Bathing in hot springs is a favourite pastime in Iceland. The country sits at the meeting point of two diverging tectonic plates, so volcanic activity is high here. With so much geothermal energy to spare, you’re guaranteed warm waters to rest aching muscles. Iceland has now dropped all domestic Covid restrictions, too, so get ready to take the plunge mask-free.
Starting from 1 July 2021, travellers from abroad who can show proof of vaccination are free to enter Iceland without any testing or quarantine, so it’s a great time to test the country’s thermal spas. While some of these springs are human-made, such as the spectacular Blue Lagoon, others simply make the most of the scorching underground waters to offer bathers an unforgettable soaking experience. Browse through our suggestions and discover the best natural spas to visit in Iceland.
Also known as the Secret Lagoon, Gamla Laugin is among Iceland’s oldest swimming pools, dating back to 1891. The water here is 38C-40C all year round, as the lagoon is in an area of high geothermal activity with bubbling hot springs and a very active geyser that erupts around every five minutes. The tranquil, lush surroundings of Flúðir village complete the soothing ambiance. Make sure to book your ticket in advance, as this is a very popular spot. Showers are available on site.
Its name means the People’s Pools, and the hot springs of Landmannalaugar have created one of the most astonishing landscapes in Iceland. The sandy mountains come in unusual colours such as red, purple and yellow, adding a dreamy touch to an already magical setting. This highland oasis is especially popular among weary hikers, who arrive here to take a break and recharge in the thermal waters that stay consistently warm all summer long.
This large pool, dating back to 1923, is human-made – built into a mountainside between the waterfalls of Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss – yet the hot water that fills it is natural. The pool looks like a natural continuation of its wild surroundings, allowing bathers to take in the unspoilt beauty of the imposing hills while you’re taking a dip. Seljavallalaug has two small rooms where you can leave your clothes, and its water is cleaned once every summer.
The picturesque town of Hveragerði that hosts this natural spring is a 45-minute drive from Reykjavik, followed by an hour of hiking. Even though the hike itself is not very demanding, bear in mind you’ll be walking along the top of a deep gorge at one point. It will all be worth it, though, as soon as you dip your toes into the warm river that flows down Reykjadalur Valley. This is full of hot springs and, depending on which one you choose to approach, you can even pick the temperature that suits you best.
Part of the Hveravellir Nature Reserve, this lagoon on the edge of the Kjalhraun lava field – formed around 8,000 years ago – is framed by two large glaciers. Bubbling water holes and smoking fumaroles add to the otherworldly setting. To reach the reserve, you will need to drive through the barren Icelandic highlands, a four-hour journey from Reykjavik. Once here, you can further explore the area via numerous hiking trails, or even stay at one of the reserve’s rooms.
For a more organised natural spa, give the Mývatn Nature Baths a go. Found in the Lake Mývatn area east of Reykjahlíð village, the baths are centred around a large lagoon, whose waters are drawn from a depth of up to 2,500m (8,200ft) and can get as hot as 40C. There are also two steam baths at 50C, a hot tub and a separate pool for children. Your ticket includes access to a locker, while allowing you to spend an entire day on the premises; a cafe and a bar are also available on site.
Fed straight from the Deildartunguhver hot spring, the baths at Krauma are the ideal place to relax in style. This spa resort in west Iceland offers five hot tubs, one cold tub and two steam baths, as well as a relaxation room where you can sit and chill while listening to music. The scorching water from the spring is cooled down by freezing water that mixes with it from a small glacier, while the steam in the baths, also from the spring, is scented with oils. The on-site restaurant serves delicious Icelandic dishes.
The newest geothermal spa in Iceland, and probably the most impressive, is Sky Lagoon. This ultra-modern spa sprawls across 5,000sqm (53,820sqft) in Kópavogura town. The spa’s natural hot lagoons (which can reach a temperature of 40C) are subtly separated from the Atlantic Ocean with infinity edges, making you feel as if you’re bathing in its vast waters, all the while looking at a 700,000-year-old stratovolcano and the odd friendly seal. You’ll also find cold plunge pools, a sauna, changing rooms, a cafe, bar and turf house here.