun!). Iceland is a hot spot for geothermal activity with innumerable lagoons, hot spring pools, geothermal hot tubs and hot pots. In fact much of the hot water in people’s homes comes from geothermal areas. There’s no need to heat it up. Often it needs to be cooled a little before it is used. All of this underground heat combined with Iceland’s glaciers and snowy conditions makes for some dramatic natural phenomena. Geysers shoot up from the ground, mud pots bubble and steam and glacier melt creates rushing rivers and waterfalls.
Bathing is a big part of the Icelandic culture and swimming is a popular way to keep fit. Groups of friends and families will often socialize by heading to a hot spring or a hot spring spa. Water babies will be in their element when they visit Iceland. Hot spring hopping to their heart’s content! From the big hitters like The Blue Lagoon to some of the more hidden gems, we share our guide to the best swimming pools and hot springs in Iceland.
The Blue Lagoon
If you’ve ever even considered a visit to Iceland, you will have heard of the Blue Lagoon. This is the big one – milky turquoise water, volcanic rock formations and billowing steam. The warm water here is naturally heated to a balmy 38 degrees Celsius or so, and is said to have all sorts of healing properties. It is of course a very popular location and is often combined with a tour of the famous Golden Circle route in South Iceland. As such it can get quite busy. It is therefore very important to book ahead at any time of year. Even in winter it is good to be on the safe side. You can visit the official Blue Lagoon website to reserve your slot.
Mývatn Nature Baths
Mývatn Nature Baths are Northern Iceland’s answer to the blue lagoon. Although a little smaller they are similar in scale and colour. There’s that similar milky blue hue and soothing warm waters in a large, open lagoon. Lake Mývatn is a much quieter area and the price to enter the baths is a little cheaper too. Far fewer people travel to the north of Iceland and this geothermal area is around a six-hour drive from Reykjavik. If you are taking the ring road north however, you should definitely schedule a stop here. The surrounding countryside is intensely beautiful and you’ll have plenty of space to wallow.
The Secret Lagoon
Not such a secret anymore, the Secret Lagoon is one of the oldest hot springs in Iceland. The pool first opened in 1891, but was abandoned in the 1930s. In 2014 it had a full renovation and has been open to the public ever since. The changing area is now Scandi cool, with polished concrete floors, exposed beams and washed out pictures of old-school bathers in their swimming caps. The waters here are a lovely 38 degrees Celsius (sometimes a little hotter). There’s a nearby geyser that you can walk all the way around complete with bubbling mud and regular spouting eruptions. The pool’s surroundings are very pretty and it is a short distance from the Golden Circle. Perfect for a recharge after a busy day of sightseeing.
Laugardalur Swimming Pool
This is the biggest swimming pool in Iceland and great fun for a family day out with kids. There are paddling pools, hot tubs and water shoots, as well as an Olympic size pool. The pool is located in Reykjavik’s Laugardalur Valley and there is a campsite nearby.
Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach
As well as a giant pool Reykjavik also has it’s own geothermal beach… of course! The golden sand and pools are man-made, but both the sea and the pools are geothermally heated. It’s free to enter during summer and there are hot tubs, shallow pools and BBQ facilities. In winter there’s a small fee to pay to use the changing rooms. It’s a popular spot and you’ll get to meet lots of Icelandic sun seekers here on the warmer summer days.
Landbrotalaug Hot Pot
From one extreme to another! The Landbrotalaug Hot Pot is a tiny natural hot pool hidden on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in west Iceland. You’ll find it not too far from the Eldborg Crater which you can search on google maps. It is just the perfect size for two - very romantic, as long as you find it first. To add to the romance the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is a good place to see the Northern Lights in season.
Kvika Foot Bath
While we’re on the subject of small… how about the even more diminutive Kvika footbath? Designed and installed by the artist Ólöf Nordal, this little pool sits close to the Grotta Lighthouse on the outskirts of Reykjavik. It is just big enough to soak one or two pairs of feet at a time. This is a popular spot to come and watch the sunset or see the Northern Lights with views out across the Snæfellsjökull glacier.
Guðrúnarlaug Hot Springs
Guðrúnarlaug is in western Iceland and has a history dating back around 1000 years. After being buried by a landslide over 100 years ago it was rebuilt and opened again in 2009. The pool is named after Gudrun, a famous character from the Icelandic Sagas. It’s a beautiful spot on route to the Westfjords and well worth a visit.
Right out on the edge of the Westfjords, Krossneslaug is remote and beautiful. It’s a long and winding route to get there down a rough gravel road, but it is doable in summer. Warm waters from the nearby mountains feed this coastal pool and there is a hot tub too. There are no changing facilities though, so it’s a fully natural experience. If you make it here you’ll likely be one of very few or you might even have the place to yourself. It is a magical experience that feels really special. There’s an honesty pot with a suggested donation that goes towards cleaning and maintenance of this very unique place.
Landmannalaugar Hot Pot
Located in the gorgeous rainbow hued mountains of Iceland’s southern highlands, Landmannalaugar Hot Pot is a beauty. In summer the area draws many hikers who come to enjoy some really spectacular scenery. The mountains here in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve are richly coloured, contrasting beautifully with the nearby black lava fields. It is about a three hour drive from Reykjavik and only accessible if you are driving a campervan or car in summer. In winter you would need to join a tour with a specialised vehicle.
Landmannalaugar translates as the ‘People’s Pool’ and it has a long history of soothing weary bodies. The hot springs lie at the northern end of the lovely Laugavegur hiking trail.
This is one of the most popular hiking areas in Iceland and as such the hot springs are perfectly placed for soothing aching muscles. The water is a very comfortable 36 – 40 degrees Celsius, even in winter. It has been man made by stemming the flow of a warm geothermal heated river. The waters from several hot springs have mixed with cooler waters to create this warm river. It is free to use but there are no facilities out here in the wild. This is just as it should be in the midst of such natural beauty!
Hoffell Hot Tubs
Eastern Iceland is a little short on natural hot springs so at Hoffell they have built a series of hot tubs instead. Sunk into a bed of rocks amidst stunning scenery of snow-capped peaks, the Hoffell hot tubs are a real treat. If you’re travelling the ring road in Eastern Iceland then they are a short drive from the town of Höfn.
Víti Geothermal Lake
Viti, meaning Hell (!) is a crater lake in the Vatnajökull National Park. It is only accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles in the summer months as it lies in a remote corner of the highlands. It is an astounding sight to behold – this huge explosion crater 150 metres in diameter. The waters are a startling milky blue and heated to around 22 degrees Celsius. Not super warm, but worthy of a dip if you’re hot and bothered from your hike up.