Swimming in Iceland

Swimming in Iceland: Mandatory Group Showers & Everything You Need to Know

Swimming in Iceland is a big part of the culture and the residents definitely don’t let the cold stop them. You’ve probably already heard of the Blue Lagoon and Secret Lagoon but luckily, these crowded and expensive tourist attractions are not the only places to take a dip. There are many local geothermal pools all around Iceland and whether you are interested in doing laps for exercise or soaking in hot tubs, there’s a little something for everyone. The catch – there is a strict process around getting ready for the swim including mandatory naked group showers! During my first trip to one of the pools I was overwhelmed with all the rules. I was literally walking around completely naked and stopping by every sign to read them because I didn’t want to accidentally do something that I wasn’t meant to! I wanted to write this post because it’s something I would’ve loved to have read before my visit and I hope it can be useful to you if you are planning to go swimming in Iceland (you definitely should by the way, it’s amazing!) Of course you won’t remember everything I’ve written but I think that if you’ve read this and have an idea of the flow of the process then it will come back to you when you are in the change room – so hopefully you won’t be the awkward sign reading naked chick like me! At the end of the post I’ve also added a list of pools, a few of which are walking distance from downtown Reykjavik. 

Swimming in Iceland: Mandatory Group Showers & Everything You Need to Know

Swimming in Iceland in geothermal pools is a treat but the pre-swim process can be overwhelming. This useful guide has everything you need to know.

It’s not as scary as it sounds

It’s really not. I mean come on, you don’t have anything that everyone else in the locker room doesn’t have and I hate to be the one to break it to you but your body just isn’t interesting enough for everyone to want to gawk at while they’re getting ready for a swim. It’s just a body and probably a pretty ok one at that so calm your tits (because people probably would gawk at frazzled, hyper tits) and give it a go.

What to bring

Swimsuit*

Towel*

Cash/Credit Card/Debit Card (entrance to the local pools is about 950ISK)

Soap (there is soap in the shower room but you can bring your own if you prefer)

Conditioner (only important if you care about frizz – I just used the hotel conditioner)

Body lotion (for afterwards – again I used the small hotel lotion)

*Swimsuits and towels can be rented from many pools but Iceland is expensive enough as it is so best to pack your swimsuit & borrow a towel from your hotel.

Travel Tip: The showering process is important for hygiene purposes and is taken very seriously in Iceland – there are even shower attendants to make sure people follow the rules so my advice is to save yourself an embarrassment and just follow the rules.

What not to bring

Phones & cameras – Let me elaborate on this though. If you’re going to one of the bigger, touristy swimming areas like the Blue Lagoon or Secret Lagoon then take a camera & just obviously don’t use it in the locker/shower area. If you’re going to one of the local pools then no cameras or phones are allowed. If you’ve got it with you then you can leave it in your locker like I did. Swimming in the local pools is not a ‘get a good photo for the gram’ moment, it’s to be enjoyed and not having cameras and phones snapping away truly enhances the relaxing experience (& allows other guests their privacy).

In saying that I should note that since I couldn’t get any photos for this blog post, the photos of the pools in this post have been generously donated by Visit Reykjavik. The photo of the Blue Lagoon is courtesy of Unsplash. Ok now that you know what to bring, let’s get into the process.

No shoes in the locker room

You will see signs for this, but take your shoes off before you enter the locker room. The pools I went to had bags provided to put your shoes in so you could store them in your locker once inside or you can leave them on the rack outside the locker room. Once you’re in the locker room it’s time to get your gear off and store it in your locker. Just keep out your swimsuit and towel. If you brought soap and conditioner then keep those out too. You can walk to the shower room in your towel or feel the freedom and walk naked (don’t panic, it’s literally the next room).

No clothes in the shower room

Now that you’re butt naked it’s time for the pre-swim cleanse. In the shower room there will be racks where you can leave your swimsuit, towel and conditioner so pick a rack and drop your stuff off. If it’s not busy then I would take my swimsuit to the shower with me and hang it on the taps so it’s quick to put it on after the shower.

Get your naked butt into the shower

The showers are basically rows of shower heads coming out of the wall with no partition/curtain in between. At a couple of the pools I went to they had a shy-lady section of the shower room which had a couple of wall partitions in between the shower but still no door. If you’re really anxious about the nudity thing then you could use them but remember everyone can still see you naked since there’s no door and they’re probably still not paying attention to you since everyone’s naked.

The basics – head, armpits, groin and feet

All the pools I went to had liquid soap dispensers in the showers so you can use that or your own if you brought it. Either way, lather up and wash your body especially the head, armpits, groin and feet areas.

Swimsuit and dash time

You can finally breathe a sigh of relief because after you’ve rinsed off in the shower you can finally cover your bits again! There’s no need to dry off since you are about to swim – just pop your swimsuit on and make the dash to the water. I say dash because even though it’s a short distance, it’s going to be cold outside of the water! Leave your towel in the rack in the shower room just remember where you put it for when you get back (especially if you’re using a hotel towel since they usually all look the same).

Enjoy the water

Now it’s time to enjoy the water. My favorite thing to do was to relax in the hot tubs at the end of the day exploring. Sometimes the tubs had a zen vibe where everyone was relaxing and other times I was chatting up a storm meeting a bunch of lovely and interesting people. It was seriously the most relaxing way to end the day and I don’t know how I survived life without that ritual to be honest. The pools I went to had multiple outdoor tubs at different temperatures so you can pick the heat you prefer. Aside from the hot tubs, the pools I went to had large lap pools, play areas and shallow areas for kids, steam rooms and ice baths so there’s something for everyone.

Swimming in Iceland

Photo Credit: Visit Reykjavík / Ragnar Th Sigurdsson

Uh-oh, time to get naked again

After you are done relaxing, it’s time to dash back to the shower room and, you guessed it, get naked again. Hopefully you’ll be too relaxed from your swim to be anxious. Once you’re in the shower room, you can pick up your conditioner from the rack if you brought it and get into the shower. I would wear my swimsuit to the shower itself then take it off and rinse it under the water too.

Dry off completely

After you’re done rinsing, grab your towel from the rack and dry off completely. This is important because they keep the locker room floors completely dry so make sure you’re not dripping water everywhere before moving on to that room.

Spin your swimsuit

You’ll probably see people using these little machines so it will be more obvious when you are there but they have machines in the shower room which you can put your swimsuit into for 5-10 seconds and it spins out all the excess water. Pretty nifty huh?

Get your gear on

Once you and your swimsuit are dry, you can go into the locker room and put your clothes back on. Everything except your shoes that is because you will put them on once you’re outside the locker room. Congratulations, you survived!

Travel Tip: Get a Reykjavik City Card when you arrive in Iceland which will give you entry to all the local pools and entry or discounts to other sights and museums. 

Swimming in Iceland

Photo Credit: Visit Reykjavík / Ragnar Th Sigurdsson

The Pools

Laugardalslaug was the biggest and my personal favorite pool to visit. I also liked Vesturbaejarlaug. I walked to both from the Alda Hotel in Reykjavik but if you prefer, you could take the bus. Sundhöllin is the oldest public pool and is even closer but was closed the days I was visiting.

Here is a great resource to find a pool near you and you can always visit the Visit Reykjavik website for more information.

If you get stuck while you’re there just follow the signage or ask someone to guide you – everyone was very kind and helpful when I was there and above all else enjoy the beautiful geothermal pools that Iceland has to offer!

Have you been swimming in Iceland? What were your first impressions?

2 Comments

  • Lisanne May 13, 2017 at 7:12 am

    I will share this with a friend of mine who is going to Iceland soon! And in the future I hope to go too :). Really good to know some of these things ahead. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Reply
    • Katie Mac May 16, 2017 at 12:15 pm

      Thank you so much Lisanne! I hope your friend finds it helpful as well and enjoy Iceland!

      Reply

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