Pools of joy: The hot springs of Westfjords

“A spring of naturally hot water, typically heated by subterranean volcanic activity.” That’s what the dictionary says.

All good so far, except there’s no definition to adequately explain how much of a coveted experience they actually are, especially in the Westfjords, Iceland. They’re where visitors like to unwind, take a dip, relax, laugh, swim and generally just ‘chill’.

Here’s a fun fact: The Westfjords, unlike the rest of the country, are not known to be very geothermally active. But strangely enough, nowhere in Iceland are there as many natural bathing pools to be found than in the Westfjords.

Significantly many of these pools are undergoing renovation and modernisation in a manner that is eco-friendly and respectful of the local community and bathing history. While the projects are assorted, they are grouped under the name “Vatnavinir á Vestfjörðum’ (Friends of Water in the Westfjords).

From the tiniest change like the carving out of a trail to avoid accidents and protect surrounding vegetation, to larger scale planning including better facilities for guests and improvement of parking areas, the focus is to renovate in a manner that optimises pre-existing resources and minimises waste. A quick run through some of your ‘hottest’ options:


This is a lovely valley in the vicinity of Ísafjörður, the perfect setting for those of you with a twin passion for photography and birds.

But that’s not all. The family-run farm is the epicentre of all activity, with hotel accommodation and a great restaurant. There’s no way you ought to miss the sheer novelty of bathing in a thermal pool housed within a greenhouse amidst lush fruit trees and flowers.

The hot natural pool is a few minutes’ walk away from the Hotel Heydalur and on the other side of the river. Just the place to ponder over nature’s endless mysteries. The sound of the birds chirping all around is about as close to heaven you can get while still alive! Beauty, serenity and clean water all around you; it rarely gets better than this.


Hidden away in Ísafjarðardjúp bay, at the landward end of a fjord most people never see, you will find the hot pool at Hörgshlíð. Traffic stopped coming this way when a bridge was built over the fjord, but those in the know keep coming anyway! Built right on the beach, views don’t come much more idyllic than this – or quiet. Hörgshlíð is a stone’s throw from Heydalur, mentioned above, so why not stop there for lunch and yet another dip?


Hotel Reykjanes is located by Ísafjarðardjúp bay and offers a fabulous view of the Snaefjallaströnd  coast, Langadalsströnd and Borgarey island. The perfect place to walk and stroll around with a view of seals and beautiful birds, the cherry on the cake is the local swimming pool, a hefty 50 x 15 metres in size and hot as a bath, situated just below the hotel. This place has a lot of geothermal energy and the pool is heated by hot geothermal water. A sun platform and steam bath add to the experience.
Possibly one of the most relaxing places you could hope to visit in this lifetime.


In an isolated area of the southern shore of Arnarfjörður fjord, on the road to Bíldudalur, your attention will be drawn to what appears to be a swimming pool just a few metres inland from the road. If you stop here, though, you will see it is actually a pool of two halves, designed more for bathing than swimming. One half is pretty cold, while the other is toasty warm. Reykjafjörður benefits both from the human-made pool and also a natural hot pot tucked away in the hillside. You might also enjoy the fact that the toilet in the changing room flushes hot!


When visiting the quiet Westfjords fishing village of Tálknafjörður, you might like to carry on driving a little further. As the road surface gets worse and the landscape more rugged, suddenly an oasis hones into view: Pollurinn. A lovingly cared for local secret, this is a stunning place to soak in natural hot water whilst surveying the fabulous fjord views. There are changing facilities and showers.


This  is a small pool located in the heart of Vatnsfjörður on the south coast of the Westfjords. It takes some finding, because it is away from the road hidden on the seashore. That is precisely what makes it so delightful! The beach is home to endless birds, including whimbrels, wader birds, Arctic terns and eider ducks.

Driving from Reyjavík, take the Ring Road. Drive carefully for the fjords and mountains are challenging indeed. But the destination will be so worth it! The pool is 60 cm deep and the temperature of the water is about 38 degrees C. The geothermal water comes from a borehole above the pool.


These are basically two geothermal pools in the southern Westfjords in the vicinity of Birkimelur. The famous book Thermal pools in Iceland says the concrete pool was built in 1948, while the other is a more natural looking hot tub near the seashore. Both the pools are filled with warm water, around 38 degrees C. Best of all is the view – especially when the sky is clear.


This pool is one of the rewards that travellers who take the road less travelled can hope to find.  Linked to the seashore, the vicinity is great for hikes and walks making it a great place for families.  Plans are afoot to make changes to the pool with a view to provide better parking and viewing boxes clad in recycled steel so as to provide visitors a place to eat their meals. Playground equipment like sand pits, swings etc are also in the offing.


The facilities for guests here match the natural thermal pools. Located in the Southern Strandir District, north of Drangsnes Village in the eastern Westfjords, there are two natural hot pools at Gvendarlaug. While the first is medieval in origin and is named an archaeological site, the other one is a modern swimming pool. Local lore has it that both pools have healing, almost magic, powers. You can pair a dip in the pool with a visit to the nearby Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft-as unusual a set-up as it gets.  There is green landscaping planned around the pool to add to the experience.


A five minute drive from the Norðurfjörður harbour, this is one wonder of nature you shouldn’t miss. Natural springs feed this pool with an endless supply of hot water. This is an open open-air pool down on a pebbly beach. Swimming in the vicinity of the Atlantic: a once in a lifetime experience.

Wading headlong into the future

With all this hot water, there’s still something the Westfjords region lacks: a luxurious lagoon spa resort. To that end, plans are well underway for just such a development at Holt in Onundarfjordur, near the village of Flateyri. The planned spa will be right on the shore, suitably far away from the protected eider duck nesting area. Its facilities will be tastefully housed in low-rise, turf-roofed buildings that blend into the landscape, and its car park will be on the disused airstrip – a deliberate decision taken to minimise disturbance to the land.

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