Travel Destinations

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

4 Great Geothermal Spas for an Iceland Road Trip

Mývatn Nature Baths

Geothermal baths are an important part of Iceland’s culture. Every town has its own public pool and it’s where Icelanders gather to relax and socialize. If you’re looking for ways to experience Iceland’s culture, a visit to one or more of Iceland’s geothermal pools or hot springs is a must. A relaxing soak in a hot pool, preferably accompanied by a beautiful Icelandic view, is also the perfect way to recover from jet lag or relax sore muscles after a long hike. I got my best nights of sleep on the days we visited a geothermal pool.

So what is a thermal pool, and why does Iceland have so many of them? Iceland is the land of fire and ice, covered with both volcanoes and glaciers. One of Iceland’s natural resources is geothermal water, which is used to fill many of Iceland’s pools in addition to heating Iceland’s homes. Others are filled with the hot water that is the byproduct of Iceland’s many hydroelectric power plants.

There are so many geothermal pools and hot springs to choose from in Iceland, ranging from the very simple to very fancy, so the main consideration really is which ones are convenient for your Iceland road trip route. Here are the four geothermal pools we chose for our Iceland road trip.

Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon is Iceland’s most famous geothermal spa. If you’ve seen pictures of a geothermal spa in Iceland, it was probably the Blue Lagoon, with a view of a steaming expanse of flat blue waters surrounded by jagged black lava rock and a woman languidly strolling down the ramp into the afore-mentioned steaming waters (I’m guessing not on a cold, wintery day where languid outdoor strolling in a tiny swimsuit is a terribly uncomfortable idea). The Blue Lagoon also gets a pretty bad rap. The internet is riddled with articles that will tell you that the Blue Lagoon is horribly touristy and vastly overrated.

We can certainly see how a visit to the Blue Lagoon could be less than pleasant depending on the circumstances. A visit during summer, in the middle of the day, when Iceland is teeming with tourists, could be quite unpleasant if the pools are shoulder-to-shoulder tourists. This is not a geothermal spa that is a gathering spot for lots of Iceland’s locals. Also, the Blue Lagoon is one of the most expensive geothermal spas in Iceland. However, based on our visit, we highly recommend a visit to the Blue Lagoon if the circumstances are right.

We traveled to Iceland in the middle of September, a time of year when it is still possible to drive around the island country but is at the very tail-end of the typical tourist season. Our flight landed at 6:00 in the morning on a Monday, which meant there would be hours to kill before we were able to check in to our hotel. The Blue Lagoon is a short 20-minute drive from Iceland’s Keflavik Airport and sort of on the way to Reykjavik, which was where we were spending our first night. A visit to the Blue Lagoon directly from the airport was the obvious choice. We made reservations for 9:00 in the morning, when the Blue Lagoon opens, which means we were one of the first to arrive.

Blue Lagoon lava field

The Blue Lagoon formed in the lava fields near the Svartsengi Geothermal Resource Park, which makes the Blue Lagoon unique with its blue water surrounded by black lava rock covered in green algae. The milky blue water is due to the silica content, unique to the geothermal waters because of the lava, and the main ingredient of the silica mud mask that’s included in the admission price.

We ended up spending almost two hours in the thermal waters of the Blue Lagoon. We slowly wandered through the multiple areas of the Blue Lagoon, which have varying water temperatures. We put on our silica mud mask at the mask bar. We enjoyed our included beverage at the in-water bar (sparkling water for Romeo, a nourishing smoothie for me). Most importantly, we relaxed and let the healing waters loosen our travel-weary muscles, while also being out in the sun to get some much-needed vitamin D to help with the jet lag.

An important thing to remember about the Blue Lagoon, which is different from Iceland’s other hot springs and geothermal spas, is that the geothermal seawater’s high levels of silica do not do good things for long hair. It is important to apply a lot of conditioner to your wet hair and tie it up in a bun, without rinsing out the conditioner, before entering the water. I did this and had no negative effects on my hair. It is also important to pre-book your visit.

Krauma Geothermal Nature Baths

Krauma Geothermal Natural Baths

Our next Iceland hot spring experience was Krauma, a natural geothermal bath and spa located at Deildartunguhver, Europe’s largest and most powerful hot spring. Krauma is just under an hour and a half drive from Reykjavik and is near one of Iceland’s other natural tourist attractions, Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls.

Krauma has five warm baths of varying degrees of heat and one cold bath. The water is constantly replaced because of the flow of the hot springs, so there are no extra chemicals in the water. We tried out all of the warm baths and surprisingly were able to spend about two hours at this spa as well. Our favorite bath was a shallow concave pool for reclining.

Krauma also has relaxation rooms, a steam bath, an infrared cell, and a restaurant. It is recommended to pre-book your visit, but isn’t required.

Mývatn Nature Baths


We visited Mývatn Nature Baths as part of our road trip along Iceland’s Ring Road. Mývatn is in the northern part of the island and is near many outdoor attractions. The natural scenery surrounding the lagoon rivals the Blue Lagoon. The man-made hot spring is supplied with water from the nearby National Power Company. The geothermal water has a high sulfur content.

Mývatn Nature Baths also has two steam baths and a café. You can also buy a beer/wine bracelet at reception when you check-in. It is recommended to pre-book your visit, but it isn’t required.

ION Adventure Hotel

ION Adventure Hotel
Photo courtesy Design Hotels™
Our final geothermal bath experience was at our hotel, the ION Adventure Hotel, for the Golden Circle portion of our Iceland visit. The ION Adventure Hotel has a natural spa with a sauna and outdoor hot pool. The hotel is on Mount Hengill, an active volcano and geothermal energy source for the nearby Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Station. While the ION Adventure Hotel’s hot pool can’t compete with the other hot springs and geothermal baths we visited, it was convenient, free, and just as effective in relaxing the muscles.

Know before you go


There are some things you need to know before visiting Iceland’s hot springs and geothermal pools.

Prepare to shower naked in front of strangers. It is required that all guests clean thoroughly before entering the geothermal pools, which means you have to shower naked. Some spas have a few private showers, but most showers are communal within the locker rooms, which are separated into men’s locker rooms and women’s locker rooms.

Lockers are included in the price, and you carry your key with you, so you can lock your personal belongings up while enjoying the baths. However, towels are not always included in the price. Do rent a towel if one isn’t included. Don’t bother with renting a bathrobe. Leave everything in your locker, including your towel and shoes. You’re spending all your time in the water and moving around between pools, so having your towel and shoes with you is more of a nuisance. Also plan on leaving brass or silver jewelry in your locker, as it could be damaged or discolored by the water.

The locker rooms have body wash, shampoo, and conditioner. There are also hair dryers. Remember to bring your hairbrush, deodorant, and a hair tie if you want to put your hair up. Not all spas provide plastic bags for wet bathing suits, so bring one of those. 

Katherine Belarmino and Romeo Belarmino are the authors of Travel the World, a travel blog for the everyday working stiff. They work full-time in non-travel related jobs, but take every opportunity they can to travel the world during their limited vacation time.