From Iceland — Hot Pool Hopping In The Westfjords

Hot Pool Hopping In The Westfjords

Published June 10, 2023

Hot Pool Hopping In The Westfjords
Photo by
Art Bicnick

In Iceland, swimming pools are not merely places to take a dip; they are a way of life. With more geothermal swimming pools and hot springs per capita than anywhere else, Iceland has elevated ‘pool time’ to an art form. They appear in places where you would never expect – with the next one being better, bigger and sometimes hotter. On our recent journey to the scenic southern Westfjords, we tried to visit as many pools as possible in a single day. Get ready to steam, soak and surrender to pure relaxation!

“With a steamy 45 degrees Celsius, this was the closest I had to a bubble bath in months.”

All of the thermal pools we visited on this trip were free, with donation boxes available on-site. 

Krosslaug

Our first stop was Krosslaug, a site with a man-made geothermal pool with a more natural look and a spacious concrete swimming pool, just a 30-minute drive from Patreksfjörður (Route 62). Don’t get confused by the name – there are at least two hot pools named Krosslaug in Iceland, the other one better known as Krosslaug Reykir in West Iceland. 

The sign at the location instructed us that the bigger pool was open in 1948 and was used for swimming courses in the past. I changed into a swimsuit in the car, the changing rooms by the pool going completely unnoticed in my excitement to jump in and enjoy the views. I was greeted by a couple of tourists, who brought a thermometer with them. They told me it’s 36 degrees Celcius inside the pool, and without hesitation I went in, the wind fighting to steal my towel. I tried out the smaller pool as well, but the water was much colder and when a bigger group of tourists arrived, chattering about “Oh, you guys look so hot in the hot pool,” in a thick American accent, I got out. It seemed way more like one of those ‘Insta’-worthy spots.  

Hellulaug 

Off we went to Hellulaug in Vatnsfjörður. The hot spring is hidden from the highway and it wasn’t long ago that barely anyone knew about it. The times have changed and now Hellulaug often features on influencers’ social media feeds, drawing more and more tourists. When we arrived, there were maybe three people submerged in the spring, which considering its size, could be considered a crowd. Initially hesitant, I eventually decided to step in, and once immersed in the soothing water, I didn’t want to leave — the view over the Breiðafjörður bay took my breath away and the water felt like a warm hug. 

Keep in mind that there are no amenities next to Hellulaug, so be ready to change in the car (again). Alternatively, you can walk a few minutes to Flókalundur restaurant and use a bathroom there. The restaurant serves good lunch deals, burgers and a soup of the day. Don’t pretend like we didn’t tell you!

Reykjafjarðarlaug 

As we drove about half an hour to the next destination, we made a few unplanned stops, admiring nature. We came across a heartwarming sight of a sheep nursing its baby and hundreds, if not thousands of birds, including one graceful oystercatcher, crossing the road. The first thing that caught my attention upon our arrival was how clean the amenities were. The pool as well as two changing rooms and a toilet are maintained with the help of visitors‘ donations. 

Reykjafjarðarlaug offers an option to choose between a geothermal pool and a hot spring. Compared to other pools on our list, Reykjafjarðarlaug is more spacious, allowing hot tub users to relax in a more comfortable way rather than squeezing together like sardines in a can. In fact, the pool is divided into two parts: a colder section and a hotter section. Visitors can take turns, alternating between a hot steam and a refreshing dip. Some of the fellow pool dwellers had even brought a lunchbox with cookies. Although eating in the pool would normally be frowned upon, there was nothing in the world I craved more than those cookies while observing the snow-covered mountains on the horizon.

You can see the natural hot spring steaming from afar. Just a few steps up a muddy path from the main pool and you’re there. I have to admit, I had some reservations about the muddy water, but once I immersed myself in it, I immediately wished I had brought a book — with a steamy 45 degrees Celsius, this was the closest I had to a bubble bath in months. 

Pollurinn 

After Reykjafjarðarlaug, we continued our way on Route 63, passing Bíldudalur and heading towards Tálknafjörður on Route 617. We drove past the village and took a steep gravel road up before arriving at Pollurinn, a four-section pool with temperatures ranging from 36 to 40 degrees Celsius. The pools are shallow and best enjoyed when stretched out watching the view over the fjord. In winter, secluded Pollurinn would definitely be a perfect northern lights hunting spot. 

We’ve heard a few times during the trip that Tálknafjörður and surroundings are hot spots for birdwatchers and even stumbled upon two nests right next to the hot pots. One advice we learned from a professional bird watcher — be extra careful near the nests and try not to stress the birds as they might abandon their eggs and fly away.  

Hidden delight

What better way to conclude a day of busy thermal pool hopping than with a delightful dinner accompanied by a breathtaking view? We chose Cafe Dunhagi in Tálknafjörður and, much to our delight, the place turned out to be a hidden gem in its own right. Nestled in the oldest building of its kind in the Westfjords, Dunhagi was only a 4 km drive from our last stop at Pollurinn. The cafe operates from late May to mid-September and is managed by Dagný, a native of the fjord who we had initially mistaken for an American. It’s no surprise, as Dagný had spent over 20 years living and working in the USA before returning to her homeland.

Through photos on the walls, Cafe Dunhagi tells the local history. The place often hosts various cultural events and has ambitious future plans with residencies and workshops for artists in mind. When it comes to food, the cafe specialises in mindful cuisine, serving local fish and lamb, paired with wild salad harvested nearby, and incorporates seasonal produce, like rhubarb in June, or portobello mushrooms in August. Vegan and vegetarian options are also available and Dagný takes great care to accommodate guests with allergies or intolerances — an exceptional level of attentiveness. Notably, Dagný emphasised that fish sourced from the infamous nearby fish farms would never be served at Dunhagi. With a wine selection unusual for such a remote place, house cocktails and a playlist featuring Nina Simone and Bob Dylan, we vowed to return — both to the pools and Cafe Dunhagi.

And so we did, the very next day.


Check out the book “100 Outdoor Swimming Pools,” available through the Grapevine shop, to learn more about pools in Iceland.

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