Natural Hot Springs vs. Geothermal Pools in Iceland
Iceland is a hot destination – in every sense. Thanks to the strong volcanic activities, plenty of amazing natural hot springs can be found all over the country. Visitors started to discover them recently, not surprisingly, their stunning pictures have gone viral on the internet. Iceland has become instantly world famous for being the most mind-blowing geothermal paradise on the planet.
Iceland’s thrilling natural hot springs are no longer the secret they used to be. Everyone wants to experience the feeling of soaking in naturally hot water, under the Northern Lights or the midnight sun, whilst admiring breathtaking volcanic landscapes. Let me show you why you shouldn’t be one of them. Don’t worry, I’ll recommend even better options that will absolutely blow your mind!
The downsides of natural hot springs
Sure, those Instagram pictures are very attractive, but there is little talk about the not always obvious downsides of natural hot springs, you should be aware of these before charging off to the geothermal wildernesses.
They are often difficult to access. These hot springs are often far from the paved roads. Soaking in the warm water is just a small part of the adventure. Getting there often requires a lot of hiking or driving on rough dirt roads. Often these are F-roads which most car rental companies will forbid you to drive a regular car on.
They are too popular for their size. Imagine, after driving difficult roads for a few hours or a long hike you arrive at the pool and it is already ‘in use’. Most of these natural hot springs are quite small. If there are already two people in the water – especially if they are a couple – you are sure to receive some sour looks for disturbing their special moment.
There are no facilities. In the wilderness, there are no changing cabins or storage spaces to keep your stuff dry and safe from freezing temperatures in winter. There are no trash containers or sinks. There are no toilets, not even a tree to hide behind, and there are no buildings to protect you from a storm. There is no first aid service, and most of the time you won´t get any network connection either.
Nature is defenseless. You might not be aware of all the actions which can cause harm to Icelandic nature. There are so many possible ways we can unwittingly cause harm, we all want Iceland to remain unspoiled, but it will only stay that way so long as we don’t spoil it. Natural hot springs are definitely worth a mindful visit, but there are so many other brilliant options in Iceland to see!
Are ‘hidden secrets’ really cooler than man-made pools? Not necessarily!
Civilization is amazing! Iceland has much more to show you than just a few holes in the ground filled with hot water. You can be sure the world’s most thrilling warm water pools can be found in Iceland. Locals have built pools for themselves in the most incredible locations – in remote and beautiful places as well as close to the towns and in the capital. All of these hot pools offer modern facilities. One word about local custom – just don’t forget to take a shower before entering the pool!
1. Krossneslaug – a swimming pool at the end of the world
Just look at this pool – right at the end of the world! Located in the Westfjords, just the journey to Krossneslaug is simply mind-blowing! Explore tiny fishing villages, scenic fjords that are filled with whales, stay in remote family guesthouses and enjoy the breathtaking scenery. This pool is open day and evening and has a changing room, shower, hairdryer, jacuzzi and a warm water pool. On my last visit there, an arctic fox came to say hi, an experience which was priceless!
- Location: Norðurfjörður, Westfjords. Please note that this pool is very difficult to access in winter.
- Opening hours: 0-24h every day
2. Birkimelur swimming pool in the Westfjords
A place you wouldn’t believe exists! This wonder is also located in the Westfjords and it is much easier to access than the Krossneslaug pool. Birkimelur swimming pool lies next to the only road that goes along the fjord. There are two sections: a natural hole in the rocky ground and a man-made heated pool behind it. With THIS view, honestly, this place should beat any other items on your bucket list.
- Location: Barðastrandarvegur, 451 Patreksfjörður, Westfjords
- Opening hours: 0-24h in summer (1st of June – 15th of August)
3. Reykjanes swimming pool – The pool with the nesting birds
We are still in the Westfjords. The Reykjanes pool is one of Iceland’s largest geothermal pools and there is even a steam bath next to it. A small hotel and a campsite are to found nearby so you can get up early and start your day with a refreshing swim here. A large colony of Arctic Terns provides the great musical entertainment while you’re enjoying the water. Did I mention that tickets to all of these pools cost less than 1000 ISK (10 USD)?
- Location: Hotel Reykjanes, 401, Westfjords
- Opening hours: 10-20h, every day
4. Hofsós – the warm water pool with a fjord panorama
Another pool with a view. This one is located in Hofsós in North Iceland, in an adorable small village. There is so much to explore in this area. Two hot tubs and a warm water pool. What do you think of this view?
- Location: Hofsósbraut, Hofsós
- Opening hours: Monday-Friday: 7AM-1PM, 5PM-8PM; Weekends: 11AM-3PM
Photo by Norris Niman
5. Iceland’s largest Secret Lagoon – Go to the big(gest) or go home!
If you insist on hidden secrets, try this one. Not hidden and no longer a secret, but it has a cool name and it is not man-made: The Secret Lagoon is all-natural. In fact, it is the largest natural geothermal pool in Iceland and the oldest pool in the country. Plus it is located on the Golden Circle. Who cares that it is not a secret? It even has its very own tiny geyser! Enjoy!
- Location: Hvammsvegur, 845 Flúðir
- Opening hours: Every day, 11AM-8PM
6. Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach in Reykjavik
Swim in the ocean and dip in a hot pool – You don’t even have to step out of the city to experience something very special and blow up your Instagram account. Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland has a real geothermal beach with golden sand and a lagoon where you can – not kidding – swim in the ocean!
No, it is not warm, but it isn’t freezing cold either, thanks to the geothermal water that flows into the lagoon. And, of course, there is a hot pool on the beach so you can jump in the hot water right from the cold, just like real Vikings do. How cool is that?!
- Location: Nauthólsvík Beach, Reykjavík
- Opening hours:
Monday: 11AM-2PM, 5PM-8PM
Wednesday: 11AM-2PM, 5PM-8PM
Don’t worry, there are fancier options too. If you like comfort, fragrant shower gel, a Finnish sauna, and dinner with a view, the following options are for you:
7. Laugarvatn Fontana Spa – A luxurious spa!
A sauna with the most beautiful view. Their steam baths are built right over a hot spring: you can hear the boiling water underneath your feet! If there would be a prize for the ‘sauna with the most beautiful view’, Fontana was the winner. This place is just luxurious! Visit it in winter and enjoy the candlelight around the pools.
- Location: Hverabraut 1, Laugarbraut, 840 Laugarvatn
- Opening hours: Every day, 11 AM – 10 PM
8. The epic Blue Lagoon
Iceland’s Crown Jewel! I don’t have to introduce this place, do I? Despite the fact that the lagoon itself is man-made, the Blue Lagoon is included in a list of 25 locations around the globe in a special edition of National Geographic on wonders of the world. It qualifies because it is filled with water which, when it springs up from the earth, is extremely rich in silica and other minerals. This is what gives the water its milky-white color.
The location is just incredible: in the middle of a moss-dotted lava field where elves and other magical creatures are believed to live. The Blue Lagoon is probably the most famous place in Iceland – don’t forget to book your ticket way in advance – this place gets booked out.
A luxury sauna, relaxation room, in-water bar, warm waterfall, cave, silica mud mask and special treatments are just a few highlights, but the feeling of being there is just impossible to convey in words alone. Completing the experience with a first-class dinner in their restaurant will really blow your mind.
- Location: Nordurljosavegur 9, 240 Grindavik
- Opening hours: Every day, 8 AM – 10 PM
9. Mývatn Nature Baths – Natural beauty on a budget
This spa is the Blue Lagoon of North Iceland. The color of the water is the same as at the Blue Lagoon, but this pool is in a more remote location with fewer visitors – and less than half the price. The Mývatn Nature Baths at Lake Myvatn absolutely worth a visit!
- Location: Jarðbaðshólar, 660 Mývatn
- Opening hours: Every day, 12 AM – 10 PM
10. Krauma, is the newest natural geothermal spa in Iceland
This brand new spa is fed by Deildartunguhver in Borgarfjordur, the largest hot spring in Europe. It is situated on an old family farm, views over the valley and the mountains are totally magical. You really will benefit from the full power of nature. Hot baths, a cold plunge pool and a meditation room with soft music and a wood-burning stove in the middle. Organic Icelandic shampoo, conditioner and body lotion are provided. Krauma is definitely worth visiting!
- Location: Deildartunguhver, 320 Reykholt
- Opening hours: Every day, 11 AM – 9 PM
I’m not saying that it is bad to visit Iceland’s natural hot springs. Go ahead, discover these hidden treasures! But I do think there are some places that are equally incredible and interesting which are easier and more comfortable to visit. Going to these pools also ensures no unintended harm will come to nature. Unlike the hidden pools, these have been built for you to have boundless fun.
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.
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