For centuries, Icelanders have been bathing and swimming in the natural hot pots and geothermal pools that litter the island. There's no better way to relax and dive head first (pun intended) into both Icelandic nature and tradition at the same time. From wild and remote swimming spots to naturally steaming pools, we've picked our top five places to swim that you should add to your Iceland holiday.
One of the locals’ favourites and a short drive/bus ride outside of Reykjavik (about 40 minutes) this walk/swim epitomises Iceland. Drive through the town of Hveragerdi and reach the car park before heading up the hill. It’s a steep climb to start with, but then the trail levels out and you walk through the Hengill geothermal area with stunning views, steaming sulphur and classic bubbling mud pools. Once you reach the rivers the energetic can circle around the mountain, and the not-so-energetic can strip off and get into the river – a cold stream comes from one side and hot from the other with warmer water towards the meeting point of the two – the swim is all the more rewarding if you make it around the mountain! This is probably the most accessible wild-swimming in all of Iceland.
Nearly every Icelandic town has a geothermically heated swimming pool, often with slides and always with hot tubs (“hot pots”) along with the swimming pool itself. After work you’ll find the locals sat in the hot tubs and discussing the town’s daily gossip, and this is a great chance to meet the locals whilst relaxing in the geothermally-heated waters. There’s no greater way to meet Icelanders and it only costs £4/£5 to pop in. Reykjavik itself has one of the best – a short walk or taxi ride from most hotels at Laugardalsaug in the city’s main park.
As you drive through Iceland you will regularly see signs for swimming pools in every town or village. They will typically have not only a swimming pool but also a couple of hot tubs of varying temperatures, slides for the children (and adults) and often a barrel full of freezing-cold water for the brave or foolhardy. These serve as meeting places for the locals to gossip on the way home from work and always worth the time to visit. A blog like this could almost cover one in every town but the best must surely be Hofsos in northern Iceland – the pool is built into the side of a fjord with spectacular views towards the Arctic and would rival any infinity pool in the world.
Only accessible in the summer (unless you have the hardiest of 4WD vehicles) Landmannalauger is an isolated valley tucked-in behind Helga and Eyjafjallajökull volcanoes. Surrounded by mountains and often with year-round snow you can walk through this mountain valley to the pool where bubbling-hot water rises from out of the ground and mixing with the cold glacier-melt water makes for a sensational natural dip. It’s can be a bit of a chilly walk from the changing area to the warm water but well worth the tiptoeing and dashing to get into the river!
The Blue Lagoon might get all the headlines – so long an Icelandic icon and must-see destination, but a bit of a honey-trap and whilst still worth the visit, for those wanting something a little quieter whilst not venturing too far from Reykjavik the Secret Lagoon is your best bet. In the Golden Circle town of Fludir the Secret Lagoon is the oldest swimming pool in Iceland, opened in the 1800s. The crowds and coaches don’t visit so you can relax at leisure, with bubbling pools and a small geyser around the outskirts, and naturally heated hot water making for a lovely place to relax away from the crowds.