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Swimming Pool Etiquette in Iceland

How to Behave in Local Hot Springs and Pools

|April 9, 2024
Anthropologist, social media guru, Icelandic nature and food enthusiast.

Iceland has many natural hot springs and geothermal pools to choose from. They can be found all over the country and are great for relaxation. But did you know that there are certain rules you should follow? Find out what they are in our ultimate guide to Icelandic swimming pool etiquette!


Want to immerse yourself in Icelandic culture? A popular way to experience local leisure culture is by indulging in a wellness tour at one of many pools that Iceland has to offer. Take a dip in one of the country’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 pool for you.

But what visitors might not realize is that Iceland has strict rules in regard to pool hygiene, so much so that the tourism board even created this video guide: 

 

Iceland Academy | How to avoid hot tub awkwardness

 

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.

Swimming Culture in Iceland

Swimming culture is prominent in Iceland. More so, it’s a lifestyle that the locals have adopted since their first settlers discovered the geothermal wonders of Iceland’s natural pools. Healthy, refreshing, and practical, it's no surprise outdoor swimming and bathing continue to be so popular and prevalent across Iceland with both locals and tourists alike. 

But it’s not only about going for a swim. It’s an Icelandic culture that is centered around nature, well-being, and community, a tradition where people gather together to socialize and share the wholesome moments of life while soaking in nature’s warmth. 

Iceland's unique geothermal activity makes swimming a year-round pleasure. Forget about the cold – almost all swimming options in Iceland are heated by geothermal energy. Here's a nutshell of the types of Icelandic pools you can choose from.

Young woman in milky waters of geothermal pool

Natural Hot Springs

Iceland's volcanic landscape boasts scattered natural hot springs and pools. These can be remote and rustic or part of a geothermal area, offering an authentic Icelandic experience, just like the “People’s Pools” in Landmannalaugar.

Geothermal Pools

The man-made pools fueled by warm geothermally heated waters are perfect for relaxation and are a popular swimming and bathing choice. The Secret Lagoon is one of such pools and a famous swimming destination, as opposed to its name!

Swimming Pools

Almost all Icelandic swimming pools are also heated geothermally! They sometimes have various pools, hot tubs, and saunas next to them, making an ideal area to rejuvenate and socialize. Laugarvatn Fontana Spa perfectly combines the above and much more.

Understanding the kinds of hot springs and geothermal pools available in Iceland will help you find the best fit for your Icelandic adventure!

Are Swimming Pools Free in Iceland?

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. So, the rule of thumb is the more well-known the hot spring or geothermal pool is, the more expensive it is to enter.

Some places may also include different packages to choose from, adding to or reducing the overall cost, depending on the experiences you would like to go for on the side. It’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with Iceland’s best swimming places and what they include.

Iceland Swimming Pool Etiquette Rules

Now that we've chosen the hot springs or a pool to visit, keeping in mind the admission fees, there are certain things to know before entering the public pool. Sounds complicated? Here's a simple list of the few swimming pool rules everyone in Iceland should follow while bathing in a public swimming pool or hot spring.

Rule #1: Take off Your Shoes

Women conversing in changing room in Iceland

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. You can always ask about the designated shoe area, but generally, you can take them into your locker, using a plastic bag that is sometimes provided at the entrance.

Rule #2: Shower Naked

Shower cubicles area of changing room

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 a private shower room. 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 swimsuits in the shower.

Showers will also have signs or illustrated posters depicting the areas that need to be washed thoroughly. This pre-swim ritual may seem a bit awkward, 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.

Rule #3: Put on Your Swimsuit

Excited woman in changing room taking selfie

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

Rule #4: Relax Respectfully

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 the pool area is 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 sports 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.

Rule #5: Shower Again

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.

White folded towels on shelf

Rule #6: Dry off Before Entering Locker Room

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.

Rule #7: Grab Something to Eat

Two hot dogs on display

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 a moreish snack. After all, Icelandic cuisine is a fulfilling experience on its own, so don’t miss out. 

Discover activities beyond Iceland’s swimming pools and thermal steam baths. 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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