Katie Lockhart, CNN
Spellbinding vistas punctuated by plumes of steam are commonplace while driving Iceland’s winding fjords and gravel roads.
Marking the country’s geothermal activity, this form of energy also ushers in the tradition of soaking in Iceland’s geothermal hot pools — an activity revered by locals and tourists alike.
From natural, stone-lined craters to luxuriously designed tubs, there’s countless soaking spots for every type of visitor, whatever the weather.
So whether you’re driving the Ring Road or going off-road with a 4×4 vehicle, here’s a list of long-loved hot pools — some of them scarcely visited — for your next trip to Iceland.
In the northern Iceland town of Húsavik, made famous by the Netflix movie “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga,” is Geosea.
A combination of geothermal sea and rock water leaves your skin feeling fresh, but it’s the views that linger.
With a drink in hand, take in the snow-crested peaks of Flateyjarskagi Peninsula and if you’re lucky a whale fluke or two. Be sure to book your 4,900 ISK ($36) tickets in advance.
This milky blue geothermal pool needs no introduction. Near Iceland’s gateway Keflavík Airport, the country’s most popular place for a silica mask and a soak is often the country’s most crowded.
If your wallet allows — to the tune of 59,000 ISK (about $435) — it’s worth booking a day pass at The Retreat Spa for a significantly less-packed, more-luxe Blue Lagoon experience.
This tiny pool in the Westfjords is as natural as it gets, with no changing area and an accompanying “enter at your own risk” sign to boot.
Just off Road 60, this beachside thermal pool won’t fit more than eight or nine people comfortably, so you may have to wait, but the 100-degree waters are worth it.
Landmannalaugar Hot Springs
Known as the “People’s Pool,” these steamy and shallow springs are surrounded by some of the country’s most vibrant mountains. Located in the highlands, Landmannalaugar is named for the region it’s located in.
Remember your own suit and towel; the springs are free, but the shower and changing rooms are accessible for a small fee.
Mývatn Nature Baths
Open since 2004, this northern Iceland destination gets its name from the nearby volcanic lake.
Often compared to the Blue Lagoon because of its similar baby-blue waters, travelers can expect around half the crowds for about half the price.
The best time to come here is sunset, and if you’re lucky, the Northern Lights may make an appearance.
These West Iceland baths are less visited but only an hour from Reykjavik.
The sleek spa has five hot pools filled with geothermal water from Europe’s mightiest hot spring, Deildartunguhver.
It includes a calming relaxation room with views of the pools and hot spring steam for 4,500 ISK. The local, fresh food served at nearby Krauma Restaurant is a standout.
A favorite among locals, Krossneslaug is a 1950s swimming pool filled with hot geothermal water that comes with a 1,000 ISK admission fee per person.
The ultra-remote Strandir region in the Westfjords is well worth the drive, even when the way gets muddy at the end. This pool at the end of the road is the reward.
This lagoon isn’t so secret anymore. Gamla Laugin, its local name, is an expansive pool built in 1891, making it the oldest in the country.
Fed with water from nearby active geysers, it’s more of a local hot pool experience than the other big baths and a bargain at 3,000 ISK.
So stop here after a bowl of tomato soup at the Friðheimar greenhouses. A reservation is highly recommended for both.
Hrunalaug Hot Spring
A quick detour off the Golden Circle and a five-minute hike are required to reach this tiny local pool.
Travelers can change inside a tiny, wooden turf-room hut and hit one of three small pools that vary in temperature.
Leave the 1,000 ISK admission fee in the box; the farmer whose land it’s on uses it to keep the area clean and the changing room standing.
Known as one of the oldest swimming pools in Iceland, dating back to the 1920s, this geothermal spot off the Ring Road in South Iceland is worth the walk there for its mossy-green surroundings.
However, travelers now report the water is cold, and the changing rooms are not clean.
In the Westfjords, a 30-minute drive from Ísafjörður, is a farm called Heydalur. Guests can stay for the night, camp or try puffin at the restaurant of this quirky country hotel.
It has a warm indoor pool and a rocky, artificial enclave with geothermal water.
But the best pool of all is just beyond the property’s rushing river. If the waters aren’t too high, travelers can carefully cross to the other side to find a small natural pool big enough for only a few people.
Opened earlier in 2022, Forest Lagoon is surrounded by, well, forest just outside of the northern city of Akureyri.
This sleek and sustainable spa is filled with natural geothermal water from nearby mountains and has full spa facilities, swim-up bars and tranquil tree views.
This new pool is a short taxi ride outside of Reykjavik, perched against a craggy cliff with ocean views.
Traditional touches like its turf-roof facade mix with new-age Scandinavian wellness practices, including a seven-step ritual. Reservations are required here, and the cheapest package starts at 5,990 ISK.
Located on the scenic Troll Peninsula, Bjórböðin is the country’s first beer spa.
Conveniently located next to Bruggsmiðjan Kaldi Brewery, travelers can book one of seven beer baths filled with local beer, hops, yeast and geothermal water. Brew-enthusiasts have a never-ending tap next to their tub during the 25-minute soak, costing 11,900 ISK.
Outside are two cedar tubs filled with geothermal water and beautiful mountain views. Afterward, travelers can head inside for a top-notch burger.
This East Iceland geothermal haven is known for having the country’s only floating infinity pools. Sitting on Lake Urriðavatn, it has uninterrupted views of the dramatic landscape and easy access to the icy lake waters — if you dare.
On shore, there are spa facilities, a cold-water spray tunnel, a tea bar and more hot pools, accessible for 5,990 ISK.
Hidden in the highlands on the east side of Iceland, adventurers will need an all-terrain car and maybe even a local guide to help find this remote, natural hot pool.
When and if travelers reach it, they’ll likely be the only people there to bask in this hot spring, complete with a warm waterfall.
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