Having frequented a few public swimming pools while in Iceland, I believe a trip to one is a must when you visit the country.
I love spas, especially natural ones, and I have been to a few public swimming pools in different countries around Europe. So, when I found out that there were public swimming pools in Iceland that used geothermal water, I had to go. Unlike the ones in Budapest, they aren’t housed in fancy buildings, and they aren’t big tourist attractions. These pools are primarily for locals, so you will find a public pool in most towns. They all have a standard pool that you can swim in and one for children, but it’s the wonderful small pools, referred to as hot pots, and the steam rooms that make them spa-like. The hot pots, by the way, are jacuzzis without bubbles. It’s like stepping into a lovely warm or hot bath, depending on the temperature, which can be anything from 34 to 44 degrees celsius.
Regardless of the time of year you go, make sure you take your swimming costume to Iceland because it really would be a shame to miss out on the public pools as well as the natural hot springs and rivers that you can bathe in around the country. Bathing in geothermal water is an Icelandic tradition, it will warm you up, and it’s a great way to relax your muscles after a long day’s hike, as well as a great way to chill out. If you are camping, some of the campsites charge extra if you want to use the shower. For a couple of hundred Icelandic Kroner extra, I preferred to make use of the local swimming pool’s facilities for all of the above reasons, plus a couple more. You get to dry your hair with a hairdryer, and get dressed in the warmth.
The last public swimming pool I used was Laugardalslaug in Reykjavik. Families, couples, and groups of friends were there on a Saturday evening, playing ball, chilling out, and chatting in the pools. It’s a great place to socialise and meet locals. In Laugardalslaug, there is a saltwater pool at 40 degrees celsius. That was probably the most popular of all. In the swimming pool in Hvolsvollur, you can even drink coffee while using the hot pots in the morning. I did that, and it was fantastic because I hadn’t had my morning coffee when I got there. I relaxed in this lovely warm hot pot, drinking coffee. What a great start to the day!
It will cost you anything from 600 and 900 ISK to use a public swimming pool, although the average tended to be 700 ISK, which equates to approximately £4.50. That’s great value!
It was a bit odd when I went to the first public pool because all the pools are outdoors. That’s normal in Iceland, but not what I was used it. In the UK, we have few outdoor pools, although these are only used in the summer. I would never have considered going to an outdoor public pool when it’s 11 degrees Celsius outside, until I went to Iceland. If it’s cold, get into the first hot pot you come across. That’s what I tended to do. Once you have been in one for a while and warm up, walking about in your swimsuit, while choosing where to go next – another hot pot, the pool, or the steam room – isn’t so bad.
Should you decide to go, and I hope you do, look for this sign.
When you go, there are a few things you need to know. You will be reminded by someone, a local or a member of staff, if you don’t.
1. Take your shoes off
There will be a shoe rack before you enter the changing rooms where you leave your shoes. In Laugardalslaug in Reykjavik, there are plastic bags you can put your shoes in and then you can place them in your locker.
2. Shower naked
Yes, you have to shower in your birthday suit. This is very important. If anyone thinks you might try to skip this step, they will tell you. There is always a soap dispenser in the shower because you have to use soap. You need to wash your hair, face, armpits, feet, and gentalia. Once you have completed this step, you can put on your swimming costume and enter the pool.
3. Leave your towel and wash things in the rack provided
Having learned from experience, it’s best if you leave your towel and wash things in the rack by the shower. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, you can’t enter the locker room unless you are dry. You need a towel to dry yourself. If your towel is in your locker, you won’t get that far without someone stopping you. Secondly, some lockers will only open once, which means if you open your locker to get your towel and wash things (if you get that far), you might not be able to close it again. That happened to me the first time, and I was a little concerned about my valuables while I was in the shower.
4. Dry yourself completely after showering
Once you’ve been in the pool and had a shower, you have to dry yourself completely in the wet area before entering the dry area.
5. Leave your camera and phone behind
The public swimming pools are not a tourist attraction. For that reason, please leave your camera and phone in the locker. Quite rightly, you are not allowed to use either in the swimming pool. For that reason, I don’t have any photos of the pools, only the exterior.
Have your say
Have you been to any of the public swimming pools in Iceland? If not, is it something you would consider doing when you visit Iceland?