From Iceland — Thank God For Hot Water - The Reykjanes Pool And Some Of What Makes Life Bearable

Thank God For Hot Water – The Reykjanes Pool And Some Of What Makes Life Bearable

Published July 27, 2009

Haukur S. Magnússon
Photo by
Julia Staples

One of this country’s best redeeming qualities are the pools of hot water found sprinkled all over it. Those pools somehow manage to make life on the edge of the inhabitable world somewhat bearable-to-goddamn awesome when all else fails, especially when temperatures drop below sub-zero and an endless winter takes hold of the heart. They are also pretty great during summer, when those dark days seem like a distant, repressed memory. We treasure every single one of the geothermal pools, quaint hot tubs and glorified puddles sprinkled all over our small rock in the North Atlantic, and so should you.

All of those pools are special, all of them offer something to love; the modern concrete and glass constructs with their fishtank steamrooms and suburban families, the indoor pools and their ambitious architecture, the barren wasteland screaming ocean end-of-the world three-person decaying concrete tubs. All of them do, yet some of them stand out, earning a very special place in travellers’ hearts, haunting their dreams and demanding repeat visits. One such pool sits on the Reykjanes peninsula, not the one with Keflavík in it, the one that rests firmly on one of the Westfjords’ many jagged corners.

This is not the first article we publish about the pool at the Reykjanes resort, and it probably will not be the last. No amount of words or pictures could possibly capture it in optimal conditions. Its raw concrete structure (re-done this summer) fits surprisingly well with the area’s rugged geography, underwater wooden benches provide a place to rest and contemplate the warm water blending in with the clear, clean sky, the sometimes angry ocean or the mountains looming afar.

The pool itself is an Olympic-sized outdoor affair. It is Iceland’s biggest hot tub by all accounts – the hot geothermal water making it way more suitable for floating around and forgetting whatever ails you than engaging in any Olympic-style activities. It was built in 1934 to replace the older (1889) rock-and-dirt-based model, remnants of which are still visible. It was until recently Iceland’s ‘longest’ swimming pool; although it was originally meant to be a modest 25-metre length the builders apparently got the measurements wrong. The geothermal heating results in a comfortably inconsistent average temperature and a warning sign graces its banks: pool may be extremely hot, patrons enter at their own risk.

The charmingly rustic hotel/campsite usually offers the kind of peace and quiet most tourists will happily travel across continents to reach, and you start wondering why the resort is one of Icelandic tourism’s best kept secrets.

Floating in the pool during sunlit summer nights invites many a curiosity (it officially closes at 23:30, but the resort folks don’t seem to mind if you loiter around forever); I have had several close encounters of the bird kind while resting my laurels there, a redshank or whippoorwill landing on the water’s smooth surface to rest along with me and share a few tweets. All sorts of birds seem to know about this place, and they seem to like it.

Boil your senses away, douse them with beer and you will understand exactly what they mean. Soak yourself for hours. You can ponder eternity, or you may engage in conversation with drunk tourists, should you find yourself in their company.

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