Icelandic Hot Pots.

The term "hot pot" is used rather vaguely in Iceland and it is important to understand the different types, if only to avoid giving offence by breaking one of Iceland's few tourist taboos (see Hot Pot Etiquette below).

Starting at the plastic end of the spectrum, there are "hot pots" that are simply "Jacuzzi®" type hot tubs, fed by geothermally heated water.

If you want to soak in water, that was a few minutes before spouting out of a Geyser, then the "hot pots" behind the Geyser Hotel at Geyser are for you.

Moving up (or down according to your preferences) you come to the many town and village swimming pools with "hot pots" attached.

Even villages with only 200 residents will have a well signed and well maintained swimming pool (although it may be several kilometers out of town, if that is where the hot water is).

These "hot pots" are usually concrete and there may be several at different temperatures. The Laugardalslaug pool in Reykjavík (next to the camp ground) has a 50 metre indoor pool, a 50 metre outdoor pool, a steam bath, a sauna and six "hot pots" with temperatures ranging from 38ºC to 44ºC (from memory). Entry to this type of swimming pool complex usually costs around €5 Euros.

Then comes the Blue Lagoon(s). The southern one (the original and now very expensive one) advertises itself as "Out of this world. Unwind in the mineral-rich warmth of Iceland's Blue Lagoon and watch all your cares float away. It is the perfect place to relax - and perfect for a great day out with a difference." "The Blue Lagoon Iceland - no place like it."

Well there is now a very similar one in the north of Iceland - The Myvatn Nature Baths. Smaller and considerably cheaper.

There is nothing particularly natural about either "lagoon". It is the hot water effluent of the nearby power station's cooling pond that grows the blue-green algae that dies as the water cools leaving a bluish organic soup for you to "unwind" in.

Getting considerably less plastic and more rustic are the nearly natural "hot pots" found in the Highlands at places like Landmannalaugar and Hveravellir.

In spite of what some guide books say the bathers in both of these "hot pots" are resolutely clothed. The only "hot pot" that seems to attract nude bathing is the Viti crater at Askja.

And this hardly counts as a "hot pot" because the temperature is only about 28°C

Hot Pot Etiquette.

One of the few things Icelander's seem to get worked up about is hygiene in public bathing, and this includes all but the most wild of "hot pots". Stern notices warn you that you must publicly wash those parts of your body you normally wash only in private before entering the pool or the pot. To ensure this happens public swimming pools have complex rules about how you get into them and sometimes "attendants" to check that these rules are being followed. As a public service, below is summary of these rules.

Zone 1 - The outside world.

Here you can do and wear what you want. Before you attempt to enter the pool complex you will need swimming trunks, a towel, one or two plastic carrier bags, the entry fee (if any) and as little else as possible.

Zone 2 - The outer locker area.

In this area you discard your shoes or boots and place them in a public rack, or in an outer locker, or into one of your carrier bags. Barefoot you are now ready to enter....

Zone 3 - The inner locker area.

Here you remove all you clothes and carrying only your towel, your trunks and your locker key you enter...

Zone 4 - The shower area.

Here you place your towel in a public rack and carrying your trunks you enter the showers (no cubicles). The showers will be on an industrial scale with detergent dispensers on the wall. Here you wash thoroughly (at least) those areas of your body graphically illustrated on the wall posters. There may be an attendant watching to make sure you do. You are now deemed ready to don your trunks and enter...

Zone 5 - The pool and hot pots.

Here you enjoy yourself.

Getting back into the outside world is just the reverse, but note that the attendant will not let you enter Zone 3 from Zone 4 if you are wet! If you have inadvertently (but quite reasonably) left your towel in your locker you will have to give your key to the attendant and ask him to retrieve it for you.

An ideal Wild Camp?

About 18km south east of Bíldudalur on the 63 is an isolated and apparently abandoned swimming pool (N65.62309 W23.46880).

The pool is still fed by hot water and is still reasonable clean. It is marked on some maps.

It would seem to make an ideal wild camp with its own private "hot pot".

However in the derelict building adjoining the pool are two notices in Icelandic warning of something. But what?

Would you swim in it? (A translation of these two notices would be appreciated.)

Thank you Einar for a translation of these two notices.

The first notice apparently reads: Warning! This swimming pool is without any guards. Those who use it do so at their own risk. And the second notice reads: Attention! Please don't mess up the pool and surroundings. Do not use shampoo or other cleaners in the pool. Is prohibited to bathe animals in the pool. ( Friends of the swimming pool in Reykjafjörður).

Stephen Stewart.

Home - This page last changed on 2009-11-16.