There's no better way to spend a dark winter day in Iceland than relaxing in the steamy waters in some of various outdoor geothermal pools and natural hot springs. At the same time you will be having an essential Icelandic experience, and healing your muscles after a long day's hiking or a fun night in Reykjavik.
Thanks to its many volcanoes Iceland has got a great offer of geothermal pools. And not only - even the tap water sometimes comes out hot! Bathing in the steamy waters here is obligatory. Icelanders do it for fun, because it's healthy and relaxing, but also sometimes use these pools as a venue for a business meeting or simply to catch up with a friend instead of going to a café. This tradition dates all the way back to Viking times. Here are some of the spots worth visiting - some of them man-made, some natural, some free of charge, other not.
Don't let the name fool you. The Secret Lagoon is not a secret at all nowadays. It's located around 100 km from Reykjavik, within the "Golden Circle". In fact, this is a great way to finish your Golden Circle tour. The Secret Lagoon is one of the oldest pools in the country, dating back to 1891, and this is why to most Icelanders it's known as "Gamla Laugin" which means The Old Pool. The pool is natural, with 38-40ºC temperature. Right next to it there is a mini geyser that erupts every few minutes. As at most of the public pools in Iceland, here too you are required to shower (completely) naked before entering it.
To reach Reykjadalur, one of the most popular bathing sites in Iceland, you need to drive for 45 minutes from Reykjavik, to the town Hveragerði, and then to hike for another 45 minutes, while enjoying some jaw dropping landscapes on the way. Once you are up, you will find a warm river, a place where hot waters mixes together with colder streams, so you can go around till you find your perfect bathing temperature. Reykjadalur is free of charge, but please note there are no changing and other facilities around.
The Blue Lagoon is by far the most popular hot spring in Iceland, but mostly among tourists. With its milky water it looks almost surreal. Unlike the previous one, this one is not free of charge, and the cheapest ticket is around 50 eur. The entry to the lagoon is controlled so it's never crowded. The whole concept here is different and the place is quite luxurious. It offers all kinds of treatments, there is a restaurant and besides all the facilities you can imagine, it still has in-water bar, hotel, grottoes and steam rooms so one can easily spend half day here. It's conveniently located, only 30-minute drive from Reykjavík and close to the airport, so it can be your last stop before catching your flight back home. In case you there is still some money left, of course.
If you don't feel like leaving Reykjavik, there are also pools in the city. For a good price/quality ratio I suggest a place where mostly locals go - Sundhöllin (the "Swimming Palace"), near the rocket-like church Hallgrímskirkja. This is the oldest public bath in Iceland, opened in 1937. The architecture of the building is minimalist and the interior has been renovated recently. There is the main pool, and two hot tubs on the rooftop, where you can enjoy nice views over the city.
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