Our Geothermal Bath Tour Around Iceland

My kids love thermal pools having been introduced to the joys of warm water pools in Austria.  So it was only natural that we would do a thermal pool tour along the ring road.  There are more than 175 swimming pools in Iceland so it was pretty easy to find one pretty much everywhere we stayed.

Frankly with all the driving, hiking, and other activities we did on our road trip, soaking in a warm pool was the perfect way to relax for my husband and myself.  The kids did their usual diving, sliding and swimming, of course.  It’s good to be young and NEVER tired.

A thermal pool tour of the Ring Rod in Iceland with kids

Geothermal Pools in Iceland

Swimming in geothermal pools is a big part of Icelandic culture and so we felt we were partaking in the local culture.  On an island with so much water (on the island and surrounding it), swimming lessons are a compulsory part of the school curriculum.  All of the pools we went to had inflatable armbands freely available for young non-swimmers.

Swimming in the open air is kind of cool no matter what the weather.  We were out in those thermal pools in sunshine, cold, rain and fierce wind.  It’s surprising how you don’t really register the outside weather when all but your head is immersed in really warm water.

In a couple of the smaller thermal pools on the North and East coast of Iceland, we were the only foreigners there.  I had little toddlers staring at me in open curiosity because I’m pretty sure they had not seen too many dark-skinned persons in real life before.

The pools all had lockers to store your stuff.  In some cases you could keep your valuables behind the front desk.  You must bathe without bathing suits before getting into the pools though.  It’s a non-negotiable part of local culture.  We saw some tourists keep their bathing suits on at the Blue Lagoon but I don’t think that would fly in the local towns.

thermal bath lockers

You can rent towels from the front desks as well.  They are not the most luxurious of towels but they did the job.  Who wants to carry wet towels around Iceland?!

The Two Big Thermal Pools

Everyone has heard of the Blue Lagoon near Reykjavik but Mývatn Nature Baths in Lake Mývatn is less touristed.  At the Blue Lagoon we overheard someone complain about the sulphur smell but we didn’t think it was bad.  The Blue Lagoon is a well-run operation beautifully landscaped in an 800 year old lava field.

The Blue Lagoon Iceland
The Blue Lagoon

We were not sure what to expect at Mývatn because the name in Icelandic translates to ‘fly water’ in honour of the swarms of flies in the region.  The Lake Mývatn region was indeed a flyfest as our car’s windshield quickly got splattered dark by the dumbest of the flies.  The baths area itself though was fine.  The geothermal water comes up from 2500 meters (8200 feet) below the surface and smells strongly of sulphur.  The view of the surrounding area is fabulous.

Myvatn Nature Baths
Myvatn Nature Baths

 

Our Favourite Thermal Pools

My son’s favourite pool was at the Bogarnes Sports centre.  It’s got indoor and outdoor pools (with 3 water slides).  The pool is heated with water piped in from the Deildartunga hot spring nearby which is the largest hot spring in Europe.  It pumps out 180 litres of boiling water every second!

My daughter loved the pool facilities at Blönduós which is fairly new. There was a kiddie pool, and an outdoor pool with hot tubs, water slides and lanes set aside for serious swimmers. It was very family-friendly with a lot of pool toys available for the kids to borrow.

Blonduos thermal bath
Blonduos thermal bath

My husband chose the Hofsós pool as his favourite because it has an infinity edge over Skagafjörður bay.  It was designed by the same architect responsible for creating the Blue Lagoon.  I couldn’t last more than a half-hour there though because the wind whipping off the fjord created a painful ringing in my ears.  All of me was warm from the water except my head which unless I was going to develop gills had to necessarily stay above water.

Hofsos infinity edge thermal pool
Hofsos infinity-edge thermal pool

As for me, I never met a thermal pool I didn’t like!

Thermal Pools in Reykjavik and the Golden Circle

Reykjavik itself has about 20 pools so you are spoiled for choice:

  • Laugardalslaug, Iceland’s largest pool complex, is very family-friendly with water slides and a kiddie pool.
  • Another good one with kids is Salalaug which has indoor/outdoor pools, hot tubs and a waterside.
  • Arbaejarlaug is another indoor/outdoor pool with kiddie pool and water play facilities for children.
  • The oldest public bath in Iceland is Sundhöllin  designed by a famous architect. It has diving boards but no watersides.

Near the Golden Circle, you will find Laugarvatn Fontana which has geothermal baths and a thermal bakery. It’s located right on the black beach at Laugarvatn lake.  The Secret Lagoon in Fludir in the Golden Circle area was built in 1891. Surrounded by natural beauty, it’s got its own little geyser that erupts every few minutes.  That little water feature should make up for the lack of water slides.

The website, Swimming in Iceland, is a great resource to find pools near where you are going to be.  Just type in your location and it lists the pools nearby as well as pertinent details like opening times and costs.  Trust me, this is one cultural institution all the members of the family will enjoy thoroughly.

 

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This post is part of the #TheWeeklyPostcard and #WeekendWanderlust and #wkndtravelinspiration link-ups.

 

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Published by

Shobha

I am an American expat based in London with my travel-loving family. I write at Just Go Places Blog about luxury, cultural and family travel.

38 thoughts on “Our Geothermal Bath Tour Around Iceland”

    1. You don’t need to swim! The deepest part of the pools tend to be 5 feet tall. Most Icelandic people we saw were just lazing around. Very little swimming was actually going on.

    1. It’s so hard to go back to a regular pool even a ‘heated’ one once you’ve been in a thermal pool. There’s no shock to the system when you enter the water. You’d love it!

  1. Oh my goodness…this is my idea of paradise! Hopping from one thermal pool to the next! One day, I’m going to do a thermal pool tour of the world…and Iceland is top of my list for that itinerary! I’d love to spend weeks soaking up to my neck in hot water, getting wrinkly. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  2. Now I wish we’d gone to Iceland when our kids were little! I’ve been to a thermal pool in Canada, and loved that feeling of being so warm from the neck down and cold from the neck up (it was chilly and lightly raining at the time). Love your video, by the way: it gives a really clear impression of how much you all enjoyed yourselves!

    1. To be fair to you I think Iceland has opened up as a tourist destination only in the last few years. Even now once you leave the area around Reykjavik tourists are few as far between.

    1. In winter you may be able to hang out in the pools and see the northern lights! How fab would that be?! Just luck though if you dot the northern lights.

  3. Have you also been to the Blue Lagoon? I bet this pool must have been better since there were fewer people around. I’m adding it on my Iceland list 😀

    1. I think there are 5 or 6 pools in the photos and video. I guess they all blend into one! Yes we went to the Blue Lagoon heard domicile about that we felt we had to. Definitely the most tourists.

  4. It felt like we spent most of our time immersed in warm water while we were travelling around Iceland … loved the natural thermal springs in Landmannalaugar. I really enjoyed the blue lagoon too!

  5. Sounds amazing. I am being pulled more and more to Iceland lately. Trying to find a great place for my 40th birthday in Feb. My son wants either South Africa or somewhere to see the Northern Lights. I think he would LOVE the thermal pools even in Feb! Pinning for later!

    1. You are supposed to be able to go that in the northern ones where there’s less city lights. I think that’s a great birthday idea. Memorable.

  6. This is a great post – very informative and makes me want to go do the same thing straight away. You are right it would be the perfect thing to do for both parents and kids. You’ve given me something to think about now. In an odd co-incidence we went to hot spring baths in North Queensland, Australia (our home) just last week. We’ve never done that before in Australia. It was called Innot Hot Springs. Cheers.

    1. I didn’t know there were hot springs in Australia. Not sure why I thought it was a northern thing (because so cold in winter?). I’m sure you’d love them. Not much not to like 😀

  7. My daughter loved the hot springs in Colorado and huge public pools in Germany so she would go for these. I went to the Blue Lagoon an Laugar Spa when I was pregnant. I had no idea about all the rest of these. cool!

  8. I’ve never swam in a geothermal pool, one more thing to add to my list. I’ve recently added Iceland; I’ve read so many great articles about Iceland lately.

  9. My husband Dan and I just returned from our first trip to Budapest … it’s so full of thermal spas that it was hard to decide which to visit first! Like you, I have never met a thermal pool I didn’t like, especially because that sulfur water is really good for health. And the smell? It’s not that bad, plus you don’t notice it after a few minutes.

  10. It’s nice to know there are places besides the Blue Lagoon! I would love to try the Mývatn hot springs. We are hopefully going to Iceland next year! I also LOVE that infinity pool. That looks gorgeous. Thank you for linking up with #WeekendWanderlust!

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