For Icelanders, going to the swimming pool is not just a way to cool down on hot summer days, it’s a way of life.

Honestly, there really aren’t enough hot summer days in Iceland to warrant such a habit to begin with, but public pools can be found in nearly every town, and the locals go there for a soak no matter the weather. A hot soak on a cold day beats a cold soak on a hot day, anyway.

For hygienic purposes, there is a strict etiquette for visiting a public swimming pool in Iceland. Everyone is required to wash thoroughly without swimwear before entering the pool. Learning to swim is part of the school curriculum and people of all ages meet up at the pool and enjoy a relaxing time in the geothermal hot tubs, which also function as the local version of the pub in some other countries where you are most likely to catch up on all the town gossip.

With warm water flowing continuously from the Earth in many places around the country, natural hot springs have been popular gathering places for as long as people can remember. Man-made geothermal lagoons are also popular, such as the famous Blue Lagoon and the Myvatn Nature Baths, whose high levels of silicates and other minerals have an especially rejuvenating effect on the skin. And, as unlikely as it may sound, Reykjavik sports its own geothermal beach, Nautholsvik, with white sands and warm ocean water (assisted by a little geothermal injection). Still, there are those who swear by the health benefits of swimming in the cold ocean, so every day you will find Icelanders enjoying a swim in the cold Atlantic.

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