Reykjavík hot springs and pools

A relaxing soak in an outdoor pool is an integral element of Icelandic culture and a tradition that dates back centuries. Geothermal energy powers the lives of Icelanders, warms their homes and heats the water of Reykjavík’s hot springs and swimming pools.
Icelandic geothermal pool with a view. Photo: Shutterstock
Icelandic geothermal pool with a view. Photo: Shutterstock

Reykjavík's range of thermal pools offer the chance to experience a natural therapy that benefits both the mind and body. Public swimming pools are a highlight of the capital where you can immerse yourself in Icelandic culture by meeting friendly locals who gather to socialise and unwind. There are 17 pools in the Capital Region – here is our guide to the best of them.


The Blue Lagoon

Just off the road leading to Keflavík International Airport, a 40-minute drive from Reykjavík, the sublime Blue Lagoon is the best-known of Iceland’s geothermal spas. Its steamy, milky turquoise pools make a stark contrast with the rough black volcanic rocks that surround them. Little wooden bridges span the lagoon’s temperature-controlled hot spring waters in which you can soak, swim and apply a mud mask of the silvery silt underfoot, which is said to have curative properties for skin complaints. There are steam rooms, a sauna carved into the lava and an on-site restaurant, so you can easily pass half a day relaxing in this faintly unearthly destination. You can visit the Blue Lagoon as part of Insight Guides' Incredible Iceland in 12 Days trip.

The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is one of the most visited attractions in Iceland. Photo: Shutterstock


Vesturbæjarlaug

Located in a residential neighbourhood within walking distance of the centre of Reykjavík, Vesturbæjarlaug is one of the oldest geothermal pools in the capital. Since opening in 1961, it has become a firm favourite with locals who visit to swim in its large outdoor pool, soak in hot tubs and refresh their bodies with a session in the sauna, which retains all of its original Sixties features. After your dip, head over the road to the rustic bistro opposite, where you can enjoy a hot coffee, a cold beer or a tasty bite to eat.


Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach

South of the centre of Reykjavík, Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach has been a source of pleasure to both the city’s residents and its visitors since opening in 2001. Created by the construction of large sea walls forming a lagoon where cold sea and hot geothermal waters mix together, the compact, man-made golden sandy beach is extremely popular on sunny days when locals enjoy swimming in its pleasantly warm waters. Two hot tubs and a steam bath complete the beach’s naturally heated attractions. 


Laugardalslaug

Laugardalslaug swimming pool complex lies to the east of Reykjavík city centre in the Laugardalur valley. A public bath has occupied the site – one of the most geothermally active areas in the region – since the 18th century. The present pool, the largest in the city, opened in the 1960s. The complex features a 50m-long outdoor pool, a second pool with three water slides, a wading pool and a variety of hot tubs, as well as a steam room and a large indoor pool. The traditional on-site hot dog stand and late opening hours (until 10pm all week) make it a great place to wrap up your day. 


Álftaneslaug

In the nearby town of Álftanes on a peninsula to the south of Reykjavík, Álftaneslaug is a modern pool complex with fantastic facilities. Known in Iceland as the pool which bankrupted the municipality, its construction took place during the boom before the 2008 financial crash, when Iceland was supposedly set to become an international financial centre. Consequently, no expense was spared. It features an excellent outdoor pool, a 10m-high waterslide and the only wave pool in Iceland, as well as an indoor pool, two hot tubs, a kids' wading pool, a sauna and a steam bath.

Enjoying geothermal hot spring waters in Iceland. Photo: Shutterstock


Árbæjarlaug

Lying to the east of Reykjavík, Árbæjarlaug is a state-of-the-art pool with great facilities for families. Its shallow outdoor pool is linked to a similarly shallow, glass-enclosed indoor pool and there are fountains and a water slide. While the kids have fun, you can relax in a steam bath, or one of several hot tubs from which there are views of the Elliðaár valley stretching on over the city beyond.


Seltjarnarneslaug

A short drive from the city centre near the south coast of Seltjarnarnes peninsula, this 25m-long pool is complemented by a sizable children's pool filled with warmer water and a large water slide. There is also a steam bath and four hot tubs, while the locally sourced naturally heated water filling all the pools is rich in minerals making it gentle on sensitive skin. 


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