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A Guide to Swimming Pools in Iceland

Swimming pools are very popular with the Icelandic people. As an island, Iceland sits on the North Atlantic sea, so the influence of water is constant and inevitable. In fact, when in Iceland you may encounter the phrase,  "hafið gefur, hafið tekur (the ocean gives, the ocean takes)."  Here is a helpful guide that will answer important questions, such as the best pools, swimming conduct, pool prices and more.

Why is swimming a massive part of Icelandic culture?

Historically, a lot of Icelandic seamen met a tragic end at the hand of the harsh sea. To combat this, the government passed a law in 1940 that made swimming lessons mandatory in schools for grades 1 to 10. Since then, the water culture in Iceland has grown; swimming as a past time is more popular than going to church, watching movies or visiting museums. The number of public pools in Iceland is around 160; most of these pools are outdoors, open all year round and geothermally heated. When travelling to Iceland, experiencing swimming culture is a must.

How much does it cost to swim in Iceland?

The admissions to pools in Iceland vary. Some pools are free, like the natural pools. For public pools with facilities such as changing rooms, toilets and saunas, the admission cost ranges from USD $7 to USD $20.

You can get free entry to the pools with the Reykjavík City Card.

What to wear when swimming in Iceland?

It is mandatory to wear swimming suits in all public pools, legally this is only applicable to the bottom half, so women don’t always have to wear the top half of their bikini. Iceland is very big on equality.

The chlorine and other chemical cleaners in Iceland’s pools are minimal, so you are obligated to shower your body thoroughly before entering the pool as a courtesy to other swimmers. Some larger pools like the Blue Lagoon have private stalls, so if you feel uncomfortable showering in front of other visitors, there are options for you.

If you forget to bring your swimsuit or a towel, then in most pools you are able to purchase or rent one from the ticket office.

What are the best pools in Iceland?

Iceland has over 160 pools, so there are lots of options. Some pools are manmade whilst others are natural. The natural hot springs are sometimes too hot or have harmful bacteria that make it unsafe to bathe in, therefore it is important to do your research before diving into the waters. For example, Grjótagjá, a hot spring cave in the Myvtan area was at one point dangerous to swim in due to high temperatures and for public safety swimming in it was banned. Below is a list of the best geothermal natural pools and the best pools in the capital.

Top 5 Geothermal natural pools:

  1. Landmannalaugar pool: free use of pool, small fee to use changing room facilities
  2. Hveravellir: 500ISK to use parking, pool and changing room facilities
  3. Landbrotalaug: hard to locate tiny natural pool 2 hours from Reykjavík, no changing room facilities
  4. Reykjadalur: called the Valley of the Hot River, is a very popular site to bathe, but it has no changing facilities.
  5. Kerlingarfjöll: Located in the centre of the Highlands, this spacious geothermal pool is rich in iron. It has no changing facilities.

Top 3 pools in Reykjavik, Iceland:

  1. Laugardalslaug: very popular pool with great facilities
  2. Árbæjarlaug: Fun slides, beach volleyball courts, and play areas
  3. Vesturbæjarlaug: steam rooms, sauna, hot tubs and kids pool

When is the best time to go?

Most pools are open all year as the water is geothermally heated. If you wanted to see the Northern lights you should go in the winter months, in the evening, you may get a glimpse of the Aurora as you bathe in the blue lagoon. If you are looking for isolation and adventure, you could rent a four-wheel-drive and travel out to the springs when there are fewer people. Another way to avoid the crowds is to go swimming during the summer beneath the midnight sun.