There are a million reasons to visit Iceland: the dramatic stark landscape, waterfalls, and of course hot pools and hot springs. Exploring the hot pools is a unique experience that combines the beautiful Icelandic scenery with its geothermal activity. Hot pools in Iceland are beloved by both locals and visitors alike. This traditional pastime of bathing in thermal water is deeply ingrained in local Icelandic culture dating to Viking times. The pools became a place where people went to socialize after a long day. Aside from the social aspect, the pools are also said to have health benefits from the mineral rich water.
There are hundreds of hot pools and hot springs spread throughout the island ranging from heated swimming pools, to natural hot springs, to manmade lagoons – each unique in their own way. Going pool hoping is one of the fun activities one can do on an Iceland trip. In fact, relaxing in a hot pool after a long day of exploring was one of our favorite parts of the trip. Below is a list of the 7 most popular hot pools in Iceland and where to find them.
A Few Rules to Keep in Mind BEFORE You Go in the Hot Pools
- Don’t go onto private land without getting permission from owner
- Be careful when entering, some hot pools are very hot!
- To maintain hygeine of the pool, make sure you wash thoroughly before entering
- Don’t leave garbage behind when you leave
What To Bring
You only need to bring a few essentials when going to hot springs in Iceland:
- Swim wear, obviously!
- Towels – because most places don’t provide them, especially if you go to natural springs
- Flip flops for the shower or rocky terrain
- A warm wooly hat if it’s cold outside to keep your head warm
- Water for hydration
Region: Southern Iceland, near Vik
Seljavallalaug is the oldest man-made swimming pool in Iceland, dating back to the 1920s. This popular pool is surrounded by mountains, making you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. Onsite, there are basic facilities where you can change into your bathing suit. It should be noted that the water in this pool is colder compared to other hot springs. The room-temperature water can feel quite refreshing in the summer, which is why this place is quite popular with visitors in the warmer months. Since the pool is only cleaned once a month, the dark green water can be off-putting, but regardless, it’s worth a photo stop.
You can easily get to Seljavallalaug from Reykjavík or Vik. The drive takes 2.5 hours from Reykjavic and only 30 minutes from Vik. From the main Ring Road, you turn off onto road 242 and continue down the gravel road until you get to a parking area. From there you have to hike for another 20 minutes until you find the pool tucked into the side of the mountain.
2. Hoffell Hot Tub
Region: Eastern Iceland, near Hofn
Cost: 1,000 ISK
This lesser known hot pool is a good pit stop in the Höfn area if you have time. The Hoffell hot tubs are privately owned and there is a small entrance fee. There are 5 small pools of varying temperatures, located next to each other. The water ranges from moderately warm to scorching hot. The pools themselves are submerged into the bedrock with views of the surrounding cliffs, wild lupins, and the parking lot. We were there on a cold rainy day and it was amazing to relax in the warm water.
The Hoffell hot tubs are located 20 km west from the town of Höfn in East Iceland. Turn off from the Ring Road onto route 984 and drive for about 3 km until you get to route 983. You’ll find the parking lot for the pools on the left.
3. Grjótagjá Cave
Region: Northern Iceland, Myvatn
This series of natural caves in the town of Myvatn have been a well-kept secret since the 1800s. Grjótagjá is a flooded underground fissure filled with crystal blue water. The setting is intimate and relaxing, which is probably why it was chosen to be the location of Jon Snow and Ygritte’ s love scene in Game of Thrones. It used to be a popular place for swimming until an earthquake in the 1970s which caused a volcanic eruption heating the water to about 50°C or 122°F. It’s been cooling down ever since, but the water is still too hot to swim in. Even though we couldn’t swim, it was still worth a visit to soak our feet in the clear water and enjoy the quiet ambiance and natural beauty of this place.
From Road 1, turn left onto Road 860 to reach the hot spring. The narrow entrance to the cave is hard to see from the parking lot, but look around for an opening. Inside it’s dark until your eyes adjust to the low light. The rocks are slippery, so make sure you wear sturdy shoes.
4. Mývatn Nature Baths
Region: Northern Iceland, Myvatn
Cost: 4,700 ISK
This is another man-made geothermal lagoon located in northern Iceland. It’s smaller and much less expensive than the Blue Lagoon. Mývatn Nature Baths have the same milky blue water, gorgeous setting, thermal sauna, and amenities as the Blue Lagoon. The water contains lots of minerals with a perfect temperature around 36 – 40°C. This place was developed in 2004 and is a lot less touristy than its counterpart near Reykjavik. The cost includes use of the facilities but doesn’t include a towel. We were there for about 2 hours at the end of the night and there were still a lot of people around, but it was almost high season.
This geothermal lagoon is located right outside of Myvatn. From Egilsstaðir, exit off of the Ring Road and turn left to get to the baths.
Region: Southern Iceland
The beautiful Reykjadalur valley, near the town of Hveragerði, is filled with natural hot springs, mud pits, and a thermal river where you can bathe among nature. It is located less than an hour drive from Reykjavik. Even without facilities on site, the idea of sitting in a hot stream surrounded by the lush green valley is enticing enough to keep people coming back. This experience is completely different from the other hot pools we went to.
To get to Reykjadalur, head South towards Vík on Road 1 until you reach the town Hveragerdi. Keep going through the small town until you see a parking lot at the end of the road. This is the starting point of the hike. Depending on the conditions, the hike to the hot spring takes about 40-55 minutes. In the parking area, you’ll find a café and porta–potties. This is the last time you’ll see a toilet, so make sure you use it before heading out. The trail will take you across a bridge over a river and continues winding uphill, but it isn’t too strenuous. The gorgeous mountain landscape provides plenty of photo ops and distracts you from the fatigue. As you get closer to the top, you’ll see steam rising from the ground. For your own safety, make sure you don’t venture off the path, the mud pits are extremely hot and dangerous. Keep going for another 5-10 minutes and you’ll see a stream next to newly built boardwalks. This is where you’ll find people congregating, but don’t worry, there are plenty of spaces for everyone, just look around until you find an area that suits you.
6. Secret Lagoon Hot Spring
Region: Golden Circle
Cost: 2,500 ISK
Gamla Laugin is also known as “The Secret Lagoon” isn’t actually a secret at all. In fact, the hot spring is well known by both locals and visitors. Located in the city of Flúðir within the Golden Circle route, it is a short drive from Reykjavik. The Secret Lagoon is one of Iceland’s oldest swimming pools, dating back to 19th century, but it was abandoned until recently. The Secret Lagoon sits next to a flowing river and small geysers that erupt every few minutes, giving a natural feel to the place. The water comes from a geothermal spring with the temperature at a comfortable 38-40°C (100°F). There are even modern changing rooms with showers and an eating area, which were added when this place was restored. This is a great alternative to the more famous Blue Lagoon, at a much lower cost.
Getting here is easy if you have a car, but even if you don’t, some of the Golden Circle tours also stop at the Secret Lagoon. The drive from Reykjavik takes about an hour and a half. Take route 1 going towards Vík and turn off onto Road 30. Continue to follow Skeiða-og Hrunamannavegur to Hvammsvegur in Flúðir. The busiest time is usually in the afternoon, if you go in the early morning, you can have the place to yourself.
7. Blue Lagoon
Cost: 9,900 ISK
The Blue Lagoon was named ‘The Top 25 Wonders of the World’ by the National Geographic and is the most popular tourist attraction in Iceland. We went 8 years ago and fell head over heels in love with the place and knew we would be back. Fast forward 8 years, we came back a second time and did not love how it became so commercialized. There is no arguing that the vivid icy blue lagoon against a black lava field still makes for a photogenic capture, and the restorative waters of the lagoon, rich in silica and blue-green algae, is reputed to have healing powers. But is all that worth the exorbitant cost and the never-ending crowds? I am not so sure. The Blue Lagoon is definitely a tourist trap, so if you’re looking for a more authentic experience, then I would go to the other hot springs, but if you haven’t been and want to check it out, I think it’s worth the trip at least once.
The place is always busy, so it’s best to pre-book your ticket ahead of time. The entrance fee is steep, but it includes a towel and drink of your choice. There are also many facilities that you can use aside from the hot pools like the steam rooms, private massage area, and on-site restaurants.
The Blue Lagoon is located in Grindavik, a convenient 20 minute drive from the airport. This is why it is usually the first or last stop on people’s Iceland trip. From the airport, head towards Reykjavík until you see a sign for Grindavík. Exit and continue down the road until you see a large industrial building. When you see a big sign for the Blue Lagoon, turn right and you’ll come across the Blue Lagoon parking lot on the left.
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