When contemplating a trip to Iceland, a swimming costume might not be a the top of your packing list, but make sure you bring one or you might miss out on a central part of Icelandic culture - a dip in the pool! Now, I'm sure you're thinking of the world famous Blue Lagoon, and yes, that's a lovely place to take a dip, but thanks to Iceland's geothermal energy, practically every city, town and village in Iceland has a large public swimming complex with the swimming facilities (pools, hot pots, water slides etc) outdoors. The country’s widespread geothermal vents and hot springs provide piping hot water which is siphoned off to public pools and minimally treated to keep it as pure as possible.
The Icelandic tradition of bathing outdoors in volcanically-heated pools dates right back to Viking times and, amazingly, a few of these old pools survive today – often in truly spectacular locations. Indeed it's so important to Icelanders that the Icelandic word for Saturday - Laugardagur - literally means "pool day" or “bathing day.” Many homes also have their own hot tubs outdoors too.
Icelanders visit the pools year-round, no matter what the weather conditions and all pools will have at least one ‘hot pot’. Never mind the pub - these hot tubs are where the convivial Icelandic social scene really happens, where everyone exchanges gossip and news. It’s rumoured that going for a nice hot tub in the evening is a popular second date in Iceland and during work hours it's not uncommon to see business meetings conducted in the hot tubs too!
As all Icelandic pools are far less chlorinated than pools in other countries, pool rules are strict, and no one is allowed to enter the pool without washing thoroughly.
An outdoor soak is an essential part of the Icelandic experience but if you do forget your cossie, don't worry - you can usually rent one!