Icelandic Hot Spring & Geothermal Pool Etiquette

|May 3, 2018
Anthropologist, social media guru, Icelandic nature and food enthusiast.

Take a dip in one of Iceland's natural hot springs or geothermal pools, which are found throughout the country. Thanks to Iceland’s unique geography, the country is awash with natural pools and hot springs, meaning you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to finding the right pool for you.

Want to immerse yourself in Icelandic culture? Take a dip in one of the country’s natural hot springs or geothermal pools, which are found throughout the country.

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Thanks to Iceland’s unique geography, the country is awash with natural pools and hot springs, meaning you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to finding the pool for you.

But what visitors mightn’t realize is that Iceland has strict rules in regards pool hygiene, so much so that the tourism board even created this video guide for visitors:

To help you conquer Iceland’s pool etiquette, we’ve created a checklist of everything you need to know and do before swimming in one of Iceland’s pools. Read on to learn more.

1. Find a Hot Spring or Pool

The first step in exploring Iceland’s hot springs is to decide what kind of pool you want to visit. Visitors to the country have a wealth of options to choose from, including the world-famous Blue Lagoon or lesser-known geothermal pools like Gamla Laugin or Seljavallalaug.

For more information on these naturally occurring wonders, read our guide to Iceland’s hot springs and pools and discover which one is the best fit for your Icelandic adventure.

2. Pay the Admission Fee

Before you enter the pool, there are a number of steps you have to take. Depending on the pool you’ve chosen, you may have to pay an admission fee, although this doesn’t apply to some of Iceland’s more rural hot springs and pools.

3. Take off Your Shoes…

Before entering the changing rooms, it’s important to take off your shoes. It’s considered bad manners to wear your shoes into the changing room. Because of this, bathers leave their shoes on racks outside. Don’t worry though, your shoes will be perfectly safe and won’t be stolen!

4. And Everything Else

Next, it’s time to get naked. Yes, I said naked. Before entering the pool, bathers must take off all their clothes – you can either hang them on a peg or keep them in a locker depending on the pool’s facilities – and shower naked.

5. Take a Shower

Showering naked is mandatory for all swimmers before entering the water. This is done purely for hygiene reasons and is what keeps geothermal water, which has no chlorine, clean and free from harmful bacteria.  

To many visitors, showering in your birthday suit can seem like a daunting task, but trust us, no one is looking. Depending on the hot spring or pool you visit, there may even be showers with private cubicles. If not, you’ll have to use the open shower.

Wearing your swimsuit in the shower is strictly forbidden. Most pools will have shower attendants in the locker rooms who are there to make sure no one is wearing their swimsuit in the shower.

Showers will also have signs or illustrated posters depicting the areas which need to be washed thoroughly. This pre-swim ritual may seem a bit daunting, but rest assured it’s only in place to help preserve water quality.

Each year, the number of visitors to these pools rises. However, the water quality always remains high thanks to the above hygiene rules.

6. Put on Your Swimsuit

After showering, it’s time to put on your swimsuit and hit the pool. Women have the option of bathing topless but can also swim in a traditional one-piece or bikini.

7. Condition Your Hair

It’s important to note that geothermal water can wreak havoc on your hair – this is particularly true for water in the Blue Lagoon. The minerals in the water can cause your hair to become coarse and unmanageable, so it’s best to lather your hair in conditioner before entering. Alternatively, you can buy a swimming cap to protect your hair.

Planning on visiting the Blue Lagoon? Read our essential guide to keeping your hair soft and moisturized while visiting the lagoon.

8. Relax

After taking off your clothes, showering and conditioning your hair, it’s finally time to go for a dip in the pool. It’s important to remember that hot springs and pools are a place of relaxation for Icelanders, meaning no shouting, running or diving is allowed. Let the naturally-warm water wash over you as you unwind and enjoy the beautiful surroundings and picturesque scenery.

Outdoor pools are an integral part of Icelandic culture and are used for both sport and social purposes. Don’t be afraid to chat with locals and learn a bit more about the pool, the surrounding areas and Iceland itself – you’d be surprised by what you can learn!

Whether you’ve opted for an outdoor pool or natural spring, you’re sure to enjoy your time relaxing in some of Iceland’s best-loved pools.

9. Shower and Dry Off

After your dip in the water, it’s time to have another shower. This is done before entering the changing rooms and is purely for the benefit of bathers who want to wash off any silica or mud.

Visitors should be aware that it’s considered rude to re-enter the changing room wet. After showering, make sure to dry yourself properly, so as not to annoy the strict locker room attendants.

10. Grab Something to Eat

Now that you’ve experienced Iceland’s geothermal pools and natural springs, you’ve probably worked up quite an appetite. Luckily, Icelandic tradition dictates that any trip to a swimming pool must be followed by a visit to a nearby hotdog stand or ice cream parlor.

Icelanders LOVE hot dogs and ice cream, meaning you’ll never be too far away from a delicious dessert and moreish snack.

Read our blog, ‘What is the deal with Icelanders and their hot dogs’, to learn more about Iceland’s obsession with hotdogs.

Arctic Adventures provides a wide range of tours for thrill-seekers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Check out our range of day and multi-day tours, which you can book in advance of your trip to Iceland.

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