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Iceland is bubbling over with hot springs that are much less touristed (and expensive) than the famous Blue Lagoon.
If it’s your first trip to Iceland, we know you may not be able to resist the pull of the iconic Blue Lagoon, with its electric turquoise waters, swim-up bar, on-hand mud masks and upscale facilities. But there are plenty of other hot springs dotting the lava-strewn fields of Iceland that will get you far away from the crowds.
Travelers hoping to save a little money or seeking a more authentic hot spring experience with locals will find that there are plenty of other soaking baths to visit during a trip to the Land of Fire and Ice.
This hot spring, also referred to as the Secret Lagoon, is one of the oldest in the country, originally used for swimming lessons for the neighboring communities’ children. Located near Fluðir, about a 90-minute drive from Reykjavík, you’ll be able to see the steam coming off of the pool from the main road. Entry costs $25 for adults and also offers swimsuit and towel rentals, wine, beer and snacks for an added fee. Despite the modern changing house and amenities, the original hot spring house is still intact, and you can get close enough for a good look. There are also small geysers lining the pool that you can watch from the surrounding boardwalk.
Fontana is a spa and wellness center located right on a lake, west of Reykjavík. The view from the pool is right over the body of water, and it doesn’t get more relaxing than that. Aside from soaking in the hot springs and enjoying the steam rooms, there’s something else the spa offers you certainly won’t find at the Blue Lagoon: bread baked by geothermal heat. Twice a day, the Fontana staff will lead curious visitors to the lakeside to dig up the day’s bread bounty. By using the geothermal energy, it’s possible to bake a delicious rye bread with little more than a special pan and simple ingredients. (Yes, you get to eat some, too, if you pay for the tour.)
The Landmannalaugar hot springs are located in a lava field in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve In Iceland’s highlands. The “People’s Pools,” as they are locally known, are in the middle of a popular hiking region. The easiest access is by car as you’re driving along the southern coast, about three hours west of Reykjavík. This hot spring is often used as a place to rest aching legs during multi-day hikes, unlike others that are more popular for socializing. Take note: If you’re looking to get to this hot spring, you’re going to need to rent a car with four-wheel drive. Seriously.
A one-hour hike through the rolling hills of southern Iceland will get you to some of the most idyllic hot springs you’ll ever see. Near the town of Hveragerði (follow the signs through town which will lead you to the parking lot), Reykjadalur Valley is a hot river snaking through the hills. Be careful on your hike to the river, as the trail will lead you over stunning hilltops with narrow stretches. The river is hottest toward the top, so use your temperature preference to choose a spot to bathe.
There isn’t room for more than one or two bathers in Snorralaug, but it’s straight out of a scene from “Lord of the Rings.” It’s thought that this may be one of the oldest manmade structures in the country, with stones at the bottom of the hot spring dating back to the 10th century. This pool is located on the property of an old farmhouse, once owned by Snorri Sturluson, a historian and Icelandic parliament member who was murdered here.
There are two pools located in the general region of Landbrotalaug, and it’s easy to miss this tiny hot spring. The larger pool is much cooler and not nearly as soothing. Don’t let the pipe with steam pouring out of it deceive you: the real hot spring is located on the other side of the larger spring. With room for just one or two, this hot spring will make you feel truly “in the wilderness,” after a quick drive off of the main road. To save you some time, drop these coordinates into your GPS for easy finding: N64°49.933 W22°19.110.
You’ll find this secluded hot spring near Fludir’s Secret Lagoon, but unfortunately, the secret is quickly getting out. If you want to enjoy it when there aren’t other tourists (the area has been littered with telltale signs of inconsiderate bathers) go early, and take out whatever you bring. Hrunalaug is not particularly easy to find, so prepare to do a bit of searching. It’s small, accommodating only a handful of people. You’ll know you’re there when you find a small, grass-covered structure. The pool is located directly next to it.
Built in 1923, Seljavallalaug is one of the oldest pools in Iceland. But despite what you may see on Instagram — travelers relaxing on pool floaties, swimmers diving into the pool — this is one hot spring that isn’t actually all that warm. It’s free to swim, but you’ll have to work for it. From the parking lot near Seljavellir, you’ve got a 15 to 20 minute walk to the hot spring.
Mývatn Nature Baths
Complete with a restaurant and steam rooms, the Mývatn Nature Baths are a far cry from the isolated pools of Landbrotalaug and Landmannalaugar, and during the high season, entry will cost you around $44. But they’re still much less developed than the Blue Lagoon. Located west of the Námafjall Mountain in the north, you’ve got a great view to enjoy while you relax. This manmade pool (the geothermal heated water travels from a fissure deep in the Earth) has more sulphur than others, giving it a very, er, distinct smell.
Travel to Kagafjordur in north Iceland and you’ll find a historic hot spring, once visited by the infamous Icelandic outlaw Grettir Ásmundarson. Grettislaug is surrounded by hills and a bit of a trek off the main road. Like many other spots in the north, you’ll need a four-wheel drive vehicle for access. Located about 25 miles off Road 1, grab some snacks and buckle in for a little road trip. Just note that there are not changing areas here, so come prepared.
Featured image via Shutterstock.
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