It’s cold and windy and snowy and dark in Iceland during winter. That doesn’t mean it’s not still beautiful and amazing and hospitable. But it does mean you need to find ways to keep warm. One is to frequent the many bars and cafes in town. Another is to frequent your local pool and get into hot water with the locals.
All over Reykjavik are public swimming pools, often with gyms, and you’d assume that when the huge signboards are reporting negative temperatures, all those cars parked outside must belong to gym patrons. You’d be wrong. If you head inside, you’ll see Icelanders running across the cold concrete outdoors in just their swimming costumes. It’s madness, yet one of the best things to do in winter in this city.
Iceland is blessed with an endless supply of hot thermal waters. It’s what makes the country habitable really with endless cheap heating and hot pools to soak in. So you’ll find that all these local pools have outdoor thermal pools ranging from about 36 to 42 degrees. My favourite is Sundlaug Seltjarnarness where there are three outdoor hot pools, a large swimming pool and kids’ pool and a sauna. I’ll buy a pass for ten visits which makes it a bit cheaper and makes me feel I have an obligation to soak nearly every day. And it really does make me happier, healthier, more relaxed, as well as much much warmer.
The most important thing to remember is the etiquette of washing before you enter the pools. Everyone heads into the large communal shower room where there is liquid soap provided, and they scrub and shampoo, then tug on their bathing suits and head outdoors. You’d think you’d catch your death of cold but trust me, you don’t. Hot water in Iceland is the way to happiness. Of course, visiting the bars and cafes may also get you into hot water with the locals, but that’s a different type of hot water and a different type of story!