In Iceland, nearly every gated community has at least one swimming pool. It might be very hard for you to believe, but Icelanders love swimming. But if you find that school children start learning how to swim from year 1, then you can clearly see how their fondness for water grows. The good news is that Iceland’s geothermal energy helps heat the swimming pools.
With the North Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Greenland Sea on the other, Icelandic water temperatures usually vary between 11 degrees Celsius and 4 degrees Celsius. Therefore, you guess it right that very few people would be willing to risk swimming in the ocean. Not without good protection.
Fortunately, there are many heated springs and hot springs. Although there is a history of pools being built since the 13th century, the oldest swimming pool dates back to 100 years ago, which is very impressive. With the geothermal volcanic energy giving the heat, the pools are open throughout the year, regardless of the current weather.
With such an extensive history, it isn’t surprising that the act of swimming is part of the Icelandic culture. No matter the time of the year, whether it’s during a snowstorm or under the midnight stars, you’ll always find people enjoying the time they spend at the pool. You may start to wonder what’s special about swimming pools in Iceland? Because swimming pools are found across the globe, what makes Iceland’s swimming pools different?
In Iceland, the swimming pools are not just the average local pool. Swimming pools are a gathering place. It’s the place people go to discuss issues or gossip. The place people meet with friends and family. A place to unwind after a long day at work and let the stress soak away as you enjoy time with your friends. It’s a place for friends to enjoy a great time together. At the swimming pool, all people are equal.
Being a very important aspect of life for Icelanders, it isn’t surprising that parents start teaching their children how to swim immediately after they have just learned how to crawl. Baby swimming classes are a very popular activity that parents do with their little ones starting from 3 months.
After a child has learned to swim at a young age, this culture continues into their primary school education where the kids will have weekly swimming lessons. In fact, back in 1943, the government made it mandatory for primary schools to offer swimming education to all school-going children.
With teenagers from the US and the UK going to hang out in the malls, Icelandic teens go to the swimming pools to chat and hang out with friends. Also, adults have a daily routine of meetings in the heated swimming pools to easily catch up with friends and relax after work as their kids play. You’ll often see a group of adults sitting in the heated swimming pools in the late evening or morning when they chat and discuss important matters. It’s part of the Icelandic culture, regardless of age.
After all, if you live in a place with months of darkness and cold, you definitely need a better place to relax, socialize and have some fresh air.
Iceland’s Swimming Pools Aren’t Just For Laps
Iceland’s community swimming pool largely emphasizes the sense of “community”. In essence, there are pools for doing swimming laps, but you’ll often find Jacuzzis, cold baths, steam, or hot tubs. For children, there are many wading pools and playground-like pools with incredible waterslides.
Therefore, you can easily get your exercises with few laps and just relax in the hot tub and also join the social scene. You could also find yourself discussing more issues about weather or sports.
Most swimming pools are usually open each day, but you may want to carefully check about when the swimming pools are opened. You must have to pay the entrance fee, but it’s often not much based on the available facilities. And if you never packed a swimsuit, you don’t have to worry about it. You can rent or even buy a swimsuit to ensure you don’t miss out on the fun.
Tips Before You Get Into Iceland’s Swimming Pools
All swimming pools in Iceland are kept extraordinarily hygienic and clean because everyone respects the fundamental rules. For starters, you need to check to make sure your bathing suit is clean before you get into the water. This means you can change into the swimming suit after thoroughly showering. You have to strip naked because showering with a swimsuit isn’t allowed.
You need to pay the pool’s admission fee before getting into the locker rooms. You should not try sneaking into the swimming pool because the entry fee isn’t expensive and is required to keep the pools lovelier. Going to the swimming pools is a very cost-effective alternative in Iceland. The fee ranges from £3- £9 for the local swimming pools and £20 – £80 for the luxury spa swimming pools like the Blue Lagoon and the Laugarvatn Fontana.
You’re also required to have your cameras and phones packed away. The local pools are a unique and amazing experience of the Icelandic culture, one that you’ll want to record. But you’ll be required to keep the cameras and phones packed away when visiting the swimming pools. For good reasons cameras and phones aren’t allowed in the locker rooms, but they aren’t also allowed in the pool area.
One of the most important things and one that might make you feel uncomfortable if it’s your first time visiting the pool is being required to strip naked and not putting on any clothes until you’ve showered. If you have never stripped naked before other people, then you have nothing to worry about because this is something Icelanders do with no fear, in fact, they like showering together.
Gardiner, K. (n.d.). An Icelandic ritual for wellbeing. BBCpage. https://www.bbc.com/travel/article/20200817-an-icelandic-ritual-for-wellbeing
Iceland’s water cure (Published 2016). (2016, May 8). The New York Times – Breaking News, US News, World News and Videos. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/24/magazine/icelands-water-cure.html