Swimming pools are one of Iceland’s many lovely assets. Your very own spa on a budget and there are few things in this world more delightful than sitting outside in a hot tub in the dark winter evening with the snowflakes gliding peacefully down on your skin. There are many pools across the country, different in size, shape and facilities. From the old Seljavallalaug in the south, up to the new and very cool swimming pool at Hofsós in the north, the very welcomed warmth of the soothing water helps you relax and unwind after a busy day of work or travel. But there is one thing we would very much like you to know.
We have a rule. A bath rule. It is both basic and simple and it is probably the swimming pool rule we cherish above all others: Before you put on your trunks/bikini/bathingsuit of your desire, you are required to shower and wash with soap. Naked. This might come as a shock to some and others will simply not follow this rule, much to the locals dismay (who might take it up with themselves to point this out to you if they catch you heading out to the pool with your hair still dry). There is a good reason for this. Icelandic swimming pools use far less chlorine exactly for this reason – because people shower and wash before entering the pool. We try our utmost to minimize the use of chlorine for disinfecting purposes. Chlorine is not so nice, so the less we need to use the oh so much better. But if the water is full of bacteria and goo the need to crank in a good chunk of chlorine arises. So, if everyone washes properly before diving in, we can all swim more happily.
The “nakedness” of the showering-without-bathingsuit upsets some people and we do realize that. A friend of mine visiting had to take two whole days to muster up the courage to take a shower in the nip with other people (also naked) present. The important thing though is this: We don’t care what you look like naked. Honestly. We’re pretty sure that you look similar to us. You know: arms, legs, belly and a bum. You will however reap the goodwill and possibly a praise from your fellow Icelandic swimming pool guests if you follow our bathing customs.
And just so you know. The traditional way to end a successful trip to the pool is then followed by a hot dog or an ice cream (or both) and short nap. Delightful.