With Backpack

One World in One Lifetime

Iceland: Pools, Hot Pots, and Lagoons

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 25, 2018

Monday, September 4th -17th, 2017

Iceland, as the name implies is cold. But, luckily for Iceland many of its waters are not. The land is literally bursting with geothermally heated pools. Mark, our friends, and I made it our mission to soak in as many types of heated water as we could.

The Public Pools

As I said in the last post, we always went to a public pool if the showers at out campsite weren’t free. The idea was, if we were going to pay, we wanted to get exactly what we wanted: unlimited hot water, clean facilities, shampoo and soap, a hair dryer, and pools of various degrees of hotness. Water slides were always welcomed. The public pools cost on average of 700ISK.

The pools do come with rules, though. Because we had all lived in Japan and had many, many, many onsen visits under our belts, the rules did not come as a shock to us.

This counts as a shower, right?

1. You have to take a shower before you get in the pool.

Even in the states this is a normal expectation for pool goers. Most pools world wide make swimmers clean up before diving in. The difference in Iceland (and Japan) is…

2. You must shower naked.

I assume we all shower without clothes. The hard part for some people comes when they realize that the showers take place in an open shower. There are no shower curtains or partitions. The showers aren’t co-ed or anything. Still, it is hard for many people to shower with strangers for the first time, even when everyone is of the same gender.

I’ve gotten used to it. I did the communal showers in high school and college when playing sports. Also, living in Japan for about 7 years has taken all the terror out of showering with people I’ve never met before. Now I feel like, since I have never met these women before and will never see them again, who cares what they think of my body. Besides, they don’t seem to mind, why should I?

3. Wash your hair, arm pits, feet, and crotch. 

Soap and shampoo are provided for you if you have forgotten to bring your own.

Essentially, when you get to the public pool first you pay and get a ticket or key or something. There is a place where you can leave your shoes, like a shoe rack or cubby. Then men and women separate and go to their respective lockers.

Once in the locker room, there are either lockers or baskets to put your clothes in. When there are no lockers for clothes, there is sometimes a small locker for things like car keys or a wallet.

Put your clothes in the basket or locker. At this time, I like to organize my new clothes in the order I will put them on and put my dirty clothes in a separate bag. Sometimes when I’m ready to leave, the locker room is full and a little chaotic. Moving around to get out of people’s way while getting dressed can be a little stressful no matter how comfortable one is with one’s body.

When you head off to the shower, while being completely unclothed, take your towel, swim suit, and any soap or shampoo you want to use. You can use the soap and shampoo provided, but you don’t have to. There is a cubby near the shower for your things. Sometimes the number there will match your locker number if you have one, sometimes you can take any one. Enter the shower with nothing or just your soap and shampoo.

Take a shower and make sure to wash all the important parts. When you’re done go back to where you left your swim suit and put it on. Leave your towel and soaps in the cubby and head out to the pool.

4. Dry off before going back to the locker room.

After swimming, when you’re getting ready to go home, no one really cares how or if you shower again. Shower naked, shower clothed, do what you like. If you keep your swim suit on, however,  you will stick out. Either way, make sure to dry off with your towel before going to the locker room. The floor of the locker room should stay as dry as possible, so make sure you aren’t dripping when you go back there.

Get dressed.

There are some amenities you will find at some public pools. Most will have a hair dryer but only some will have a clothes spinner. I love the spinners. After every swim I look for one and dry my swim suit and towel.

Geothermic Pools

Next you have the naturally heated public pools. These cost more money to use; from about 4,000 – 8,000ISK. The rules for showering are the same as the public pools. But because they are bigger, you will spend more time in them. Because you will spend more time in them, they all have cafes or restaurants on the premises.

Many of them will have a sulfur smell. They smell like farts. So, if you are gassy, go ahead and relax. No one will no when you cut one. Don’t worry, you will not smell like sulfur after you leave the pool.

Some people will have you believe that most of the overpriced natural pools are overrated, especially the Blue Lagoon. I’ve been to a few including the Blue Lagoon. They are all overpriced, but none of them, in my opinion are overrated. The Blue Lagoon was really awesome. We went there on our last full day in Iceland. Freda and I were even saying that we were glad we left it for last, because it was the best one of all.

The Blue Lagoon is crowded. The line is very long to get in, even when you have bought your ticket online ahead of time. But, once you get in the pool you don’t notice a crowd because the thing is so big. You can hardly move in the locker rooms without bumping into anyone, but the pool itself is not densely populated.

Hot Pots

Then there are the hard to find “hot pots”. During our trip we managed to take a dip in only one even though we were constantly hunting them down. They sound great theoretically, but I was a little put off by them generally.

A hot pot is a term used for a small, hidden, geothermal pool that only a few people know about. They are mostly found on some farmers’ land. Since so few people know about it, it is possible to bathe there alone with only sheep for company.

A lot of hot pots require you to either sneak onto someone’s property or ask a farmer for his or her permission. I was not too keen on trespassing. Roland and Freda were the one’s looking for the hot pots and I knew they weren’t the trespassing type. In fact, there were a few hot pots we did not go to, because Roland couldn’t get a hold of the farmer to ask if we could have a swim.

Some of the hot pots had signs near them forbidding tourists from going any further on the land. Not everyone obeyed. I didn’t want to be associated with those types of travelers. I like to be respectful of people and their property, especially when that property is a means to their livelihood, like a farm.

The one hot pot we found was nice. It was a little boggy. The water was muddy. But it was free, out in the open, and we had it all to ourselves… for about 20 minutes. Shortly after we jumped into the water we saw another camper van drive up. It was a couple and they got into the water too.

Awkwardly, they didn’t talk to us. They just swam around and made out like we weren’t there. The pool wasn’t so big that we could easily ignore them, or them us. We felt very uncomfortable. They clearly wanted to have sex outdoors and we felt like we were intruding.

We didn’t want to hop out just because these two horny people showed up. We had been hunting for hot pots for days and this was the first one we found. So, we stuck it out until we were good and ready. When we got out, the couple must have been so happy to see us go. I can imagine them anticipating the moment when our vans drove away.

Unfortunately for them, as we were getting dressed, another van pulled up. Out jump 5 loud, boisterous, frat boys. They were hootin’ and hollerin’ about how “awesome” various things were. They got undressed as they ran to the heated muddy pool, high-5-ing as they went. One of them carried a bucket of beers and a boombox.

The biggest downside to these secret hot pots is that most of them are not so secret.


I was soaking in a public pool one day and talking to some travelers I had just met. I was telling one of them about the trouble we were having finding just one hot pot. She bragged that she knew where so many secret hot pots were because she was part of some exclusive Facebook group. “You have to know the right people to be invited to the Facebook group,” she told me. I wondered if she wanted me to beg her to invite me, but I didn’t ask for an invite.

I did ask about the quality of the hot pots. “Oh, they are really nice,” she said, describing a truly lovely utopia centered around a hole of hot water. The people there were practically skipping and holding hands while humming Kumbaya. “Wait,” I stopped her regaling. “There were other people there?”

“Yes, I was not alone.”

“How many people?” I was curious about how exclusive these things were.

“Uhmm,” she thought. “Maybe 50 people…”

I looked around the public pool we were soaking in. My friends were sitting in another pool that had 3 other people in it. The was one guy doing laps in the big unheated pool. There were 2 kids running up the water slide and 5 of us sitting in the really-hot tub.

“So your super secret hot pot had more people in it than this public pool?”


How to get there:

You have to fly or get a boat from Scotland or Denmark.


  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • 1777 for weather information




  • Siminn
  • You can easily get one at most convenience stores in Reykjavik.



  • The weather can change quickly. Make sure to dress in layers.
  • Assume that it will rain.
  • It will also be very, very windy.
  • Everything is very expensive in Iceland.

Þingvellir National Park

Basic Information





  • Daylight hours


Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River

Basic Information


  • free


  • daylight hours



  • There’s a cafe in the parking lot.
  • It’s about a one hour hike from where you park your car.
  • Many people ride horses on this trail, so watch out for horse poo.
    • You might want to wear rain boots and hose them off afterwards.
    • There’s A LOT of poo!
  • There are places to change near the hot river, but it does not provide a whole lot of privacy.
    • Be careful when taking photos near the river…
    • Don’t be a jerk and change at the front door of the cafe, even when it’s raining.
      • I saw many people doing this and they blocked the way for paying customers to enter.
      • It doesn’t give you much privacy or shelter from the rain anyway.

Blue Lagoon

Basic Information



  • 6100ISK is the most basic ticket
    • The next ticket is about 20USD more and it come with a towel, a drink, and an algae mask
    • I don’t think it’s worth the 20USD extra.


  • 8:00 – 22:00



  • Always buy your ticket ahead of time.
  • In the showers, there is complimentary shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion for everyone to use.
  • There are lots of water fountains are the pool with fresh water for you to drink.
  • What you should bring:
    • a towel – so you don’t have to rent one
    • extra money – in case you buy something at the bar
    • a bag for your wet swim suit
    • a hair tie – You want as little contact between your hair and the pool as possible.
  • What you can bring, but don’t really need:
    • flip-flops – You will do very little walking around the pool.
    • a water bottle – There are plenty of water fountains; you don’t need to bring water
    • a robe – You will spend most of your time in the water where a robe does you no good.
      • Most people who have robes spend 3 minutes in them, then hang them up to get in the water.
  • What you really don’t need: (All these things are provided)
    • Shampoo
    • Body wash
    • Conditioner
    • Lotion
    • A hair dryer

Sundlaugin á Hofsósi

Basic Information



  • 700ISK


  • M – F ~ 7:00 – 13:00 & 17:00 – 20:00
  • Sa – Su ~ 11:00 – 15:00


  • Many tourists come by and take photos, from the outside, of the spa.
  • There are complimentary tea and coffee in the lobby.

Mývatn Nature Baths

Basic Information



  • 3800 ISK (01/01 – 14/05 ’17)
  • 4300 ISK (15/05 – 30/09 ’17)
  • 3800 ISK (01/10 – 31/12 ’17)


  • 12:00 – 22:00


  • This spa has a restaurant.
  • You can order drinks to be brought to you in the pool.

Hot Pots

Basic Information:

  • ??



  • Ideally, free


  • Daylight hours


  • The goal of finding a free and secret naturally heated pool of water is really hard to reach.
  • Everyone talks about all the hot pots they have found.
    • Many of them are trespassing, a few are bull shitting.

Don’t Miss:

Some Pools:



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