One of Iceland’s natural wonders is its water. Whether it’s for drinking or swimming, the Icelandic water is one of the purest in the world. Iceland’s geothermal activity provides plenty of fresh water.
Most tourists will experience the *shocking* fact that in Iceland, before getting in the pools, you have to wash NAKED. Yep, naked.
And if you haven’t had a shower in your life, helpful signs will kindly remind you what you should pay attention to and where to wash thoroughly. But don’t worry, as everybody is doing that no one will look at you. Well, in fact, people will stare at you if you’re wearing a swimsuit while showering. Nakedness in Iceland isn’t a big deal. It’s just some flesh, right? So, having people who have Gymnophobia is quite rare. Plus, by showering naked, the pool will be clean, which is beneficial to everyone.
There are an increasing number of pools that do provide the option of private booths when showering. As of now, you can find some in Sundhöll Reykjavíkur and Laugardalslaug. Scroll down for more information.
Hot pots are a fabulous invention. Whether it’s time to cure a hangover, recover from a tiring day at work or a crazy hike, hot pots with 40° water will help you heal.
The first manmade hot pot is said to be Snorrastofa, named after Snorri Sturluson. Snorri Sturluson was a leading chieftain and poet in the 13th century. I guess that, if people settled in Iceland in the 9th century, they probably didn’t wait 400 years to discover that bathing in warm water was excellent.
In the end, the hot pot experience is totally worth the 3 minutes nudity.
Pools are everywhere in Reykjavik, and even 200 villages around the country have a swimming pool and a hot pot, so it’s never difficult to find one.
Sure, the Blue Lagoon is worth a visit but why spend a lot of money on the Blue Lagoon if you can go to one of the many swimming pools in Reykjavik? Instead of drowning in a crowded, hot pot with tourists, go and soak among Icelanders in warm water instead.
So, here are my favorite places to go swimming. I love swimming, and not only Icelandic style, which means sitting in the hot tub for 2 hours until you look like a raisin although I recommend it highly too. A brilliant cure for sore muscles, tiredness, hangover, or soak away the effects of jet lag.
Wherever in Iceland, you see a sign like this, it will lead you to the closest swimming pool.
There are many other great pools in the Reykjavik suburbs but in this article I will stick to those close to Reykjavik´s center.
Below are four pools and hotpots that I visit regularly. Best is, they are close to downtown Reykjavik and only a short walk or bus ride away.
Hofsvallagata – View on Google Maps
About 15 – 20 min walk from downtown in the direction of the Seltjarnarness peninsula.
Bus stops: #13, 15
Mondays – Fridays: 06:30-22:00
My favorite swimming pool, as it is outdoors and rather small and cozy. Besides a 25m swimming pool with five lanes, there is a smaller and warmer kids pool with floating toys and mini slide.
The pool area is surrounded by a stone wall on the one, and the building and changing rooms on the other side, which gives it a bit of wind protection.
Alongside the children’s pool are four outside hotpots with varying temperatures, one with hydro massage (excellent for sore backs), a steam bath, and two saunas, one for men and one for women. They also provide free Wi-Fi.
And now that summer is approaching, you might want to get a chance to cool down. There are plenty of benches and sun chairs to relax between the hot pots and the steam bath. And yes, you can get tanned in Iceland. It often happens a lot faster as the sun seems to be stronger in Iceland than in other countries.
Barónsstígur – View on Google Maps
Almost next to Halgrimskirkja, the big church
Bus stops: #5,14,15,18
Mondays – Fridays: 06:30-22:00
It might not look that inviting at first, but trust me, your visit will be worth it.
Located close to Hallgrimskirkja church, this one is the most central swimming pool and also the oldest one in Reykjavik. It was recently renovated but was originally designed by architect Gudjon Samuelsson and constructed between 1929 – 1937 and opened its doors for the first time on March 24th, 1937.
There’s a 25m indoor pool with four lanes and two springboards on one end, where you can practice your water-bomb skills, and a smaller 1 m deep kids pool with balls and floating toys at the other end. Therefore it’s perfect for bad weather or if you don’t want to freeze, walking in between the pool and changing rooms.
Outside you find, built in a balcony like fashion, two hot tubs, one with hydro massages, a steam bath, and a sun terrace where you can cool down and enjoy the Icelandic sun.
Sundlaugarvegur – View on Google Maps
About 30 min walk from downtown. Situated in the Laugardalur valley.
Bus stops: #12,14
Weekdays: 6:30 – 22:00
Weekends: 8:00 – 22:00
I like this one, as it is fantastic for swimmers who haven’t fallen for the Icelandic way of swimming yet.
Laugardalslaug is the biggest swimming pool in Reykjavik, with two 50m pools, one indoor with ten lanes, and the other one outdoors with eight lanes. The outdoor one has a comfy temperature of roughly 28°C (82°F) and will guarantee that you won’t freeze even in winter (that is, once you made it into the water).
Besides those two big ones, there is a smaller 25m pool for children with only one meter in depth and warmer than the other ones, inviting for floating and playful games. A brilliant 86 meter long water slide is situated on the opposite side. Give it a try; it is great fun.
If you are not the swimming type of person and want to do it the Icelandic way, of course, there are numerous hot pots, a jacuzzi and a thermal steam bath, which are alongside the outdoor pool. Their hotpots have varying temperatures so that you can find the perfect one for you.
There is also a beach volleyball court available free of charge.
Nauthólsvík – Geothermal Beach
“The Beach of Reykjavik”
Ylströndin Nauthólsvík, behind the domestic airport field – View on Google Maps
Walking distance from downtown, about 30min.
It is located behind the airport and next to the University of Reykjavik.
May 15th – August 31st: 10:00-20:00
FREE hotpot and ocean swimming! Nauthóltsvík Beach is located where people used to(and still do) take sea baths.
The construction of the lagoon finished in the year 2000, and the adjoining service center opened in 2001. Massive stone walls surround a white sandy beach and the small pool, protecting it from the cold seawater.
Just in front of the service center is a long hotpot with comfortable 38 °C from where you can observe the artificial sand beach and the bay. And, after soaking in hot water you can dare each other to take a cooling swim in the ocean. I love to take a plunge in the cold water, and it gets easier each time. Just start swimming right away instead of staying put in one spot.
Nautholtsvík has comfortable changing rooms with showers (that are free of charge during summertime) and a small shop/info desk where you can get info regarding the current water temperature. Information on air and sea temperature along with wind speeds are available on their website here https://nautholsvik.is/en/
Also, you can get coffee, candy, and sweets, and during summertime the opportunity for DIY pylsa (the Icelandic hotdog). You get the sausage and bun at the shop and grill it yourself on the gas grill next to the hotpot and picnic tables. Almost like summer barbecue
There is a second smaller hotpot located on the beach with a temperature of 25-30 °C and which is only in use during sunny summer days.
It can also get quite crowded, and suddenly you might be wondering where the hell all the people came from. During sunny summer days (never mind the outdoor temperature), it feels like half of Reykjavík is on the beach, creating a southern beach atmosphere. Last year about 120.000 people visited the beach.
The hot tubs are filled with warm water during the opening hours of the service center. It is open pretty much all year round. During the summer season (May 15th till August 31st) from 10 am to 8 pm but in wintertime, only about 2-3 hours per day. So check their homepage before going.