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Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the healing waters getting soaked in by your bare skin

When and Where to (Not) Get Naked in Iceland

Verified Expert

Even at the Blue Lagoon, you won't encounter anyone nude - in the pool, at least...

What is the policy on nudity in Iceland? When, where, and why are people getting naked in Iceland? Is it true that you have to wash publicly in the nude to enter the Blue Lagoon? Does this mean you can skinny dip in Iceland anywhere you want? Read on to take a dive into nudity in Iceland. What do locals think about baring it all, and what are the do's and don'ts surrounding getting naked in Iceland.



Attitudes on nudity in Iceland are very relaxed.

That's not to say that you can stroll down Laugavegur without your clothes if you feel like it, as you might upset other pedestrians.

However, being nude in Iceland is perfectly legal in public, as long as you don't offend anyone.

You’ll find many places across the country where you can be out and about in your birthday suit.

Iceland's free attitude towards nudity largely stems from a mix of the hot spring and pool culture, traditional folklore, a willingness to experiment with art, and a history of feminist protest.

How each of these facets shaped the nation's open-mindedness has its own story.

Whether you are an avid naturist looking for a place to express yourself or someone hoping not to have to sacrifice intimate privacy to go swimming, knowing a bit about the culture of nudity in Iceland can help prepare you for your travels.



Nude in Iceland: Attractions and Swimming Pools

The Fontana Spa in LaugarvatnPhoto from Scenic 9 Hour Golden Circle Tour with the Fontana Geothermal Baths and Transfer from Reykjavik

Shy travelers face both a blessing and a curse when it comes to nudity and swimming pools in Iceland.

On the one hand, swimsuits are mandatory in all public pools (not including bikini tops), so you don’t need to worry about getting flashed while you’re trying to relax. Yes, it's normal for both men and women to be topless in Iceland’s swimming pools. 

You are obligated to shower and wash your naked body before entering the pool.

The reason Icelanders are so adamant that you don’t enter their pools without a proper scrub-down is, in fact, purely hygienic.

Many of Iceland’s pools have minimal or no chlorine in them. So, for everyone’s peace of mind, all who get into the water have to make sure their body isn’t polluting it with germs.

In most larger pools, such as the Blue Lagoon, this doesn’t need to be unnerving since they have fitted their facilities with cubicles in which you can wash in private.

Attendants will be on duty to ensure those using the cubicles are not wearing swimsuits.

Swimming in the Blue Lagoon Naked?

The Blue Lagoon at Sunset in Winter

Don’t worry; you won’t need to be nude in the Blue Lagoon. The nudity police (staff) stop at the shower point. When entering the pool, you’ll need to ensure you have a bathing suit after leaving the locker room and the pool showers.

Like all spas and pools in Iceland, you need to thoroughly wash before you enter the pools and after you’ve left, before getting changed.

You would certainly be frowned upon if you entered Blue Lagoon’s Lava restaurant in the nude!



Nudity at Iceland's Public Pools

The Secret Lagoon in Iceland is the oldest public pool.

If you travel around Iceland, you will notice public pools in even the most remote seaside villages.

In fact, in the tiniest of hamlets, very often, all you will find is a church, a gas station, and a swimming pool. However, as you might expect, most of these pools only have public showering facilities.

Even if it makes you uncomfortable, many of these pools, such as the infinity pool at Hofsos, are so beautiful and serene that you should bite the bullet and get on with it.

There is an unspoken rule regarding nudism in Iceland, which dictates that you should not stare at other people in the changing room. On top of that, Icelanders are body-positive people, so don't worry. Overcome your fears and join the party.

Although it's mandatory to wear a swimsuit, this only applies to the bottom half.

Going topless in Iceland is common. Women here are not legally obligated to wear anything on top (e.g., a bikini top). So everyone has an equal opportunity to get a little tan whenever the summer sun emerges.

Nudity at Iceland's Hot Springs

Hot springs bubble invitingly under the aurora borealis.

Iceland is a geothermal wonderland dotted with bursting geysers, churning mud pools, and steaming hot springs.

Many of these have the perfect temperature for bathing, and some are so remote that you can jump in naked without worrying about other people seeing you. 

However, there are a few things to be aware of before indulging in the hot springs of Iceland nude. 

First, many springs are far too hot to bathe in, so you should only soak in those officially safe to enter.

Geothermal energy pumps right beneath Iceland's surface.

Even if the water in some pools seems to be a perfect temperature, the earth around them may be unstable with scalding water just beneath the surface. They may also be prone to heating up very quickly and without warning.

Remember that because Iceland is a very young country, it remains in constant formation. The powers operating beneath the Earth's surface are fierce, and you should respect them.

Grjotagja hot spring cave in the Myvatn area is, for example, known for occasionally heating up rapidly, so bathing in it is banned to ensure public safety.

The hot spring is also in the same cave featured in the popular HBO TV series Game of Thrones (Season 3, Episode 5).

Lake Mývatn in the HighlandsPicture from Lake Mývatn Sightseeing and Hot Springs Tour from Akureyri

Secondly, some hot springs have harmful bacteria because they have no treatment systems like swimming pools.

Hot pots in the Westfjords and on the Reykjanes peninsula are particularly notorious.

Many hot springs in those areas that older sources might deem safe are now unfit for bathing because of the many bacteria in the waters.

Towards the end of summer, even the popular bathing waters, like those in Landmannalaugar and Hveravellir, can be contaminated.

Pregnant women, young children, and those with vulnerable immune systems should avoid them at this time of year.

Reykjadalur is a popular bathing area.Photo from Hot Spring Hike of Reykjadalur Valley

Nude Hot Springs in Iceland

There are no specific nude hot springs in Iceland, however, that does not mean you cannot enjoy the hot springs while naked. Many hot springs are perfectly safe and acceptable to enter in the nude, and you can even find some without anyone around.

There is no judgment from locals for this kind of skinny dipping in Iceland should they catch you. Odds are they have done the same thing before.

Not only is naked bathing seen as a beautiful way to connect with nature, but it’s also a smart way to keep your clothes dry and lighten your laundry load.

Of course, if there are other guests at your destination, you should perhaps ask if they mind before getting naked and joining them.

Different people will react differently, and for some, your birthday suit might fall into the realms of ‘indecent exposure.’

An excellent way to avoid other bathers altogether is to travel at night in summer. Under the midnight sun, there are much smaller crowds.

Equally, you could rent a four-wheel drive and travel out to the springs in winter when fewer travelers are around.



Iceland’s Nude Beaches 

There are no officially designated nude beaches in Iceland, but that doesn’t mean you cannot get naked as long as there are no other people around. We would not recommend trying this at a popular tourist destination.

The more important question is, why would you want to go skinny dipping at one of Iceland’s beaches? Unlike hot springs, the ocean water is quite cold and not refreshing. 

Additionally, while the beaches in Iceland may be beautiful, they can also be dangerous. Depending upon the beach, you should not even turn your back on the waves, let alone go for a dip!

Nudity in Icelandic Music and Art

Many who don’t know anything about the nudity culture surrounding swimming pools and hot springs in Iceland still know about the nation’s open-mindedness towards the human body from the music videos produced here.

For example, the band Sigur Ros, whose music has won international acclaim. The band's album covers and music videos frequently contain nudity, but in a far more tasteful way than most artists from countries where nudity is a taboo subject.

Compare the video below, for example, to Robin Thicke’s notorious ‘Blurred Lines.’

Sigur Ros are not alone. The up-and-coming electronic musician, iRiiS, has also used a lot of nudity in her productions.

Icelandic people perceive nudity as the natural state of a human being. Therefore, it's not sexualized but combined with nature, signifying something pure, innocent, and timeless.

Curiously, while most nudity-averse cultures will make exceptions when displaying sculptures of the human form, Iceland’s sculpturing tradition is so recent that this is not notable here.

The art of sculpting only really began in the early 1900s with the works of Einar Jonsson. Though you can find his work all over the city, his subjects are most often fully clothed.



Nudity in Icelandic Folklore

A blend of Christian and Old Norse traditions created Iceland's folklorePhoto from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by August Malmström. No edits made.

Most of the folk stories of Iceland tell some important truths about what the country was like historically. Many of them contain ancient lessons in morality.

Due to the church’s powerful moral chokehold, many of these stories have an extremely conservative bent.

For example, one story tells of Hidden People murdering multiple women for the crime of merely dancing in the nude.

You would think that this would have deterred people from nudity, but that's not the case.

Iceland’s Christian traditions are strong, but many pagan beliefs from the Old Norse religion bled into the new faith and affected many customs.

Rolling around in the morning dew naked is tradition

Look, for example, to the Icelandic celebration of midsummer.

Until the Reformation, Iceland was Catholic, and thus the people were encouraged to celebrate the birthdate of Saint John the Baptist on June 24th.

However, this day already had a meaning in the Norse faith. There was an existing tradition of rolling naked in the morning dew to secure luck for the year to come.

Those unaffected by Christian influence have practiced this custom throughout Icelandic history.



Nudity in Icelandic Public Protest

Solidarity at the Slut Walk in Reykjavík.Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Helgi Halldórsson. No edits made.

Icelanders love a good protest. Whether it's against NATO (1949), gender inequality (1975), the banks (2008), or corruption in government (2016), they are passionate about direct democracy and unafraid to gather in front of the Althingi (parliament) in the thousands to demand change.

In 2015, nudity found its way into the ongoing fight for justice when the American #FreeTheNipple campaign found its way to Iceland.

Even if going topless in Iceland has always been allowed in pools, women were still subject to judgment, objectification, and critique for sunbathing without covering themselves. More recently, this criticism has even impacted breastfeeding in public.

Furthermore, people were getting sick of the double-standard in the media. Men’s nipples could be seen on children’s television, whereas women’s nipples were only shown in adult situations that were almost always sexual or violent.

Picture from a Free the Nipple campaign in SwedenPhoto from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Maria Eklind. No edits made.

For this reason, the women of Iceland took to social media.

They posted pictures of intentional nip-slips to help show their friends and followers that they were hiding nothing frightening, dangerous, or even that interesting inside their bras.

They also took to the streets topless. They were brave not only for breaking the taboo but because they first did so on March 26th, when the weather usually demands multiple layers.

They later repeated the protest in June’s more pleasant conditions.

Many other campaigns also feature nudity. An example of this is the SlutWalk, which aims to shut down the shaming of women who are as sexually active as their male counterparts and challenge rape culture. The SlutWalk often features toplessness, as does the Reykjavik Pride parade.



Nudity in Iceland's Museums

Iceland's Phallological Museum is an example of the country's comfort with nudity.Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by ThomasWF

No article on nudity in Iceland would be complete without a reference to the world’s only Phallological Museum, located at Kalkofnsvegur 2, Reykjavik.

This bizarre, titillating, and still somewhat fascinating place has hundreds of specimens taken from the animal kingdom. There is also one particularly revolting display of a poorly preserved human member.

However, it also has rooms and cabinets displaying artwork and books dedicated to the penis.

The museum further cements the fact that Icelanders don’t get sensitive about nudity or seeing genitals.



Limits on Nudity in Iceland

Nudity is not always appropriate in Iceland.Photo by Victoria Strukovskaya

Although it might seem to you that Icelanders like to get naked for any reason, there is one thing they are not permitted to do, and that's to undress for money.

Since 2010, the government's policy has been that no person’s body is a commodity. Therefore, those who strip for a living must leave a fair amount to their patrons' imaginations.

This restriction was part of a broader crackdown on prostitution and the sex trade, where those who purchased an escort's services were considered a ‘pimp’ and would face charges. The escorts faced no charges themselves.

The crackdown was part of a broader push to modernize Iceland’s gender dialogue and face the gendered issues of an increasingly globalized world.

The legislation has faced criticism for being sex-negative. However, some have praised the policy for limiting the exploitation of women brought here as part of the sex trade and protecting professional exotic dancers.

Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the healing waters getting soaked in by your bare skinPhoto from Premium Admission to the Blue Lagoon with a Private Transfer in a New Mercedes Benz V-Class

Final Thoughts on Iceland Nudity

In conclusion, Iceland is a paradise for naturists and a wonderful place for the body-conscious to get more comfortable with the bits we all have.

Even if you have read this piece with a growing feeling of horror at the thought of being watched while showering, you can at least trust that the locals are respectful enough to look away.

While you are under no pressure to join the people of Iceland in their naked glory, using the opportunity to enjoy being in your birthday suit can add streaks of liberation and exhilaration to your travels in the land of ice and fire. Getting Naked in Iceland is no big deal to us Icelanders, and we welcome you to embrace our quirky culture!