Golden sandy beaches are not exactly what Iceland is famed for and, even if it were, with average summer temperatures around 10 to 13 degrees, the beach isn’t usually high on many visitors’ list of priorities!
However, in typically unique Icelandic fashion, just 10-minutes’ drive from Reykjavik centre you’ll find Nautholsvik Geothermal Beach – a man-made stretch of golden sand where you can actually swim in the sea (just about) thanks to geothermal hot water which is funnelled in to a shallow swimming area of sea water.
The way it works is that there’s a large public ‘steam bath’ at the back of the beach filled with the naturally-heated water in which you can sit and lounge around comfortably, whatever the weather – summer or winter.
Further down the beach, close to the edge of the sea, is a large circular public hot tub, again filled with the geothermal water.
It then appears that the water from these two features runs off in to the sea itself, which is a sheltered cove with shallow sea water that is then naturally warmed by the hot water running in to it.
Well, “warmed” is probably being a bit generous! But it did feel just about swimmable if you’re feeling particularly brave.
We were here in May on a week where we got lucky enough to have uninterrupted sunshine. The temperature on our car thermometer never rose higher than 12-degrees for the whole week – and when the wind blew it felt pretty cold. Definitely jumpers and coats weather much like a typical mild English winter day.
When the wind dropped, or in sheltered areas, it did actually feel a bit warm – warm enough for a t-shirt – and on the day we visited this beach, when we laid in the sheltered area by the rocks, we could actually lay out and sunbathe, warming up nicely.
But step out in to the un-sheltered middle of the beach and it was soon coats temperature again – and we felt very far from wanting to swim in the sea, be it geothermally heated or not!
However, for the Icelandics this must’ve been like a hot summer day and there were plenty of them out on the beach in their bikinis and swimming trunks, playing in the sand and swimming happily in the sea.
Several actually swam beyond the shallow heated sea bit and were full on in the open sea water, which must’ve been absolutely bitterly cold. They seemed totally un-fazed by it though and probably wondered what our problem was with our coats on the beach in this weather!
Nautholsvik Beach isn’t exactly a full day out – at least not for English or anyone else from further south of the Arctic Circle, unless that is you get particularly lucky with one of Iceland’s genuinely hot days which do happen sometimes.
We had half a day to kill before returning to the airport for our flight home, so coming here was a worthwhile stop-off for us to have our lunch and enjoy what we could of the remaining sunshine before heading home.
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