The Icelandic Swimming Pool Rules
You might have noticed when you travel around Iceland that almost every town, no matter how big or small has a swimming pool. They might not have a bank or hospital but they'll have a swimming pool! Our geothermal energy makes this possible of course and provides hot water for our little paradise getaways. We are quite passionate when it comes to our swimming pools and we have strict rules you need to know about!
Many Icelanders start each day in the swimming pool. After swimming a few laps they chat away about the news, politics or life's important issues in the hot tub before going to work. For some it’s a ritual - good for the body and soul.
Most of us jump into that pool at a very early age. We have swimming classes for babies (only a few months old) called "baby swimming". The babies splash around (with their parents of course) do all kinds of exercises and dive in the water. Some kids learn to swim very early on but all kids learn to swim when they start school, at 6, and swimming is a part of the curriculum until you're 16 and finish 10th grade. Once a week they’re driven on a school bus to learn all kinds of swimming techniques. No matter the weather, rain, snow, freezing temperatures - we don’t care!
We also take our kids to the swimming pool just to play. You might notice families playing with their young kids just after dinner. They’ll take a warm shower afterwards and put their kids in pyjamas and go home and put them straight to bed. You'll feel it yourself - a soothing and relaxing feeling - because swimming cleanses your mind and relaxes your muscles.
Swimming is also just a great way to train. We don’t let the weather stop us and use our pools all year round. As wonderful as the summertime is you should try sitting in a hot tub getting large fluffy snowflakes in your face. Or looking up at the night sky filled with stars ... and sometimes even the Northern lights. It’s a weird and amazing feeling.
If you’d like to get to know us locals we recommend coming for a swim and starting a conversation in the hot tub. Many of the world’s problems can (and should) be solved there. If you didn’t bring a swimsuit with you you can rent it at the counter at the swimming pool. It might not be the latest fashion but that might be funny and a great way to start a conversation.
But what you need to know is that Icelanders have a few swimming pool rules that we take very seriously. (These also apply in the Blue Lagoon.) And unless you want to get the locals very upset with you and the staff follow you, you better follow these rules:
You can NEVER EVER enter our swimming pools unless you wash your body and hair with soap. Our pools are not baths and you have to wash yourself thoroughly without your bathing suit before jumping in. If you don’t you’ll get chased down by the employees and you’ll get the evil look from the locals.
Start by taking your shoes off before entering the dressing room. You can leave them out front or take a plastic bag and put them in you locker. The lockers are free and included in the admission fee.
Get undressed in the dressing area and lock your clothes and belongings in your locker. Take your bathing suit, towel and shampoo with you. You’ll find special compartments near the showers to keep your towel and shampoo in. Turn on the shower and wash your whole body with soap before putting on your bathing suit.
If you feel uncomfortable being naked around other people there are usually separate areas with closed booths you can wash in. Just so you know we are not concerned about or interested in your naked body so don’t feel awkward. We have been doing this since we were born and what we find strange and discomforting is when people try to wash themselves with their bathing suits on. It’s very difficult and highly unlikely to succeed ... and of course a violation of Rule #1! That’s when we start to stare and interfere.
If you forget something in your locker, like your towel, don’t go all wet in to get it. That’ll make the floor wet and annoy people that are trying to get themselves dressed. Ask someone, a staff member or a fellow swim-goer (a dry one), for help or dry yourself before going in to the dry area.
You don’t need to take your towel with you to the pool. Just keep it in the compartments by the showers. It’ll be safe there. Only reason to take it with you would be if you want to grab a bench to sunbath on. That’s not really going to happen often in Iceland ... but it might!
Phones and cameras are not something you take with you to the pool. There’s no place to keep it safe. Just keep them in your locked locker. It’s also forbidden to use a phone or camera in the locker rooms.
Do NOT EVER EVER think about urinating in the pool or hot tub. If you do you will not live to tell about it.
When you get out of the swimming pool you need to shower again.
After showering don’t go from the shower area to the dressing area without drying yourself. You have to dry yourself in the drying area and make sure your feet are dry before entering the locker area. It’s REALLY annoying getting dressed in puddles of water.
Don’t put your shoes on in the dressing area. We don’t want mud or dirt on our feet when we arrive squeaky clean from the showers. Just put them on by the door when you get out of the locker room.
So it’s quite simple really:
- Wash yourself without a bathing suit with soap before entering the pool
- Put your towel in the compartments by the showers
- Dry off before entering the locker area (feet too)
- No phones or cameras allowed in the locker rooms (not recommended at pool area either)
- No shoes
- Make new friends and solve world problems in hot tub
So you see, coming to our swimming pools is a cleansing experience.
You might wonder what swimming pool to go to. Well, no swimming pool in Iceland is the same - they all have their own charm. In Reykjavík almost every neighbourhood has its own swimming pool. So just try as many as you can and find your favourite. The website sundlaugar.is has information on all swimming pools all around the country.
The price of admission varies a little bit between pools. It costs around 750-980 kr. for an adult to go swimming. 150-200 kr. for kids 6-17 years old and admission is free for kids 0-5, the elderly 67+ and disabled people.
If you are in a group, taking the family swimming or you're going to go often to the same swimming pool (or the ones nearby in Reykjavík) you should ask about a discount card. You can usually buy a 10 admission card with a nice discount. Note that the discount card might not work in a different pool so ask before you buy it in which pools it works. The price of admission to the Blue Lagoon and other geothermal baths are more expensive and vary as well. The price is around 3800 kr. and up.
Don’t forget to get an ice cream after you go swimming - that’s a classic Icelandic thing to do. Ice creams are sold at the swimming pool but you can usually find ice cream parlors close by. They serve soft serve ice cream, gelato and more delicious stuff. If you want the ultimate Icelandic ice cream get the "Bragðarefur". It's a blend of soft serve ice cream with your choice of candy and fruits all mixed up together in perfect harmony. It's quite big and a bit expensive (900-1200 kr.) but you can just get extra spoons and share it ... or not.
See you in the pool!