Bathing outdoors in volcanically heated pools has been a tradition since Viking times. Thermal pools heated to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit are available all over the country and relatively inexpensive. Because the water is so warm, Icelanders enjoy thermal pools all year around. Thermal pools are significantly less chlorinated than pools in the US because of strict hygiene guidelines and the water is completely replaced about every other day.
We loved visiting thermal pools around the country. Our first thermal pool experience was in Eskifjörður on a 50 degree wet and windy morning. It was definitely an experience we will never forget and would also definitely do again. We tried all the water slides and the hot tubs (aka hot pots) of varying temperatures. We had this great idea to break up the journey from Akureyri to Reykjavik by stopping at a thermal pool. Unfortunately, it turned out that the Laugarbakki pool was “just a hot tub at the moment.” It would have been helpful to have consulted this listing of Iceland’s pools.
Thermal Pool Necessities
You can rent a towel and even a suit at thermal pools, but the cost of rental is equivalent to the cost of admission. Despite the cost, our preference is always not to rent swimwear, so we each brought one suit and also packed small beach towels to use at the pools. As a an additional benefit, they also come in handy to dry off on rainy days.
Flip flops and bathing suit covers are not used in thermal pools. Also note that use of cell phones and cameras is not allowed. Thus, I have no pictures of our four visits to public thermal pools.
Thermal Pool Etiquette
There is strictly-adhered to pool etiquette regarding hygiene and dry floors. After you pay your entrance fee (which was about $20 for our entire family), you receive directions on how the lockers work. Then, take your shoes and socks off outside the appropriate locker rooms and leave them on the shoe racks or carry them with you in one of the provided bags. Undress completely, and put everything in your locker except your towel and suit. Leave your towel on the towel racks by the showers and carry your suit into the shower with you and hang it on the faucet. A soap/shampoo combo is provided in the shower area. Notorious signs identifying “problem areas” to pay attention to are visible in the shower areas of all public pools. After washing, you can put your suit on and finish rinsing off. If you have long hair, you will need to tie it up in a ponytail or bun.
Young children need to wear arm bands, which are also provided near the pool entrance.
Shower again after swimming and make sure to towel dry before entering the changing room. It is imperative that you do not track water from the shower area into the changing room. Luckily, most pools have bathrooms in the shower area. Most pools have centrifugal dryers next to the sinks to spin excess water off of wet suits. Put one suit in, close the lid and hold it closed for about 10 seconds while the dryer spins.
Preparing Children for Thermal Pools
We explained to our boys that showering in a communal shower before swimming were both customary and required at Iceland’s pools well in advance, and it was no issue. Young children can go into locker rooms with either parent. Because both my husband and I were always there, the boys went with him, and I took our daughter. Our toddler needed no forewarning and was completely unaffected about the communal showers, but adding a toddler to the changing room regimen did complicate the process for me on our first visit.
The most famous thermal pool in Iceland is the Blue Lagoon, which is the most popular tourist destination in Iceland that costs significantly more than the public thermal pools and also has slightly different rules. When you check in, you get a wrist band. Make sure this does not come off while you are at the Blue Lagoon because it can be used to make food and beverage purchases and also needed to access your locker. Several times, guards notified me that my band needed to be tightened.
Showering naked before bathing (people do not really “swim” in the Blue Lagoon) is required, but there are private shower stalls. Leave conditioner in your hair while you are in the Blue Lagoon. Also, there are no towel racks inside the locker rooms; instead, you bring your towel or bathrobe with you and hang it on the hooks outside. Flip flops are permitted. Children under age eight must wear arm bands.
Use of cameras and phones remain off limits in the changing rooms, but they are most definitely permitted in the Lagoon itself. In fact, we saw more cameras in the Blue Lagoon than anywhere else in Iceland. We used our son’s waterproof camera rather than our phones, but most people had their phones with them in the water. Waterproof cases are highly recommended and not so surprisingly are rather expensive to purchase on site.
Shower and wash your hair again after bathing. There is a special area in the locker room for drying after your shower that offers Blue Lagoon lotion.
Interested in finding out more about Iceland? Check out our listing of all Iceland posts.
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