ICELAND’S GEOTHERMAL BATHING CULTURE

Watering hole nation

In many countries if you want to meet the locals you go to the nearest watering hole (pub, bar, cantina). Iceland takes its watering holes literally and seriously. Nearly everyone in Iceland gathers around their town’s geothermally heated pools and has been doing so since the Vikings put down their swords and jumped in the healing waters over a thousand years ago.

Iceland Geothermal Baths

Swimming and lounging in the pools and hot pots is not just an Icelandic tradition but a central part of the culture today. Icelanders go the baths to discuss the issues of their day, to cure their aches and to simply feel better. Welcoming of international travelers who wish to soak with them, they expect you to embrace being cleansed outdoors in nature.

A hot pot in every Podunk

There are nearly 200 natural spring-fed manmade pools throughout Iceland, with 17 in Reykjavik alone. Swimming is a national pastime, as every Icelandic child learns to swim as part of his/her mandatory school curriculum. The pools range from 50 meter cement goliaths to backcountry vents in the earth where steam and water bubble to the surface. Skinny dipping is de rigueur there while in town swimsuits are the norm.

Tusker travelers have enjoyed Myvatn where the locals have been dipping since the 13th century. On Tusker’s upcoming 2017 nine day trip this summer there are planned soaks at several historic pools in Iceland including Reykjafjörður and Patreksfjörður. Backcountry plunges are also possible.

Cleanliness is next to Viking godliness

Visiting the town pools is a great way to meet Icelanders who enjoy conversing with foreigners, especially around the hot pots (hot tubs) that have much hotter water than the larger swimming pools. It would be disrespectful to not engage and share the joy. The one rule you must obey is to wash yourself thoroughly without your swim suit before entering the bathing areas. Follow the posted guidelines in the locker rooms that illustrate which body parts you must lather up. Icelanders take geothermal bathing hygiene seriously because the water is not chemically treated with chlorine.

Eddie’s lament

Tusker founder Eddie Frank was not a hot springs devotee before his first Icelandic trip. On that trip while the group was enjoying Myvatn Eddie was busting his chops fixing a blown transmission and could have used a dip. His clients raved about the Myvatn experience and ever since Eddie partakes in the 100 plus degree soothing waters. He usually is the first one in the pools.

Taking the plunge

Perhaps the perfect ending to a Tusker day on the trail after seeing Iceland’s geothermal and seismically chiseled landscape is to become at one with it. Take a thorough shower, put a smile on your face and met your new Icelandic friends who share your love of nature’s watery bounty.

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