Iceland is know as the Land of Fire and Ice – the ice coming from glaciers, and the fire from the 130+ volcanoes (some of them still active!) all around the small country.
These volcanoes and glaciers have shaped Iceland over the millennia into the otherworldly landscapes it's known for today. From spiky lava fields to black beaches to waterfalls that trickle down from glaciers to tumble over cliffs, fire and ice have left their marks on Iceland.
Thanks to the country's abundance of geothermal activity, another staple you'll run into across Iceland are a rather large number of hot springs, thermal pools, and spa baths. (In fact, you likely won't see marketing material from Iceland without seeing images of someone soaking in the Blue Lagoon!)
Going to the local (heated) swimming pool regularly is normal for Icelandic people, and visiting at least one thermal bath or natural hot spring is normal for any visitor to Iceland.
If you're planning a trip to Iceland but aren't familiar with hot spring culture, I'm here to help! I've traveled to Iceland four separate times, and have visited a good portion of the country's organized hot springs (and a few un-organized ones, too!).
Here are all the things you need to know about Iceland's hot springs:
10 things to know before visiting hot springs in Iceland
1. There's not just one type of hot spring
When it comes to places where you can relax in hot, geothermally-heated water in Iceland, people often simplify it and just use the term “hot springs.” But, in reality, there are several different types of places you can visit for a nice soak.
- Spa-like thermal baths – These are your Blue Lagoons and Sky Lagoons – hot springs/thermal baths with a more spa-like feel that offer things like locker rooms and shower facilities, steam rooms, swim-up bars, and more*. These are often man-made, though all of them use naturally heated water, or water from natural hot springs. Because of the services and facilities offered, these are the most expensive type of hot springs to visit in Iceland.
- Natural hot springs – These are hot pools and tubs that you'll find out in the wild. Many are truly naturally-formed, while others may have rudimentary pool shapes – but they're all naturally fed by geothermally heated water. Some of these will have basic facilities (like maybe a changing room), but others are just out in nature. Many of these are free, but you may have to hike to find them.
- City swimming pools – Lastly, every major city in Iceland has a public swimming pool. These stem from the days when not every household in the country had a bathtub, but today are just used for recreation. These swimming pools often have indoor and outdoor pools (always heated, by the way), along with things like hot tubs, saunas, and sometimes even water slides. Tourists can pay to visit any swimming pool in Iceland.
*My personal list of favorite spa-style hot springs in Iceland is at the end of this post!
2. Be careful and considerate at natural springs
Iceland's natural hot springs are the ones you're most likely to see dreamy photos of on Instagram. Some of the most popular natural hot springs in Iceland include:
- Reykjadalur Thermal River (hike required)
- Hrunalaug (on private land)
- Landmannalaugar hot spring (requires driving on F-roads)
- Fosslaug (near a waterfall)
- Hellulaug (in the Westfjords)
(There are some others that have more facilities built up around them, too, like Seljavallalaug, Grettislaug, Gudrunarlaug, and the Hoffell Hot Tubs.)
When you're visiting any of these less built-up spots, though, know that this also means you'll be bathing at your own risk. Getting there can be tough in some cases, there may not be any facilities, and you can expect natural pool bottoms (i.e. sometimes mud). The water temperature won't (usually) be regulated, either, so be sure to check how hot the water is before getting in!
And, it probably should go without saying but I'll say it anyway: don't treat these natural spots as a dumping ground. Hot pools are not bathtubs for you to bathe or shampoo your hair in, and if you create any trash or waste while you're visiting, be sure to pack it out with you when you leave.
Be considerate of others visiting, too. Just because you “found” a natural hot pool doesn't mean you are entitled to have it all to yourself.
3. Book ahead at organized hot springs
If you want to visit a popular spot like the Blue Lagoon or Sky Lagoon or even Myvatn Nature Baths, plan to book your visit ahead of time. (If you're traveling during the popular summer months, you'll want to book your Blue Lagoon entry weeks in advance if possible, as time slots do regularly sell out!)
Most of the spa-style hot springs and thermal baths around Iceland do timed entries in order to help control the flow of people through the changing rooms and hot pools, though outside of the main tourist centers you can often walk up and purchase tickets, too.
(On my recent trip to Iceland where we visited 7 different hot springs, we definitely needed reservations at the Sky Lagoon and Myvatn Nature Baths, but we were able to easily show up early and change the time we visited at several other ones, including Geosea, Forest Lagoon, and Vok Baths.)
You can book tickets online ahead of time for all the organized hot springs.
4. Bring your own towel
I highly, highly recommend traveling with your own towel to Iceland if you plan to visit a couple hot springs. (A quick-dry towel like this is a great option!)
You'll definitely need one at any natural springs you visit, and it can also save you money at the spa-like baths where renting a towel can cost the equivalent of anywhere from $7-$10 on average. Those rental fees can add up quickly!
Bring a towel you can easily recognize, as you'll be leaving it either in a cubby or hanging next to a bunch of others while you're in the hot pools.
(And speaking of paying extra for things at these spas, I generally don't recommend paying extra for things like robes or private changing rooms. Even pre-paying for drinks probably won't save you much money, so I recommend just booking the entrance time in advance.)
5. Pack more than one swimsuit
Obviously a swimsuit is a must in Iceland. Some places will allow you to rent one, but I'm sure I'm not alone when I say… ew.
If you plan to visit a couple different hot springs, I recommend bringing more than one swimsuit.
You'll likely shower after soaking, and while a few spas and swimming pools have little machines you can put your bathing suit into to spin out excess water, not all of them do. And, thanks to Iceland's high humidity levels and lack of hot weather, you can't always count on a swimsuit to dry hanging up overnight! (In my experience, they usually took 2 days!)
I packed 3 swimsuits for a 2-week trip, but probably would have been fine with just 2 that I could rotate.
6. Know about locker room etiquette
Every locker room area at every thermal bath and public swimming pool in Iceland is similar. They are always gender-specific, and usually start with an area where you're expected to take off your shoes (usually there will be shoe racks and a bench).
Then there are lockers where you can store your things. These are usually electronic and accessed via either a bracelet you're given when you check in, or with a code you'll create. A few are still old school with keys, but all of them are free to use and effective for securing your things.
Next will be the shower area, which can either be individual stalls, semi-open stalls, or just a big open shower area. Things like shampoo, conditioner, and body wash are always provided, and most places have hair dryers for later, too (in the women's locker room, at least).
You always have to pass through the shower area first in order to enter the pool or bath area, and there's usually somewhere here to leave your towel so you don't have to go back to your locker dripping wet.
7. You have to shower – naked
Speaking of showering, you're expected to do it – sans swimsuit – before getting into any pool or hot tub in Iceland. There are signs all over every locker room, and sometimes locker room attendants around to remind you, too.
In some cases, there may be one private changing room, or a few shower stalls with doors in each locker room. But in most cases there's just one large open shower area that everyone is expected to use.
I know this part is often shocking and uncomfortable for some American women (I get it; naked people in locker rooms wasn't normal where I grew up either), but it's quite normal in Europe. It's very likely (in fact, I'd say it's guaranteed) that there will be women walking around in the locker room naked – and the same is true in the men's locker room.
Don't stress about it if there's no private area to shower. Avert your eyes if you want, shower quickly, put on your swimsuit, and then move on.
8. Condition your hair
If you're going to the Blue Lagoon or Myvatn Nature Baths, know that both of these spots have water that has lots of silica in it (it's what makes the pools milky blue).
Silica is good for your skin, but can be really hard on your hair. IF you plan to get your hair wet at either of these places, it's recommended to wash it beforehand and leave some conditioner in it when you go into the pools. Otherwise it will feel really dry and brittle for days.
(It's of course possible to visit these hot springs and not get your hair wet at all, though, so don't stress about it if you don't plan to fully submerge.)
9. Enjoy the swim-up bars in moderation
Almost all of the organized thermal baths in Iceland have swim-up bars, or somewhere to purchase drinks to enjoy in the hot pools. Most of these will offer beer and wine alongside non-alcoholic drinks, and a few places may include a drink or two with your entrance fee.
Just be aware that if you are planning to drive after visiting a hot spring, you'll want to go easy on the in-pool drinks. Iceland's drunk driving rules are very strict – the legal limit is just 0.02%, and the fine for driving over that limit is a minimum of 100,000 ISK ($700 USD) and could include prison time.
Soaking in hot tubs can dehydrate you quickly as it is, so if you know you'll be driving you should stick to one drink at most and plenty of water, or just order something non-alcoholic (I love the local Collab collagen sodas, as well as the non-alcoholic sparkling TÖST drinks that most spa bars serve).
10. Not all hot springs are right for kids
While many hot springs and thermal baths in Iceland allow kids (some even provide little ones with flotation devices to use), they aren't always the most kid-friendly environment. Not only are some just not set up for little ones to be splashing around, but in many cases they are still quite expensive.
(For example, if an adult entry to a hot spring is the equivalent of $35-$40 USD, a kid's entry fee might still be around $15-20.)
If you're traveling around Iceland with kids and want to enjoy heated pools and hot tubs as a family, here's my best tip: go to city swimming pools instead! It will be much more affordable (think $7-8 for an adult, and maybe $2-3 for kids), AND many have things like water slides and pool toys and are just better set up for kids to splash around.
Almost every city in Iceland has at least one public swimming pool – there are half a dozen in the greater Reykjavik area alone! (Just look for the word “Sundlaug” on city signs.)
The best Iceland hot springs (ranked by me)
And now, here are my favorite Iceland hot springs*, ranked! (I haven't visited all of them, but I've been to quite a few!)
*Note: These are all organized, spa-style thermal baths that you don't have to hike to.
It's tough to choose a favorite hot spring in Iceland, but if I'm forced to put one at the top of my list, I think it has to be Hvammsvik, a new thermal spa (opened in July 2022) located just 45 minutes north of Reykjavik.
This spot feels the most natural of the bunch, with hot pools built right into a natural beach; a couple of them actually disappear into the sea entirely at high tide. The pools here are filled with a mixture of natural (hot) spring water and sea water, and the fjord views are beautiful and serene.
There are 8 different pools of varying temperatures, a steam room, a swim-up bar, and even some paddleboards you can take out into the fjord on calm days. There's also a very nice restaurant attached, and special little touches like bespoke shower products with a unique, ocean-y scent in the changing rooms.
2. Vök Baths
Perhaps tied with Hvammsvik are the Vok Baths in Egilsstaðir. This thermal spa is the largest one in East Iceland, and is unique in that two of its hot pools are set up infinity-style within Lake Urriðavatn. Cold plunges in the lake are encouraged!
This spot has a very relaxed vibe, with an on-site restaurant (the bao buns are delicious!), a tisane tea bar, a steam room, and a large locker room/shower area with all private showers. The pools here are at varying temperatures, with the hottest ones being the ones in the lake.
I visited this spot in the evening, and it was the perfect place to unwind. My favorite discovery here? The fact that the swim-up bar offers slushies! (Technically I think they're for the kids, but no one says adults can't order them too!)
You can pre-book your entry here.
3. Geosea Geothermal Sea Baths
I think the Geosea baths in Husavik get my vote for “best view” when it comes to Iceland hot springs. These infinity-style baths sit up on a hill overlooking Skjálfandi Bay and snow-capped mountains; if you're lucky, you could technically even spot whales while you soak, as they live year-round in the bay below.
Geosea has three connected mineral-rich saltwater pools of different temperatures. I have one friend who said none of the pools here were hot enough for her, but I personally thought these were great! The largest of the three pools was the perfect temperature to sit in for more than an hour without getting overheated.
There's also a swim-up bar here, along with saunas to enjoy.
You can pre-book tickets for Geosea, though this is one spot where you can usually just get walk-up tickets, too (for now, at least).
4. Blue Lagoon
As touristy as it is, Iceland's most famous hot spring still makes it into the top half of my list here. Why? Because it's popular for a good reason! The Blue Lagoon is unique, and pretty darn perfect to visit upon arrival into Iceland after an overnight flight. I've actually been to the Blue Lagoon on three separate trips!
The Blue Lagoon is a sprawling facility with milky-blue pool water that's rich in minerals like silica. While the Blue Lagoon is indeed touristy (and tickets do frequently sell out, sometimes weeks in advance), it's large enough to usually not feel over-crowded.
There are ample changing rooms and different sections of the large blue pool; even when it's busy, it's possible to find a little corner for yourself. There's a swim-up bar, a mud/silica mask bar, a sauna and steam room, and the option for things like in-water massages.
5. Forest Lagoon
Skógarböð Geothermal Spa – colloquially known as the Forest Lagoon – is a new addition in North Iceland, having opened in Akureyri in early 2022. Set up on a small forested hill, the Forest Lagoon gives off major Scandinavian vibes with its infinity pools surrounded by pine trees.
The Forest Lagoon has two swim-up bars, a sauna with a massive window, a cold plunge pool, and an on-site bistro. There are two pools here to enjoy, with plenty of in-water seating around the edge of the pool and even an in-pool water fountain.
The only reason this spot doesn't rank higher for me is that trees block what could be an incredible view out over a fjord, but don't do anything to block out noise from a the highway leading into Akureyri.
6. Sky Lagoon
I had trouble deciding where to place the Sky Lagoon on this list. It could have probably landed anywhere between 5 and 7, as I think the experience there can vary a lot.
The best part about the Sky Lagoon is that it's located in Kópavogur, just outside of downtown Reykjavik. Meaning it's easy to get to, even if you're not renting a car in Iceland.
The Sky Lagoon is a newer hot spring, having opened in 2021. It's built to resemble a natural infinity pool overlooking the North Atlantic Ocean. There's a swim-up bar (of course), a sauna with presumably the largest single pane window in Iceland, and a unique 7-step ritual that includes hot and cold steps and a body scrub.
I visited the Sky Lagoon later in the evening (around sunset time in August), so it was fairly quiet and relaxing. But it's not a huge place, so I do feel like it could feel quite busy at other times of the day. (You definitely want to book this one ahead.)
Next up is Krauma, a geothermal spa made up of various hot tubs that are fed by Deildartunguhver, the most powerful hot spring in all of Europe. The 6 pools all vary in temperature, with five hot ones and one cold plunge pool. There's also a steam room and an infrared sauna, along with a unique relaxation room that's heated by a woodburner.
Krauma also has an on-site restaurant and coffee bar that's very good, serving up Icelandic dishes.
And while these baths are family-friendly, this spot had a quiet, relaxed quality to it when we visited. I almost felt as though I should be whispering when I was there.
Why doesn't Krauma rank higher for me? Other than the quiet vibe, it's also kind of out of the way. Unless you were seeing other things in this area, I'm not sure it's a spot I would purposely detour to.
8. Myvatn Nature Baths
The only hot spring on this list that I probably wouldn't go out of my way to visit again are the Myvatn Nature Baths – AKA the Blue Lagoon of the North. These baths are similar to the Blue Lagoon in that the pools are filled with milky blue water. But I did not find the experience here to be as enjoyable as the Blue Lagoon.
First, I was traveling in Iceland during the high season when I visited this spot. Several time slots throughout the day were sold out, and the whole place felt crowded, from the small locker rooms to the pools themselves.
There are two large pools here, but one was really only lukewarm, meaning most people were packed into the hotter pool. There's a swim-up bar, too, but there's no wrist band system (or at least there wasn't when I visited), meaning that if you didn't pre-pay for drinks, you needed to bring a credit card into the pool with you – and who wants to do that?
I've heard other people say they loved the Myvatn Baths when they visited in winter, so maybe the experience would have been more enjoyable in another season. But for me, personally, this was my least favorite thermal spa! (If you want to check it out for yourself, though, you can pre-book tickets here.)
Other Iceland thermal spas
While 8 hot springs/spas is a lot, there are so many more all around Iceland! Some other organized thermal baths that I haven't yet visited include:
- Secret Lagoon
- Laugarvatn Fontana
Plus all the natural ones that I haven't been to! (The only one I've been to is the Landmannalaugar hot spring in the Highlands.)
Hopefully this can help you plan your own hot spring-centric trip around Iceland though, and to prepare you for what to expect when you visit any of them!
Have you visited any hot springs in Iceland?