Hot Pot Etiquette
Soaking and swimming are serious pastimes in Iceland. So serious that learning to swim is a mandatory part of the Icelandic education, as is learning how to roll over your car safely due to extreme weather conditions!
Here’s what you need to know about going to swimming pools in Iceland.
Hot tubs and natural hot springs have been part of Iceland’s culture since its settlement. Early inhabitants knew the health benefits of de-stressing in the warm geothermal waters that abound in Iceland. Today there are more than 120 public swimming pools in Iceland, called sundlaugs, and numerous natural hot springs. They are the communal heart of Iceland and a key to Icelandic well-being.
There are a few etiquette rules that are good to know before you go:
There’s typically a small fee to enter the swimming pool complexes, though most natural hot pots and rivers are free. Bring a towel with you, or pay a small fee to rent a towel at the complex. You’ll take your shoes off either in the reception area of the pool complex or before entering the locker room. Don’t worry; it will be very evident where to leave your shoes by all the other shoes lined up. And there is very little crime in Iceland, so never fear that your shoes might go missing. You can also carry them and place them in your locker if you choose.
Although it is mandatory to wear swimsuits in swimming pools in Iceland (but optional to be topless for both men and women), it is also mandatory to shower naked before entering the pools. Every single swimming pool will have changing facilities, one for females and one for males, where you are required to shower thoroughly, in the nude, before entering the pool. This is also the case at The Blue Lagoon, the Lake Myvatn Nature Baths and Fontana.
The reason for this rule is that the pools in Iceland have a very low amount of chlorine in them, some pools have saltwater instead of chlorine, and in order to keep the water clean people need to wash thoroughly before they put on their bathing suits and enter the pool area. This can be a little shocking, particularly for North Americans. Rest assured that it’s as normal for the locals as eating breakfast and no one is staring at you. Please don’t think you can bypass this by wearing your swimsuit underneath your clothes because there are sometimes bath guards that check that you are definitely washing your body well enough before going to the pool! Some people find it a terrifying thought to have to be nude before entering the swimming pool, but there are often cubicles with shower curtains available if you feel uncomfortable around others in the nude.
Cartoon from IcelandWeatherReport