Exploring the hot pools of Iceland is one of the most unique experiences the country has to offer. Here are five hot pools that are open all year, and easy to reach in a day’s drive from Reykjavík.
#1 Reykjadalur Hot Spring Hike
The hot river in Reykjadalur, near the town of Hveragerði, is among the best of the hot pools at any season. It’s about an hour’s hike from the parking lot to the river, but the hike isn’t hard at all. On a clear day, the view quickly becomes spectacular, with the ocean hemmed in by mountains and steam rising from the ground.
The trail leads into craggy country with waterfalls and scree slopes, but never becomes too taxing or steep. Hveragerði is a short bus ride from Reykjavík, but be aware that the bus stops at the gas station, an hour’s walk from the trailhead. If you’re travelling with enough people, it’s probably cheapest just to rent a car.
Accessibility: An hour-long hike to the river, over uneven ground, or two hours if you take the bus.
Distance from Reykjavík: An hour’s drive, or an hour and a half bus ride.
Opening hours: All the time.
#2 Selavallalaug Pool
A little further east along the ring road, you’ll find Seljavallalaug, a shorter hike into the realm of the geothermal heat. Framed by the heights of Eyjafjallajökull, and near to the black beaches of Vík, the location makes it a perfect stop while exploring the south coast.
It’s one of the oldest swimming pools in Iceland, built in 1923, so you can enjoy the feeling of stepping into history as you soak. The pool is clear and fairly deep, with enough room to swim, and the hike in makes it feel like a luxury well-earned.
Accessibility: A 20-minute hike along a trail.
Distance from Reykjavík: Approximately a 2-hour drive.
Opening hours: All the time.
Swimsuit/towel rental: None.
#3 Hoffellspottar Tubs
Hoffell, near Vatnajökull National Park, is a secluded spot with a view of mountains and sea. With five pools of varying temperatures, it’s possible to start out more moderate and move up to something scorching. The farthest destination from Reykjavík on this list, it can be reached in a day’s drive, but it’ll be a long day and you’ll need the soak at the end. There is also a guesthouse nearby, or you can stay the night in the nearest town, Höfn.
Fee: 500 kr paid towards the upkeep of the pools.
Accessibility: No hiking required, pools are a short drive from the ring road. Some uneven steps, but the pools are sunk into the ground.
Distance from Reykjavík: A 6-7 hour drive.
Opening hours: 8:00-21:00
Swimsuit/towel rental: None
#4 Secret Lagoon
On the more luxurious side, the Secret Lagoon allows for relaxation without a scrap of effort. Often regarded as an alternative to the more famous Blue Lagoon, though this does not give it the credit it deserves, it has been growing steadily more popular, and for good reason. It’s even older than Sejavallalaug — built in 1891 for the sheer enjoyment of a good hot soak — and the path around the pools gives visitors a closer look at the geothermal energy heating the water.
Fee: 2 800 kr for adults, 1 400 kr for seniors, free for children under 14.
Accessibility: No hike required.
Distance from Reykjavík: A 1.5-hour drive, or a possible addition to the Golden Circle.
Opening hours: Daily 10:00-22:00 (summer); 11:00-20:00 (winter)
500 kr per item.
#5 Nauthólsvík in Reykjavik City
It’s also possible to enjoy a soak without leaving the capital. Nauthólsvík geothermal beach, near Perlan and the University of Reykjavík, is an outdoor hot tub located on the beachfront. The best way to spend your visit here is to plunge headlong into the icy sea, swim a few strokes, then run back to the safety of the hot pool.
Part of the beach is warmed by the runoff of the hot tub, but this is lukewarm at best, and not many people choose to spend a long time there. Most prefer a leisurely lounge in the hot tub, with a view of the quieter end of the city and suburbs over the water.
Fee: Free during summer, 600 kr during winter.
Accessibility: Paved path with some stairs. A short walk from the parking lot.
Distance from Reykjavík: A half-hour’s walk from downtown, or a quick bus ride on the number 5 towards Nauthóll.
Opening hours: Daily 10:00-19:00 (summer); Monday and Wednesday, 11:00-14:00 and 17:00-20:00, Friday 11:00-14:00, Saturday 11:00-16:00 (winter)
Swimsuit/towel rental: 300 for a swimsuit, 600 for a towel.
From adventurous hike to luxury soak, there are many choices of hot spring to be found within an easy drive from the capital, and even in the depths of winter, you can bask in their warmth. Remember to leave the pools as you found them, allowing others to enjoy the experience in future, and letting the nearby environment continue to thrive.
As well, bear in mind that hot springs vary in temperature, and the ground shifts, making some pools disappear when their source is diverted. On the bright side, this means that new hot pools will also bubble to the surface — so even when these ones are gone, there’ll be plenty of places to get a glacier view from the warmth of the water.