Mike and I drove the Ring Route around Iceland for eight days before spending an afternoon at the Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal Baths. We had a blast on our 8-day adventure, but that much sitting makes my back stiff and my muscles sore. Needless to say, the idea of soaking in warm water and relaxing in a sauna sounded positively blissful … and it was!
Our trusty map and road signs pointed us directly to Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal Pools; they were very easy to find. We parked, unfolded our aching bodies, ignored the slight sulphur smell in the air as we walked into the lobby and knew we were in the right place as soon as we entered.
The entrance and lobby were clean and colorful and offered a great view of the pools and lake. Before taking a dip we grabbed a small bite to eat in their cafe. While all I wanted to do was to get warm, it was a good thing we ate something as I tend to get cranky when hungry. I am pretty sure Mike coined that term “hangry” after the first time we traveled together. Mike wanted to sit outside, but I convinced him to sit inside; I was over being cold at the moment. We were both pleasantly surprised with how hardy their “brothy” soups were. I will not lie, I was afraid we might still be hungry afterwards, but we weren’t. The fresh-baked bread did not hurt either.
Speaking of bread, one of the best, and most unique, features of Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal Baths is their Rye Bread Experience. (Seriously, a quick internet search yielded only Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal Baths as having this activity.) Their Rye Bread Experience really sets them apart from other geothermal pools in the area – and in Iceland even. It’s what attracted us to these pools over others. The demonstration shows how one can cook bread underground for 24 hours using geothermal heat. How stunningly simple, yet creative is this local method of baking? Icelanders really do use their resources wisely!
I do have to admit that I have a concern regarding Laugarvatn Fontana’s Rye Bread Experience. Let me preface this concern by saying that our experience really was fantastic. Our host was friendly and informative. The bread was absolutely delicious. (We devoured our two pieces, and there was still more for anyone who wanted it.) However, after having seen it first hand, our experience did not match the photos (and what I was expecting) on the website. The biggest difference is that while we did eat (deliciously warm) bread, we did not have the option of smoked salmon, sparkling wine or other beverages as shown in their website’s pictures. I was disappointed that these “extras” were not even an option, as I was envisioning an experience with a little more “wow” for $13 USD/person. I feel their current price is a bit high for a 10-minute demonstration and piece of bread, in my book. Throw in a glass of champagne, or even some nice cheese, and I am sold!
Soup and bread devoured, it was finally time to head to the warm water. I had goosebumps I was so excited. Scratch that. The goosebumps were from the cold.
Hands down, the worst part of visiting these geothermal pools – and every single other pool in Iceland – is the showering prior to swimming. We have to (or should) do this here in The States, but it is not typically 50 degrees Fahrenheit when we walk from the shower to the pool. You know that “No Running” rule most pools have? I ignored it in this instance and practically sprinted from the locker room showers to the pool. Then, finally, warmth.
We tried each pool to test out the different water temperatures and agreed that outdoor pools in Iceland just have to have heating; it is just too cold throughout the year for them to not. Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal Pools are “geothermal” because instead of using oil-based electricity to heat the pool though, they harness the earth’s heat. I love how environmentally friendly the Icelandic people are!
Splashing in a pool with a serene view while on vacation is normal, even expected. Swimming in a pool when the outside air temperature is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit is not so normal. Eating bread and butter is normal. Eating bread baked underground using geothermal heat is not so normal. However, Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal Baths (and Iceland as a whole, for that matter) is anything but normal. We spent almost three hours eating warm soup, soaking in warm water and experiencing how the Earth’s warmth can cook bread. It really was the perfect way to end a long day of driving.
Important: Wife with Baggage received complimentary entrance to Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal Baths, participation in the Rye Bread Experience, towel rental and a bowl of soup for two in exchange for this blog post. All opinions in this post are real, honest and our own - like you would expect!