When planning a trip to Iceland, nearly every guidebook, article, and travel agent will recommend visiting one of the many hot springs in the country. Bathing in Iceland’s warm waters is a popular pastime for travellers and locals alike, and during my most recent trip to the Land of Fire and Ice, I wanted to immerse myself (pun intended) in the swimming pool culture that the country is known for. By Vanessa Wilkins
After weeks of research, planning, and a little help from some locals, I embarked on my very own hot springs crawl. Unlike a typical bar crawl, which goes into the wee hours of the night and usually results in a dazed and confused feeling, my hot springs crawl spanned the course of a week and left me refreshed and rejuvenated. Here’s my itinerary for the top hot springs near Reykjavík.
Blue Lagoon: The Standout Speciality Bar
You know that one bar in your city that has great drinks, superb service, and an awesome ambience? That’s the Blue Lagoon. A must-visit, the Blue Lagoon is not just a great spot for a hot springs crawl, but for any Iceland itinerary. The world-famous thermal spa is one of the most popular attractions in the country, and it without a doubt lives up to the hype. The milky-blue water and surrounding mossy green and jet black lava create a magical setting. Plus, all visitors are treated to a beverage (a healthy smoothie or glass of prosecco) as well as a treatment at the swim-up mask bar. Because of its proximity to Reykjavík’s main airport Keflavík, the Blue Lagoon is an ideal first or last stop on a trip, and for me, it was the perfect place to recharge after a long flight and kick off my hot springs crawl.
Sky Lagoon: The New Rooftop Lounge
After dropping off my bags and getting settled in at the Sand Hotel in Reykjavík, I ventured out to the second stop on my hot springs crawl: the recently opened Sky Lagoon. Even though the Sky Lagoon is within close driving distance of the city centre, it’s cleverly designed to make you feel like you’ve travelled to a remote hideaway while still offering all the elements needed for a luxury spa retreat. Drink tickets for the swim-up bar are included in the entrance fee, as is admission to a seven-step spa ritual, which includes a glacier pool, sauna, body scrub, and steam room. I especially loved the infinity edge of the lagoon, which showcases a gorgeous view of the Kàrsnes Harbour below.
Sundhöllin: The Local Pub
The third stop on my hot springs crawl was a geothermal swimming pool located in the heart of the capital. In an effort to promote public sports and a healthy lifestyle, Reykjavík runs seven public thermal pools throughout the city for its citizens and visitors to enjoy. I visited Sundhöllin, which translates to the “Swimming Palace” and is the oldest of Reyjkavik’s public bathhouses. In addition to the indoor and outdoor swimming pools, Sundhöllin features hot tubs, steam rooms, saunas, and an ice bath for optimal exercise or relaxation. The buzzy, energetic vibe of the pool reminded me of the scene at a local pub or beer garden, where friends can gather after work or on the weekend for a casual soak or swim.
Reykjadalur Valley Hot Spring River: The Neighbourhood Dive Bar
One thing I always try and do while travelling is escape the tourist traps and visit spots frequented by locals, which is why I asked ToursByLocals to help me find an off-the-radar hot spring. My incredible tour guide, Dofri, took me to the fourth stop on my crawl: the Reykjadalur Valley hot spring river, which has become a favourite hangout for locals. Groups of friends and families spread out through the seemingly endless geothermal river, sipping on local beers and soaking in the natural water. It’s not the easiest place to get to — you have to drive about 45 minutes outside of the city, then hike through the Reykjadalur Valley — but it’s well worth the trek.
Secret Lagoon: The Speakeasy
The Secret Lagoon, or Gamla Laugin as it’s known locally, is one of the oldest swimming pools in Iceland. Located on the Golden Circle route, this not-so-secret lagoon is the quintessential Icelandic hot spring, and the fifth and final stop on my crawl. I floated in the warm, natural waters for about an hour, but the mood at Gamla Laugin was so calm and peaceful that it felt like I’d been there all day by the time I got out. The Secret Lagoon was the perfect finish to an incredible week of lagoon hopping, and I think I can call this hot springs crawl a success.