Iceland’s geothermal lagoons, baths and spas are more than a tourist attraction, they’re a way of life.
In all the Icelandic movies and TV shows I’ve watched on Icelandair flights, there’s a scene where the characters work out their differences or discuss the news and gossip while sitting chest-deep in the naturally heated swimming pool. In a nation with a harsh climate, a steamy public bath is the key to happiness.
And Iceland has come a long way from the famous Blue Lagoon. Many of the newest top lagoons around this Kentucky-sized island share certain characteristics in common: modern Nordic design that blends into the surroundings, infinity pools with epic views, wading bars and swim-ups. spa that enhance your experience (and your bill). ), but are not necessary for your enjoyment. Even better is that pure, soothing 100-104 degree water, courtesy of a nationwide underground heat source that makes Iceland a world leader in clean energy.
Aside from the tourist spots, every town in Iceland probably has its own geothermally heated public swimming pool. We recovered in a beautiful after a day of hiking around the small island of a village of Hrisey. (If you’re visiting, keep in mind that you’re a guest of the polite locals here, and swimwear standards can be a bit more modest than at larger lagoons.)
On your Iceland road trip, it would be perfectly acceptable to structure your itinerary around the best spas. This summer welcomes yet another amazing-looking site: the soon-to-open Forest Lagoon, nestled in evergreens with views of snow-capped mountains and a fjord, and located just above the fun-loving northern capital of Akureyi. I can’t wait to find out, but in the meantime, here are the best lagoons in Iceland I found on a north-central road trip last summer. Prices are based on current exchange rates; to avoid the crowds, we often made reservations in advance for lunch.
Last year’s “hottest” new lagoon is located at the end of an industrial peninsula near Reykjavik, but you’ll forget it once you leave the changing room and wade through waters up to 104 degrees. The man-made pool has been meticulously constructed to resemble a natural volcanic landscape, with an adjacent spa (for Pure Pass and Sky Pass purchasers) resembling a historic Icelandic turf house. The large infinity pool overlooks a channel to the Atlantic and distant volcanoes, and you can shower in a hot waterfall or laze on a rock like a mermaid. More than any other lagoon, the social vibe here was that of a nightclub or cocktail party, with tourists and flight attendants chatting away. (From 7,990 ISK or around $59; skylagoon.com.)
Settling on the northern tip of Iceland and the artsy fishing village of Husavik (fictionalized in Will Ferrell’s comedy “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga”), Geosea blew my mind. As the name of this seaside spot suggests, the 102 degree hot spring mixes with the clear waters of the ocean for a saline and invigorating experience. The infinity pools offer breathtaking views of the Greenland Sea, with the Arctic Circle not far away. To the left is Husavik’s original yellow lighthouse. Basking in the warm waters and hot subarctic sun at 2 p.m. with a local Kaldi lager from the bar in the pool was my favorite time in all of Iceland. (5,500 crowns or about $40; www.geosea.is/en.)
After a morning of driving through mountain passes in the northeast, we descended to this secluded spot where two geothermal pools seem to float on the cool, cool water lake of Urridhavatn. So after warming up in the hot hanging pool, you can jump into the cold lake and start again. Despite this unique novelty, the Vok Baths were only the fourth most amazing lagoon we visited, and the water temperature was not near the maximum of 105 degrees. Definitely worth a stop if you’re driving the Ring Road near the town of Egilsstadir to the east. A sauna is included. (From 5,990 crowns or about $44; vokbaths.is/en.)
Myvatn Nature Baths
Deep in the geothermal area of Myvatn in north-central Iceland, we followed Icelandic horsemanship with a nighttime tour of this natural gem. At the sprawling Nature Baths, the focus is on a more rustic eco experience – and mineral-rich milky white/blue waters with soft, rocky ground. If nothing else, the steam and the faint sulfuric smell (which you get used to in Iceland) offer refuge from Myvatn’s annoying but harmless swarms of black flies. Volcanic rock walls create caves for privacy or international socializing. Atmospheric fog has set in as we close, but the sunsets over the Myvatn mountains must be stellar. (5,900 crowns or about $43; myvatnnaturebaths.is.)
Before tourists knew anything else about Iceland, we had heard of the Blue Lagoon. It may have since been outdated, but I still like the original, which I last visited in 2017. The silica-rich water is from a local power plant, but that still counts as geothermal in my book. It’s a refreshing escape from a restless night, all year round. In addition, you can treat yourself to a facial, with a lava scrub, a silica mud mask and an algae mask from the lagoon. Surrounded by lava fields, it is close enough to the airport to enjoy a long layover from Europe. And the five-star sister hotel Retreat at Blue Lagoon is a must-see. (From $60 but usually more; book ahead; bluelagoon.com.)