Think you're ready for a dip in an Icelandic swimming pool? Read this first!
The Icelandic swimming pool is a mysterious and exciting place which, with a few pointers, everyone will love. Especially those who can’t swim.
Practically every city, town, village and hamlet has at least one large, fully staffed public swimming complex. In most cases if the pool is in a geothermal hot area of the country (in other words, most of the country) the pool(s), hot pots, water slides, steam rooms, you name it, will all be outside. In so-called ‘cold’ areas of the country (where water is heated with electricity), the pools are often indoors; but the hot pots are still likely to be out in the open. There are exceptions to these rules; so we’ll just call them 'rules of thumb', whatever that actually means…
In most places outside of the capital city you will need to take your shoes off as soon as you step through the door – and even in the Big City there are no shoes allowed in the changing rooms. You’ll notice at the cash desk that swimming in Iceland is cheap. We like this. And if you’re going to be here a while, think about getting a tourist card or a book of tickets: it works out even better value.
Once in the changing room, don’t change. This is very important. Strip, by all means; but don’t change into your swimming costume just yet. Instead, secure all your belongings and then take your bathers and towel through to the shower area where it is compulsory (yes, in all likelihood they actually will check!) to shower, naked, with soap, before going swimming.
We can guarantee you one thing: people will make you feel far less uncomfortable by staring at your nudity, than they will by glaring at you for attempting to shower in a swimming costume. In fact, people here have been doing this their whole lives and you’ll instantly realise there’s no reason at all to feel uncomfortable. What makes Icelanders uncomfortable, however, is why some foreigners try to get out of their soapy scrubbing obligations: “I mean, that’s just filthy. We all have to share the pool together, you know!” And remember: germs are bad, but hairspray, perfume, moisturiser and deodorant are worse!
Put that way, it seems only sensible – especially because Icelandic pools use little or no chlorine.
Now you’re ready to swim, there’s one thing more to remember: and that is that Icelanders don’t really swim. Sure it’s a sport the country is relatively good at and the facilities for it are excellent; but you’ll probably be surprised to see only a small group of children, OAPs and ‘real’ swimmers in the pool while everyone else heads straight for the hot pots. That’s really what it’s all about. We call it ‘Icelandic swimming’ – and it’s never more enjoyable than at the numerous pools which provide free poolside coffee!
Now you can enjoy the facilities without further help from us. Stay as long as you like. Relax! Just don’t forget the nude showering again when you get out. And don’t forget to buy an ice cream, chocolate milk or some similar treat at reception on your way out.
But where to go swimming? Good question. The Icelandic capital city has 18 places to swim. We think you should try Laugardalslaug, because it is the biggest and has the most things to do; Vesturbæjarlaug, for being quiet, grown-up and popular with the cool crowd; and Árbæjarlaug, for being hyper-modern and having excellent views over the city. Honourable mentions go to the brilliant Sundlaug Kópavogs and Álftaneslaug.
Away from town, we can highly recommend the swimming pools in Hveragerði, Suðureyri, Akureyri and Neskaupstaður.
Having said that, we’re sure you’ll have a great time at whichever council-run pool you choose – and that’s without even mentioning all the natural hot springs, privately operated swimming pools and isolated hot pots. And don't imagine for a second that swimming outdoors is seasonal. In fact, we swear it, the worse the weather the more you'll enjoy being in the soothing warm water.
Get cheap flights to Iceland with WOW air and make a direct beeline for the nearest pool…Enjoy!