Who can resist swimming in a hot spring, surrounded by snow-capped mountains 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.
The Blue Lagoon is Iceland’s best known, and one of its largest, hot pool complexes, but it’s also expensive and can get overcrowded. So we’ve checked out some lesser-known swimming spots, from simple, natural pools fed by hot springs that are free to use, to flash spas with all the facilities.
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 tourthat also takes in the Hverir mud pools, Goðafoss Waterfall and the Dimmuborgir lava fields.
The Secret Lagoon
Iceland’s oldest thermal pool, the Secret Lagoon is a simpler, more 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 book this tour with bus transfers, which includes the admission fee and gives you about two hours at the baths.
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, so try this tour from Reykjavík that combines a trip to the pool with a visit to the Hekla volcano.
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.
Iceland’s newest thermal bath, 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.
This tour from Akureyi includes the admission fee to the baths, the Goðafoss waterfall plus a tour of nearby Húsavík.
Reykjadalur hot river
Fancy taking a swim 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.
Reykjadalur is about 40 minutes’ drive from Reykjavík (and free to visit), but if you don’t have a car and want a guide for the hike, try this tour.
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.
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. This , plus a visit to the Viðgelmir Lava Cave and the Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls (opens in a new tab)”>tour includes admission to the spa complex, plus a visit to the Viðgelmir Lava Cave and the Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls.