The amazing pool that is Laugardalslaug, is one such pool that promises to provide the full Icelandic swimming pool experience, and with an entry fee of only 1,060isk (approx. $8 or £5), it might just be the best money you ever spent. It is Reykjavik’s largest and one of the most popular.
What better way to spend your time than to relax in one of it’s many bubbling hot tubs? The pool boasts not just one hot tub, but four, each one a different temperature (40°, 42°, 44°) and some have powerful jets so that you can give yourself a well-needed massage. Amongst the four tubs is even a 40° seawater tub with geothermal water from the sea.
Laugardalslaug also features a steam bath, indoor pool, 50m mildly heated outdoor pool, outdoor gym, outdoor children’s pool, oh and a giant waterslide, among many other features. Pools of this calibre can be found all over Iceland, with even the smallest towns and villages having one. Come rain, snow or shine, locals bask in the tubs and chat with one another, exchanging the latest gossip and news.
One can also find a cold tub at Laugardalslaug (6-8°), with these being the norm in Icelandic swimming pools. At first, this was my idea of hell – why would I choose to sit in freezing cold water when I could be unwinding in one of the many hot tubs on offer? What is the purpose of a cold tub anyway? But with the increasing awareness around the benefits of cold-water exposure, heralded by the likes of the wonderful Wim Hof, and observing the locals engage in this ritual, I began to test out this growing craze for myself to see what all the fuss was about. And the results are indescribable (but let me attempt). Submerging yourself in water of this temperature produces a kind of euphoric high. Pass the two-to-three-minute mark and your body and mind become incredibly still. This is because exposing yourself to an acute stressful experience such as cold-water submersion not only activates the sympathetic nervous system, but causes your adrenal axis to spike, which resets the body to its natural, primordial state and raises dopamine and noradrenaline levels dramatically, thereby relieving symptoms of depression and anxiety. It turns out that exposure to the cold produces a variety of other health benefits such as increasing one’s metabolism, reducing inflammation (the cause and effect of disease), swelling and sore muscles. It has also been proven to improve one’s quality of sleep, immune system and focus. So, it is definitely worth a try! Don’t listen to your mind that will try to tell you that you can’t do it; “let your body do what your body is capable of doing” as Wim says.
I must also encourage anyone braving a cold-water dip to go into the steam bath afterwards as the sensation of your whole body warming up again is extremely pleasurable (thank me later)! However, be sure to end your pool session in cold water, as opposed to hotter temperatures, to prolong that blissful feeling for the rest of your day, as one of the locals advised me.
Another trait I love about Icelandic pools is their cleanliness. Everyone must take off their shoes before entering the locker rooms so that people aren’t walking bare foot on dirty floors. All pool goers must undress and wash thoroughly before entering the pool (and if you try to avoid this, you risk getting a telling off from one of the staff on duty supervising the showers – there are both communal and private showers available however). This is a requirement because of the low level of chlorine found in the pools. There are also showers situated outside the steam bath so that people can wash before entering back into the hot tubs or swimming pools after having worked up a sweat (this time in their swimwear). Everyone must completely dry off before entering back into the locker room so that the area stays dry. The Icelanders have just got it so right! When I’m there I think to myself, yes, these are the kinds of rules all pools should have.
There are also convenient swimwear dryers that remove all the excess water from your swimming costume so that you don’t have to pack it soaking wet in your bag, and chairs and tables situated outside the locker room with mirrors and free hairdryers to use.
So, if you’re visiting Iceland, be sure to check out this pool, or pay a visit to one of the many others around the country for a unique experience and some top tier relaxation.
Written by: Ella Berger Sparey
Photos: From Laugardalslaug website
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