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Extensive geothermal activity is one of Iceland‘s most distinctive features, with geothermal areas covering more of this country than any other. In fact, geothermal heat is known to be present at over 700 Icelandic sites.

Ever since the settlement, Icelanders have used geothermal water for washing and bathing. This is often mentioned in the sa­gas, with the most famous instance probably being that of Snorri Sturluson at Reykholt, in Borgarfjör›ur, West Iceland. Snorri, who was a productive saga writer, enjoyed relaxing in the hot water and discussing the topics of the day, just as people still do in hot tubs at modern swimming pools all around Iceland.

The island‘s geothermal activity clearly caught the attention of the early settlers, as they referred to geothermal phenomena in their place names. Thus a great number of the original names include terms such as varm (warm), reyk (smoke / steam) or laug (bathing pool). It is estimated that at least 55 place names, or around 2% of all saga place names, are linked to geothermal activity.

At several places in Iceland, it so happens that geothermal water collects naturally at comfortable temperatures for bathing. In other places, people have come to nature’s assistance to obtain the right temperatures and amount of water. Finally, in modern times many special swimming pools, hot tubs, etc. have been constructed. Therefore, it is often difficult to distinguish which pools are natural and which are not. For instance, there was no geothermal activity at the surface when construc­tion started on the Blue Lagoon. Its water is pumped up out of drill holes and the surround­ings are entirely designed by people. Those places are categorized as spas.

Grettislaug

At Reykir farm, in Varmahlíð, there are two small pools named Grettislaug and Jarlslaug. Grettislaug is named after Grettir the Strong and Jarlslaug after Jon Eiriksson, the ‘Earl of Drangey’. According to the Icelandic Sagas, Grettir was the strongest man and an outlaw in the same time, who lived on Drangey island. According to the legend, he swam all the way from Drangey to the western shore of Skagafjordur and after he bathed in a hot spring. The temperature in the pools is around 39 °C but can vary dependent on weather. The pools has showers and changing facilities. GPS: 65.87986 -19.73886

Hellulaug

Hellulaug geothermal pool is located in Vatnsfjörður Fjord, on the the southern shore of the Westfjords. The sagas say that the first settler in Iceland stayed for a winter here, in Vatnsdalur. This little pool is about 3-4 metres diameter, 60 cm deep and the temperature of the water is around 38 °C. It doesn’t have a place to change or to take a shower but is a very delightful hot pool with beautiful views. You cannot see it from the road, but above the pool is a parking lot and from there it starts a path down to the ocean. Few hundred meters away is also the camping site Flokalundur. The ferry arrives from Stykkishólmur not far away from here, in Brjánslækur. GPS: 65.57728 -23.15965

Heydalur

This pool is in the vicinity of the hotel Heydalur. by road No. 633, in the Westfjords. The pool has a long history and it is said that it was blessed by a bishop in the 12th century and that it has heeling powers. The temperature is around 40 °C. GPS: 65.84360 -22.67947

Hörgshlíðarlaug

Hörgshlíðarlaug is a man-made thermal pool ,located in the Westfjords by road no 633, near the sea. The pool is privately owned by the farmers at Hörgshlið, 2 km away, so you have to pay the owners a visit before you go to the pool. GPS: 65.84360 -22.67947

Hveravellir

Hveravellir geothermal pool is located in the central highlands of Iceland, between Langjökull and Hofsjökull glaciers.  Over 20 people can comfortably bathe in the pool at the same time.