I dip my toe into the water, oh yes, it is as hot as I remembered. I get into the pool and close my eyes, it’s all so blissfully quiet around me. The hot water is slowly warming up my body, I lean back an inch more and rest my head to the warm rocks. I’m in Grettislaug natural hot water pool in Northwest Iceland – one of the less visited geothermal pools in the country.
Located at the end of a long gravel road on the beautiful fjord of Skagafjörður, just 25 mi (40 km) north of the Ring Road past the towns of Varmahlið and Sauðárkrókur, this 106 Fahrenheit (41 Celsius) pool comes with a friend: Earl’s Pool. Earl's Pool is a bigger and sometimes even hotter pool, is right beside Grettislaug with a direct access to the Atlantic Ocean for anyone who fancies a little colder dip.
Loving my time in the pool, I’m sitting on the underwater stone bench, dreaming away, hearing the ocean nearby with the waves calmly strolling ashore. I’m thinking about the crisp autumn air and how winter seems to be arriving early this year. There’s no wind today, everything is really calm. I love coming here after mid September when the nearby camping ground has closed its doors for the season and there’s hardly anyone ever in the pools.
The temperature in Grettislaug is just perfect. Travelade/Mari.
I take a deep breath as I feel the hotness of the water making my body relax completely. The steam of the hot water is kissing my face, making me feel like I’m having a real spa treatment. I slowly open my eyes and look over to the mountains, the sun beaming through the few clouds in the sky creating a beautiful light all around. I see a small herd of horses in the distance, munching away the yellow autumn grass. Happy little horses.
A herd of sheep, enjoying their last moments of freedom. Travelade/Mari.
I love the views here. The endless Atlantic Ocean on the other side and the dramatic mountains on the other. I turn my head and look over to Earl’s pool, considering of going over and testing if the water is hotter there like it always feels. I get up, stretch my body a bit and walk over, tip my toe in, oh yes… the water is indeed warmer here. I get in and stay for a while. A new sensation of hotness is overtaking my whole body and I decide to close my eyes again and just lean back.
After a while, the quietness is broken by a small car approaching – a local couple is also coming to enjoy the pools on this cold autumn morning. I don’t mind, there’s plenty of space for many more people. The couple gets in and starts telling me some of the fascinating Sagas of the area, how back in the day “Grettir the strong” swam here from a nearby island and warmed himself up in the pool, and how the pool is therefore named after him. We chat a bit more before they leave - today they could only come for a little while, they need to get home before the kids are back from school.
Beautiful surroundings. Travelade/Mari.
Bright autumn sun by Grettislaug. Travelade/Mari.
I soak in the water a little more before getting up, and decide to sit on the edge of the pool with my feet still in the water for a bit. The air is cold, but I don’t even feel it - my body is steaming and still so warm from the bath. This is so incredibly relaxing.
Before making my way up to the car, I get some money out of my bag and drop it into the money box that is placed by the pools. “Never forget the money,” I tell myself, “someone’s got to take care of these pools in Iceland anyway and they do a great job of doing it”.
I leave the pool area and use the camping ground’s toilets that are open all year round for changing. Not that it matters where I put my clothes on, there is not a soul to be seen here anyway and I don’t think the horses in the distance would mind.
I get into my car and start the 25 minute drive on the potholed little gravel road to the closest town called Sauðárkrókur, passing a few farms, many more horses and even more sheep on the way. I’m planning to grab a coffee and pastry from the amazing little bakery they have in town before continuing the drive home. I look back once more and spot some sheep making their way towards the pools. I smile and promise myself to be back again very soon.
There's already snow in the mountaintops, although it's only September. Travelade/Mari.
How to get there:
Grettislaug and Earl’s pool are located 25 mi (40 km) north of the Ring Road (Road nr. 1), just past Varmahlíð village in Northwest Iceland. Once driving road nr. 75 from Varmahlíð up to Sauðárkrókur, just drive through Sauðárkrókur and soon there’ll be a small gravel road at your right hand side. This is road nr. 748 and the pools are at the very end of that road. The gravel road is approx. 18 km long and takes about 30 min to drive as it is often in a bit of challenging conditions.
The pools are open all year round and can also be used all year round. The nearby camping site opens its doors in the beginning of June and closes around the middle of September (they might close earlier if the weather gets too cold - call +354 841 7131 to confirm). It’s good to keep in mind that it can get a bit crowded here during the summertime when the camping site is open.
Does it cost something?
Like most of the remote pools in Iceland, there is a little money box on-site encouraging visitors to pay a donation - 1000 ISK per person is recommended. These pools are well taken care of by a real person so I highly recommend remembering to drop in the money.
What to bring:
Swimwear, towels, water and snacks. There are no shops here and the closest town with any food or drink is Sauðárkrókur (30 min drive away).
Remember to take all of your belongings with you and not to leave any trash behind! Especially in winter time when the camping ground is closed, the pool areas won’t be cleaned or checked daily.
Enjoy the pools!