Iceland’s Thermal Pools: A Step By Step Guide

During my trip to Iceland I was fortunate to visit three hot pools: The Blue Lagoon, Sundholl, and Laugardalslaug. Each was a very relaxing experience once I was in the water, but the logistics can be mildly stressful when you’re not 100% sure what to expect. Read on to find out the details about logistics, appropriate etiquette, and which tubs you do and don’t want to get into.

The Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon in the morning
The Blue Lagoon in the morning

The Blue Lagoon is expensive, touristy, and absolutely amazing. They’ve increased the rates so that everyone visiting must purchase at least the “comfort package,” which includes a towel, a drink from the swim-up bar, and as much silica mud mask as you can slather on for upwards of $80. You can pay more for even fancier packages featuring amenities like slippers and snacks. Though this is pricey, it’s a unique experience and I have absolutely no regrets about going. In fact, since there are busses that take you directly from the airport to the Blue Lagoon (and later to your hotel or bus stop of choice), it’s the perfect activity after a long flight. Make sure to book all reservations ahead of time, as Blue Lagoon tickets can become sold out.

Once you arrive at the Blue Lagoon parking lot, you have the option to store any larger luggage in a separate building in front of the entrance. They charge $5 a bag and give you a little ticket to hold onto (don’t lose that!) Make sure you’ve retrieved your swimsuit and any personal belongings you’d prefer to keep in your locker before storing your luggage. Personally, I brought my swimsuit, flip flops, a waterproof camera, and my purse with my travel documents in it that I preferred to store in my locker. I found it easiest to pack a smaller, separate bag with these items so I wouldn’t forget anything.

Bridge at the Blue Lagoon

After you go in the main entrance, they’ll check your voucher and give you a towel and bracelet. That bracelet will not only operate your locker, but they’ll scan it when you get your free drink or make any other purchases. The purchases will then be charged directly to your credit card on file. Magic?

Once you get to the locker room and figure out the lockers (you can read the instructions and if you stare blankly at the locker long enough a staff member will rescue you), it’s time to shower. Since the pools in Iceland do not typically have chlorine in them, the practice in Iceland is to shower nude to minimize contaminants. Since those visiting the Blue Lagoon are mostly tourists, most people put their bathing suit on, go to their individual shower stalls, remove their suit and then shower. Soap and conditioner are provided. Make sure to go nuts with the conditioner, as the lagoon dries out your hair like nobody’s business!

After you shower, you’ll go to a relaxation area where you can hang up your towel and meet up with any fellow travelers. You then go through a little entryway where you gradually enter the lagoon. Make sure to take your time visiting all the nooks and crannies, such as a little man-made waterfall and a stairway that leads to a couple saunas. I recommend allowing two hours for the lagoon itself, plus 30-60 minutes for lounging in the relaxation area chairs afterwards just for good measure. You might even decide to lounge a little and then go back in the lagoon.

Relaxation area at the Blue Lagoon
Relaxation area at the Blue Lagoon

 

 

 

Laugardalslaug
This is a public thermal pool that’s about a 20 minute walk (mostly along the waterfront) from the city center. Though it lacks the beauty of the Blue Lagoon, it’s far cheaper, feels almost as luxurious, and is a much more authentic experience. In addition to indoor and outdoor pools, Laugardalslaug boasts two water slides and 8 hot tubs. There are hot tubs of various temperatures, a saltwater tub, one that feels like a whirlpool, and one you can lay down in. The latter is shallow and at an angle so you can rest your head without it going under water. Why do we not have these in the U.S.?!

As for the logistics, you pay $10 to stay as long as you’d like. I recommend bringing your own towel, though you can also pay to rent one. A locker is included in the $10 rate and they give you a bracelet that functions as your key. In the locker rooms, there are several main rules:

Take your shoes off before entering the locker room. There will be a place to leave them, though if you prefer you can put them in a plastic bag and then store them in your locker.

Shower naked in the locker room’s communal showers. Soap is provided. There’s no need to be shy; no one will look at you or think twice about it.

After using the pool or hot tubs, dry off thoroughly with your towel before re-entering the locker room. If you’d like, you can also use a machine to dry your swimsuit.

No cell phones are to be used in the locker rooms.

I recommend allocating a couple hours to Laugardalslaug to make the most of your time. Before and after the work day are the busiest times given that locals often go either before or after. Also, for those traveling with kiddos, Laugardalslaug appeared more kid-friendly than the Blue Lagoon, though both do allow children.

 

Sundholl

Sundholl is another public pool and hot tub spot that only costs $10 to enter. Though it’s not as large as Laugardalslaug, it is centrally located and on a rooftop. If the northern lights were really strong, it could even be a great place to view them from Reykjavik, particularly since Sundholl is open until 11pm. There is one indoor pool and one outdoor one, along with a handful of hot tubs. There is also one freezing cold tub, which I dipped a toe into but couldn’t brave. The logistical parts are the same as Laugardalslaug (see above), with the only difference being that they use old-school keys for the lockers instead of fancy bracelets.

 

Sundholl

In summary, know and follow the locker room and pool etiquette, try the hot tubs you can lay down in, and enjoy! What details am I missing? Ask questions or provide more information in the comments section. Want to save this post for later? Make sure to pin the image below.

 

Iceland's Thermal Pools: A Step by Step Guide

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