What is the nudity culture in Iceland like? When, where and why do people get naked in Iceland? Do you have to get nude to enter the Blue Lagoon?
Attitudes towards nudity in Iceland are pretty relaxed. That doesn’t mean people are naked all the time and everywhere – you can actually get arrested for being nude in public for indecent exposure – but nudity forms a part of the nation’s identity through the rich swimming pool culture, protests and even through tradition/folklore!
Here you can read about where and when is suitable to get naked in Iceland.
Shower naked in the swimming pools
Although it is mandatory to wear swimsuits in swimming pools in Iceland (but optional to be topless for both men and women), it is also mandatory to shower naked before entering the pools.
Every small town in the country will have a gas station, church and a swimming pool. And for every single swimming pool there will be changing facilities, one for females and one for males, where you are required to shower thoroughly, in the nude, before entering the pool. This is also the case at The Blue Lagoon.
Some people find it a terrifying thought to have to be nude before entering the Blue Lagoon, but there are cubicles with shower curtains available if you feel uncomfortable around others in the nude.
Picture from IcelandWeatherReport.
The reason for this rule is that the pools in Iceland have a very low amount of chlorine in them, some pools have saltwater instead of chlorine, and in order to keep the water clean people need to wash thoroughly before they enter.
Don’t think you can bypass this by wearing your swimsuit underneath your clothes because there are even bath guards that check that you are definitely washing your body well enough before going to the pool! This was highlighted in a now-classic sketch from the Icelandic comedy show Fóstbræður (you can see former mayor Jón Gnarr in the shower):
Some pools do have curtains though and there is also the unspoken rule of no unnecessary looking/staring, so you shouldn't feel too body conscious! It’s optional how much you clean yourself when you leave though!
- Find Blue Lagoon tours here
Nudity and hot springs
Iceland is full of hot springs and geysers. I’d advise you against trying to bathe in a geyser and be careful around hot springs because they can be way too hot to enter. Some hot springs have the perfect temperature to bathe in on the other hand.
- See also: The 5 Best Hot Springs in Iceland
Whereas some of these hot springs are quite popular with locals and tourists, people may want to keep their swimsuits on – but if you find yourself alone in the nature and a small hot pool all to yourself, then it seems a bit wrong to be wearing clothes in amongst the nature, when there’s no need to. This is even highlighted in the video by Inspired by Iceland, that's at the start of this article.
So if you want to, it's perfectly acceptable to enter hot springs nude in Iceland, but you can choose to keep your swimwear on if you prefer!
Nudity in Icelandic music
People don't need to be in a hot tub to get naked in Icelandic music videos. The Icelandic band Sigur Rós frequently uses nudity in their music videos and album covers. The cover for Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust shows the back of four people running in a grassy field. Above you can see the music video to Gobbledigook, however it is not filmed in Iceland.
Other Icelandic artists, such as ÍRiiS, have also used nudity in their music videos, as can be seen in the following video that's shot in various places around Iceland.
- See also: Music of Iceland
Free the nipple
A nipple revolution took place in Iceland on the 26th of March 2015, when thousands of women went topless on the streets and in social media, claiming the right to be able to be topless when sunbathing and/or breastfeeding in public.
There was an organised Free the Nipple gathering in June 2015 in Austurvöllur square and only time will tell if there will an annual #FreeTheNipple day on the 26th of March from now on. It feels as if slowly it's becoming less of a taboo for women to be topless when they feel like it, in swimming pools and sunbathing.
Nudity in commercialism
In 1995 a company offered free cell phones to whoever would show up at their store naked. At the time, cell phones were still a bit of a novelty and 20 naked men showed up, no women.
Again, the video above by Inspired by Iceland has a short clip of a couple getting naked in a hot spring, in line with Iceland’s relaxed attitude towards nudity. They surely weren’t expecting to be censored on YouTube, as was the case.
Roll around naked during the Nativity of St John the Baptist
Although the longest day of the year is on the 21st of June, Iceland traditionally celebrates midsummer on the 24th of June. This day, which is called Jónsmessa, is supposedly the birthdate of Saint John the Baptist and originally a Catholic celebration. Iceland is not a Catholic country and there have never really been any great celebrations on this day. However, it is said that on the eve of Jónsmessa (the night of the 23rd) animals speak and that it’s a good night to sit on crossroads to hear news from elves and hidden people.
And then there’s also the custom of rolling around naked in the morning dew, that is supposed to give you good health for the remainder of the year if you let the dew dry on its own on your skin. So you could roll around in the grass with the horses and have a chat with them as well!
As you can see, there are plenty of opportunities for you to get naked in Iceland.