What’s better than relaxing in a Jacuzzi in Iceland? Relaxing in one of the Iceland hot springs courtesy of a nearby volcano, of course! The country boasts almost 300 places where you can take a long relaxing soak in warm waters (with many more to yet be discovered).
But why does the island have all these hot springs? What’s the difference between a hot spring and a geothermal pool? And which hot springs should you add to your Iceland trip itinerary? Read on to find out!
Iceland is not called the Land of Fire and Ice for nothing, and the hot springs are the result of the island’s fiery side. All the volcanic activity on the island heats up the underground water supply. Hot water is important for Iceland's warm water experiences, whether it's underground or on the surface.
It can become quite easy to confuse the two, since many visitors and locals alike use the terms interchangeably. When we talk about natural hot springs, we are referring to those heated water resources still in their natural form and as they were found. In other words, if it’s a stream, a rock pool, or any other form, it originally occurred in nature.
A Geothermal pool can technically still count as an Iceland hot spring. They are just a commercial, public pool that makes use of this original heated water source. This is not just because someone saw an opportunity and ran with it, but certain natural hot springs simply can’t be reached for a relaxing soak. And others are so hot that no human can swim in them without becoming Kentucky Fried Human.
Geothermal pools use a hot water resource and a cooler water resource to reach the desired temperature. On the other hand, hot springs rely only on the natural hot water. Likewise, geothermal pools typically have more facilities and amenities available on-site than hot springs.
As you can imagine, the newly built and modern geothermal pools have the basics. Most have changing rooms and bathrooms, but many also have extras such as restaurants, bars, and spas. The hot springs in their natural settings can be a bit of a mission to get to.
You might need to settle for changing behind the covers of a towel held by a trusted friend or family member. As for bathrooms… let’s just say it’s best to visit your nearest loo before heading out to the hot spring.
Iceland hot springs actually have quite the reputation. It goes much further than just lounging around in hot water surrounded by beautiful scenery. It has actually been proven to contribute to your overall health and wellness. Here’s how:
Natural hot springs and geothermal pools making use of natural hot springs can be found all over Iceland. The following are some of the most popular spots to add to your Iceland trip itinerary:
Below are some of the best natural hot springs in Iceland that are considered must-visit spots:
This is the best hot spring in Iceland when it comes to privacy. As one of the most remote and hidden hot springs, you’re very likely to have it all to yourself when stopping by. It’s also not a big hot spring, so space is already limited to about two people at a time.
To find it, you will need a GPS and the following directions: take Route 54 north of Reykjavík and drive towards the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Once you’ve reached the spot on your GPS, you might be a bit confused, looking at your surroundings. That’s because Landbrotalaug is hidden behind the abandoned farm there.
Kvika is the cuty on this list and one of the best hot springs near Reykjavík. Okay, technically, it’s a hot spring, but locally it’s better known as a footbath. But what a magnificent spot it is! After just a short walk from the capital city, you are rewarded with soaking your feet in the healing hot spring water. All of this while staring out over the landscape. It’s easy to completely lose time here in this relaxing setting with its beautiful surroundings.
Just like Landbrotalaug, this is a quaint hot spring and won’t be able to fit more than two people at a time. This, of course, has its advantages if you’re not keen on crowds. Hrunalaug is situated on privately-owned land, but you don’t need to fear that you’re trespassing.
The landowner has actually decided to keep the hot spring open to the public and keeps it very well-maintained. Although it is free to visit, it’s a nice gesture to leave a donation. The owner is very thoughtful and goes through all the effort of the maintenance and upkeep.
This is a pretty famous hot spring in Iceland, despite it actually being an entire river. This is a one-size fits all type of scenario when it comes to an Iceland hot spring. It’s large enough to accommodate many visitors, yet the many smaller hot springs and mud pits all along its sides make for pretty intimate settings.
You can even choose the perfect temperature for you by just moving up or downstream from the hot or cold water source. This is one hot spring that truly caters to everyone and their preferences.
If you’re an avid hiker, you might recognize the name, as it’s one of the most notorious multi-day hikes in Iceland; the Landmannalaugar trek. Needless to say, the hike is challenging and even driving in the area is no easy task as you have to navigate tricky 4x4 roads.
That’s why it’s not surprising that the Landmannalaugar hot springs are a welcome rest stop for both tired hikers and drivers. The area has stunning views of mountains and vast meadows.
This is one of the best natural hot springs in Iceland if you want to spend some time exploring an area. Hveravellir is one of the few hot springs that actually offers accommodation to visitors.
And this comes in very handy since the hot spring is located in a nature reserve that’s well worth spending some extra time exploring. It’s also one of the hot springs that would get a 5-star review if you could review views. Whilst relaxing in the warm waters of the hot spring, you are surrounded by lava fields and glaciers.
Kerlingarfjoll is the best hot spring in Iceland to go to if you are suffering from anemia. That’s because Kerlingarfjoll is a hot spring with a secret ingredient in its mineral mix; it has an extra dollop of iron! It’s still a relaxing hot spring situated in beautiful surroundings, but it’s this extra healing power that makes it such a popular spot to visit.
Below you will find some of the best thermal pools in Iceland that comes highly recommended if you’re planning on visiting the island:
Seljavallalaug is essentially ground zero when it comes to the geothermal pools in Iceland. It is the oldest man-made pool in Iceland. The culprit responsible for keeping the water nice and warm here is the infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano.
It is kept as natural as possible, with the pool only being cleaned about once a month during the busy summer season. This leads to an overgrowth in algae giving the pool a green hue. But the algae is not harmful to humans. In fact, it simply adds to the healing qualities. And the water is pure and clean.
This is by far the most famous of the geothermal pools in Iceland, because of its unique aesthetics. You’ve probably seen the Blue Lagoon before without realizing it. That's because it has graced our screens many times in popular movies such as Hostel and Star Trek.
The pool’s water is a bright blue color, and an entrance ticket will include a silica mud mask along with your soak. If you become a bit peckish, you can grab a bite to eat from one of the restaurants and get a drink at the bar. And if you feel like you need to up the level of pampering, you can get a few treatments at the spa.
Sky Lagoon is one of the best thermal pools in Reykjavík because of its convenient location (city center). And also because you don’t need your own transport to get there. The view from the pool looks so unreal that you’ll be forgiven to think that someone has CGI’d it in.
From the relaxing, warm water, you have a bird's-eye view as you gaze out over the capital city and the Icelandic coastline. If you get thirsty or hungry, you can quickly pop into the restaurant or the bar, and, just like at the Blue Lagoon, there are spa facilities on-site.
The Secret Lagoon is one of the best thermal baths in Iceland when it comes to a good backstory. This hot spring actually got its name by being completely forgotten for a period of time.
No one knows how or why, but it was simply abandoned till the landowner decided to revamp the pool and reopen it to the public in 2014. When you arrive at the pool, it’s easy to think that the Secret Lagoon is a natural hot spring. This is because of its rather rugged appearance, with big and rough-looking bricks and rocks.
The Myvatn Nature Baths are some of the most conveniently located thermal pools in Iceland. Just a quick stop off the Ring Road, these baths can be found on the shores of the beautiful Lake Myvatn.
But this is not just to provide the baths with the best views, it’s to make the baths accessible to humans. You see, the Myvatn Nature Baths’ hot spring source situated in a cave nearby is so hot that no human would be able to swim in it without the lake water cooling it down.
As with the Myvatn Nature Baths, the Vök Baths are also a stop next to the Ring Road. Here you will find a wide variety of pools along with a bar, a restaurant, and a spa. An interesting fact about the Vök Baths is that it is the only thermal pool in Iceland that actually has a certificate saying that the hot spring water the pools are using is so pure that it’s fit for human consumption!
I see your geothermal pool and raise you a geothermal beach! Yes, you heard right. Nautholsvik was a massive project that saw the construction of an entire lagoon with big sea walls where the ocean could cool off the hot water to the perfect temperature. This is the one and only beach where you can take a dip without a drysuit.
Krauma has the prettiest and cutest thermal pools in Iceland (in our opinion). Shaped in the form of shells, Krauma’s six, small pools offer visitors an intimate and cozy experience, whilst admiring the majestic views spread out in front of them. As with many of the other pools, you will find other amenities and facilities such as a restaurant, bar, and spa on-site.
There is never a time that a road trip on the island won’t make sense to us. Not only is it fun, but it is the best way to explore the island. We don’t think that we’re so fanatical about hot springs that we’ll create an entire road trip just dipping in and out of the warm water all day every day.
Besides, we don’t think it’ll be possible without you looking like a prune by the end of it. That being said, the Iceland hot springs make the perfect rest stops on any road trip. Scatter the above-mentioned hot springs and pools throughout your itinerary and you simply can’t go wrong. So, what are you waiting for? Rent a car in Iceland so you can get this road trip started!