Thursday, 20 August 2015

Hot Pool Hopping Around Iceland

Steve and I went on an epic two week road trip around Iceland in July and I have so much to share I don't really know where to begin. The trip was a once in a life time sort of thing, we scaled glaciers, traversed mountain roads and battled every season in what should have been the height of summer. A big feature of the trip was checking out the naturally heated hot pools due to Iceland's rich source of geothermal energy. On my previous visit a few years ago I spent a few hours at the famous Blue Lagoon so this time I was excited to find some local hot spots and off the beaten track treasures. Equipped with my GoPro we managed to visit plenty of hot pools; some were beautiful, some were terrifying, and some were all together out of this world. The linking feature in every single place was the fact they're heated by naturally occurring hot water which is pretty bloody awesome!

The first place we visited was the local hangout in Reykjavik, Laugardalslaug. Unfortunately I didn't take any photos because there was a big sign stating 'no cameras allowed'. I didn't want the local Icelandic people giving my dirty looks so I didn't even attempt one picture but trust me when I say this is a fantastically fun place complete with water slides, hot pots and two massive swimming areas. It's certainly not a relaxing place as it's the local leisure centre but it's super cheap and a super fun activity for a free afternoon.

Once we left Reykjavik and hit Route 1 for our road trip it wasn't long before we were stopping off at our next swimming destination. Located at the bottom of the mountains on the snaefellsnes peninsula, Lýsuhóll is a small pool rich in algae that leaves your skin feeing silky smooth after only a short period of time. We arrived at 7pm as we'd had a busy day on the road stopping at different sites so it was a nice way to unwind that evening. There's one medium sized swimming pool and two hot pots which is more than fine for this quite spot. One of the best things about this pool was the location, situated in a quiet part of the peninsula the surrounds are serene and the mountainous backdrop is magnificent.

The following day consisted of a lot of driving, we tackled the west fjords which were absolutely stunning but also pretty tiresome. You can imagine driving around fjord after fjords takes its toll after a few hours. Anyway, we were staying in the far north-east of the west fjords that night and en route to our hotel we stumbled across three magnificent, road side hot pots. I say stumbled across but I knew all about these hot pots in Drangsnes and planned to visit them accordingly, so it was very convenient that they were on the road to our hotel. Completely free to use and open 24 hours are day these hots pots (varying in temperature) are situated in a beautiful fjord side location. We spent the evening chatting to locals and watching the light flicker across the water, it was really magical. Even though these pools are free to visit there is actually a shower and changing room across the road. Leave your clothes in here and run across the road without getting hit by passing cars, it's all part of the Icelandic fun.

We totally under estimated the driving conditions that evening and it ended up taking another hour or so to reach our hotel meaning we didn't arrive until midnight, oops!

I originally planned to visit this end of the road swimming pool, Krossneslaug after the three hot pots the previous evening but due to bumpy road and slow driving this was definitely not going to happen. Situated at the end of the road north in Norðurfjörður this was a 90 minute drive from our hotel in Djupavik, but despite this enormous diversion it was 100% worth visiting as this was probably my favourite pool of the trip. We were extremely lucky the morning we visited as we had the place to ourselves despite hearing that in the summer up to 600 people can visit a day!

Situated at the edge of the sea it feels like an infinity pool when you're inside. If you're lucky you can catch seals in the ocean and there's even a hot pot to immerse yourself in. The pool is open 24 hours and costs very little. The care takers live on site and keep an eye on the midnight parties to make sure things don't get too out of hand. Iceland is a super fresh country but the air felt really special and pure here, maybe it was the sea breeze and complete tranquillity. Even though this pool is literally in the middle of nowhere it is so wonderful and special, you must visit.

I forgot to charge my GoPro so I was only able to get a quick iPhone snap of Myvatn Nature Baths which was a shame because it's a lovely place (despite the sulphuric stench). Myvatn is known as the smaller, but just as special Blue Lagoon of the north and having been to both I completely understand why. The milky blue water is really magical looking and the volcanic surrounding make you feel like you're on Mars. Of course this isn't a cheap place to visit being a pretty huge tourist site but it's still significantly cheaper than its southern counterpart. We spent a quick afternoon here and whilst I did enjoy the place it felt huge and busy compared to everywhere else we had visited.

Our final swimming pool of the trip was certainly the most unique, and terrifying. Seljavallalaug is situated in the south of Iceland not too far away from Vik where we spent our final evening. It's an adventure to reach. Park the car and then hike for 15 minutes through shallow rivers and rocky mounds. You will eventually find Iceland's oldest swimming pool, built in the 1920s and situated amongst a mountainous valley. We visited at midnight which was probably a mistake as the place was super eerie, so much in fact we only stayed for about 20 minutes.

The pool was originally built to teach the locals to swim but in 1990 a new pool was built nearby and this old one became almost deserted. It's still used but it's only cleaned out once a year so it's a bit murky. The changing rooms are crumbling shells so it's best to come prepared, don't expect a shower afterwards. Despite the dodgy vibe I'm glad we visited as it was most definitely an experience I wont forget.

There are a ton of other pools I wanted to visit but time beat us so they'll have to wait for another trip. We didn't make it to the Blue Lagoon as we left it too late to book tickets but I've been before so I honestly don't care that much. The local, more secluded pools were more special and memorable plus less busy and an awful lot cheaper. I love Iceland, it's one of my favourite countries so I'll definitely be visit again and checking out all the places I missed.

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  1. That last pool sounds so scary! I love hot pools - so relaxing! x

  2. They sound lovely. My Mum visited the one in Reykjavik and I'm sure she went on the Vestman islands too! I only went to the Blue Lagoon!x

  3. I love how much swimming and bathing you did! Sounds like my kind of trip. I enjoyed your photos on instagram.

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