So you’re coming to Iceland and want to experience the local swimming culture and the first place you probably think of is Blue Lagoon. It’s certainly a unique destination to delve into world of Iceland. It also happens to be one of those places travellers are hesitant about, not because of the actual experience, but because they hear rumours about nudity and showering naked in front of strangers. Yikes!
Well, yes, let me tell you it’s true, but nothing to worry about even if you’re used to complete privacy. In fact, the practice of showering without anything on is common throughout the country at all local pools. So, don’t let this rather nerve-wracking idea talk you out of taking a dip in a cosy pool. Here’s a collection of general guidelines, do’s, and don’ts when it comes to visiting a public swimming pool in Iceland so you’re prepared for one of the highlights of your holiday!
There’s Blue Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, and other well known baths you can check out. But if you’re trying to keep to a budget, the nicest and most popular pools worth visiting downtown are Laugardalslaug, Vesturbæjarlaug, and Sundhöllin (you can easily find one in every neighborhood around the country, though). All pools have a free parking lot connected to it, so driving right up to the entrance with your lovely Happy Camper van will be easy as pie. Just pack what you need for the pool and leave everything else behind!
To begin your local adventure, make your way to the counter, pay the entrance fee (950kr. per visit in 2017), and head into the dressing room areas separated by genders.
First of all, take off your shoes! Place them on the shoe rack at the entrance or hold onto them until you…
Find a locker. There are plenty around so you shouldn’t have a problem with safety and security when it comes to your belongings. Don’t forget your key whether it’s an electronic bracelet or metal key attached to elastic. In either case, wrap it around your wrist or ankle so you always have it on you.
Now, get naked! Strip right down to your birthday suit and don’t be shy. You’ll probably notice the change rooms are fairly open, because Icelanders are used to being naked in front of each other. Remember: everyone’s minding his or her own business (okay, maybe not the kiddies running around). If you’re still uncomfortable there may be changing cabins for your use, or simply cover yourself in a towel. After locking up, grab your towel, shampoo, and swimsuit, which you won’t be wearing yet, because…
It’s shower time! Most showers are open just like the dressing area; however, you will find a curtain or cabin on the rare occasion if that’s what you prefer. But once again, I repeat, you must shower butt naked no matter how self-conscious you are. And you won’t get away with it. Why? There are, what I like to call, “shower police” guarding the area.
Their job is to make sure no one enters the pool area without washing all the zones of your body pointed out by the large posters, sans bathing suit. And if they’re not present, I’ve heard locals sometimes point out your forgetfulness, because, they too will be hanging out in the same water as you. I know what you’re thinking: Why are they so worried when the pools will be chlorinated? Well, the fact is the chlorine is so low in the tubs and non-existent in seawater pots that we are the ones controlling the cleanliness of the facilities. So avoid the confrontation and get right in there with the free soap provided by the pool. There’s an unspoken rule to not look at others and you’re never going to see these people again anyways, so who cares, right? Once squeaky clean and dressed into your swimsuit (finally!), you’re ready to take a dip!
It’s no surprise that heading to the local pool after a long day of work does wonders for the mind, body, and soul. This activity is also a social centre, perfect for the chatty folks, especially in the mornings and evenings which you’ll more than likely witness during your visit.
All swimming centres contain a variety of tubs and lanes suitable for everyone, although each has their own characteristics. In my opinion, the Icelandic pool culture is all about soaking in hot pots (otherwise known as hot tubs), sometimes suited with jet streams for a complimentary massage. Temperatures range from 38-44 degrees Celsius and while most tubs are fresh water, you can also soak in a salty sea pot at Laugardalslaug at a steamy 40 degrees. The cold pots are also popular tubs for those who can handle a 5 degree dip!
If you’re adventurous enough to step out of the pots, make your way to the steam baths or maybe the kid in you wants to test out the slides and diving boards. And on the occasion the sun is beaming and the wind is nowhere to be seen, you’ll find all the locals taking advantage of sunbathing on the lounge chairs and benches. Try it out yourself!
When you’re ready to wrap up your relaxing and fun experience at the swimming pool, head back into the showers, clean off, and most importantly, dry off before walking into the dressing area! It’s common courtesy to keep the area dry, clean, and slip-free. Plus who wants to walk around in damp socks for the rest of the day?
Alright, now that I’ve given you all the information you need to know about the public swimming pools in Iceland, do you have any thoughts/opinions? Let us know in the comments below!
Ready to book your Happy Camper and take a dip in the local swimming culture?