Almost every community has at least one swimming pool in Iceland. It may be hard to believe, but Icelanders love to swim. But when you find out that school children start swimming lessons from Year 1, you can see how a fondness for the water can grow. Good thing we have all this geothermal energy available to heat our swimming pools!

Your Friend in Reykjavik loves to swim and wants to share our Icelandic culture of community swimming pools with you! Join us on a walking tour and ask where our favourite sundlaug (swimming pool) is!

Swim all year round in Iceland

Nauthólsvík beach in Reykjavik his heated during the summer months. – Helgi Halldórsson from Reykjavík, Iceland, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

With the Greenland sea on one side and the North Atlantic Ocean on the other, the average water temperatures range from around 52°F (11°C) down to around 39°F (4°C). So you could imagine that swimming in the ocean is a big no for most. At least not without some serious protection! 

Luckily, there are plenty of hot springs and heated pools. While there are records of pools being built from the 13th century, the oldest public swimming pools date back to around a hundred years ago, which is still pretty impressive! And because of the year-round geothermal volcanic energy providing the heat, our pools are open all year round, no matter the weather. 

Swimming pools in Iceland are for more than just laps.

Community swimming pools in Iceland definitely emphasize “community.” Of course, there’s a pool for doing laps, sometimes two, but you often can also find hot tubs, steam or cold baths, and jacuzzis. There are wading pools and sometimes playground-like pools with awesome waterslides for the kids! In some spots, like the famous Blue Lagoon, you can even enjoy a soothing treatment from the mineral-rich mud.

So, you can get your exercise with a few laps or relax in a hot tub and join in the social scene. You may find yourself in a heated (pun intended!) discussion about sport or the weather! If there’s one truly “local” experience, this would be it!

Most pools are open every day, but you might want to check about opening times. You may have to pay an entrance fee, but it’s usually not much, depending on the facilities available. And if you didn’t pack a swimsuit, no worries. You may be able to buy or even rent a suit, so you don’t miss out on this slice of Iceland fun!

Some tips before you take a dip!

All the pools are kept extraordinarily clean and hygienic because everyone respects some fundamental rules. First and foremost, you and your bathing suit must be clean before entering the water. After showering thoroughly, you change into your swimsuit. You’ve got to strip naked — showering with your swimsuit on is frowned upon (and not allowed), to say the least! 

There may not be much privacy, but everyone is used to this, so there’s no reason for you to be shy! Other rules include no phones or cameras (lockers are provided) and no shoes. 

Visitors are welcome, so just ask about the rules. It may seem odd at first, all the showering, the storage and the towel-drying. But once you experience the Iceland pool environs, you’ll understand. There’s very little chlorine used, often relying on the natural salts in the water. So all that cleanliness helps keep the water (and you) free from bacteria.

And to complete the experience, don’t forget to stop for a bite afterwards. There’s usually a hot dog stand or ice cream shop not far away!

There is also always the option to enjoy a food experience after the swim.

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