If you’re planning a trip to Iceland, there’s a good chance you’re also going to find yourself at a hot spring. You can find them all over the country (see our hot spring map!) — local communities depend on them for socializing, relaxing, and job opportunities, if they live near the larger spas. But before you hop in, there are a few things you should know; the first thing being that Icelanders take hot spring etiquette very seriously.
Hot springs that welcome a lot of tourists will often have convenient signs sharing a few rules, but it’s best to know what you’re getting into before you put on that bathing suit. To save you some research time, here are a few guidelines to follow:
Do your research.
Some hot springs are well known — Blue Lagoon, Gamla Laugin, Fontana — but many aren’t over-advertised. If you’re looking to stray off the beaten hot spring path, make sure you do your research. There are hot springs located all over the country, but, much like the ever-changing climate and geology, the environment of these hot springs can also spring.
Temperatures can become too hot for bathers and some hot spring water contains too many unsafe bacteria for visitors. Booking a hot spring tour with a local company will make sure you’re always safe. But if you want to find a truly local experience, search Instagram and reach out to Icelanders for their own advice.
The biggest etiquette lesson to take away here is for those on the hunt for more remote hot springs. There’s a good chance that the hot spring you’re looking for may be located on private land, so you’ll want to do some research and ask for permission to visit the area.
Take your shoes off before entering the locker room.
It’s considered rude to bring your shoes into the changing and showering areas. Most public hot springs will have a small room or storage spot to leave your shoes. Don’t worry: They’re completely safe on their own.
There will most likely be a locker room attendant present.
Many of the more popular hot springs will have attendants on hand to answer questions and make sure the changing and showering areas remain clean. They aren’t there to monitor you while you’re changing or showering, but more so to publicly remind visitors of the rules.
You’re going to have to shower without a swimsuit before entering the hot spring.
Locals are very keen on hygiene and bathing in the nude before entering a hot spring is not only expected, it’s completely normal. Don’t fret — this is commonplace and no one will be looking. Some hot springs, like the Blue Lagoon, even have private shower cubicles.
Speaking of a swimsuit, you need one to enter the hot spring.
Bathing suits are mandatory in all hot springs, but women aren’t required to wear swimsuit tops. Just make sure to put it on after you shower and before you head out to the pool.
Respect your fellow hot spring bathers.
At some of the more popular hot springs, you can purchase drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) to enjoy while you bathe. No matter what you’re drinking or doing, make sure to respect the other visitors at the hot spring. Conversations are encouraged, but keep it quiet and enjoy your surroundings. The entire point of a hot spring is to relax, after all.
If you are bringing your own drinks to a remote hot spring, do not bring glass.
Shattered glass is hard to collect and dispose of when it falls into murky water. Avoid this situation all together and opt for plastic cups or find a restaurant to get a quick drink at after your soak.
Shower once you’re done in the hot spring, but make sure to dry off before going into the changing room.
Again, in the name of cleanliness, keep the water in the pool and in the showering area. Dry off completely before heading back to change into your clothes to avoid unintentionally breaking any social rules.
Always clean up after yourself.
So many of the more remote hot springs, often only visited by locals, have seen a degeneration due to trash and other litter left behind by travelers. Think of it like camping. Follow this simple rule and everyone will stay happy: Bring out everything you bring in.