How about a pleasant dip in a hot tub somewhere in the middle of nowhere? This may sound like a very pricey treat at a luxury hotel, but, if you happen to be in Iceland, there are countless opportunities to bathe in one of the many exotic hot springs - completely for free. Let us give you some tips on where to find and how to use the free natural pools around Iceland!
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A visit to Iceland isn’t complete without a dip in one of the thermal pools. Photo: Norbert Zoho
How to Use a Natural Geothermal Pool in Iceland
A visit to Iceland isn’t complete without a dip in one of the thermal pools. Since many visitors are perfectly aware of this, Iceland’s amazing natural hot spring pools are no longer quite the secret places they used to be.
We should all treat these treasures very carefully so that we don't cause any harm to nature. Iceland will only stay unspoiled so long as we don’t spoil it. Here are some basic rules that you need to keep in mind before heading to the hot springs.
Sometimes the trails or roads that lead to the hot springs can be especially muddy. To avoid getting trapped in the mud, people walk off the path, choosing to walk on the grass or moss instead. This seems reasonable, but it is best to think again to protect the land.
If the next visitor were to follow your example - and they will - people would wander all over the place, which seriously harms the vegetation. It takes centuries for this fragile vegetation to recover. Never step off the marked path, not even if it's very muddy.
There are no showers in the wilderness. Some of these hot springs are very small and some have no stream or any natural purification systems. Harmful bacteria can easily accumulate if too many people use them in a short period of time. Make sure you wash thoroughly - at your hotel or at a campsite - before heading to a natural pool. Don't use these pools as a cleansing bath after a tiring multi-day hike.
There are no trash containers around these pools. If you forget to take your underwear or swimming suit away with you, no one wants to pick it up after you and transport it to the next trash can - it will just remain there to displease the next visitors.
Double-check that you don't leave any waste behind, not even degradable items. Banana peels, tampons and tissues might be degradable, but it takes years for them to break down, and these have no place in the Icelandic wilderness.
There are no toilets in the wilderness, not even a tree to hide behind. Make sure you can handle a few hours without a 'comfort stop'. If the situation is serious, dig a hole far away from the pool, and any farms or trails and bury it properly.
Natural hot pool with a view in the Westfjords. Photo: Norbert Zoho
Landmannalaugar - the Queen of Hot Natural Pools in Iceland
Hot water springs up through the lava and flows into a natural pool. The bathing area is spacious and the water depth is moderately shallow. With a temperature of around 36-40 degrees Celcius (96 to 104 Fahrenheit), it is perfect for bathing. Locals and tourists love this place and visit it all year round. The reason why it is worthwhile to visit in winter is that your chances of catching a display of the Northern Lights are quite good here!
Landmannalaugar is a true Paradise for hikers so the number of visitors peaks between June and September. Naturally, the area is incredibly peaceful - almost desolate - during the winter time when the area is only accessible by Super Jeep.
The pool in Landmannalaugar is open to the public for free. Showers and changing facilities are available in the lodge just a few minutes walk from the pool. The pool is free but a small fee is payable to use the facilities - it is good to have a few hundred krónur coins handy for this.
Hveravellir – a Stunning Geothermal Area in the Middle of Absolutely Nowhere
Some 92 km north of the Gullfoss waterfall on the Golden Circle, right between the glaciers, Langjökull and Hofsjökull, you will find another geothermal oasis. This site is a protected nature reserve, one of the most stunning geothermal areas in the world. You will find steamy fumaroles and sky-blue boiling water.
The Hveravellir thermal pool is about 6 x 3 meters in size and is located on a warm river. The warm water flows into the pool constantly, which ensures that the current always keeps the pool clean.
A service center with a cozy restaurant, huts and a large campsite is located close by. Changing facilities are available right next to the pool. There is a small fee for using facilities such as parking, toilets, shower, and the geothermal pool, it costs ISK 500 per person - all together.
Landbrotalaug - the Hidden, Tiny and Romantic One
The Landbrotalaug pool is a well-hidden secret and not easy to find. It is located some two hours drive from Reykjavík in the most eastern part of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, literally, in the middle of nowhere. But don't worry, its location is marked on Google Maps.
This pool is basically just a tiny hole in the ground. It can only fit 2-3 people. That is exactly what makes it so special and romantic. The temperature in the pool is about 36 – 40 degrees Celsius (96 to 104 Fahrenheit), excellent for bathing.
There are no changing facilities here but there is a nearby parking area so you can strip down to your swimsuit in your car.
Reykjadalur, the Valley of the Hot River
Reykjadalur is probably the most popular natural bathing site in Iceland. Many visitors have the famous hot river on their bucket list. It is quite understandable since it takes less than an hour to drive to this place from Reykjavik.
After an easy hour-long hike in spectacular landscapes, you arrive at the valley which is a geothermally active zone. The steaming and bubbling mud pots and hot springs will make you feel like you were on another planet.
Hot water mixes together with colder streams, forming a warm river. You can even choose the bathing temperature. If you find it too chilly, walk a little bit farther against the stream. The higher you go the hotter it will get. Always test the water with your hand before plunging in.
There are no changing facilities here, only a few folding screens to hide behind. It’s a good idea to take a drybag on this tour, so you can keep your clothes dry while you are bathing, even if it rains.
Seljavallalaug – the Oldest Man-Made Pool in Whole Iceland
Seljavallalaug is a remote swimming pool situated deep in a breathtaking, narrow valley. This place is not far from the notorious Eyjafjallajökull volcano in southern Iceland. Soaking in this pool is really an adventure, the scenery all around the pool is marvelous. You will feel you are in a fairytale!
Seljavallalaug is one of Iceland's oldest man-made pools, it was built in 1923. The pool is 25 meters long and 10 meters wide. The warm water comes from a natural hot spring close by, but it is actually not too warm at about 20-30 degrees Celsius (68 - 86 Fahrenheit).
The water can sometimes turn a green color, due to the algae that grow on the sides of the pool. It is cleaned once a year in the summer.
You will find very basic changing facilities in a tiny, old building nearby.
Just remember to be careful, leave nothing but footprints (on the designated pathways) and take nothing but pictures!
Kerlingarfjöll Host Spring in the Highlands
In the very heart of the country, in the middle of the remote Highlands, there is a geothermally active area where the glaciers meet the steamy grounds, called Kerlingarfjöll. A hidden hot spring is found not far from the mountain resort, that is suitable for bathing.
The geothermal pool is quite spacious and its water is rich in iron. The water temperature is around 34-37°C (93-38°F) with the warmest spots being found in the middle. There are no changing facilities so it is a good idea to take a drybag with you to keep your clothes dry while bathing. After using the pool, please make sure not to leave any waste, swimsuits, or underwear behind.