When harnessing nature’s power to promote wellness and relaxation, the Land of Fire and Ice is blessed with a huge array of restorative experiences and a reputation for having one of the healthiest diets in the world. Therefore, it’s perhaps not surprising that in 2023, Iceland was rated as the world’s third healthiest country, just behind Spain and Italy.
Iceland’s natural spa resorts are the perfect way to unwind after a long day behind the wheel if you want to add a healthy dose of rest and relaxation to your road trip plans.
We encourage even the busiest road tripper to make time for at least one spa visit. You’ll not only enjoy a fantastic well-being boost but also gain first-hand experience of a centuries-old Icelandic cultural tradition.
When fire meets water
Two tectonic plates converge beneath Iceland, giving the island its trademark volcanic terrain and ensuring a constant, abundant geothermal water supply created in underground reservoirs where magma heats water to ferocious temperatures.
If geothermal water rises to the earth’s surface, a hot spring (or a more spectacular geyser) appears. Depending on the location, the water temperature varies wildly. From a balmy 64°F at Hveravellir geothermal pool in the west highlands, to the positively boiling (and too hot for bathing!) Gunnuhver thermal springs, where ground temperatures can reach 570°F.
Geothermal water heats over 90% of Icelandic homes, plus swimming pools, schools, and greenhouses, and puts the country ahead of the game when it comes to producing renewable power and achieving energy self-sufficiency.
Spas in Icelandic culture
Throughout history, Iceland’s hot springs have been a hub for socializing and building communities.
Luxury spa resorts are a relatively modern-day addition to Icelandic life, but bathing in hot springs is thought to date back to the early days of settlement. Evidence of bathing as part of life can be found in the 12th-century writing of Snorri Sturluson – a poet, politician, and historian. He documented his enthusiasm for hot springs, including the benefits of using his private pool, known as Snorralaug.
You can visit and even take a dip in Sturluson’s ‘Hobbit-like’ pool (if the temperature is right) in the village of Reykholt. At Snorralaug thermal baths, you can also explore the private tunnel linking Sturluson’s house to the pool, and Icelandic history buffs will enjoy the Sturluson-focused collection in the local village library.
The healing power of Icelandic spas
In recognizing the health benefits of geothermal waters, Sturluson was clearly onto something.
Geothermal water contains high concentrations of various minerals. Soaking in these minerals is said to offer a variety of health benefits, including:
- Alleviating muscle and joint pain
- Nourishing and repairing skin
- Clearing lung and nasal congestion
- Encouraging relaxation – reducing stress, and promoting restorative sleep
There are social benefits too, and Icelanders have long been aware that sharing a spa visit with friends or family can be a tonic for the soul!
Now that we’ve convinced you of the benefits of geothermal bathing in Iceland, only one question remains: which spa resorts should you visit?
Iceland’s best spa resorts
If you’re hiring a car in Iceland, planning rest days to visit some of Iceland’s best geothermal spas is the perfect way to balance busier days.
Organized tours can be booked for many spa resorts – but we think a well-planned Icelandic road trip can combine visiting amazing attractions with indulging in different spa experiences. After all, you can’t have too much of a good thing!
We’ve curated our favorite Icelandic spa resorts to help you decide where and when to ease off the gas. Most spa resorts are open all year round, and we recommend booking ahead to avoid disappointment. Get ready to chill out …
Reykjavík area: best spa resorts
If you’re flying into or out of Keflavík Airport, planning a day at the start and/or end of your road trip to experience Reykjavík’s best spa resorts will leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed.
The Blue Lagoon
Blue Lagoon is Iceland’s most well-known spa resort. Founded in 1992 to unlock the health benefits of geothermal seawater, this resort has even earned a place in National Geographic’s 25 Wonders of the World list. Once you visit, you’ll know why.
Described as relaxing, rejuvenating, and unforgettable – the Blue Lagoon was first discovered by local Icelanders who enjoyed bathing in the warm waters beneath the Svartsengi geothermal power plant. This sparked scientific interest in the seawater’s healing bioactive elements (silica, algae, and minerals), and the launch of a unique skincare range and the spa resort soon followed.
Visitors can choose from various packages – all providing access to the outdoor lagoon and a silica mud mask. You can add additional treatments, such as float therapy or in-water massages. For those seeking an exclusive spa experience, The Retreat (a spa within a spa!) provides an escape from the crowds and offers perks including meditation rooms, an underground steam cave, and the Lava Cove.
- Location: Reykjanes UNESCO Geopark (25 minutes to Keflavík Airport – 45 minutes to Reykjavík by hire car).
- Eating: With a café and three restaurants serving exceptional cuisine – you won’t go hungry!
- Booking: www.bluelagoon.com
- Useful to know: The Blue Lagoon offers complimentary charging EV stations if you travel by electric hire car.
Opened in 2021, this luxurious spa resort has a stunning 70-meter, infinity-edged pool set in craggy cliffs, looking out towards the Atlantic Ocean. Depending on the time of year, it’s the perfect spot to soak under the midnight sun or to watch the northern lights illuminating the sky.
All entry passes include a soak in the lagoon (c.100°F), followed by a bracing cold plunge into the glacier pool (41°F). You can expand your experience to a Seven-Step Ritual rooted in Icelandic bathing culture. This includes a sauna, energizing mist, cleansing scrub, steam, and shower – all experienced inside a replica Icelandic turf house.
- Location: Kársnes (15 minutes to central Reykjavík by hire car – 50 minutes by bus).
- Eating: The Smakk Bar celebrates traditional Icelandic fare, and the Sky Café has delicious light meals, including Icelandic specialties.
- Booking: www.skylagoon.com/booking
- Useful to know: At Sky Lagoon, parking is free and complimentary charging EV stations are available if you travel by electric hire car.
The Golden Circle: best spa resorts
If you hire a car to travel the Golden Circle Route, you’ll find several unforgettable spa resorts relatively close to the main route.
Fontana Geothermal Baths
Laze away the day in Fontana’s natural mineral pools, geothermal steam rooms, and sauna before a revitalizing dip in the ice-cold lake (or, for the less hardy, a soak in a hot tub)!
Set between mountains and tranquil Lake Laugarvatn, this idyllic setting includes work by Icelandic artist Erla Thorarinsdottir. If you feel peckish, you must sample Icelandic rye bread baked underground for 24 hours by the Fontana geothermal bakery. It’s delicious served with lashings of Icelandic butter.
- Location: Laugarvatn village (55 minutes from Reykjavík by hire car – 3 hours by bus).
- Eating: At the time of writing, the main restaurant is closed. Soup, bread, and a range of spreads can still be purchased.
- Booking: www.fontana.is/en
Known locally as ‘Gamla Laugin’, this natural hot pool is the oldest swimming pool in Iceland. In days gone by, this spot was used for swimming and laundry; it also provided the location for the Flúðir community’s legislative body until 1894. Today, the Secret Lagoon offers a more natural, authentic alternative to the newer, more luxurious spa resorts.
The pool is fed by the mineral-rich thermal waters of Vaðmálahver, Básahver, and the Litli Geysir, which spouts every few minutes – adding a theatrical bonus for bathers. The pool water is replenished every 24 hours and remains at a balmy 100°F–104°F all year round.
- Location: North of Flúðir (1 hour 30 minutes from Reykjavík by hire car – 2 hours 30 minutes by bus).
- Eating: A café serves drinks, sandwiches, and light snacks (no hot food).
- Booking: www.secretlagoon.is/booking
Staying in west Iceland but traveling a little further north of the Golden Circle Route – Krauma awaits your discovery. This luxurious spot harnesses the natural benefits of Europe’s most powerful hot spring, which pumps 180 liters of water per second, reaching temperatures of 212°F.
Choose from six baths, five warm and one cold – or try them all! After a refreshing soak, relaxation rooms, a steam bath, and saunas are on hand to complete the experience. This tranquil, high-end spa also offers delicious, healthy cuisine in the on-site Krauma restaurant, which overlooks the spectacular mountain views.
- Location: Deildartunguhver (1 hour 30 minutes from Reykjavík by hire car).
- Eating: Krauma restaurant serves Icelandic cuisine that showcases local produce.
- Booking: www.krauma.is
Further into West Iceland
If you’re heading further west than Krauma, check our information on Húsafell Canyon Baths for a more extreme, authentic bathing experience, found just under two hours from Reykjavík by car.
And, if you’re really ‘heading west’ into the remote Westfjords Peninsula, then the Krossneslaug geothermal pool awaits you at the end of your journey. But note that this is only open from mid-May to the end of August.
Beyond the Golden Circle
If you’re adventuring further afield – either north, east, or south – then you can still incorporate amazing spa experiences into your journey plans.
North Iceland: Bjórböðin Spa
Combining wellness with beer takes a special kind of Icelandic genius – but we’ve done it! Unlike other spa resorts, geothermal water is not part of the story at Bjórböðin. Here, you’ll discover the therapeutic benefits of bathing in young beer, live beer yeast, water, beer oil, and beer salt. This heady brew has a low pH which promises to tighten and soften hair follicles and cleanse skin and hair.
According to Bjórböðin, brewer’s yeast is a great source of vitamin B, potassium, iron, zinc, and magnesium. Combine this with the anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants of hops … and you can begin to appreciate how great beer is! But you probably already knew that.
You can round off your beery bath with a visit to the restaurant, which serves beer-related food washed down with locally-brewed Kaldi beer.
- Location: Árskógssandur (a short 15-minute drive from Dalvik).
- Eating: On-site restaurant as described.
- Booking: www.bjorbodin.is
North Iceland: Mývatn Nature Baths
If beer-bathing isn’t your thing, a more traditional geothermal experience can be found at Mývatn Nature Baths.
Take a relaxing dip in this milky blue lagoon, surrounded by clouds of rising steam – that characterize this volcanic landscape. The lagoon draws on a man-made hot spring, which rises to the surface at a heady 266°F. As it enters the lagoon, the hot spring water is cooled to a perfect 98–104°F.
Although the lagoon is powered by a man-made spring, the water still provides a rich natural mineral combination unique to this spot. Post-soak, you can enjoy a steam bath and breathtaking views across this natural reserve.
- Location: Mývatn on the Diamond Circle Route.
- Eating: Café Kvika provides light lunches and dinner.
- Booking: www.myvatnnaturebaths.is
East Iceland: Vök Baths
For adventurers exploring the fascinating wilds of east Iceland, Vök Baths are a must!
Set on the shore of sparkling Lake Urriðavatn, the Vök experience provides floating geothermal pools with infinity views, two onshore hot pools, a sauna, and a cold-water spray tunnel.
Staying hydrated is important for wellness, so we strongly recommend regular trips to the tea bar or the in-water pool bar. Remember to cool off with a refreshing dip in the lake (if you dare!) … the lake temperature ranges from an icy 32°F to a more acceptable 64°F. Bracing!
- Location: 5 km northwest of Egilsstaðir.
- Eating: Vök Bistro will nourish you with a selection of local delicacies.
- Booking: www.vokbaths.is
South Iceland: 360 Hotel & Spa
For road trippers heading along the stunning Icelandic south coast, a pit spot at the 360 Hotel & Spa, set in stunning scenery beneath clear open skies, is just the ticket.
This smaller spa hotel offers four large geothermal pools and a sauna – all set under the northern lights or the midnight sun (depending on when you visit).
It’s so relaxing; you’ll want to stay the night and take full advantage of the delicious evening meals available – including ‘the chef’s daily catch’. You can dine with other guests, overlooking spectacular, panoramic views of south Iceland.
- Location: Mosató (1 hour from Reykjavík by hire car).
- Eating: Breakfast buffet served from 8am–10am, and set dinners served 7pm–9pm, all year round. A lounge and bar are open daily for hot and cold beverages.
- Booking: www.360hotel.is
We hope you feel inspired to dive into at least one of Iceland’s iconic spa resorts during your stay. We’re always happy to advise on well-located spa experiences to complement your self-drive itinerary.
If you’re thinking about what else to do when you aren’t chilling in a spa, the rest of our blog is filled with ideas and top tips on getting the most out of your Icelandic adventure.Back