It’s a well known fact about Iceland that the country has natural hot springs all around. Located on the banks of Lake Urriðavatn, the Vök Baths stand out among Iceland’s hot pools for its idyllic setting, amazing facilities, and beautiful surrounding landscape just waiting to be explored.
While geothermal activity is common in Iceland, its Eastern region is a cold spot, which makes the Vök Baths a rarity in the area. It was by pure coincidence that this geothermal pool was discovered in the first place. Locals noticed that a specific spot of the Lake did not freeze during the freezing winter months which soon led to the discovery of the underwater hot springs.
Today, the Vök Baths are one of the best things to do in Iceland. The pools are surrounded by a beautiful visitor center, convenient amenities, and lots to do. The infinity pools make for an other-worldly experience as you relax in the natural hot springs in near-freezing temperatures taking in the views of the harsh Icelandic wilderness.
In this guide, we’ll be covering the top things you need to know before you visit the Vök Baths to ensure you get the most out of your visit!
All About the Vok Baths
On July 26th, 2019, Vok Baths celebrated its opening, yet its origins extend much further into the past. The initial concept of establishing a heated facility at Lake Urriðavatn can be traced back to 1999, originating from Gudmundur Davidsson, the District Heating Manager at that time.
Vok Baths gets its name from the openings that frequently manifest on the frozen surface of Lake Urriðavatn, caused by the emergence of geothermal heat. These openings in the ice have sparked a multitude of folk narratives and legends about mystical beings. Among these was “Tuska,” a mythical creature believed to reside beneath the lake, piercing through the icy cover during the winter. These icy apertures on the lake were commonly referred to as “Tuskuvakir.”
Vok Baths boasts a distinct feature – two floating pools situated within the lake, mirroring the form of the original “Vok.” These pools, a unique marvel in Iceland, were conceived by the Finnish design firm Bluet, renowned for its expertise in floating innovations. Notably, the water within Vok Baths’ hot springs is exceptionally pristine – to the point where it is safe for consumption.
How Many Pools Are At the Vok Baths?
There are three pools at Vok Baths. One main pool which feels much larger than ONE pool and two Vakir (two floating pools).
How Hot Are the Vok Baths?
The temperature of the pools range from 5° – 41°C (41° – 105,8°F). The two hottest are the floating pools. The pools also vary in depth and are 1.2 meters where they are the most deep. For a cold dip there are stairs leading right into the icy lake!
How Much Are the Vok Baths?
- Adults – ISK 6.490
- Senior – ISK 4.690
- Disabled – ISK 4.690
- Students – ISK 4.690
- Children (age: 6-16) – ISK 3.090
- Children (age: 0-5) – Free of charge*
All admission includes a tisane brewed from the hot spring water and locally sourced herbs at the infusion bar.
How Long Can You Stay in the Pools?
You can stay in the pools as long as you want to! We stayed for about two hours and felt it was more than enough time. With that amount of time we still got plenty of relaxation in. I would recommend planning for a 2-3 hour experience at the Vok Baths.
Make Sure You Book Ahead
The Vök Baths, or any of the many other hot pools in Iceland, are a very popular attraction for both tourists and locals. Expect it to get busy when you visit, and, if you don’t book in advance, expect to wait a while in line, especially during the high season (summer).
Even after buying your ticket, you’re not guaranteed entry right away. Staff need to ensure the pools don’t get too crowded so you might be asked to wait even after you have your ticket in hand. We got to the Vok Baths right before opening, and for the first 30 minutes we had the entire area all to ourselves, then around 11am they got busier and busier.
From June 1st to August 31st, Vok Baths ask all guests to book in advance, no walk ins are accepted at this time.
What to Bring to the Vok Baths
The only things you need to bring are a towel and a bathing suit. Even though you have the option of renting them each for around $6 each, and it makes the experience very convenient for visitors, it’s still best to bring your own.
Obviously having your own bathing suit is the best option and should be on any Iceland packing list, but if you happen to forget they are available for rent.
Bring some flip-flops as well to wear from the changing rooms to the pool if you don’t want your bare feet to touch the ground (just make sure they are clean sandals!). You’re sure to take some pictures as the Vok Baths are incredibly unique. You can bring either a phone or a DSLR, but most people get by just fine with a phone, so make sure you bring waterproof protection. We highly recommend a dry bag for your phone for visiting Iceland!
Showers Are A Must
Showering (with soap!) is mandatory before you get into the pools at the Vök Baths, or any other hot pools in Iceland for that matter.
Since there are a lot of people coming and going into the pools, it’s considered a hygienic practice to ask visitors to shower before they take a dip. This also makes sure that the water stays clean and uncontaminated for as long as possible.
One of my top Iceland travel tips is to never enter any pools in Iceland without showering. Also, it’s best to shower completely naked, Icelanders don’t appreciate foreigners who don’t take off their bathing suit to shower. Trust me, no one cars – they’ve seen it all and the bathrooms are separated by sex!
You don’t have to bring anything into the showers though as shampoo, conditioner, and body wash are provided! All I brought extra was face wash! There are also blow dryers in the changing rooms so you can get ready after your soak, just bring all your makeup, hair brush, etc.
Get A Towel That Stands Out
It pays to have a towel that you can spot from far away, otherwise, you’ll be spending a lot of time looking and might even walk off with someone else’s towel by mistake.
To avoid an embarrassing and somewhat unhygienic situation, try to bring a unique or unique towel. Think of bright colors or unique patterns.
Pack A Few Swimsuits
A lot of visitors find themselves visiting the Vök Baths for a second time real soon after visiting another hot spring!
The weather in Iceland isn’t exactly ideal for drying swimwear and other heavy clothing and you’ll be waiting a couple of days for your swimsuit to dry out. We visited countless thermal baths in Iceland and never once was there a bathing suit dryer in the changing room. Having a second suit on hand will make things a lot easier.
Take A Minute To Appreciate The Architecture
Once you see the building of the Vök Baths, you’ll realize how much of an architectural masterpiece it is. Designed by Basalt Architects and Design Group Italia, a firm based in Reykjavik, the building offers a modern setting in the middle of the historical landscape.
Wooden walls, large glass windows, and plants dominate everywhere, allowing the building to seamlessly blend into the surrounding landscape. Everything is pristine and untouched, with the main building being located downhill on the side of the lake.
The landscape, hot baths, and the building are all a testament to Nordic culture and history, making for a very memorable experience.
Are there any chemicals in the water?
Vök Baths offer a pristine natural hot spring experience, free from chlorine or any artificial additives in the pools. The water’s purity is maintained through a constant flow of fresh water.
While the natural pools remain pure, they do develop algae growth, which tends to flourish during the sunniest periods of spring and summer. Interestingly, research has highlighted the beneficial effects of algae, such as nurturing and moisturizing the skin. However, to ensure safety, as algae can create slippery surfaces, the pools are routinely drained and the algae is removed, though you can still often feel it’s slipperyness on your feet as you walk around the pools – which is SUPER COOL!
Check Out The Chic Tea Bar
Once you see the setting of the Vök Baths, it isn’t too far-fetched to think the place would have an aesthetic and chic tea bar.
Known as the infusion bar, visitors can treat themselves to some refreshing tea, and it doesn’t cost anything. You just need to serve yourself after your relaxing time in the baths.
Made using water from the spring itself (more on that later), you can choose between hot and cold tea and have a range of local herbs to choose from. Options include birch, angelica, black currant, and nettle.
Locker Room Etiquette
Before going into the locker room, make sure you take your shoes off. If you want you can wear a clean pair of flip-flops, but just make sure you don’t bring in mud with you. There’s a space to leave your shoes before you enter.
You’ll be given a cool bracelet which will also be your locker key. Do not lose your bracelet (the replacement is 5000 ISK!) and place all your valuables inside your locker. This bracelet is waterproof and can be worn in the baths themselves. If you buy any drinks you can put the charge right on the “bracelet” and pay it once you leave.
It’s Not Just Pools
There are a lot of pools at the Vök Baths (but that’s not all!). The first is the main pool located adjacent to the building, and accessible right from the locker rooms. It looks like two large pools connected by a small passage, and there are also two floating pools further back of the building.
Visitors can also treat themselves to a steam bath, with temperatures of 50 degrees Celsius, or the cold water spray tunnel, where you get a refreshing hit of 10-degree water.
Be Careful And Considerate
The water in the pools at Vök Baths is hot because of natural reasons. Geothermal energy naturally heats the water which might be incredible, but can also be a bit dangerous as there’s no way to regulate the temperature of the water.
Check the water temperature before you jump in to make sure it isn’t too hot for you. While the temperature won’t usually exceed 41 degrees Celsius, it might get slightly hotter at times.
Also, make sure you’re considerate to others and the environment. Don’t stay beyond the recommended time and make sure you don’t cause a mess or leave any litter, either in the water or around it.
The Water Is So Clean You Can Drink It
Remember the chic infusion tea bar located in the reception of the Vök Baths building? The water used for making these teas is from Lake Urriðavatn, the lake around the pools of the Vök Baths.
Before you gross out, know that the water is completely clean, uncontaminated, and is the ONLY certified drinkable hot spring water in Iceland. So it’s completely safe and hygienic.
The Vok Baths Might Not Be The Best Place For Small Kids
While the Vök Baths do not have any age restrictions, that being said it still might not be a great idea to take young kids with you if they tend to be loud and roudy. People come to relax at these pools, including you, and having kids splash around might not make for the best experience and some other visitors might get annoyed as well.
If you do take your kids, be sure to ask them not to splash around too much and to enjoy the calmness and relaxation from the warmth of the pools.
For splashing around, you can go to the accompanying lake. Adults can even jump directly into the lake from the pools for a nice refreshing dip!
Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult chaperone.
The Lake Is Cold
There’s no cold plunge at the Vok Baths, instead visitors can get their chills on in the lake itself. There are two ladders right from the floating pools leading right into the chilly lake. If you dare you can even take a swim around, though most people just dip in and find themselves right back in the hot pools right after.
If you do decide to jump into the lake, then make sure you have experience swimming in cold water because the water can sometimes be freezing. You may want to avoid going into the lake during winter as the water is so cold you could get hypothermia within minutes of wading in.
Always be careful when visiting sites like the Vök Baths and getting into the cold water. While it is a popular tourist attraction, it’s still a natural setting. Safety should always be kept in mind in such places.
You Can Change In Private
This might not seem like a big deal, but you should know that almost every other hot pool in Iceland doesn’t have private changing rooms or showers. Visitors are expected to change and shower in the locker rooms, in everyone’s view.
In addition to the conventional large locker room, the Vök Baths have some private showers as well. However, just because they’re private doesn’t mean you should take an extended shower.
Clean up thoroughly but clean up fast so you can make your way to the pool and not keep others waiting unnecessarily.
Enjoy The Swim-Up Bar
Swim-up bars are common in hot pools around Iceland, and the Vök Baths are no exception. The bar makes sure you can enjoy a drink without having to leave the warmth of the water, and it can get pretty cold in Iceland so that’s a great thing!
You can buy beer, champagne, Collab energy drinks, smoothies, and even red and blue frozen slushies! Try the slushy for sure and you can have the unique experience of what it feels like to have a cold treat while relaxing in hot water.
Unlike the Blue Lagoon, the Vok Baths are not a party place and the bar does not get rowdy here; it’s all about relaxation and enjoyment.
You Can Even Opt For Day Tours
You can also enjoy a tour of the area during your visit to the Vök Baths. Tourists are picked up from outside the building at 8:40 AM. You also have the option to be picked up from Hús Handanna in Egilsstaðir at 8:30, or from Egilsstadir airport at 8:35.
You’ll start the tour by driving to Rjúkandi waterfall in Jökuldalur, where you’ll be taking a walk up to the top of the waterfall. The next stop is Stuðlagil Canyon, one of the best places on Iceland, on the east side of Jökulsá. The Canyon’s giant rock formations are unique and magnificent and make for Instagram-worthy pictures.
After Stuðlagil Canyon, you’ll drive back to the Vök Baths for a soak in the hot pools. You’re in for an amazing therapeutic experience in the pools, especially after exerting yourself on the long strenuous walks during the tour.
The Food Is A Sleeper Hit!
People don’t speak about the Vök Bistro enough and they’re missing out!
After a day of dipping in the pools and exploring the surrounding area, you’re bound to be hungry. Before you go anywhere else, you should know the on-site Bistro is pretty delicious!
All dishes are made from locally sourced produce, and fish from the local lakes and seas. You’ll also find some interesting rustic dishes like baked soft cheese with grapes, lemon thyme, and walnuts, hummus with pine nuts, and pomegranate and pita.
There are some other interesting dishes like Pork belly bao buns with oyster mayo and scallion and a charcuterie plate. If you’ve got kids then there are some kiddy options like pizza, french fries, and nuggets.
Drone Photography Is Restricted
Drone enthusiasts would salivate when they visit the Vök Baths, with the masterpiece of a building, the beautiful landscape, and the pristine lake. However, before you take off, you should know that droning is prohibited during opening hours.
This isn’t surprising considering there are people in swimsuits trying to relax and enjoy their time at the hot pools. The sound of the whirring blades isn’t exactly going to help anyone relax either.
The staff does request that anyone wanting to drone during off hours just contact them before doing so. So be polite and make sure you drop them a line before you start your flight. The drone photos in this post are all taken before operating hours with permission from the staff.
Stay The Night At Egilsstaðir
A trip to the Vök Baths isn’t ideal for a day trip considering it’s an 8-hour drive from Reykjavik and a 3-hour drive from Akureyri, so you’ll have to consider staying in a nearby city. Egilsstaðir is the only option and it’s a fortunate thing as this picturesque town has a lot to offer. This is where we stayed the night and refueled at the Iceland grocery stores before visiting the Vok Baths, before we continued on our Ring Road journey.
The largest town in Iceland, Egilsstaðir is a great hub not just while you go to the Vök Baths, but also if you’re wanting to explore along the Icelandic Ring Road, a 1332-kilometer-long road giving access to tourist spots in all regions of Iceland except the Westfjords and Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
Egilsstaðir itself also has a fair bit to offer with Hallormsstaðaskógur, Iceland’s largest forest, and Lagarfjlót, a mythical lake.
A Gateway To A Magical Side of Iceland
If you’re visiting the Vök Baths and staying at Egilsstaðir then it could be a chance for you to explore East Iceland in depth, which is not an opportunity to be missed.
This side of Iceland is home to some incredible natural wonders which must be seen, including waterfalls and mountains. You could also visit Seyðisfjörður nearby, an adorable small town and artsy commune perched on a fjord.
Are the Vok Baths Worth It?
We visited over 10 thermal baths and hot springs in Iceland and the Vok Baths were up there as one of our favorites, along with the Forest Lagoon and Hvammsvik. They are quiet and serene, and their floating pools, tea bar, and bistro certainly are unique. I wouldn’t hesitate to visit, especially if you are already in the area!
To avoid crowds, we recommend visiting right at opening or two hours before close. This is when the crowds will be the lowest.
Plan For Your Trip
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