The Swimming Pools of Iceland
Iceland’s geothermal water is a fundamental part of the nation and an important piece in the puzzle that makes this country inhabitable. Iceland’s warmth, and Iceland is a lot warmer than you might think, comes primarily from this source. As a result, the country’s many public pools are nearly all outdoor pools and function as places of sport, recreation, leisure, wellness and social meeting place for people of all ages.
Nearly every tiny town has its own pool and nearly all of them offer at least one hot tub and a sauna or steam room. They also have the added benefit of being far cheaper than your average luxury spa while offering perhaps a more authentic experience. No trip to Iceland is complete without a soak in a public pool.
This blog is about the public pools of Iceland. For information about the swimming pools of Reykjavik, luxury lagoons and natural hot springs of Iceland check out our blogs on those unmissable destinations.
Foreword on nudity: Iceland’s pools require all guests to shower without swim clothes with soap before entering the pool for hygienic purposes so full nudity in the showers is unavoidable. Shower rooms are separate for men and women but for the timid, we can only say that its absolutely worth it and that it might help to free your mind and body as you’ll soon find that everybody has a different body and everybody’s completely indifferent to yours.
Swimming Pools in Reykjavik
For those staying in Reykjavik, the beloved Vesturbæjarlaug is a great place to start. This outdoor pool in Reykjavik’s old west town, is a much-loved location for locals and you’re more likely to spot a real celebrity in this pool than anywhere else in Iceland. The pool has a series of hot tubs of varying degrees and their outdoor locker rooms come highly recommended.
Sundhöllin is one of very few indoor pools in Iceland but this old gem is more of an architectural experience than anything else. They do have a recent outdoor addition but the authentic experience lies in the old swimming hall and its picturesque locker rooms. The swimming hall is something of an icon in Reykjavik and is often used as a venue for various live events, music videos and films.
Laugardalslaug is the city’s and country’s largest pool and it has to be. Its prime location in the outdoor and sport area of Laugardalur means that its part of a network of sporting arenas and serves ambitious swim teams, pool-yogis and kids of all ages. There’s a waterslide, a variety of hot tubs in various temperatures, competition-sized indoor and outdoor pools and their recently renovated locker rooms mean it’s a perfect destination for the entire family.
Swimming Pools in the West of Iceland
The eastern side of the Westfjords is an area commonly referred to as Strandir. Unlike most roads in Iceland that circle the island, the road up Strandir is essentially a one-way street, basically ending in Norðurfjörður, the northernmost settlement in Strandir. A few minutes outside the tiny town of Norðurfjörður is Krossneslaug. As far as remote pools go, few can beat this one and as far as extraordinary surroundings go Krossneslaug is also one of a kind. Driving down a steep hill to the shoreline at the end of the road you’ll find this strange place for a public pool. Keep in mind that the western and eastern parts of Iceland are largely cold areas, meaning there’s scarcely any geothermal heat here. This is because these are the oldest parts of Iceland and largely free of geothermal and seismic activity. With a few exceptions and this is one of those spots. For a nation of fishermen, learning how to swim was a vital survival tool and having a pool to learn how to swim in was considered more important than you might think. This is no luxury spa if you’re looking for free high-end products and fuzzy bath robes but for those interested in the human spirit, connecting with nature and rebooting the senses, Krossneslaug is worth every uncomfortable bump in the road you’ll feel on your way there.
Pro tip: Stop at Drangsnes on your way through Strandir for a soak in their public hot tubs on the shore and make sure you drink in the awesome 360° views in Djúpavík.
Swimming Pools in the North of Iceland
The North of Iceland is a large area with swimming pools in every little town, all worth a visit. But for the purposes of this blog, we’ll single one out, a particularly worthwhile destination for anyone traveling in the area. This is the swimming pool in Hofsós. The young pool opened in 2007 and was a gift to the locals from two businesswomen with ties to the area. This hybrid between a high-end design luxury spa and a public pool has the look and feel of the former, with the amenities and price tag of the latter. The infinity pool with extraordinary views over the fjord and Drangey island is a sight to behold and the little detour to Hofsós from the Ring Road is well worth it, just for this pool.
Swimming Pools in the East of Iceland
Selá in Vopnafjörður is one of the world’s primary salmon fishing rivers and home to one of Iceland’s most luxurious fishing hotels. Celebrities, presidents, princes and the extremely wealthy try their hand at catching arctic salmon in Selá, in this remote fjord in the east of Iceland. Nestled along this historic river, is an old charmer of a swimming pool: Selárlaug. In stark contrast to its only neighbor, high-end fishing lodge Fossgerði, sits this authentic public pool. The views over the river are a treat, as is the solitude of having a swimming pool to yourself, which is most often the case in this country pool. If your lucky and there are locals present, enjoy what will likely be a heated debate about sheep, forestry and the fences that divide the two.
Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to enjoy the free biscuits and hot coffee while you soak in the hot tub.
Swimming Pools in the South of Iceland
The pool of Laugaskarð in the town of Hveragerði is one of Iceland’s oldest pools, built by volunteers and opened in 1938. It is unusual in its length for a countryside pool (50m) and its depth (3.1m) and sports a jacuzzi, a children’s wading pool and a steam bath. The biggest attraction here is the pool’s springboard and floating toys, both very popular among kids of all ages. The pool and locker rooms underwent extensive renovations in 2020-2021. In the town of Flúðir in the south of Iceland, you’ll find the Secret Lagoon. The Secret Lagoon deserves a mention as a unique place to soak in Iceland’s geothermal water but it’s rather difficult to define. This is something of a hybrid between an old natural hot spring, a public pool and a luxury spa. Expect a low-key lagoon, with very natural surroundings and a local charm, priced somewhere between the high-end spas and public pools.