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Go geothermal - Instructions included!

Wisiting Iceland and want to check out one of our many geothermal pools? Every village and town in Iceland has at least one. Open all year, through the darkest and coldest of days as well as the ever bright and warm summer days, these pools are to Icelanders more than just swimming pools. In fact when we say “Let’s go swimming!” everybody knows that swimming is not on the agenda. Instead we just sit in the hot tubs and talk, enjoying the company of family and good friends as we let the warm and mineral rich geothermal water work its wonders. The geothermal water is considered very healthy for your skin and some say for your soul as well. It is compulsory in Iceland to know how to swim and the pools are of course also used to teach the children to swim.

Geothermal pool in Iceland
The local geothermal pool in Akureyri town.

Many tourists don’t believe that we visit the pools in freezing weather and even in snowstorms, but we do and so should you. When it is summer and the sun is shining the pools act as beaches to us, filled with people trying to get some tan over the few days of sun.

So how do you go about visiting a local geothermal pool? First of all, entrance is not expensive and you can stay as long as you like, within the limits of opening hours of course.

You pay for the entrance at the reception and if you don’t have a swimsuit or a towel with you, you can also rent one. Children usually go for free or pay a lower price than adults, so it is necessary to indicate how many adults tickets and how many children tickets you are going to buy. If you plan to go more than one time to the same pool it is cheaper to buy a multiple access card, for an example with 5 or 10 admissions.

After having paid for the admission you usually get a ticket that you use for an electronic gate at the entrance. Some smaller pools give you a token to use for you locker or a key.

Once inside the males and females head for their separate dressing rooms. Once in the dressing room you choose a locker. Smaller pools may not have lockers, only hangers. If so it is advisable to leave your valuables at the reception.

It is good to know that most pools in Iceland are very children friendly. Most have slides of some kind and various pool toys for children to enjoy. If you have small children (up to six years in most cases) they can go into either the men's or the women's dressing rooms.

Now comes the most important part: In Iceland you MUST shower before putting your swimsuit on. This means that you must undress at the locker and then head to the shower area. You leave your towel at special hangers just outside the shower area and bring your swimsuit with you into the showers. Now, showering in the nude in a public place like this is common practice for most Europeans but if you come from the United States this might be uncomfortable. Don’t worry, just let go and do like the locals!

In the showers you must soap the most critical areas of your body. This includes the head/hair, the armpits, the feet and the groin area. Please understand that Icelanders take hygiene very seriously when in their geothermal pools, so any attempt to bypass this ‘procedure’ might be frowned upon by the locals.

After a thorough cleansing of your body you put your swimsuit on and head to the pool area. When it is time to leave, you reverse the above procedure; you head for the showers, take off your swimsuit and shower again. Then it is time to dry off and head for your locker.

Most pools have an outdoor swimming pool (the larger ones also have a indoor pool), a small and shallow pool for little children, several hot pots ranging from comfortably warm to ‘are-you-kidding-me?’ hot, saunas or steam baths and water slides for the kids. The smallest ones might just include a small pool and one hot pot though.

A visit to a geothermal pool in Iceland is something not to be skipped. Do something different and do yourself a favour and visit one on you next visit to Iceland.

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