Making the most of the city’s abundant piping hot water, Reykjavik’s swimming pools are well worth a visit. Even if it means conquering your fear of nudity first.
Low levels of chlorine at all 16 of Reykjavik’s pools means there’s no nasty bleach-like smell while you bathe, but high levels of hygiene mean you have to wash yourself naked before getting in.
It’s not up for debate. And if you’re not sure where exactly you’re supposed to be scrubbing, you can always refer to the classic Icelandic Naked Androgynous Diagram, as pictured here.
This comes as a surprise to most gymnophobic tourists, who wouldn’t dare bare their bottoms in front of others, never mind soap their genitalia in a shower-room full of strangers. Icelanders, on the other hand, have no such hang-ups about the human body, and happily stroll around starkers in the changing-rooms while the visitors dart about with strategically-held bottles of shampoo.
The thing to remember is this: the only person who cares what you look like naked is you.
If anybody’s going to stare at anything then it’s somebody trying to wash their bits with their swimsuit on. And—contrary to most tourist publications—not everybody in Iceland is a leggy, 6 foot 4 blonde (barring the President of the Republic, of course).
So don’t worry about coming out of there with an inferiority complex; there are just as many wobbly bits in Reykjavik as there are in Reading. Well, per capita at least.
Nearly all the pools are open-air, and relaxing in a 40°C “hot-pot” while the snow falls gently on your face is a sure-fire way to cure the classic Reykjavik hangover (next to a carton of kókomjolk of course), making all that public nudity worth it in the end.
Sixteen pools in total (that’s practically one for every Icelander), here’s our top five:
Hill-top pool with a great view of Reykjavik in the distance. Also boasts an indoor domed area, just in case it starts to rain.
A recently renovated salt-water pool on the Seltjarnarnes peninsula, which means even less chlorine than usual.
An indoor pool, but worth visiting just for the genius 1930′s locker system. They don’t make ‘em like they used to.
Dubbed “the gay pool”, though (disappointingly) for no apparent reason, Vesturbæjarlaug has the best hot-pots and steam-room in town.
With an Olympic-sized swimming pool, visit Laugardalslaug if it’s the swimming part you’re really interested in.