Hot Springs and Swimming Pools

by Katie Hammel  

Iceland is at the forefront when it comes to harnessing the country’s unique geological features and natural elements to create power. In fact, over 70% of the country’s power is supplied by renewable sources. One of the sources is geothermal power, for which super-heated water from below ground is brought to the surface. The geothermal power plants produce hot water run-off along with the electricity, and savvy Icelanders have figured out how to use that for their benefit as well – for the creation of hot springs.

There are hot springs located all over the country, in the form of natural-looking (though man-made) lagoons, and swimming pools and hot tubs.

Most of these hot springs are in the form of swimming pools in Reykjavik. The most famous hot spring in Iceland, the Blue Lagoon, is just 40 minutes outside of the city.

>> more on hot springs in and around Reykjavik

Other hot springs and pools are scattered around the country – nearly every town has it’s own community swimming pool. One notable one similar to the Blue Lagoon is the Mývatn Nature Baths, which opened in 2004.

>> more on the Mývatn Nature Baths

Hot springs and public pools have a special set of rules that visitors must follow. Here’s what you need to know.

  • At most pools in Reykjavik, staff will speak English and you can rent a towel and locker (and even a swimsuit) for a small fee. At smaller pools around the country, particularly in more rural areas, staff may not speak English and you’ll need to bring your own suit and towel. At some of these smaller pools there are no lockers, just hooks for your clothing, so leave any valuables at home.
  • Before entering the locker room, remove your shoes and place them on the rack outside the door. It’s poor manners to wear your shoes in the locker room.
  • Because of the high heat of the water, less chlorine is needed and used in swimming pools in Iceland. As a result, and because Icelanders are very particular about hygiene, all guests are required to shower before they get into the water.
  • Visiting a hot spring or pool in Iceland means that you’ll most likely need to get naked in front of strangers. At the Blue Lagoon and some other pools, the showers are partitioned for privacy and more modest travelers can change in a bathroom, but at others there is just a single room with multiple shower heads. Etiquette dictates that you shower naked (you’ll even see signs that point out areas where you should pay special attention) and at some pools there is an attendant in the locker room to make sure that you do so. If you’re nervous or embarrassed, know that most tourist are trying so hard to avoid being seen naked by others that they won’t even notice you, and any locals simply don’t care enough to check you out.
  • At the Blue Lagoon and Myvatn Nature Baths, be sure to put a healthy glob of conditioner in your hair before submerging it in the water. The minerals in the water will wreak havoc on your hair; conditioner will minimized the damage.
  • At the Blue Lagoon and most city swimming pools, you can store your items in a locker and then use the facility’s hair dryer if you’re heading out right from the pool.

Photo by blue eyes

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