Iceland’s unofficial pastime is splashing around its surplus of geothermal water. There are ‘hot-pots’ everywhere – from downtown Reykjavík to the isolated peninsular tips of the Westfjords – and not only are they incredibly relaxing, they’re a great way to meet the locals (this is their social hub, the Icelanders’ equivalent of the local pub or town square).
Hot-pots are small heated pools for soaking (a spa bath without the bubbles). They can be attached to swimming pools, or natural ones may be found plonked in the middle of a field – anywhere there’s hot water underground that can be easily accessed.
My perfect soaks of Iceland
The first photo was taken in the Westfjords a couple of years ago – the pool was so remote, at the edge of the universe on a wild black-pebble beach. Together with a very dear friend I watched the moon rise into a pink sky around 11pm…
One of the most perfect pools I have ever seen is in the tiny North Iceland hamlet of Hofsós. It opened in 2010, thanks to donations from two local women, and it’s placed on the edge of the fjord, offering almost-infinity views.
On my 2014 trip, I stayed in an apartment in Iceland’s second city, Akureyri, that had a hot-pot on the balcony. When I checked in, the manager said to feel free to fill it and empty it for each use. As a water-conscious Australian, I couldn’t believe that kind of water excess – but I did indeed fill it every night I stayed there. This photo was taken around midnight. (Note the light. Akureyri is only about 50km south of the Arctic Circle.)
The Mývatn Nature Baths are North Iceland’s answer to the Blue Lagoon – but smaller, and less hyped. They’re glorious.
Just outside the whale-watching town of Húsavík lies this secret hot-pot: geothermal water channeled into old cheese-making tubs, in the middle of a field. It’s a local secret – it doesn’t get included in any guidebook I write (it’s simply too small to cope with the demand of loads of visitors). I had the spot all to myself for half an hour on my most recent visit.
Borgarfjörður Eystri is strong contender for the title of my favourite place in Iceland. One of the lovely guesthouses there has put an outdoor hot-pot on the deck. When I last visited, the weather was incredible (20 degrees – crazy temperatures for Iceland) and the view pretty much reduced me to tears.
A hot-pot in a converted boat, with fjord views? Yes! This is at a great guesthouse in the eastern town of Eskifjörður.
And on my final night of this last trip – where else but the Blue Lagoon…? It may be expensive and a little overhyped, but it’s still pretty special.