Iceland has a world-famous hot pool: the Blue Lagoon. While we visited it, enjoyed its baby blue water and the views of the surrounding lava field on Reykjanes Peninsula, it was not our favorite hot pool in Iceland. Our favorites were the natural hot pools we explored on our way around the island.
If it comes as a surprise, then you’re not alone. A lot of people don’t know that the Blue Lagoon is not a natural hot pool. Its water is fed by the nearby geothermal power plant. What makes it so famous in our opinion is that it’s ridiculously easy to access, so everyone who visits Iceland makes their way to the Blue Lagoon, too. It’s right by Keflavík Airport, the country’s main international airport, so why wouldn’t they? We did, too, on our last day before our flight took off.
But because of this, the Blue Lagoon is very busy. You better book your ticket in advance, and it’s not that cheap either. Of course, we couldn’t complain about the facilities. There are tons of dressing rooms, toilets, showers, and they are all kept super clean. They are prepared for the hundreds of visitors. But this fact also makes the Blue Lagoon feel like a modern wellness center. Which is great if that’s what you’re looking for.
Beyond world-famous Blue Lagoon
But for us, Iceland was about nature in the first place. Unspoilt, undeveloped landscapes. We were dreaming about soaking in a hot pool in the middle of nowhere. If you’re like us, we have great news: you can find that experience!
First of all, Iceland has countless hot springs wherever you go. Be careful though. A lot of them are too hot to be suitable for a bath. Still there are some that’s just perfect. Their temperature is pleasantly warm and they are clearly marked as suitable for bathing. In addition, they usually offer incredible views.
The other side of the truth is that most of them are in more remote areas and much harder to access than the Blue Lagoon. If you only have a short time in Iceland, you might decide it’s not worth visiting them. But if you’re there to explore the more remote, wild landscapes, these hot pools would make for fabulous rest stops on your way. They are usually much smaller than the Blue Lagoon. But there are also fewer people to share them with. Or no one else.
Reykjadalur Hot Springs, Southern Iceland
The stunning hot springs of Reykjadalur (the Smoke Valley) are not even that remote. It’s the closest geothermal area to Reykjavík, it takes about an hour to drive there from the capital. It features hot springs, mud pots and steaming vents – and most of them are too hot for humans. However, it has a hot river that’s suitable for bathing. You can even choose the ideal temperature for yourself, because the upper you walk the hotter the water becomes. After a certain point, it becomes too hot. But appropriate signs are posted all over the valley to indicate where you can (or can’t) have a bath.
There’s a boardwalk built at the bathing area to protect nature from the increasing number of visitors. Here you won’t be alone for sure. But it doesn’t mean it’s crowded. There’s plenty of space because the river is long. We found our peaceful spot easily – and we were there in August that’s definitely the high-season to visit Iceland.
The river is also shallow. People use rocks to make small barricades and build their own lagoon to bathe in. So there are several mini pools to choose from – or you can build your own.
And the reason that despite its closeness to the capital, the hot river is not too busy with tourists? Probably it’s not well-known enough yet. Also, you have to hike there. It’s 3 kilometres from the nearest parking lot. Even though boardwalks and some simple changing rooms were built, it’s still nature. No toilets, trash bins, no facilities.
Hellulaug hot spring is the gem of Iceland’s Westfjords. Actually, it’s the only natural hot pool we found in the Westfjords. Now the Westfjords is a sparsely populated and remote region. You need to get off the Ring Road and take the narrow gravel roads along the coast. And it’s absolutely worth doing that!
The hot spring of Hellulaug is located right by the road in Vatnsfjörður. Signs clearly indicate its exact location from Hótel Flókalundur. Since the hot pool is right by the dirt parking area, you can change your clothes in your car. Or you can change them wrapped in a towel. It’s Iceland. It’s nature. Nobody cares. And you won’t care either – maybe only about the chilly wind. 😛
The hot pool itself is quite small, it’s about 3-4 meters in diameter. Maybe 8-10 people can fit in comfortably. Guess how many people were there when we arrived? About five. But they all left after a while, so we had the pool to ourselves.
No admission, no services. Nice views of Vatnsfjörður fjord. 🙂
Landmannalaugar, Icelandic Highlands
Finally comes our favorite hot spring – and also the one that’s the hardest to access. The hot springs of Landmannalaugar are located at the edge of Laugahraun lava field in the Icelandic Highlands.
The Highlands is the harshest and most remote region in Iceland. It’s also incredibly amazing and otherworldly. But its roads (marked with F) are for 4WD cars only, and they are open only during the summer months. If those conditions are met, you can take road F208 that’s the route to Landmannalaugar from the North.
The drive itself is amazing, and we’ve already written a detailed guide about all the stops we made and all the sights we saw – read it here! Now let’s get back to our final destination: the hot spring. Signs indicate its location, and there’s a small river to cross (without a bridge, naturally, we’re in the Highlands) to access it at the very end. However, if you’re not fond of crossing rivers (we weren’t), you can park before the crossing and walk like 10-15 minutes to the hot spring.
A boardwalk led us to the bathing area that’s relatively large. About 35-40 people can comfortably fit in – that’s crowd in the Highlands! We could adjust the water temperature, too, as moving closer to the black lava rocks means hotter temperatures.
And why Landmannalaugar is our favorite hot pool? Because of the views. The black lava fields towering above us, the surrounding lush green meadows covered with wildflowers, the colorful snow-capped mountains in the distance. Colors in the Highlands are breathtaking.
And again, no admission, no services. Have a big towel, because you’ll want to change your clothes immediately after coming out of the water. It’s always windy and chilly there.
Do you have a favorite natural hot pool?
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