Hot water rivers, geothermally heated pools, healing minerals... Icelanders are big fans of swimming and particularly in natural spring water with its many health benefits.
The country has countless public swimming pools filled with healing natural waters, most of which are of course heated by the geothermal activity of the island.
But better than swimming pools, Iceland is home to numerous hot springs where you can swim surrounded by stunning natural landscapes, the water at 35 to 40 °C... It is quite an experience to be submerged in this piping hot mineral brew with a magnificent panorama in the background, the brisk air misting with every breath as outside temperatures stay between 0° and 10 °C.
You won't have any trouble finding swimming pools, but it can be more complicated to get to the natural hot rivers or hot springs. There are a number of very modern, top-quality spa resorts (Blue Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Myvatn Nature Baths, etc.) or geothermally-heated swimming pools, but the real treat is to find the 100% natural equivalent and swim surrounded by total wilderness, for example the hot water river in Reykadalur, or even better a hot waterfall such as Laugarvellir.
The vast majority come from fresh water, except in GeoSea for example they pump hot seawater into the pools. In both cases, almost all of them smell like sulphur!
It's all in the name. If you research the hot spring's local name, it usually tells you what type of source it is. Indeed, “Laugar” literally means “hot pool” as in Laugarvellir or Landmannalaugar.
“Laug” means “pool” (Seljavallalaug for example) and finally the “Hver” as in Hveravellir means “hot spring”.
Check out our map of local hot springs (in the maps section of the site) listing nearly forty locations in Iceland where you can swim at your leisure: The hot springs map.
Below is our TOP 10 of the best hot springs in Iceland, and there's enough variety to satisfy all tastes. From well-appointed resorts with fancy services to the more secret natural and free springs, with a special recommendation that beer lovers will not want to miss!
Here are our TOP 10 hot springs in Iceland and a bonus!
The hot water crater of Vìti in Askja
If you are lucky enough to visit Askja, you are bound to come back with some of the best photos you've ever taken and a score of unforgettable memories. Located in the heart of Iceland, this crater is absolutely stunning, the contrast between the two lakes like a trick of the eye.
Öskjuvatn, a massive crystalline blue lake, sits next to Vìti, a small crater with pale milky blue water. This small crater is even open to swimming.
Be careful, however, as the small path on the left of the crater, the only way down, can be particularly slippery. The water temperature varies between 25° and 35°, sometimes slightly hotter, with a depth of 8 m at its center. This will be one of the more memorable swims of your whole life, surrounded by volcanoes, the scent of sulfur in the air, it's like another planet entirely.
Landmannalaugar hot water river: oskar_c @fotolia
Landmannalaugar, literally: “hot baths of the locals”, is like Askja one of the most famous attractions in Iceland. Incredible contrasts, breathtaking landscapes, the place is one of a kind.
The site is primarily known for its numerous treks and hiking trails, but it is also known for its hot spring, where you can swim in 40° water.
The landscape rising around the river is simply sublime, the region's mountains looming overhead. It is a small river but more than big enough to accommodate a few hiking groups and there are even changing cabins.
The Hveravellir basin
In the center of Iceland, up the legendary Kjölur track (F35), lies Hveravellir, land of small geysers, fumaroles, and crystalline blue hot springs.
Hveravellir is particularly famous for its unique natural geothermal basin that can fit twenty people comfortably. Turquoise blue water that will heal your tired muscles, warmed to 35° by the fires of the deep.
The hot water river of Reykadalur
The Reykjavadalur Valley is located near Reykjavík, near the town of Hveragerdi. The region is widely renowned for its geothermal natural features and there are many such sites in the Reykjavadalur Valley (see map), including one near Hveragerdi.
It'll take you 1.5 hours, or 1 if you are a fast hiker, to reach the first river where where swimming is allowed. You'll be surrounded by the wilderness in water that, depending on your position in the river ranges from 25 to 35°. Not far from here is another fantastic swim spot in Klambargil.
The Blue Lagoon
You can't talk about hot springs in Iceland without mentioning the Blue Lagoon. This lagoon is quite simply the most famous hot spring in Iceland. An artificial lake created from excess catchment water from the Svartsengi geothermal power plant, these waters are naturally rich in silica, mineral salts, and seaweed, which creates the characteristic milky turquoise color.
Swimming in the piping hot (36° to 40°) waters of the Blue Lagoon is possible all year round, and the striking surroundings make this an absolutely exceptional experience. Icelanders love the waters of the Blue Lagoon and don't miss a chance to dip their toes to watch the Northern Lights in winter, or the midnight sun in summer.
Seljavallalaug is known as one of the most magical pools in Iceland, hidden in a remote location nestled between 2 mountains, the very last place you'd expect to find a pool!
Seljavallalaug was built in 1923 in a record-breaking 2 days, and is the oldest artificial pools in the country. For many travelers, the experience of hiking to reach this hidden gem and swimming there under the open sky makes this place the stuff of legend.
The Secret Lagoon
Capitalising on the geothermal properties of the Fluðir region, in 1891 Icelanders built a resort around this large heated basin. The Secret Lagoon is the oldest natural pool in the whole country.
The space itself is a delight to the sense, and the water temperature will reach 38 to 40° depending on how close you get to the hot stones at the bottom, so mind your toes! The mist hanging over this beautiful resort creates a truly otherworldly atmosphere.
Myvatn Nature Baths
One of the best things about Jarðböðin is its location. After a long day of rather intense hiking and sight-seeing around Lake Myvatn, visitors are in the perfect state of mind to appreciate this haven of relaxation.
To see the midnight sun in June or July, submerged in 38°C water (36 to 40°) lost in the lunar landscape of the Myvatn region is an experience you won't soon forget. After 08:00 pm, the spa is generally less crowded and if you can, we recommend visiting in the evening, or early in the morning.
Geo Sea basins
GeoSea is a geothermal complex based that has a twist: hot seawater. GeoSea's pool waters come up from two boreholes, one located near the Húsavíkurhöfði reserve and the other near the port of Húsavík.
GeoSea water has excellent dermatological properties, known to soften the skin, and can bring much relief to people suffering from skin conditions such as psoriasis. The water temperature is generally between 38 and 39°C.
The pools of Vök Baths
About ten years ago, natural springs were discovered in Lake Urriðavatn when they noticed that the snow did not cover the entire lake. The hot spring water is drawn from the depths of the lake where the temperature reaches 75°.
The Vök baths have a feature that some may consider a dealbreaker. Indeed, unlike most hot springs in Iceland, the Vök Baths are not constantly emitting sulpherous odours. Vök offers the only drinkable natural hot water in Iceland! Indeed, Lake Urriðavatn's waters are pure enough that they have the "potable" certification.
Bjorbodin beer spa
As promised, this is a spa for the beer-drinkers! In the north of Iceland, in Árskógssandur near Akureyri, the very first Icelandic beer spa opened in 2017. Even if the hot beer in the pool is not drinkable, you can relax in this oversized hot mug of beer with an incredible view of the mountains and the sea.
Of course, anyone (of legal drinking age) can order a cold beer to enjoy while they swim in a hot one.