Bathe in style: The guide to 12 hot resorts along the Ring Road
Sun or rain (or snow!), bright or dark, every day is ideal for a warm and soothing outdoor bath. At least, that is the local consensus. Icelanders love soaking in geothermal hot water. Thankfully it is in abundance. Across the country, spas have been stepping up their game by opening in more diverse locations, with more amenities and plenty of breathtaking views.
The Softness of Silica
The most prominent tourist destination in Iceland, situated in a lava field not far from the airport, is in fact, a happy accident. The superheated water flows from underground and is used to run the turbines of a nearby geothermal power plant. An employee discovered the healing nature of the waters, and the Blue Lagoon was born. The water is now redirected into pools, where bathers can enjoy the pure, mineral-rich baths. Silica gives the water its milky blue-green color, which eventually precipitates as white mud on the lagoon's floor. Studies have shown that the lagoon's white silica-rich mud helps skin conditions, including psoriasis. There is now a wellness clinic and a spa attached to the lagoon.
Swim in Icelandic History
Sky Lagoon draws inspiration from Icelandic heritage. Visitors can experience the warmth of a turf house and a cold plunge pool made from hewn stones. The grey-blue and deep green design reflect the surrounding landscape. Sky Lagoon guides help visitors make the most of the spa experience, from the lagoon to the cold plunge, the sauna, to the cold-mist space.
The 75-meter infinity pool offers a view across the Faxa Bay toward the President's residence at Bessastaðir. You can order drinks at the in-pool bar if you don't want to leave the warm water and the stunning view behind.
Green Ferns and Clear Water
The waters of Krauma are drawn from Europe's most powerful hot spring, Deildartunguhver, in the western Borgarfjörður. The extremely high flow rate of the water means that absolutely no chemicals are needed for the water, as the six pools are constantly replenished. Krauma is smaller than some of the other spas on this list, which means it tends to be more peaceful and is about 100 km (62 miles) from Reykjavík.
The spring is also special for being the only place in the world where the Icelandic fern grows. And as the waters of the geothermal baths are also used to heat nearby greenhouses, you can find fresh fruits and tomatoes at spots nearby!
Hot Springs by the 'Whale Fjord'
The long Hval Fjord, between Reykjavík and Akranes, makes for a fabulous day trip from the capital. The fjord's winding roads are scenic and quiet -- the area known for Iceland's second-tallest waterfall -- and as of 2022 there is a good reason to bring bathing suits.
The Hvammsvík Hot Springs merge with the shoreline as if the eight multi-temperature baths were a natural construct. Water levels and temperatures in some of the baths fluctuate with the tide. Swimming in the sea is part of the fun -- if not the therapy; the place is popular among Wim Hof enthusiasts, with occasional workshops. Attached to the stunning property is a restaurant and a boutique hotel.
Surprise Lagoon in the Forest
When life gives you hot water—you make a spa out of it! While digging the long (and unpronounceable) Vaðlaheiðargöng tunnel in 2014, workers accidentally discovered a new geothermal hot water source deep in the mountain. The road authorities diverted the hot waters and use them not far away in a gorgeous place on the side of a mountain overlooking the town of Akureyri and Eyja Fjord.
The Forest Lagoon has Scandinavian charm, with a cold bath and a sauna attached to the main leisure bath. Alongside the 2022 construction, several walking paths through the surrounding forest were made, adding to the attraction.
Swim Under the Northern Lights
Sometimes referred to as the "Blue Lagoon of the North," Mývatn Nature Baths are situated near the volcanic Lake Mývatn. Along with the main pool, the spa offers a hot tub, steam room, and plunge pool. The alkaline waters are rich in minerals and inhibit bacteria and vegetation, leaving the waters bright blue and clear.
In fact, these waters are so rich in sulfur that it is recommended that you remove brass jewelry before your plunge. The steam bath's windows allow guests to look over the landscape, part of a designated nature reserve. Soak on a summer day, or catch a view of the Northern Lights from September through April.
Whale watching from the Cliffs
Up north, in the town of Húsavík, the GeoSea pools began with an old cheese barrel. Locals carted it up the mountain and used it to bathe in the warm seawater. Now, there is much more than a barrel with pools that offer a cliffside view of Skjálfandi Bay, a popular place for whale watching. You might catch a glimpse of humpback whales surfacing below, and the icy Kinnarfjöll mountains in the distance.
The waters at GeoSea are distinctive in that they are hot seawater, rather than a mix of seawater and fresh water. The design blend into the mountainside, while the buildings are made of polished black lava rock and gray slate.
The Floating Baths
These picturesque baths are actually located right on the dark waters of Lake Urriðavatn in East Iceland. The springs that feed them were first discovered by locals from the nearby town of Egilsstaðir who noticed that certain patches of water did not freeze over in the wintertime. At first, neighbors expected some kind of bottom-dwelling lake monster—but thankfully, it turned out to be underwater hot springs.
The baths are named after these mysterious patches: Vök is the Icelandic word for "hole in the ice." The floating pools, shaped like the ice-free patches themselves, float on the lake's surface.
Bread Baked by the Earth's Heat
Laugarvatn Fontana is an invigorating and historical bathing site where you can enjoy the healing powers of the geothermal waters, soak in natural pools, and listen to the bubbling hot spring in the steam rooms. For the venturesome, take a cooling dip in the refreshing Laugarvatn Lake. The warm pools and hot pots vary in depth, size, and temperature just like the three traditional steam rooms. There is a series of interconnected baths and steam rooms built directly over the boiling springs. After your visit, be sure to check out the geothermal bakery where they bake delicious rye bread following an old recipe in the steamy, geothermally heated ground.
There are daily tours, where you can hear an explanation of the process and watch as they dig up a fresh loaf of bread from the hot black sand. Try a hot slice with some Icelandic butter and smoked trout for a truly unique spa snack!
The Oldest Pool in Iceland
Just off the famous Golden Circle, in the village of Flúðir, the Secret Lagoon is the oldest swimming pool in Iceland, dating from 1891. This has earned it the local nickname "gamla laugin," (Icelandic for old pool) The pool is less developed and has fewer facilities than other spots, like the Blue Lagoon, so it's a perfect retreat for those seeking a more pared-down experience.
From the pool, watch as a small nearby geyser erupts every five minutes, or take a stroll along the path by the pool to explore the rolling landscape strewn with jets of steam.
Canyon Baths on the Edge of the Highlands
Known for lava caves, forested areas, and being close to glaciers, Húsafell is a popular getaway bordering the Highland region to the West. With the opening of the Canyon Baths, the destination arguably has it all. The two man-made stone pools are more exclusive than other geothermal baths. Guests are limited to sixteen and must travel with a guide down a short walking path into the remote canyon. Over the summer, there are four scheduled departures.
In construction and style, the baths draw inspiration from the nearby Snorralaug, a heritage site pool dating back to the 13th century when poet-turned-politician Snorri Sturluson ruled western Iceland. Take a dip in pools while listening to the river, close your eyes, and imagine the good life of being… a medieval legend.
Cheers for the Beer Spa in North Iceland
There are not many beer spas in the world, but you will find one in rural North Iceland. The local brewery, Bruggsmiðjan has brought “beer culture” to new heights of relaxation with Bjórböðin, Icelandic for Beer Spa, the first of its kind in Iceland. The combination of beer, hops, and yeast is said to be rejuvenating for the body and spirit.
A session at the Beer Spa includes a 25-minute cedar wood tub beer soak followed by a 25-minute session in the relaxation room. The outside area has incredible views over Hrísey island, the mountains, and Þorvalds valley. The on-site restaurant offers a variety of meals and beer-inspired foods.