Do You REALLY Need to be NUDE in Geothermal Baths, Blue Lagoon & Public Pools in Iceland?
So you’ve landed in Iceland, feeling pretty smug. You’ve made it to the land of ice and fire! That smugness is wiped out off your face as soon as those Icelandic winds make an appearance (which is the moment you step out of the aircraft). To warm up your bones, you book a trip to the Blue Lagoon, or any lagoon for that matter. But you’ve heard things, awkward things… like Do you REALLY need to be NUDE when enjoying the geothermal baths in Iceland? Oh goodness. Let’s find out:
- The naked truth, or the truth about nakedness. You don’t go topless, bottomless or nude to the public pools or lagoons themselves. All you need to do is take a shower nude, aka in your birthday suit, and not your bathing suit. This is to make sure you are completely clean before you enter the pools/baths, as the water in them is without chlorine. That’s right, the water is completely natural, without a chemical in sight. So the order is as follows: Come in dressed, undress, shower, put a swimsuit on, enjoy the baths, take swimsuit off, shower, put clothes back on. Not that scary, right? I must add, for those who are not body confident, there are slightly secluded showers, all the rest are public. The dressing rooms are separated by gender. It’s worth adding that no one really cares about how you look like with clothes or without clothes in these facilities. Literally, no one. People come here to relax and catch up with friends, and don’t really have time to deal with anyone’s insecurities. Their general advice is getting over it.
- Wait, people talk to you while you are in the pool? It’s a yes. For Icelanders, going to geothermal pools is an equivalent of us going to Starbucks. They catch up with friends, discuss the news, argue, make up, gossip etc while half naked in a 38 degree pool. People chatted to us, told us about their lives (I think they gave me enough info to write their biographies), and joked with us. So while it may be not that relaxing, attending some local geothermal baths was a very cultural experience.
- Is the Blue Lagoon Just a Tourist Trap? I didn’t have the pleasure of going to the Blue Lagoon, as it was actually booked out for the time I was there. We came up with plan B and went to Myvatn instead. At the time, I was quite upset thinking I missed our on something major, so I jumped into reading reviews. Some loved it, some hated it. The fact is that Icelanders seldom go to the Blue Lagoon, only tourists flock to the attraction. The second fact is that it is man-made, so it’s not a natural nature bath. The third fact is that it is very expensive, and the alternatives are just as good – just way cheaper. In the images above, I didn’t have to photoshop anyone out, as there was literally no one there. We rolled up really early to Myvatn nature baths, were the only ones there, and as more people started appearing, we were done. Should you go to the Blue Lagoon? If you can, do. Should I despair if I can’t make it? Nope. I can’t recommend Myvatn enough, especially in the morning to get the same serene experience we did. Plus, it was the perrrrfect photoshoot opp with zero photoshopping people out of the background.
- But it’s COLD outside! Yes, it is cold. This means you will want to hurry into the warm pool to enjoy the soothing warmness of the water. Then you’ll just run back into the changing rooms. It’s not that bad, and doesn’t really take away from the experience. People also asked: Should we wear hats, won’t our heads get cold? Short answer, no. You’ll be fine.
- It stinks? You will notice a smell here and there around the island, and it may become a bit intense if you are going towards the geothermal waters or turn on the hot water on your tap (I especially noticed it in Reykjavik). I can only describe the smell as rotten eggs. I am not going to lie – it ain’t pretty. But as Icelanders would say… Get over it and enjoy the good things.
Are you planning on visiting any public pools, natural baths or the Blue Lagoon in Iceland?
So here we were, in the middle of the Icelandic wilderness. I wouldn’t say that me and my travel companions had a very sheltered upbringing compared to many people, but Iceland definitely took any street-wise smugness we had away, and showed us how bratty and reliant on modern day conveniences we actually were. How did we survive? Using a variety of skills including technology, as well as those that technology killed in us. Having said that, the advice below is not for hardcore camping legends, but for simple travel enthusiasts, who may find themselves lost on a roadtrip with a dead smartphone battery or zero signal. If this level of vanilla sounds like you, read on:
- We graduated from the University of YouTube: How to open a beer bottle with a key? How to pump air into tires? How to pump gas into (insert car model)? All of these valuable life lessons we learned from Youtube, as calling dad resulting in him being annoyed we didn’t just YouTube it.
- We pushed ourselves to step out of our comfort zones: Wet rock climbing with my DSLR around my neck was panic attack inducing for me. That meant my friends just walked slower so that I could catch up in my own time. We were all outside our comfort zones at some point in our journey together, and allowing each other to work through our challenges at our own pace was a very important part of this trip.
- We allowed ourselves to stay in our own comfort zones: I am into outfit photography, and I NEEDED to indulge in milky lagoon waters. I got 100% support from my travel buddies. They were into long nature hikes, I hiked along. They were into using public pools, I swam with. They were into liquorice. I drew the line right there. No, no, no. The moral of the story is acceptance even if it means doing something you wouldn’t normally do.
- We got lost: In a place where Google Maps doesn’t work, getting lost is easy. It was refreshing to use visual memory and logic to find our way back. It seems that this part of the brain we stopped utilising since the rise of tech. Where’s the last place you went to sans Google Maps? Retracing steps, remembering familiar terrains and taking risks started feeling natural after a while. It’s shocking that this wasn’t the case originally, that’s how reliant on technology we have become.
- Rewind and re-plan: A whole array of events can jeopardise your original plans, for example getting lost, taking detours, finding out prices had changed etc. This means that being inflexible and set in your ways simply doesn’t work in Iceland, and you’ll be met with a rude awakening. Mother Nature is quite hardcore in the land of ice and fire. This meant that re-planning and rescheduling in a matter of seconds was a must. For example, we went to Myvatn Lagoon and local mineral baths instead of the Blue Lagoon (as it was completely booked up). It was the best reshuffle in the world: We enjoyed three spa sessions instead of one, had we insisted on the Blue Lagoon. We still spent less. By the way, you can find a post on the common misconceptions when it comes to lagoons in Iceland here.
Do you have any tips to add to these? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve learned from YouTube?
Have you always dreamed about visiting Iceland but felt discouraged by the potential cost? I’m with you. It can be an epically expensive adventure, costing more than a Caribbean break. Having said that, I’ve succeeded in not spending an arm and a leg on my adventure, and I’d like to share my tips for a budget-friendly trip to Iceland.
- Three is the key. Booking a room and dividing the cost by two will always be costlier than dividing it by three. We saved a pretty penny by booking rooms for three. Of course, this wouldn’t be ideal if you were planning a romantic getaway with your partner, but for a friends-only trip, this was perfect!
- Book rooms with inclusive breakfast. As we were driving around the island (Hello Ring Road), some of the farms/b&bs we stayed at were in pretty remote locations. Luckily, we booked rooms with inclusive breakfasts, which meant we didn’t have to pay extra for filling our tummies before hitting the road.
- We popped to the supermarket. We stocked up on pot noodles, dry food and snacks which were perfect as lunches and snacks. When in hotel rooms, we decided that we would have modest supermarket-bought dinners for a few days and allow ourselves to splurge on restaurant-bought food during the rest of the journey. It worked out perfectly and we didn’t feel we missed out on anything. Plus, the skyr we bought was delicious!
- Airport booze buying is a thing. As we exited our aircraft and passed passport control, we noticed that all of the locals diverted into a duty-free shop before exiting. This looked suspicious to my eye and how right I was! In Iceland, you can buy alcohol only in state-owned liquor stores known as Vínbúdin and not in supermarkets (if the alcohol content is greater than 2.25%, which, come on, obviously it would be). To save us the faff and the cost of getting to one of those stores, we stocked up on some bottles (1 wine and a beer six pack) in the duty-free store before leaving the airport. Actually, not drinking too much has also saved us money! To be honest, when you are surrounded by a good crowd, alcohol can become redundant.
- Splitwise. Get this app if you are travelling with friends as it will help you be on top of the spend. You’ll quickly know if you can allow yourself to splurge, or what days to slow down with the spending. It also takes the awkward out of the money-split-talk.
For a week in Iceland, with car hire, flights, hotels, supermarket food, restaurants, some alcohol, most of the fun activities Iceland has to offer, we’ve spent roughly £380 per person, which is a price closer to a week away in Spain rather than the Caribbean. This calculation excludes goodies and souvenirs we bought for ourselves and our loved ones. We travelled in May, in the beginning of Icelandic summer (read, not really summer, still definitely winter).
In part two, I will talk about the five things myself and my travel mates learned being left to our own devices in the Icelandic wilderness. Well, sorta.