What would Iceland be without the geothermal pool experience? As compared to most other countries, Iceland is cold, wet and cloudy most of the year, even during the period of polar day (May-August). No wonder, Icelanders like to end their days with a dip in a hot pool with friends and family. We recently spent an amazing eight days in this beautiful country, discovering its serene landscapes, awe-inspiring waterfalls and colourful Reykjavik. And in this short period of time, we dipped into several hot pools near Reykjavik, each as different as the next.
Below you will find options for every taste and budget. All can be experienced with children, although as we note below, some of them have age restrictions. We list them in order from the most expensive to the completely free. The prices listed below reflect July 2018 pricing. Parking is free for all options listed below.
(extravagant modern luxury)
The Blue Lagoon is very popular with tourists but you’ll be hard pressed to find a local here. You need to pre-book online (sometimes well in advance). Only 20 minutes from the Keflavik airport (and 40 minutes from Reykjavik), this is a perfect place to spend a long layover. There are shuttles available from the airport and there is luggage storage onsite.
The Blue Lagoon is a spa as well as a geothermal hot pool, so expect spa pricing. Children 2-13 years of age are free as long as they are supervised by adults. One adult can supervise a maximum of two children and those under 2 years of age are not allowed. So if you are family with more than four kids or young babies, the Blue Lagoon may be off the table for you (unless you are traveling with other adult family members).
The pool at the Blue Lagoon was formed in 1976 from the waste water of the nearby geothermal plant. Five years later, people started bathing in this pool once the supposed healing powers of the water began to gain popularity. The Blue Lagoon spa was established in 1992.
- Access to the hot pools at this spa starts at 54 euros per adult.
- Water temperature: 37-39 C (99-102 F)
- Children are expected to behave and stay quiet for the enjoyment of other guests. See the spa’s rules about children.
- There is a swim-up bar.
- You can bring your phone or camera to the pool if you wish to take photos.
- You can enjoy fine dining on the premises at Lava Restaurant.
- There are two hotels in the Blue Lagoon: Silica Hotel starting at 435 euros per night and Retreat Hotel starting at 1132 euros per night.
- Full spa experience (4 hours) starts at 228 euros per person.
- The water is rich in silica and sulfur and it is said that frequent bathing (4-5 times per month) in this type of water might relieve some skin conditions.
The Secret Lagoon
(low key luxury with over a century of history)
The Secret Lagoon was named so because it is less known by visitors although it’s been gaining in popularity recently. Its Icelandic name “Gamla Laugin” means “the Old Pool” because in 1891, this natural hot spring area was made into a pool and it became the first swimming pool in Iceland. An old stone changing room still stands by the shore of the pool, giving it a romantic air. This place is ideal for those who enjoy history and wish to experience a place not only visited by tourists but also by locals.
Besides history, there are some additional bonuses to this pool. Because this is a natural geothermal hot spring area, the pool is surrounded by active hot springs and a small geyser that erupts every five minutes creating a mysterious mist over the pool.
Another great thing is for the enjoyment of the youngest visitors. Not everyone notices these but our 10-year old did. Look under the trees surrounding the pool. You will notice tiny elf houses. This makes for a great game for the little ones: looking around to see if they can catch a sight of little elven families going about their daily lives.
The Secret Lagoon is 1h40 drive from Reykjavik so instead of making a special trip, come here as part of your Golden Circle visit. Pre-booking is not required however it is recommended.
- Price: 2800 ISK per person (at the time of writing this blog it was 23 euros). There are seniors discounts and adult-supervised children under 14 are free of charge.
- Water temperature: 38-40 C (100-104 F) – (hotter than in the Blue Lagoon).
- You can rent a swimsuit if you don’t have one.
- You can take photos of the pool if you wish.
- To cool off from the pool, either use cold showers outside or walk around the boardwalk admiring the geysers. We were there in July and it was only +8 C, so it was a great way to cool off walking around in your swimsuit at that temperature.
- Children can be children here. The rules are not as strict as at the Blue Lagoon, but young children are not allowed to walk unaccompanied on the boardwalk around the pool due to the very high temperatures of the hot springs and geyser. As the sign at the front proclaims: unsupervised children will be sold to trolls … (I just love Icelandic folklore).
- The bottom of the pool is pebbles.
- The building with showers, changing rooms, reception and snack bar is new and functional.
- You can bring drinks purchased at the bar inside into the pool.
- Avoid the few hours beginning at 3 PM. At this time, tour buses arrive after lunch and it gets crowded in the pool.
- There is a fish & chips place by the main entrance.
A local neighbourhood hot pool
(an authentic experience, blend with the locals)
Every neighbourhood in Reykjavik has its local geothermal pool. Ask your hotel concierge or your Airbnb host for advice. There are 18 in the city so it shouldn’t be difficult to find one near where you are staying.
Because of the neighbourhood we were staying in, we walked to the Vesturbaejarlaug Pool. You might run into the previous president of Iceland here, since this is his neighbourhood. Besides the locals, also students and professors from the nearby university frequent this pool. No matter what, chances are you might meet some interesting locals here.
- We paid an equivalent of 17 euros total for our family of three. Children pay a reduced rate.
- There were outdoor swimming pools, hot pools (37-43.6 C or 98.6-110.5 F), and cold pools (8-12 C or 46-54 F), a steam room and a sauna.
- The place is very family friendly. Entire families were there, friends, co-workers, mostly locals.
- No phones or cameras are allowed in the pool areas.
- Perhaps more functional than charming, however if you are staying in Iceland longer, this is a great affordable option. And you get a glimpse into real Icelandic peoples’ lives.
- Here is a great guide to the best neighbourhood pools in Reykjavik.
Nautholsvik Geothermal Beach
(a unique experience, almost free)
No spa or pool can beat a geothermal beach, right in the city of Reykjavik to boot. It’s located only 13 minutes by car from downtown Reykjavik so you can drive here or take a city bus.
We loved all the other experiences, but sitting in a hot tub overlooking the beach is something else. There is a wading pool right in the sea waters as well. To cool off, swim away from the hot pool, or just run back from the beach to the hot tub. We were there in July at the whopping +8 C temp. Nothing gives you better bragging rights than wearing your swimsuit at low temperatures while hanging out at an Icelandic beach.
- Access to the pool is completely free during summer (May 15 – Aug 15), a nominal fee of 600 ISK (4.80 euros) is paid during winter. You can buy a pass and save even more.
- Hot tub temperature 30-39 C (86-102 F), wading pool 38 C (100 F), seawater 15-19 C (59-66 F).
- If you want to store your valuables, there is a small fee.
- You can rent swimsuits and towels.
- You can use your phone or camera in all outdoor areas.
- There were mostly locals there, but we did meet other fellow Canadians.
Which one of these is the best? Which one should you choose? They are all very different, so depending on what you are looking for, you should choose accordingly. If you want to go to a spa, then the Blue Lagoon is your place (unless of course you have a very large family). If you want a bit of history and a natural setting, then either the Secret Lagoon or the Nautholsvik Beach will be perfect for you. You want to hang out with the locals? Check out the pool in your neighbourhood. We found the local pool the most ideal for kids. And for us personally, we found the beach to be the most authentic experience.
Additionally, there are some completely free natural hot springs you can bathe in throughout Iceland, however they are either maintained by volunteers or completely wild, so they may not be for everyone. Here is a guide to some of them. Furthermore, if you are craving a spa experience, the Blue Lagoon is not your only option. See this article for additional spa experiences in Iceland.
As you can see, there are many options for a geothermal hot pool experience in Iceland. One thing is clear. Don’t forget to pack your swimsuit. It will come in handy.
Have you been to Iceland? Did you enjoy a geothermal bath? Where did you go? And did you go with children? Tell us about your experience. Please comment below. Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog. And if you liked this post, please share with your friends.
Looking for other great things to do with kids in Iceland? Then read this post written by a 7-year old about whale watching and other cool experiences in Iceland.
Takk og blessi!