I think one of the main reasons that Icelanders are among the happiest people on the planet is because they have the Myvatn Nature Baths.
My time at the Myvatn Nature Baths was two things: 1) heavenly and 2) too short. Yes, I am still raving all about the mineral baths I experienced there a month ago! Iceland was just all sorts of magic to me, from the looming mountains and pristine snow to the little city of Akureyri and the Northern Lights. It was all wonderful. And while adored every second of my trip, one of the biggest highlights of my stay was getting to go in the Myvatn Nature Baths.
A lot of people try to compare and contrast the Blue Lagoon and the Myvatn Baths, and I just can’t. Le yawn. It’s all been said, and after doing a quick search online you’ll find what most anyone who’s been to both will tell you: The Blue Lagoon is more tourist-y and has more amenities, the Myvatn Baths is smaller and offers a more intimate experience. Comparing and contrasting them is like saying you have to choose one or the other — but it’s not like they’re situated right next to each other. If you’re planning your travels in and around Reykjavik, you should absolutely go to the Blue Lagoon. If your adventures take you to northern Iceland and the Diamond Circle, the Myvatn Baths are a must. If you’re lucky (like myself) and your trip involves both of those locations than get your booty to both of them. JUST DO IT.
So, what exactly can you expect from a trip to the Myvatn Baths?
You can rent anything you might need, but you’re welcome to bring your own. Having sandals isn’t necessary, but it’s nice. Having a towel is a must.
Seeing as I wasn’t even originally planning on going to the Myvatn Baths and I wanted to save the space, I didn’t pack a towel or bring in my flip flops. I managed okay without the flip flops (it was so cold that I didn’t spend much time outside the baths), but if and when I return I’m definitely going to bring some just for comfort’s sake. My guy and I said we would just share a towel, but the man who checked us in kindly gave us two. I can promise you that you’ll definitely want a towel, people. I don’t know what I was thinking, imagining that my boyfriend and I would stand outside in freezing cold temperatures, taking turns drying off. Yeah, just not the smartest thing I’ve thought up. If you don’t bring it, rent it. Nobody wants you drippin’ all over the locker room once you’re out of the baths.
Don’t wear shoes in the locker rooms.
There are racks outside the locker rooms where you can set your shoes. I actually took mine off and placed them in my locker, since it was roomy and was easy to fit all my stuff in. I didn’t suspect anyone would be off stealing shoes from the shoe rack like a madman, but I also didn’t feel like it was worth the risk of losing my only pair of shoes that I had. But walking in the locker rooms with shoes on is rude, so make sure to take them off at the designated area.
You’ll have to get buck nekkid in the locker room to shower before entering the baths.
I’m relatively unfazed by nudity (thank you, San Francisco!) and comfortable with my body, so stripping down in front of people really doesn’t bother me. However, I could see this being a bit of a shock to someone who’s a little more conservative. There are was only one shower with a curtain, one that was a separate stall without a curtain, and the rest were out in the open.
My advice is to just get over it and change and shower like nobody’s there — you don’t really have another option, anyway. Trying to take off or put on clothes and maneuver a towel around to hide your bits while you change is just going to call more attention to yourself. Also, instead of focusing on covering up you should be focusing on giving your body a good rinse in the shower before you enter the pool.
The temperature in the pool varies depending on where you are, and there are 2 pools.
There are two pools, one that is cooler (which I didn’t even touch) and then the wonderful, warm, heated bath. Inside that warm pool, you’ll find that the temperature increases pretty consistently from where you enter. The spot that you enter and slightly left of it are warm, and as you head right it gets warmer and warmer and then hot and almost too hot. The actual temperatures range from about 97 degrees to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. You can bet that me and that 104 degree water became very good friends.
There are amenities.
After assessing what I’d read about the Myvatn Baths compared to the Blue Lagoon, I wasn’t expecting there to be any amenities. There actually is a small gift shop, a restaurant, a steam room and you can even get in-water massages. Now, when I was there, it certainly wasn’t that crowded and the restaurant wasn’t open and I didn’t see any masseuses walking around — but I imagine during busier seasons it’s all in full swing. I honestly didn’t visit the baths for the food or for a massage, so without those amenities I still managed just fine.
Depending on the air temperature, water that gets on your face might freeze. Seriously.
Imagine it: you’re in this milky, azure pool that’s so toasty warm and feels like the most amazing bathwater you’ve ever been in. But your face is a little cold. So you pool up a little water in your palms and rub it on your face. Perfect.
For about 10 seconds.
After that, the water will freeze and you will be the owner of a serious frosty 5 o’clock shadow. Sexy, right? Honestly, the chill on my face wasn’t so bad, but my ears just could not handle the cold breeze. I kept rubbing warm water on them and then seconds later they become little popsicles. It got so uncomfortable that I had to go back into the locker room to get my hat, which made a HUGE difference.
Obviously, if you’re at the baths when it’s not literally freezing outside, you won’t have this problem. But if you do go there in the chill of December and January, I highly recommend a hat you don’t mind getting a little wet.
Remember to remove jewelry.
The person we paid our entrance fee to reminded us to remove all jewelry (specifically silver jewelry, but I’d say it’s wise to just remove it all). Silver jewelry will oxidize and turn black from the minerals. I removed most everything, but totally forgot about my toe ring, and after I got out it had transformed from a lovely Celtic knot to a hardcore goth accessory. Luckily, Pinterest pointed me in the right direction to take care of it: toothpaste. If you do forget to remove your silver jewelry, rub a little Tom’s of Maine on there to get it back to new.
The water won’t destroy your hair — but you will notice your hair feels different.
Before going into any mineral bath, I’d read that it could pretty much destroy your hair. I had this fear that my hair would get a little wet and turn into a weird color (well, weirder than pink). But the water didn’t really do any damage. In fact, I sort of secretly liked what it did to my hair.
The effect I noticed was primarily that it dried my hair out and I felt like it was coated with some kind of chalky substance. That doesn’t sound super appealing, but talk about volume! Because my hair is thin and straight, I was able to do things to my hair the week after my visit to Iceland that I’ve never been able to do before. When will they bottle that stuff up for purchase to sell to all us straight-haired ladies and gents? Seriously.
The best way to prevent any of the water affecting your mane is to load on conditioner before you get in the pool or just don’t get your hair wet. If you do get your hair wet and would like to rid it of all the amazing volume and gravity-defying characteristics it has, then a simple shampoo/conditioner session afterwards will help big time. Once I washed mine, it was (sadly for me) back to normal.
During winter months at night you may see Northern Lights! During the summer months you can bathe in the light of the midnight sun!
I wasn’t there after dark, but I did see the most Northern Lights action away from Reykjavik and in the northern part of the country. During the winter the baths are open until 10pm so you could get lucky and see them while wading in the waters of the pool. During the summer, the baths stay open until midnight.
So, basically there’s never a bad time to go. Seriously, no matter what you will have an amazing time. There is practically no better way to spend an evening and I am hoping to get back there oh-so-soon because I have mad love for the Myvatn Nature Baths. <3
Would you add the Myvatn Baths to your bucket list? Why or why not? What mineral baths or hot springs have you visited? What advice would you give to someone going to one for the first time?
Myvatn Nature Baths