Iceland Travel Guide
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10 Hot Springs in Iceland to Swim in Besides the Blue Lagoon

PHOTO: Alexey Stiop

Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon is not the only thermal pool on this volcanic island.

While the misty, bright blue waters of Iceland’s Blue Lagoon have been taking over your Instagram feed for the last few years, there are hot springs all over the country that are worth exploring. Here’s how to venture off the beaten path to discover Iceland’s magical healing waters, without the crowds, the lines, and the expensive entrance fee. Here are 10 of the best hot pools in Iceland beyond the Blue Lagoon.

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Myvatn Nature Baths

WHERE: Northern Iceland

A bit off-the-beaten-path, Myvatn Nature Baths are about 65 miles south of the Arctic Circle and take hours of driving from Reykjavik. It is most accessible to those already driving the Ring Road. But it’s worth the trek if you can do it.

The view from the pool looks across the plain and over Mývatn lake and volcanos. The facilities are decent, though not luxurious, with lockers and showers to wash off after the plunge. It rarely gets crowded. The water supply for the lagoon runs straight from the National Power Company´s borehole in Bjarnarflag. The water temperature is about 95 to 104 degrees to Fahrenheit, which feels incredible on a cold day. The lifeguards are in snowsuits, but the pool is warm and cozy.

INSIDER TIPThe water has no chlorine since the naturally-occurring minerals prevent vegetation and bacteria from growing, so it’s OK to fully immerse without fear of chemicals (or bacteria).

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PHOTO: 1sock (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) / Flickr
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Gamla Laugin "Secret" Lagoon

WHERE: Southern Iceland

The Secret Lagoon natural hot springs are one of the country’s best swimming holes. The lagoon is somewhat hidden behind a small building in the small town of Flúðir. It’s relatively accessible for those on the Golden Circle path.

First built in 1947, it was long forgotten until 2014 when it was restored to its former glory. Now it’s one of the best spots in the country to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. Old and new come together in a spectacular fashion. The old concrete changing facilities look a bit like mossy ruins beside the rough-edged but generously-sized pool. There are new facilities with changing rooms, lockers, and showers (which are required prior to swimming).

INSIDER TIPDuring winter, the Northern Lights are often visible. Nothing says Iceland more than a natural light show, cold air, and a hot pool.

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PHOTO: Betty Leung / Dreamstime
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Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal Baths

WHERE: Southeastern Iceland

This gem of a pool is right on the edge of Laugarvatn lake, offering a series of pools, saunas, and steam rooms. You are also welcome to take a dip in the lake. The best part is that the spa is easily accessible for anyone driving the main path of the Golden Circle and is within an hour of Reykjavik. The landscape is gorgeous, with expansive views of lakes and mountains. You’ll find yourself barefoot on snow or ice as you make your way from one pool to the next.

Despite the proximity to major tourist destinations, this pool remains less crowded than some of its larger counterparts. This means no lines and plenty of space to move around in the hot water and fully immerse yourself in the glory of the location. With over 85 years of history, the experience here is authentically Icelandic.

INSIDER TIPSome brave souls jump into the cold lake before immersing themselves in the hot springs. It’s said to be good for you—just make it fast!

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PHOTO: Gabriela Le / Shutterstock
4 OF 10

Landbrotalaug

WHERE: Southern Iceland

The first thing to know about this pool is that it’s tiny. Miniscule, in fact—only three people can fit in it at a time. Located about one hour and 45 minutes from Reykjavik, this pool is along the way to the Snæfellsnes peninsula. It’s as natural a “hot pot” as you are likely to find anywhere in the country.

For people who like “off the beaten path” excursions, this one fits the bill perfectly. Given the size of the pool, most recommend arriving super late or super early, lest there be a line waiting to get in. But the reward for your wait is rugged, natural views and the sense of pride that comes from going somewhere only about 20 people a day actually get to visit.

INSIDER TIPBring something heavy to protect your things from the often intense Icelandic winds. There are no locker rooms here.

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PHOTO: Alexey Stiop / Shutterstock
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Reykjadalur Steam Valley

WHERE: Southern Iceland

About 30 minutes outside of Reykjavik, these quiet springs are at the end of a nice hike and, as with everything in Iceland, are pure magic once you arrive. The whole landscape is quiet and having to hike in rather than drive right up to the door gives this spring a slightly more rugged feel than some of the more spa-like hot springs. The hike starts from a parking lot, crosses a bridge over a river, and continues on a gravel trail up, eventually opening up to the Reykjadalur hot steam valley. The views along the way depends on the season, but in warmer weather, it is green as far as the eye can see. The hike is close to two miles and will take roughly 30-45 minutes depending on your pace.

Once you arrive at the river, pick a spot and climb in. The river itself is long, which provides plenty of options. There are wooden platforms built all around the river, which offer a safe way to step as you climb into the water and enjoy the views of rocks and rolling hills.

INSIDER TIPWatch your step! Not all the hot pools are cool enough to bathe in and if you fall in, you can be badly hurt.

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PHOTO: Lesvek Nowakowski / Shutterstock
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Hrunalaug

WHERE: Southern Iceland

Hrunalaug is a small natural hot pool near Flúðir. It is considered part of the Golden Circle area and is somewhat near the Secret Lagoon, which means that Google often sends people to the wrong lagoon. If you are really interested, just be specific in your mapping and double check that it isn’t taking you to the Secret Lagoon.

The surrounding area of this lagoon isn’t as spectacular as some of those with views of volcanoes and mountains and land for miles, but what it lacks in vistas, it makes up for in adventure. Being here feels a little illicit. There are no changing rooms, no service charges, no mandatory showers.

 

INSIDER TIPRespect the land and pick up trash. This lagoon is growing in popularity and, unfortunately, many tourists aren’t respecting that. Don’t be that guy.  

7 OF 10

Seljavallalaug

WHERE: Southern Iceland

This man-made pool looks, in shape, like any traditional swimming pool. It has concrete walls and is about 82-feet long. At close to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, the water is on the cooler side, but the views are what make this, the oldest pool in all of Iceland, oh so special. Surrounded on all four sides by lush greenery, mountains, and a stream, the pool feels otherworldly. On the far end of the pool is a miniscule changing room, but there are no showers.

The biggest adventure with this pool, though, is the way you arrive. The pool is only accessible on foot—it takes about 20 minutes of hiking through lava ash to get to this off-the-beaten-path destination.

INSIDER TIPThe pool is only cleaned once a year by a team of volunteers, which means it may have algae or other wildlife. The views usually make it worth it, but just don’t be alarmed if this pool feels more on the “natural” side.  

 

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PHOTO: Terry Feuerborn/Flickr
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Landmannalaugar

WHERE: Southern Iceland

Landmannalaugar is also known as “the People’s Pools.” Located in the heart of Iceland’s southern highlands, the landscape is rugged and wild with lava fields and mountains full of rocks that appear red, yellow, pink, green, and blue. All summer long, people hike and camp and bathe in the plentiful natural springs that make up the area.

The quickest way to reach Landmannalaugar is on a drive through west Iceland, either via Selfoss or Þingvellir National Park.

INSIDER TIPBlow the bank by arriving in style and hiring a helicopter to bring you in from Reykjavik.

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PHOTO: Ian D M Roberston / Shutterstock
9 OF 10

Grjótagjá

WHERE: Northeastern Iceland

This natural hot spring is located near Lake Mývatn and has been a local bathing spot for eons. What makes the pool so special is its location in a cave. The waters are heated by volcanic activity and the cave itself once served as a haven for the 18th-century Icelandic outlaw Jón Markússon.

During the day, the cave has natural light, but since the days are incredibly short in the winter in Iceland, a headlamp is necessary if bathing at dusk or when the lighting is low. The dim light and echoing sound offers an other-worldliness that is almost impossible to find in any open-air hot springs. It feels small and intimate, but with a capacity at around 100. It’s well worth the trip.

INSIDER TIPThe famously intimate scene involving Jon Snow and the Wilding Ygritte was filmed here. ‘Game of Thrones’ fans flock in droves.

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PHOTO: Vaclav Jirousek / Shutterstock
10 OF 10

Grettislaug

WHERE: Northern Iceland

This Northern Iceland wonder is beautiful and small and usually uncrowded. It’s also free and fairly hard to reach, which could be a major bonus for some (and a drawback for others). Located about 25 miles off of Route 1 in Varmahlío, the roads become hard to traverse just north of Sauðárkrókur, so it’s very slow going.

If you do brave the slow drive, the spring itself is a treat. Set in the shape of an oval, about 15 to 20 people can use it at the same time. It’s quiet and there are no changing facilities, but the peace in this pool is divine. Surrounded by rocks and gray ash for a few feet all around, the countryside is also visible with tall hills of green moss and grass. In the distance, snow-capped peaks remind you that you are in the land of fire and ice, where your body can be snug and warm as your cheeks are reddened by the cold air outside. It’s all part of the charm.

INSIDER TIPThis hot spring is hot (around 104 degrees Fahrenheit). Unless you are someone who likes your showers at top temp, be cautious.