Who can resist swimming in a hot spring, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, a blue sea or starry skies?
Iceland has plenty of geothermally heated outdoor pools, from warm rivers you can swim down, tiny pools tucked away by the sea to upmarket spas with spectacular views.
So we’ve checked out some of the best-known and the lesser-known swimming spots, from simple, natural pools fed by hot springs that are free to use, to flash spas with all the facilities.
The best hot springs near Reykjavik: the Sky Lagoon
Iceland’s newest hot springs, the Sky Lagoon has the serious wow-factor, with a large geothermally-heated infinity pool facing west over the Atlantic for the best sunset views.
Built into the rocks alongside the sea and with a grass turf roof, Reykjavik’s most luxurious spa complex opened in 2021, with a swim-up bar and sauna with a huge glass wall (Iceland’s largest) overlooking the sea.
You can either just buy entrance to the lagoon itself and simply float around enjoying the therapeutic thermal waters, a drink and the wonderful views, or add on the fun 7-step spa ritual that includes sauna, steam room, cold plunge pool, salt scrub and shower cave.
In the Kópavogur suburb of Reykjavik, the Sky Lagoon is a fifteen-minute drive from the centre of the city, or you can buy a bus transfer with your ticket.
Easier to get to than the better-known Blue Lagoon – and with cheaper admission – the Sky Lagoon has already become the go-to spa destination for Reykjavikings to while away a Sunday afternoon, or spend a relaxing evening watching the sun set over the sea.
Best natural hot springs: Reykjadalur hot river
Fancy taking a dip in a hot river? Then head to Reykjadalur, which aptly translates as “steam valley”, and is full of steaming vents and bubbling mud pools.
It’s a beautiful hike of about an hour to reach the river over hills with far-reaching views across the steaming geothermal landscape.
A boardwalk runs alongside the river, so you can walk down it until you find the perfect swimming spot.
The further downriver you walk the cooller the water and the fewer people bathing – and there are even small shelters to change behind.
Reykjadalur is about 40 minutes’ drive along route 1 from Reykjavík, and free to visit: you just pay for parking by the café at the trailhead.
Alternatively, you can take the public bus #51 to Hveragerði, from where it’s an extra couple of miles’ walk to the trailhead.
Iceland’s best hot springs with a geysir: the Secret Lagoon
Iceland’s oldest thermal pool, the Secret Lagoon is a simple, natural affair, surrounded by rocks and grassy banks.
The pool is deep and large enough to have a good swim – or you can simply float around watching the nearby geysir erupt every five minutes or so, and the mud pools bubble away.
In the village of Flúðir, the lagoon is about 90 minutes’ drive from Reykjavík, or you can visit it as part of the Golden Circle tour.
Best hot springs in Iceland for people who hate tourists: Landmannalaugar Hot Pot
Deep within the Fjallabak Nature Reserve, Landmannalaugar (“the farmer’s pool”) has been visited by locals as a popular bathing spot for centuries.
The pool grew up at the point where hot springs bubble up from the ground and meet a cold spring, so bathers need to find a spot where the waters mingle to create the perfect temperature.
Then you can simply lie back and admire the dramatic other-worldly orange rhyolite mountains that surround the pool.
The springs are free (though there is a small charge to use the changing rooms), but hard to get to.
The most straightforward way to get there is this tour from Reykjavík that combines a trip to the pool with a visit to the Hekla volcano.
Best hot springs in the north of Iceland: GeoSea baths
Right on the coast, the GeoSea baths in Húsavík cling to the cliffside, with the water from the top of the baths spilling over, giving the effect of an infinity pool.
Unlike most thermal pools in Iceland, the water here is geothermically heated sea water, so it’s filled with healing salt and minerals, which are good for the skin.
GeoSea was designed by architects with natural curves to give great views over Skjálfandi Bay.
You can’t beat watching the sun set from the pool behind the snow-capped mountain opposite – and you may even spot a whale or dolphin in the bay too.
The best-known hot springs in Iceland: the Blue Lagoon
Easily Iceland’s most famous hot springs, the Blue Lagoon was founded in 1992 and is now one of the country’s largest hot pool complexes.
It’s the pool that everyone has heard of and, with attached hotels, restaurants and all manner of spa facilities including its own skincare brand, it’s certainly the most commercial.
Attached to the Svartsengi Power Plant on the geothermal Reykenes peninsula, a UNESCO global geopark, its mineral-rich sea waters are thought to be good for skin conditions.
Some 45 minutes by car from Reykjavik, it lies off the road to the airport, and is a popular excursion that is often included on airport transfers, so can get very crowded.
Most remote hot pools in Iceland: Grettislaug hot pools
On the Skagi peninsular on Iceland’s north coast, the hot pools at Grettislaug have probably the best views of all.
Looking east over the island of Drangey in the Skagafjörður, and west towards the snow-capped mountain of Tindastóll, these two small stone pools lie about 25 minutes’ drive north of the town of Sauðárkrókur.
They’re privately owned, so there’s a small entrance fee. But, if you’re lucky and come out of season, you may well have the pools to yourself.
Best hot springs by a lake: Myvatn Nature baths
Overlooking Lake Myvatn in the northeast of Iceland, this large pool complex has milky blue waters where you can swim, lounge and look out at the surrounding, often snow-topped, hills.
Like Reykjavík’s Blue Lagoon, the pools are fed from the borehole of a nearby geothermal power station – with the water gushing out at a steady 36–40°C.
There are steam baths here too, heated by underground steam vents, with large picture windows so you can admire the view while you bake.
And there’s a great café on site, which serves bread cooked underground in the volcanic soil. And if you buy a beer/wine bracelet, the waiters will bring your drink out to the pool for you.
About an hour’s drive from Iceland’s second city, Akureyi, the baths can be visited on this grand tour that also takes in the Hverir mud pools, Goðafoss Waterfall and the Dimmuborgir lava fields.
Best hot spring hotel in Iceland: the Frost and Fire Hotel
The Frost and Fire Hotel in Hveragerði has an outdoor thermal swimming pool and a sauna plus two lovely hot tubs with views over the steaming river Varmá (which means “warm river”).
You can even swim in the river itself though it’s considerably cooller than the pool.
Located in a geothermal valley, the hotel makes a great base for hiking in the summer and viewing the northern lights from the comfort of a hot pool in winter.
Most powerful hot pools in Iceland: Krauma
Some 90 minutes’ drive north of Reykjavík, the architect-designed pools at Krauma are fed by the Deildatunguhver springs, the most powerful in Europe.
The hot water from the springs is mixed with melt water from the Ok glacier (Iceland’s smallest) to feed five round hot pools, plus a cold plunge pool.
The best budget thermal pools in Iceland: Sundhollin
Reykjavik has several municipal thermal pools that are run by the city council and used by Reykjavikings as a social hub.
They range from low-key places where locals meet friends for a chat and a chill in the evenings to large outdoor water parks with slides and activities for children to play on and let off steam.
We like the centrally located Sundhöllin, Reykjavik’s oldest public baths, in an Art Deco building with indoor and outdoor pools and a roof-top hot tub.
All the pools cost around ISK 1100 to enter or, if you have the Reykjavik City Card, are completely free to use.
For more on the Reykjavik City Card, see our guide to The Reykjavik City Card: is it worth buying?