In the Land of Fire & Ice, geothermal water is in abundance. While much of it is boiling, or at least way too hot for humans to enter, there’s also a fair share of it that is perfect for a nice, relaxing soak, often with an otherworldly view to boot.
Hot pots, as they’re called in Iceland, can come in all shapes and forms. Some are quite huge commercial affairs (like the Blue Lagoon), some are holes in the ground that can fit a couple of people (like Landbrotalaug). I planned a good chunk of my itinerary in September 2018 around soaking in hot pots, as there’s no better way to relax and take in all the scenes around you!
Without further ado…
(This was written with information from my trip in September 2018. Prices/hours/access are all things that could have changed in the years since.)
Reykjadalur – “The Hot River”
No shower, toilet, or changing facilities
Reykjadalur means “steam valley,” and it is easy to see why as you watch steam billowing out of the ground as you drive into the area, which is part of the Hengill volcano system. The hike is roughly 5.3 miles (8.5km) and can take about 45 minutes to reach the part of the river that is perfect for soaking. There are some steep portions, and the path can be muddy. It is well marked – so much so, I couldn’t see someone getting lost unless they strayed off trail! (Don’t do that. The ground is boiling all around you.)
The hike in of itself is great, as you pass through the lush Icelandic landscape, complete with waterfalls and geothermal features all around you. Though some modern improvements have been done such as boardwalks, this is very much a natural hot pot. There are small shelters that you can use to change behind, but other than that, expect to be nude in the open if you change in and out of your clothes (really no one cares or is paying attention). There are no showers or bathroom facilities, and certainly no trash cans, so please take all litter with you!
The river can vary in temperature, so definitely try out a few spots to find exactly what is perfect for you. The further up the river you go, the hotter it becomes. Because of it’s proximately to Reykjavík and increasing popularity, it is quite possible you will be sharing Reykjadalur with a few people during typical hours.
My boyfriend and I chose to cap off our first day in Iceland with Reykjadalur, and it was the perfect way to unwind from our seven hour international flight, grocery shopping, and small road tripping adventure of the day! We spent the night at the campground in Hveragerði, which about five minutes or so from the parking lot for Reykjadalur.
The Secret Lagoon
3000 ISK / person (adult)
Has open/closed hours – please check their official site for details
The less crowded, more natural, and way cheaper alternative to the Blue Lagoon, or so people say (I have to agree!). Conveniently located near the Golden Circle, it is close to all the popular attractions like Gullfoss, Geysir, Kerið, and Þingvellir, and is a great way to cap off a day of exploring one of Iceland’s most popular areas. This is exactly how we ended our Golden Circle day, actually!!
You can pre-book, but we did not have any issues with just showing up in the early evening in the beginning of September. I have heard that Secret Lagoon can get quite busy during the day as tour buses stop here, so consider that if you want a quieter experience, and plan on visiting in the morning or evening to avoid the tour buses.
Showering nude before entering the lagoon is absolutely mandatory. This is for the cleanliness and safety of everyone, as they do not chlorinate or treat the water. Yes, without swimsuit. Don’t worry, it’s so normal in Iceland it’s not as freaky as every American makes it out to be. I cannot remember if there were any private shower stalls or not, but seriously, no one is looking. Soap up all your areas, rinse, apply swimsuit, and enjoy!
Secret Lagoon provides pool noodles, which is an amazing feature! Though there were definitely a lot of people there when we visited, we had no problem finding our own little area to float around in.
There is a path you can walk that goes around the lagoon, and provides you a closer look at the baby geyser that erupts frequently (every couple of minutes), the original bath house, other geothermal features, and elf houses.
Fjallabak Nature Reserve
Showers/toilets/facilities at basecamp area for day use fee of 500ISK/person
Accessible only by 4WD vehicle
Tucked into the highlands is the absolutely gorgeous area of Landmannalaugar. Volcanos, rhyolite mountains, steam vents, and lava fields are all around, and this is also the base area of the multi-day Laugavegur hike. And what could be more perfect than a hot pot to soak in to relax after a day filled with hiking?
Only F-roads access this area, so that leaves you with the option of driving a 4WD vehicle to the area (there are a few river crossings just before you get into Landmannalaugar), taking a tour, or hitching a ride on a 4WD bus. We opted to purchase tickets on the Trex bus, arriving in the morning hours, which allowed us about eight hours to hike and explore the area.
This was one of my favorite hot pot experiences in Iceland! It is actually another hot river, which has been dammed up by rocks to create soaking pools. We soaked for a good two hours, resting our tired legs from back-to-back-to-back hiking days. Temperatures in the pool varied, being uncomfortably hot near the input source, and much cooler away from it. There is a wooden boardwalk leading to the area, and a wooden platform to change and store belongings on. If you pay the day use fee, you can access to restrooms and also change there.
There are occasionally warnings about parasites that can cause “swimmer’s itch” for this hot pot. Swimmers itch is caused by parasites whose host is freshwater snails. Personally, we didn’t experience anything weird after our long soak here, but it is worth mentioning.
No showers/toilets/changing facilities on site
Campground and hotel within short walking distance via trails
This hidden gem in the Westfjords is becoming increasingly popular, but for good reason! Hellulaug was hands down my favorite hot pot in Iceland, though we did have to wait a few hours for the crowds to clear out before getting our soak in (no biggie, we checked into the campground and ate dinner in the meantime).
There is a parking lot and donation box, but otherwise no facilities onsite. The great thing is that the Flókalundar campground and hotel are within very short walking distance, so you can utilize those facilities if staying. The campground and hotel are connected to Hellulaug by hiking trails that are lined with bilberry bushes – special treat!
Hellulaug is a natural hot pot on the shores of Vatnsfjörður, so great views are provided. We visited at sunset, which is a great time, and spent several hours here. It is not a particularly large hot pot, but there were five of us there at once and we all had plenty of space to ourselves.
Natural & cement pools
Changing facilities (not open 24/7)
Sometimes also called Krosslaug (there is another Krosslaug at the neck of the Westfjords, too), Krossholtslaug is just a handful of kilometers west of Hellulaug in the Westfjords, but hasn’t quite gained all the popularity. “Birkimelur Swimming Pool” will lead you here on Google Maps.
This site is great because there is both the more natural hot pot and also the cement swimming pool option, both heated perfectly. There are changing facilities, but they are not unlocked all the time (a Google search tells me 1200-1900 are the opening hours, but I cannot say for sure if this is true).
We visited in the early morning, and had the whole place to ourselves the entire time, which was a great experience! We only used the natural hot pot, and didn’t try out the swimming pool. Across the fjord you can see the Snæfellsnes peninsula in the distance, and the towering coastline of the Westfjords all around you.
Natural & cement pool option
The Westfjords have no shortage of amazing hot pots, and I am really sad I could not visit them all! Reykjafjarðarlaug is located in Reykjafjörður, with no particular town nearby aside from Bíldudalur 24km to the northwest. Like Krossholtslaug, Reykjafjarðarlaug has both natural and cement pools. There are changing facilities on site.
We first tried out the natural hot pots at Reykjafjarðarlaug, but found them to be uncomfortably hot (please note, the temperature of hot pots can vary, so you might find them to be cooler). After about ten minutes, we decided to check out the cement swimming pool. The swimming pool is considerably cooler, but still comfortable, so we spent the majority of our time in this part.
We visited in the morning hours, and there was one other couple in the pools, and a few cars parked in the area. Pretty quiet! One definitely gets the sense of loneliness in this location!
One of Iceland’s largest geothermal pools, Reykjaneslaug is another Westfjords gem. Next to the Hotel Reykjanes, this cement pool is geothermally heated, and has shower and changing facilities, along with a steam room. There is an entrance fee, but if you stay at the hotel as well, it is included.
Sadly, we just visited here to stretch our legs, and didn’t go for a soak and swim, which I look back on with a bit of regret!
Official website is here.
Drangsnes Hot Tubs
Showers/toilets/changing facilities across the street
Continuing on with the Westfjords theme, the small town of Drangsnes has a great set of three hot pots that sit right on the shore of Steingrímsfjörður. Each are a different temperature, and some brave people will also take turns jumping into the fjord and then back into the hot tubs.
Across the street there are bathroom and shower facilities. Showering is advised before using the hot tubs to maintain hygiene standards.
You will find both locals and travelers alike soaking in the hot tubs, and they are open 24/7. They were definitely fairly crowded when we arrived, but over the course of a couple of hours people came and went and crowds thinned.
Hofsós Swimming Pool (Sundlaugin á Hofsósi)
Though not a hot pot, I must mention the Hofsós swimming pool! After all, the town swimming pools in Iceland are amazing, and the one in Hofsós gets a lot of attention as it’s situated to give the appearance of being an infinity pool when you’re in it.
For current hours, please visit their website.
Because the campground in Hofsós charges for showers, we decided to use the swimming pool for our showers, and got a bonus soak as well! There is the main swimming pool, and then also hot tubs. The hot tubs are much warmer than the main pool. I found the main pool to be lukewarm, but wasn’t bad as my body adjusted to the temperature. Though I visited on a foggy day, it was still a cool view over the fjord.
As a bonus, they sell ice cream bars here as well!
Mývatn Nature Baths (Jarðböðin við Mývatn)
Current entry fees & hours here
The Mývatn Nature Baths are just like the Blue Lagoon, just half the price, and probably half the crowds! Located in the highly volcanic area of Mývatn in the northern part of Iceland, the nature baths are manmade and utilize water runoff from a borehole for geothermal power production. The water is the same milky blue that the Blue Lagoon is famous for.
The facilities have everything you could want, and like all pools in Iceland, a nude shower is required before entering. There are some private shower stalls available, along with gender-specific group showers. It is recommended to remove all jewelry due to the mineral content of the water. There is a cafe onsite, and alcoholic beverages are available, too, if that is your jam. Towel rentals are available as well. Pre-booking is encouraged, but not required.
We visited after dark, so I have no photos of my own to show. Water temperature can vary as you move around. There are a couple of water fall features which make for a great neck and back massage. We were short on time, so only had about an hour to soak before closing. Supposedly this is a great place to see the Northern Lights from, but clouds hindered our view the night we visited.
Hoffell Hot Tubs
1000 ISK / person
Indoor changing/toilet facilities
On the south coast east of the famous Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon there is the small town of Hoffell and they’re great hot tubs! Five hot tubs of varying temperatures are tucked next to a unique rock feature. There is a small reception trailer, where you’ll pay your 1000 ISK fee. There are two outdoor showers, and then indoor changing facilities for each gender. If you choose your tub carefully, you can even stare at a glacier while soaking!
We kicked off our morning here after visiting Stokksnes to recharge (or maybe relax) before diving into the crowds of Jökulsárlón.
Notably, there are some famous hot pots and pools missing from this list. Most noticeably, the Blue Lagoon is missing. We chose not to visit the Blue Lagoon on this trip due to the entry fee and all of the other wonderful hot pots we had planned to be at. Also, the Mývatn Nature Baths are pretty much the same thing at half the trouble!
We had also planned on soaking in Landbrotalaug, but when we arrived at this very tiny hot pot, there was already a couple soaking in the two-person hot pot, and several other cars waiting in line for their turn. Because we had a busy itinerary for Snæfellsnes on that day, we didn’t want to spend the time to wait to get our soak. I’d recommended trying to visit Landbrotalaug in the very early morning or late evening hours to hopefully get it to yourself.
There are many, many other hot pots in Iceland, so this is only a taste of what you can find! I could’ve filled my whole itinerary with hot pot chasing, but alas, we also wanted to see some other things as well! I will try to update this post after any future trips to new ones as they occur!
What is your favorite hot pot in Iceland? Tell me in the comments below!