Icelandic Swim Culture

When you think of Iceland it’s probably safe to say that the first thing that pops into your head is not ‘swimming’. You couldn’t be more wrong. Icelandic bathing culture is like no other and is taken very seriously, to say the least. There are a plethora of unspoken etiquettes, rituals, and rules surrounding hygiene and norms of bathing in Iceland.

The popular bathing destinations in Iceland are the Blue Lagoon, the Bond-worthy Retreat spa, the new Sky Lagoon, or one of the many public pools. These places are equivalent to social hubs and are a way for Icelanders to escape and relax. Sanity measures and rules are widely respected among the group. For example, you are required to remove your shoes and take a soapy shower prior to entering the bathing spaces and it is also considered rude to use electronic devices in these areas. Although it is uncommon, women have the right to go topless in the swimming pools and this is an interesting aspect of equality embedded in the culture.

Getty Images/ Rights-managed/ HALLDOR KOLBEINS

The Icelanders generally believe the best weather to go swimming is when it’s rainy and windy. There are many natural geothermal pools where the water is naturally heated from the ground. The contrast of the cold outside with the warmth of the spring can make you feel very connected to nature. There are also baths where you can plunge into cold water, it is thought to be beneficial for one’s health and immune system to hop from the warm to the cold.

The swimming culture is rooted in Icelandic history and is encouraged from a young age. Part of children’s primary education is to partake in mandatory weekly swim lessons. While some teenagers may go to the mall or park to hang out in other places around the world, in Iceland it is common for teenagers to catch up in hot tubs and pools. When living in such a cold climate with seasons of darkness, having a diverse swimming culture makes it easier to enjoy the fresh air, socialize, and unwind.

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