What is your first mental picture when you hear “Iceland”? In my case, it’s the Blue Lagoon – the famous hot spring mineral swimming pool in a bed of lava rocks. We haven’t been there yet, and I don’t know if we will go – it’s a tad too pricey. Instead of this we have been to see other hot springs and geysers in the wild, and we have been swimming in the local pool. Icelanders don’t go to the Blue Lagoon so why should we?
Before you use any swimming pool, you should be clean in all your important little places. Kind of obvious you would think. Though in any swimming pool in Europe people just jump under the shower quickly to get their swimsuit wet, and that’s it. In Iceland you must have a naked shower before using the pool – a picture on the wall shows you which bits to wash.
Icelandic Pool Etiquette and its Effect on our Children
My girls were born in the Emirates and have spent most of their lives in the Muscat – renowned for its prudishness. We have never been shy at home. Though girls would never go out of the house in skimpy clothes – say spaghetti strap tops for example. We respected the local tradition. That meant that even in changing rooms, everyone should remain discreetly covered. And here in Iceland, everyone walks about public changing rooms naked. They do it with the same lack of self-consciousness as they would show when fully dressed. The effect on my kids was immediate and refreshing, “Ï like it.” said Zoe observing the new culture. Suddenly the same girl who would always look for shelter before undressing ran happy and naked with no hesitation under the shower.
Naked Showers – “We are all different.”
Being naked in front of my girls or other naked people doesn’t bother me, though I’m modest about showing myself. The twins have always seen me in the shower. They had never seen anyone else undressed. It was a novelty for them. When I noticed Tania staring at other ladies, I hissed in Polish to stop, and she replied: “We are all different.” What a great way for us all to understand the world! – we all different and all the same.
Cold Air – Hot Water in Geothermal Icelandic Swimming Pools
The first time we went to the pool, the plan was to use only the indoor swimming pool. Outside it was dark, raining and extremely windy. Unfortunately or fortunately the indoor pool was booked for a swimming class. We had no choice and joined the brave few outsides and use thermal pools. The water was warm, but when swimming with the wind, the spray from your feet would be icy cold by the time it slapped you on the back of your head. I was getting brain freeze and kept asking the girls to duck under to stay warm. We spent half an hour outside. The saving grace was a 38-degree warm tub in which we could stew ourselves from time to time. It proofed our skin against the next near-naked walk through the chill night air. The mother in me wondered whether this would be killed or cure for the girls, but it seems to have been only good for them. They beg us every day to return, and except when away on road trips, we have been back every day. The weather has never been as fierce as the first time but has always been below 5 degrees C, and we love it more and more.
Our local pool – Álftaneslaug
We are staying in Alftanes which is a suburb of Reykjavik. We are lucky enough to be within walking distance of the only wave pool and the tallest water slide in Iceland. Álftaneslaug Swimming Pool has few swimming pools. An indoor 12 x 7 m pool, which is perfect for children and anyone who is unsure of his/her swimming capabilities. Outside there are two hot pots. One jacuzzi 38-40 °C and other hot tub is 40–42 °C. There is a small outdoor pool for children (wading pool). It’s perfect for lying down and enjoying a view of the mountains or sunset. The main outdoor pool is a 25 m competition size pool, with lanes and diving boards. There is also an 80m high water slide – which Zoe and Nick love – I didn’t dare to try it. But I did submerge myself in a cold plunge tub for 11 seconds. I had to beat Zoe – who managed to stay there for 10 seconds to win a 1,000 krona dare. Nick said he is not crazy enough to try that one. We all enjoy the wave pool, swimming in the sea here is not an option! There are also a wooden sauna and steam baths. They are my favourite. I could spend half a day going for a swim, sauna, steam room then shower hot tub, swim, sauna and repeat.
Admission fees: Children, 0 – 10 years: free Children, 11 – 17 years: 160 ISK Adults: 640 ISK for swimming only (including a sauna and steam bath) or 1,500 ISK for swimming and gym. You can buy 10 or 30 entrance in advance which cost 4.200 ISK and 8.600 ISK
We bought the 30 entry package which we are allowed to share. This means if one of us take the girls then an entry for all three is around $2. That’s the cheapest swimming I have done in Europe or even anywhere, besides jumping to the sea.
Geothermal Pools in Iceland – Conclusions
Reykjavik has many other swimming pools. All for a similar price all loved by locals and to be discovered by the tourist. Apparently, Icelanders suffer withdrawing syndrome if they can’t go swimming. I’m not surprised, We are all hooked. Since discovering the pool we have swum every day that we have not been away from the locality. If you want to read Strange and Interesting facts about Iceland click here.
And the Blue Lagoon? Maybe we will visit, or we will try the less crowded Secret Lagoon which is close to the Golden Circle tourist route.
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About the author
photographer, traveller, mother of twin girls, wife, worldschooler, rulebreaker