Iceland is for water lovers

Visit a black sand beach and thermal pools with ocean views.

Swirling under Iceland are plumes that give way to the volcanic hot spots and geothermal baths that exist all over the country. In other areas, it’s glaciers and snow; and elsewhere, black sand beaches and waterfalls.

“Water means a lot to us. We have a lot of it. Other lands are not as lucky,” says Jónas Friðrik Hjartarson, the manager ofKrauma, a newly-opened geothermal bath resort in western Iceland.

If you find yourself in the Nordic nation, soak—or take in other water-filled sights—here:

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  • Soak near Reykjavík.

    Soak near Reykjavík.

    Some research suggests geothermal springs, often filled with silica, algae, and minerals, have anti-inflammatory, skin, and relaxation benefits. But in Iceland, bathing is a way of life. “People go to the hot tub just to get news from one and another,” Hjartarson says.

    Seek advice from a handful of people and half might suggest skipping the famed waters of Blue Lagoon in lieu of lesser-known spots. But during cold winter months, when the sun doesn’t rise until 11 a.m., you can catch a stunning sunrise. Come April, travelers can stay in luxury, too. The Retreat at Blue Lagoon, with an underground spa and 62 suites overlooking the waters, will open.

    For something quieter, an hour or so north of Reykjavík is Krauma, a collection of five geothermal pools, a cold bath, saunas, and a glass-enclosed relaxation room with a fireplace; or in the Golden Circle area, the steamy Secret Lagoon, the oldest pool in Iceland, is a spot to take in the dancing Northern Lights. 

    Many of the capital city’s thermal pools stay open at night, too, welcoming travelers and locals looking for a post-work soak.

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  • Stand beneath two waterfalls.

    Stand beneath two waterfalls.

    Iceland’s many waterfalls are sights to be seen. You can hit two of them in one 90-minute trip due south from Reykjavík. Seljalandsfoss is a 197-foot drop that’ll awe you from the road. ​At the second, the famed falls of Skógafoss, climb hundreds of steps for panoramic views of the country’s southern coastline. In warmer months, walk the path to stand behind it.

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  • Dip your toes in the sea at a black sand beach.

    Dip your toes in the sea at a black sand beach.

    Thirty minutes south of Skógafoss is the sleepy beach town of Vik, a postcard-worthy place where a hillside red-topped church overlooks pastel-painted buildings and the ocean below. Here, you’ll find a wind-whipped black sand beach. However, it's more for admiring columns of volcanic rock jutting out of the sea than for swimming.

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  • Bathe in the Westfjords.

    Bathe in the Westfjords.

    In the wild, remote Westfjords, where only a small percentage of Iceland’s visitors trek, nature—craggy coastlines, loud ocean waves—is the star. (Local guides can help craft custom adventures.) But hikers, cross-country skiers, and sea kayakers can all find relief at the Krossness Pool, one of the country’s most awe-worthy bathing spots. It has prime beachfront real estate overlooking the ocean and the Icelandic landscape.

    If a road trip through the region brings you to Drangsnes, a tiny fishing village on the coastline, slip into one of the Drangsnes Hot Pots, which are just as they sound: thermal tubs with ocean views.

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