Beyond the Blue Lagoon: Iceland hot springs off the beaten path

Yep, we went to Iceland for eight days and never went to the Blue Lagoon. Why pay a crazy entry fee to go to an overcrowded geothermal pool, when so many remote, beautiful, and FREE pools exist all over Iceland?

During our camper van road trip in Iceland, we dipped our toes in steaming water every single day, and never paid an entry fee of more than $25 (and usually paid nothing at all).

Where to find Iceland hot springs off the beaten path: 

iceland hot springs

Reykjadalur hot springs river:

In the south, just about 40 minutes outside of Reykjavik, the small town of Hvergerdi offers a 3.5 kilometer hike into the geothermal hills to a hot springs river. Yes, it’s well worth the hike. You’ll climb upward pretty steeply for the first km or so, then work your way up and down over hills with lovely views of the valley below. Eventually, you’ll see steam billowing up, and you’ll quicken your pace, because you’ll know you’re close! At the river, there’s a boardwalk with entry points along the small stream, and a few wooden walls that serve as changing areas. If you follow the boardwalk up, you’ll find the hottest water (so hot it’s almost painful), and as you walk down, you’ll find cooler water (closer to 35-37 C). It’s a lot of fun to move from section to section feeling the different temperatures.

iceland hot springs

If you don’t want to change behind a wall, you can change in the small bathrooms at the little cafe at the start of the hike, or just wear your swimsuit under your hiking wear. Be sure to bring lots of layers, including rain wear, as there’s no protection from the elements (similar to all over Iceland). The hot springs river is free, and does get crowded on the trail (though even in peak season, we found plenty of space in the river to soak).

To get here: Take Route 1 (Ring Road) from Reykjavik to Hvergerdi. Drive through town following the Reykjadalur signage until you get to a gravel road ending in a parking lot.

Seljavallalaug Hidden Hot Spring:

This one may not be so hidden anymore, but it’s still uncrowded. This geothermal pool is located in the middle of nowhere in a tiny valley with green mountains rising dramatically up all around it. The pool was made near the turn of the 20th century, for the purpose of teaching Icelandic children to swim (before the 1920s, unbelievably, most Icelanders could not swim). It has a single pool and rudimentary changing rooms (unisex…it gets interesting). This pool gets some criticism on TripAdvisor and the like, with people calling it dirty. It’s not dirty: it’s rich in algae, natural to Icelandic hot springs. The hike to the pool is only about one km, and our only complaint is that the water is a bit on the cool side (around 35 degrees). Toward the southern end of the pool where the geothermal water flows in, it’s closer to 40 degrees. On a warm day, this is fine, but on the cold, sleeting day we visited, it was painful to get out! This pool is FREE.

iceland hidden hot springs

How to get here: From Route 1, turn down road 242 in the south. Follow the dirt road straight (don’t turn right) and you’ll get to a parking lot with an unused pool about 1/4 mile in. The hike is short into the valley (you can’t see the pool from the parking area though).

Laudar campsite hot pot:

This adorable hot pot (hot tub) is located in the Laudar campsite in west Iceland. The parking lot is at the Hotel Edda, and the walk is just a few meters. There’s a quaint changing hut (unisex, but fewer people are here) and the water is a perfect 38 degrees. You can camp onsite, too, if desired. This hot pot is FREE.

Iceland hot pot

How to get here: From Route 1, take 60 all the way up through the isolated farmlands until you’re above the town of Budardalur. Follow the sign to Laudar.

Secret Lagoon:

So the Secret Lagoon is no secret, but it can be found just outside of the town of Fludir near the Golden Circle. You’ll find a large pool half-formed by natural rock, fed hot water from bubbling geysers nearby. It’s the most expensive pool we visited ($25 per adult), probably because of its proximity to the Golden Circle and its tourism traffic. No matter: it’s worth spending a few hours here.

iceland secret lagoon

How to get here: Take road 30 to Fludir. The sign is just before you enter town. Go down a dirt road for just about a mile.

Hot pot of Flokalaundar:

If you’re willing to drive about two hours (mostly on dirt) from Reykholar in the Westfjords, you’ll arrive at a hot pot nestled right against the sea. Do as the locals do and jump between the warm water (around 38 degrees) and the freezing ocean and back. This hot pot is larger than Laudar but a bit busier. No changing rooms…change in your car or camper. There’s a small parking lot right nearby.

Iceland hot pot

How to get here: From Route 1, take 60 and follow it all the way up into the fjords. Be sure to have a full tank of gas, as there are few services before you reach Flokalaundar. Plan on narrow, steep dirt road for part of the drive. Is it worth it? Yes.

Tip: Can’t get to a natural hot springs one day? Look for a public Icelandic pool! Every town we drove through had their own (look for the water and swimmer signage), and each cost less than $10-$12. Inside each complex, you’ll find a geothermal fed warm outdoor pool (often with waterslides and other features), hot pots, and a steam bath, plus nice changing rooms and hot showers. Talk with locals here, and get to know the real Iceland. Remember to follow custom and shower nude before swimming. Never bring cameras or phones into the pool or changing areas.

Three favorite public Icelandic pools:

Note: Photos are not allowed of Icelandic public pools.

Laugardalslaug: Iceland’s largest public pool complex is only $8 for entry, and in our opinion, beats the heck out of the Blue Lagoon. There are two huge outdoor pools (one is a lap pool, the other has all sorts of features…basketball hoop, big twisty waterslides, climbing ropes, floating platforms, and water toys), four hot pots of various temperatures, a cold plunge, a huge steam bath, a massage area, and a large kiddie pool area. There are spacious and clean locker facilities and hot showers. On the grounds are also sand volleyball courts, exercise equipment, and a ropes course. Laugardalslaug is located in the suburbs of Reykjavik.

Drangsnes: The public pool on the Steingrimsfjordur fjord in the north has all the usual amenities, with a location right on the sea. Best of all, the town has arranged for free hot pots to be placed and maintained right on the beach, should you not need the added amenities of showers.

Kirkjubaejarklaustur: This public pool has views of the town’s pretty waterfall from the hot pots, plus a nice sized swimming pool with small water slide and a kid’s hot pot/wading area. What we loved about this pool was its local vibe: we had the opportunity to talk with many Icelanders here, and all were welcoming.

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About the author

Amy Whitley

AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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