Where are the top hot springs in Iceland and what makes them special? Which ones are natural hot springs and which are geothermal spas? Can you bathe in them all year long? Read on to find out everything you want to know about Icelandic hot springs.
Iceland is the land of ice, fire and water. The country is situated on a 'hot spot' on the earth, resulting in a lot of geothermal activity, but there are also glaciers dotted all over the country.
This mixture of geothermal activity, ice and fire, means that there are numerous waterfalls, lakes and hot springs all over the island that can be enjoyed all year round, no matter what the weather is like!
All warm water in Iceland is geothermal; it comes boiling hot, from the ground, and straight into people's homes. Rather than needing to warm up the water, it needs to be cooled down in order to enjoy it.
This is the reason for the dozens of swimming pools which are dotted all over the country - with a total of 17 in the greater Reykjavík area alone! All of these pools will provide you with soothing, warm waters that are perfect to relax in.
Some of Iceland's hot springs are boiling hot fumaroles, bubbling mud pits or spouting geysers, but others are calm pools of water that have the perfect temperature in which to bathe.
Many of those have been transformed into popular bathing spots. In some places, there is natural hot water coming from the ground but no suitable area to bathe in.
So locals have built a pool to contain the water, and sometimes the water is too hot for a dip, but by mixing it with cold water it becomes just the right temperature.
In Iceland, you can find hot springs of all sizes and shapes, fully natural ones or natural ones that have had a little help.
In fact, the term 'hot spring' is a little problematic. People sometimes have different opinions on what can be considered a hot spring in Iceland, as some can be described as warm pools, hot tubs, spas, geothermal lakes, swimming pools or even geysers.
Bathing in Iceland's warm waters is, however, equally popular with travellers and locals alike, and the versatility is so great that they should appeal to all types of travellers.
So here you are presented with a few options. Note that the best way to reach most hot springs in Iceland, especially the natural ones that are off the beaten path, is to rent a car and drive there yourself.
Iceland boasts some natural hot springs that are free to enter but they lack any type of facilities such as changing rooms, showers or bathrooms.
Therefore, a number of other hot springs and pools charge entry, but in return have great guest facilities, and have consequently become the most popular hot springs in Iceland. These would, by many people, be classified as spas, although they all have a hot spring element.
Here you can read about Iceland's most popular spa-like bathing spots, and find out what makes them unique.
The Blue Lagoon is the most known and popular hot spring in Iceland by far.
The light blue, milky waters are the perfect 38-39°C in temperature, and this attraction has been named one of 'The Top 25 Wonders of the World' by the National Geographic.
Although the water itself is fully natural, and full of rich minerals such as silica and algae, the lagoon didn't form naturally. It appeared by accident in 1976, caused by a man-made construction.
It wasn't until 1981 that the first person tried bathing in it, and ever since then, it's soothing qualities and healing waters have only increased in popularity.
Today, the lagoon is world-famous and by far the most impressive spa resort in Iceland, featuring several restaurants, cafés, in-water bar, hotel, a gift shop as well as private facilities, a relaxing area and massage facilities.
The lagoon is ever-expanding in size and entry to the lagoon is limited, so even though it's sold out it never becomes jam-packed.
Because of this, you will need to book your entry well in advance - and it comes with the highest price tag of all the bathing options in Iceland.
The Blue Lagoon is on the Reykjanes peninsula, only a 20-minute drive from Keflavík International Airport and a 30-minute drive from Reykjavík, making it a popular first or last stop for arriving and departing guests.
If you have a short stop in Iceland, then you shouldn't miss out on this great bathing spot.
Another lagoon that's similar in texture and has the same blue colour as the Blue Lagoon is the Mývatn Nature Baths. This is northern Iceland's answer to the South's famous spa, and it is just as, if not more, appealing.
The Mývatn Nature Baths are a cheaper alternative that has become the preferred option for some that still crave that milky blue water, but feel that the Blue Lagoon may have become a little too popular.
Probably the only thing preventing some people from going there is how far it is from Reykjavík.
It’s about a 6-hour drive one way, so only suits those that are on longer journeys and planning on visiting the northern part of Iceland.
On-site, you'll, of course, find a good shower and changing facilities, as well as a sauna and a café where you can grab some refreshments before or after your soak.
And as a plus, the surrounding nature is stunning, making a trip to Lake Mývatn well worth the journey any time of year.
The Secret Lagoon near the village Flúðir is one of Iceland's oldest swimming pools, dating back to 1891.
For years it was abandoned, but it was renovated and reopened in 2014 with brand new showers and changing rooms.
The pool itself is a comfortable 38-40°C, so just like a very large hot tub. It’s located near the popular Golden Circle, making it a great place to stop before or after a visit to this popular sightseeing route.
Aside from being a fantastic spot in which to take a dip, the scenery surrounding the Secret Lagoon is well worth the visit. Right next to it are bubbling hot springs, steaming fumaroles and even a small geyser that erupts every few minutes.
As can be gathered from the name, the water here is unique, as it is geothermally heated seawater rather than spring-water.
This means it is filled with salt and a host of healing minerals quite different to those in other pools and hot tubs around the country.
This water is pumped up from two nearby boreholes, and there is thus a constant flow through the pools meaning no chemicals need to be added for reasons of hygiene.
The Geosea Sea Baths boast incredible views over the beautiful Skjálfandi Bay, with its glistening ocean and the beautiful mountains that frame it.
There is also a small restaurant on-site with an outdoor terrace, allowing you to enjoy the seascapes with some light refreshments, and modern changing facilities.
Fontana Geothermal Baths are located right next to Laugarvatn Lake, about a ninety-minute drive from Reykjavík.
Like the Secret Lagoon, it is also situated near the Golden Circle, making it a great addition to your trip of the famous trail.
The Laugarvatn area is located on a hot zone and the people in the namesake village have been using the hot water from the ground for heating their houses, cooking and bathing since 1929.
In fact, one of the saunas at the Fontana Baths is the same one villagers of the past used (although it’s been renovated). It’s built over a steaming hot spring, and if it gets too hot inside then guests simply need to open the door to cool it down.
Adventurous guests can also wander down to Laugarvatn lake itself to cool off, even in the wintertime, as the lake is geothermal.
The sand between the baths and the lake is warm due to this activity and in places, it’s warm enough to cook traditional rye bread by burying the dough in the sand.
You can taste freshly baked bread from the ground at the café located at the entrance to Fontana Spa.
Hofsós swimming pool in Iceland. Picture credit: Mike Kelley
Besides all the man-made, concrete swimming pools with showers and bathroom facilities, you can find dotted around Iceland's countryside (some of which are truly spectacular such as the infinity pool at Hofsós), there are also several pools that are a cross between a man-made pool and a hot spring.
The water might be all-natural, but someone needed to pile up some rocks or make a concrete structure around it in order for people to enjoy it as a bathing location.
These are often in rural locations, only looked after by volunteers, a little hard to get to, and may or may not offer some changing facilities.
It's unlikely you'll come across showers, bathrooms or trash cans, so remember not to leave anything behind when visiting.
Seljavallalaug is on the South Coast of Iceland, between the waterfalls Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss.
Although this is a man-made 25-metre long and 10-metre wide construction from 1923, its surroundings make you feel like you're in the middle of nowhere.
The hot water that trickles into it is completely natural and the pool is built into a mountainside that acts as the fourth wall of the pool.
The water, however, isn't very hot and in wintertime, it's only lukewarm, but on nice summer days, it's just perfect.
Seljavallalaug has two small rooms where people can leave their clothes. Please leave these as tidy as you can as they are only attended to by volunteers very infrequently.
The water in the pool is also only cleaned once every summer. So depending on when you go, it may look a bit dirty. But the tranquillity and beauty around the pool make up for a bit of natural dirt.
In 2010, Seljavallalaug got completely covered with ash from the big eruption in Eyjafjallajökull glacier, and a large group of volunteers spent days cleaning and restoring the pool to its former state.
The pool is a couple of hours drive from Reykjavík. To get there you just need to head south on the main Ring Road, past Selfoss and Hvolsvöllur. Slow down just before you reach Skógafoss and turn left to go towards 'Seljavellir' on a dirt road. Then it's about a 10-15 minute walk along a gravel track to the pool itself.
Photo by Vegahandbókin
In North Iceland, on the west side of Skagafjörður fjord, you can find two pools right by each other, Grettislaug and Jarlslaug.
They are both circular with piled rocks surrounding them, and with fantastic views over the mountains and the sea, where the island Drangey stands tall.
Grettislaug is named after Grettir the Strong, a famous Viking from the Icelandic Sagas. Here you have access to an outdoor shower and the changing facilities are inside a little turf house.
These pools are on private property, so there is a small entrance fee.
Photo from Siggi Mus at Flickr
At the end of the road number 643 on the eastern coast of the Westfjords, you'll find the stunning Krossneslaug pool.
The pool is fed with warm water from hot springs in the nearby mountains, and there is also a slightly warmer hot tub to the side of it.
There are simple changing and showering facilities here, and an honesty bucket to pay 500 ISK for entry and to keep the facilities clean.
Despite the long and slow drive on a gravel road to reach it, this pool is loved by its visitors because of its fantastic views and the isolated feeling of being at the edge of the world.
Photo from local blog Guðrúnarlaug Hot Tub | The Saga Hot Tub in West Iceland
Guðrúnarlaug is a reconstructed historical hot pool, named after Guðrún Ósvífursdóttir, one of the most well-known women from the Icelandic Sagas.
These thermal baths have existed in this location for more than a thousand years, but for 140 years they were blocked due to a landslide. The reconstruction opened in 2009, to much delight of visitors.
It's situated in West Iceland, on the way to the Westfjords.
To reach it you have to rent your own car as there are no scheduled buses or tours going here.
Head north from Reykjavík on Ring Road 1, turn into road 60 towards the Westfjords and turn left onto road 589 until you reach Hotel Edda, which is located right by the hot spring.
Entry is free and there is a small changing room on site.
Photo from Vegahandbókin
Found near the Grótta lighthouse in the greater Reykjavík area is the little footbath Kvika.
This man-made hot spring was designed by artist Ólöf Nordal and it sports one of the best views in town; over the city mountain Esja and the mighty Snæfellsjökull glacier.
Ólöf carved a small bathing pool, about 80-90 cm wide and 25-30 cm deep, into a large rock.
The water, which is a constant trickle of warm water, comes from a nearby borehole and is cooled down to around 39°C.
Both Kvika and Grótta lighthouse are popular locations for locals to watch the sunset or the Northern Lights. This makes it one of the great places to visit in Reykjavik.
However, please note there are no changing facilities are in the area, as Kvika is only designed as a footbath, but entry is free.
One of many hot tubs in Laugardalslaug swimming pool. Photo from Reykjavik.is
You've read about the geothermal pools, but there are also hundreds of scenic hot tubs to be found within Iceland as well.
Each public swimming pool in Iceland boasts at least one hot tub. In some cases, there can be up to 6 or 7 hot tubs and they are also not uncommon in private residences and at hotels.
If you'd like your own private hot tub, then you could look into renting a private summer cabin. Fortunately, a large percentage of Icelandic summer cabins come with a hot tub.
The following list contains the best man-made tubs to visit. They are in spectacular settings, often with views towards the impressive mountains or the enchanting sea.
Right by the seaside, in the centre of the small town of Drangsnes in the Westfjords, you'll find three hot tubs. These tubs have free entry, and you can go in there at any time of the day or night.
The temperature varies from one hot tub to the next, but they are somewhere between 38-42°C.
Across the road is a small changing facility, and you'll be sure to meet some friendly locals once you get into the tubs.
When you get too hot, then you can cool off in the sea right next to it. Just be careful on the rocks.
Photo from Hoffell Accommodation
There aren't many hot springs to be found in East Iceland, but the Hoffell hot tubs make up for it.
The tubs are all neatly submerged into a bed of rocks, and the views of the surrounding snow-capped mountains are spectacular.
There are four different hot tubs located right next to each other. There is a small fee for entry but those staying at the nearby Glacier World accommodations can take a dip for free.
The hot tubs are situated 20 km west from the town of Höfn in East Iceland. Turn from the Ring Road onto road 984 towards Glacier World Guesthouse to reach them.
Krauma Spa is one of the newest members on this list, as it was only opened in late 2017.
This modern location is right next to Europe's most powerful hot spring, Deildartunguhver, where it gets all its hot water from.
However, as Deildartunguhver is nearly boiling, the water at Krauma must be cooled down, which is done by using locally sourced and pristinely fresh glacier water.
You can relax in six beautiful black marble tubs, with a view towards the seething Deildartunguhver, or enjoy the soothing saunas on the premises.
Five of these tubs are warm with varying temperatures, while one is cold, 5-8°C, excellent for boosting your blood circulation.
There are shower and changing facilities, as well as a modern restaurant, on site. Furthermore, as the place is fairly new, it's still a bit of a secret amongst travellers, so there may not be many other visitors about.
A visit to Krauma Spa is certainly one of the best ways of unwinding in West Iceland.
For a hot tub with a twist, why not try the Bjórböðin Beer Spa at the Kaldi brewery in Árskógssandur in North Iceland?
The warm beer is said to do wonders for your skin, and after a good soak, you're tucked in at a relaxation area.
There is no age limit to the spa as the bathwater is undrinkable. Who would want to drink warm beer anyway?
You can book your entry and find out more here: Bjorbodin Beer Spa in North Iceland.
Besides the numerous swimming pools with all their hot tubs found within the larger Reykjavík area, there's also the city's own geothermal heated beach Nauthólsvík. It’s another great activity to check off in Reykjavik on a budget.
Here you'll find both a hot tub at the edge of the seawater, as well as a larger but shallower warm pool by the changing facilities.
Next to the changing facilities are also bathrooms, showers, a sauna and a small café.
The water in the hot tub by the sea varies in temperature, from 30-39°C, but the shallower pool is a constant 38°C.
Even the sea right by the beach here is heated during the summer months and is about 15-19°C within the rock fence.
Entry is free throughout the summer months (from 15th of May until 15th of August). In winter the opening times are shorter, and a small fee applies to use the changing facilities.
What about the natural hot springs out in nature, where there's no entry fee?
There are a few dozen of them (some of which locals still want to keep secret so they don't get ruined!) But the question remains: Which ones should you visit?
To get an idea of their differences read about these top 5 natural hot springs in Iceland, but keep in mind that there are several others to choose from, some with harder accessibility than others.
You can reach these hot springs by joining a hot spring tour or by renting a car and driving there yourself
Reykjadalur (literal translation: 'Steam Valley') is one of the easiest hot spring areas to reach from Reykjavík.
The hike is not very demanding, although it is mostly uphill. It's not recommended for people that are afraid of heights since at one point you'll be hiking along the top of a deep gorge.
Photo from Regína Hrönn
If you are in good shape and don't make many stops along the way you should reach the river after about 45-60 minutes. However, the hike could take up to 90 minutes one way.
This obviously depends on how fast you walk and how often you stop to take pictures of the waterfall in the gorge and all the pretty bubbling muddy hot springs on the way.
There are no facilities for changing your clothes when you get up there as this is real nature.
You can reach the Reykjadalur river on this hiking hot spring tour.
Photo from Visit Westfjords
Hellulaug can be found in the Westfjords, just about 500 metres east of Hotel Flókalundur.
If you are crossing Breiðafjörður fjord with the ferry Baldur, perhaps making a stop at Flatey island, then this hot pool is only a 5-minute drive from Brjánslækur where the ferry docks.
The pool is not seen from the road but is right by it.
The water is a comfortable 38°C, and the pool is about 60cm deep, and if you get too hot you can always cool down in the sea which isn't far off!
No changing facilities, bathrooms or showers are in the area.
Picture from Landmannalaugar Super Jeep Tour
Everywhere you look you'll see sandy mountains in red, blue, green, yellow, purple and black - and the best thing to do after an exhausting day of hiking is to relax in the hot geothermal pools that are waiting for you next to the campsite.
The pools stay consistently warm throughout the summer and have a steady stream of hikers relaxing in them. It is the perfect highland oasis.
Take note that some parasites that bite guests have been found in these pools in the past but they are considered harmless.
However, if you are allergic to mosquito bites then you may want to abstain from entering the pools.
Landmannalaugar is only accessible during the summertime, and only accessible with a 4WD car.
To get there you'll need to cross some rivers, so if you're not used to driving in the highlands you may want to take a bus (special highland bus) or go on a super jeep tour to get there.
If you do drive yourself, then drive carefully and make sure you cross rivers where they are at their widest (as they are deeper and run faster where they are narrow). Ask other drivers you meet where is best to cross, as the rivers are constantly changing.
If you’re short of time Landmannalaugar can even be explored in a day. It remains one of the most epic places to explore in Iceland’s stunning highlands
Picture from east.is
Not just a natural hot spring to bathe in, but a natural hot waterfall as well! Laugavallalaug is situated high into the eastern highlands, this natural pool is harder to reach than others.
You'll need a good car to get near it as you need to drive up a 7km F road that's only passable for 4WD cars. Then there is a short 200-metre walk to reach the pool.
Alternatively, you can drive a 2WD car to Kárahnjúkar dam, then hike alongside Hafrahvammagljúfur canyon to the warm waterfall.
The hike takes around 7 hours (with time for bathing included).
There are also two very nice natural pools, with a circular stone wall at the highland cabin Laugarfell that isn't too far away (and easier to reach). The perfect place to spend the night when exploring the area.
Super Jeep tours and hiking tours operate from here or from the nearby town of Egilsstaðir.
The temperature of the water varies from 20°C to 60°C and the bottom is muddy.
The volcanic crater can be dangerous because in some places the mud is scolding hot (east part of the crater). There is also a lot of sulfur in the water and sulphuric steam can cause people to faint.
But the place has been described as one of the most awesome and magnificent spots in Iceland and whoever stands on the edge of this crater will never forget the experience!
Picture from Askja hiking and hot springs
If you are not familiar with hot springs, then it may be hard to tell the difference between the ones that are safe to enter, and the ones that are not. Especially if there are no warning signs.
There are plenty of hot springs, pools, hot tubs and geysers, both natural ones and not natural ones that should not be bathed in when in Iceland.
Most of the time it's because it's simply too dangerous, either because the water is too hot, too unstable or too cold.
It should go without saying that any hot spring that has large boiling bubbles in it is too hot to enter.
In the most popular geothermal areas, these hot springs are fenced off and will have a warning sign telling you to take care. That may not be the case with all hot springs in Iceland however.
Any lake with icebergs floating in it is too cold to enter. Don't bathe there and don't stand on the icebergs as they can tip over at any given time and trap you in the water.
Although it has almost entirely stopped spouting water into the air, the geyser Geysir still contains extremely hot water which is way too hot to enter.
The geothermal area surrounding Geysir has a variety of smaller geysers, including the famous Strokkur which erupts every few minutes.
There are also several steaming pools or springs that look alluring, especially on a cold winter's day.
As this is one of the most frequently visited areas in Iceland, these hot springs are all fenced off, and warning signs can be found detailing that they are indeed up to 100°C hot.
However, in the year 2000 Geysir had an unexpected big eruption, and a large gathering of people that had been standing too closely had to run for their lives, with a couple of them burning their feet or legs on the scalding water.
The earth surrounding the geysers can also be extremely hot, which is why people are asked to keep to the paths as to not sink their feet into the burning mud.
So it's always wise to take care at any geothermal area you may visit in Iceland.
Picture by: Naveen Venkatesan
Made famous around the world in a steamy scene between the characters of Jon Snow and Ygritte from Game of Thrones, Grjótagjá may look like the ideal place to take a warm bath. However, that's not the case.
The temperature of the water in Grjótagjá varies and became too hot for dips in the late 1970's (about 50°C). It's been cooling down since but may still be too hot to bathe in, depending on days and the earthquake activity.
Because of the varying heat of the water, loose rocks in the cave, and extremely slow water flow, it is now forbidden to bathe in the water.
Just seeing it because of its spectacular beauty is well worth it though, and you can always go around the corner and bathe in Mývatn Nature Baths!
Grjótagjá (Rocky Cleft) is not close to Reykjavík. If you happen to be travelling in the North of Iceland, staying in Akureyri and want to explore the stunning nature around Lake Mývatn, then you're not far away from Grjótagjá.
To get there: Drive east from the village Reykjahlíð (that's on the Ring Road), for a couple of kilometres, then turn right just before you reach the road to Mývatn Nature Baths.
The Reykholt village in west Iceland is one of the most important historical locations in the country.
It’s here where the medieval historian, poet and lawmaker, Snorri Sturluson, lived. He also apparently, bathed here as well because it’s here where you can find his pool, Snorralaug.
The pool is one of Iceland's oldest structures and since this is a historical location, bathing is forbidden. The temperature in the pool is said to vary, becoming extremely hot at times and so bathing there could also be dangerous.
The pool is very small, only around 4 metres in diameter and 0,7-1 metre deep. It would therefore not handle swarms of bathers and would quickly become dirty and unappealing for visitors.
However, visitors don't come here to bathe. They come here to visit the nearby Snorrastofa museum and learn about history, Norse mythology and the man who lent his name to the pool, Snorri Sturluson.
With that beautiful blue colour, Bláhver looks like the ideal spring in which to bathe, appearing calm and showing no signs of geothermal activity.
Your mind might instantly think of how great a picture you relaxing in the azure waters would look, but this hot spring is perfectly hiding its deadly hazards.
Not only is Bláhver scolding hot and any bathing attempt would result in severe burns, but its edges are fragile and could break if trodden on, making an escape hard if one would enter.
This hot spring, along with several others nearby in the geothermal area of Hveravellir near Lake Mývatn, is luckily fenced off so guests can only enjoy its beauty (and smell) from afar.
However, there is the perfect bathing pool close by which uses natural hot water from the area that has been cooled down.
This natural feature looks ideal for bathing, and some daredevils have entered its waters, as can be seen in the video above.
The clip was shot years ago (on a very calm, nice and sunny day) before a ban was put up due to the incredibly dangerous surroundings of this natural pool.
Brimketill is not a hot spring, and its waters are far from being anything on the warm side. What you will get here is the ice-cold Atlantic Sea, cold enough to give people hypothermia if they stay in for too long.
On top of that, the slippery rocks are constantly being sprayed with seawater and these rocks are not a place you want to slip and fall.
On a beautiful, sunny day the water may look appealing, but the majority of the time this area has strong winds blowing through, with towering waves crashing on the rocks. Nice and sunny days in Iceland are also few and far between.
The name Brimketill means 'Whitewater Cauldron', due to the constant white horse of the breaking waves on the surrounding rocks. The sight is impressive to see, from a safe distance.
You can reach Brimketill by driving along the Reykjanes peninsula or joining a tour of the area.
What is your favourite hot spring? Do you have any favourite bathing spots in Iceland which were left out? Let us know in the comments below!