On a grassy hilltop at the edge of the small northern town of Húsavík, a brand new state-of-the-art bathing facility called the GeoSea geothermal sea baths recently opened its doors. Situated a twenty-minute walk from the town centre next to an old-school yellow lighthouse, a subtle entrance walkway leads down into a grass-roofed, grey-toned lobby with floor to ceiling windows; outside sits a large, steaming infinity pool with an undulating edge offering a stunning view over the Skjálfandi Bay. The water is silky and, unusually, slightly saline—a mixture of sea and geothermal water that occurs naturally in a nearby well.
When we visit, GeoSea has been open for just three weeks after a few years in development. The idea evolved from unlikely beginnings, explains site manager Sigurjón Steinsson. “It all started with ‘Ostakerið’—the ‘Cheese Tubs,’” he smiles. “There was a borehole made just up the hill, to try and find hot water for the town—but the water was salty because it was mixed with sea water, so it wasn’t useable for heating at the time.”
A few locals decided to test the water’s medicinal effects, adapting a large tub formerly used in cheese-making into an impromptu hot pot. “It was used for quite a few years, with some success for people with psoriasis and skin disease,” says Sigurjón. “The idea came around to do something bigger, and now here we are.”
GeoSea already feels like a success, in more ways than one. The architecture and design—by BASALT Architects, also responsible for the Blue Lagoon and Hofsós swimming pool—is unobtrusive to the point of near invisibility in the landscape, and the interior has a muted slate-grey palette throughout. The poolside area and in-pool seating are made from smooth stone, and new water enters through bubbling vents, so you can find warmer or cooler spots based on your taste. These thoughtful touches result in a pleasingly natural feel that matches the magic ingredient—the silken geothermal water.
“The water comes from two different boreholes,” says Sigurjón. “There’s one by the harbour, which is 27-30°C and has saltier water because it’s not as deep, and closer to the ocean; then we have the water from the cheese tub hole, which is 102°C. We mix those two together to get the 39° temperature we have now.” Because the water runs into the pool at around 21 litres per second, and sloshes over the edge, it can be operated completely without chlorine. “The water circulates, and renews itself entirely every three hours,” Sigurjón notes.
Sunsets and aurora
GeoSea has been an instant hit with locals, who come up to the pool after work. “It’s become something of a local pub in the evening, because we have comparatively cheap beer for Iceland,” smiles Sigurjón. “People have a drink and take in the view of the mountains—which can’t be beat, especially when they are snow-capped like now—and watch the sunset, or the northern lights.”
As we slide into the pool to watch the blazing autumn sun sink behind the snowy mountains, it’s the perfect end to a long day. As the lighthouse lamp starts up and shines out over the water, it seems clear that GeoSea will continue to be a beacon for locals and tourists alike.