Water Is Medicine’: How People in Iceland Use Pools, Hot Tubs


Pools, Hot Tubs to Improve Their Health Share on PinterestThe hot pots at Ektafiskur in Iceland are popular all year round. Photo by Moira McCarthy

It was a frigid autumn day in northern Iceland. I was checking into the Sigló Hótel in the tiny port of Siglufjörður, once considered the capital of the world herring fish industry.

Now it’s a sleepy oceanside town.While it was only about 3:30 p.m., darkness was upon us.

The porter lit up like it was midday as he entered my room, pointing first to the water faucet and then out the window to what sat below: an outdoor, year-round soaking spa.

“Drink it!” he said. “And soak in it! Water is our medicine.” I thought he was being clever, but I discovered oth-erwise dur-ing a weeklong trip through the many tiny towns of northern Iceland, a region where it seems hot pots (the Icelandic name for hot tubs), saunas, and year-round outdoor pools are as ubiquitous as McDon-ald’s arches are in the United States.

The people I met? Lean and fit; engaged and happy.And my own spirit, despite po-tential jet lag, short hours of light, and a grinding schedule? Serene.

Maybe there’s something to this, I thought.Could the key to long-term health and happiness truly be as simple as water?Health and waterIceland regularly tops lists of the healthiest — and happiest — countries.

The OECD Index rates it the second happiest popu-lation.The Bloomberg Health In-dex rates it the second healthi-est country in the world.

And then there’s the organic “data.”It’s hard to find someone not satisfied, in general, with their lives here. They lean toward positive. For the most part, they are also fit and active.

Water, they tell you, is a natural part of nearly every day for the Icelander. Heading to lunch? You might take 15 minutes of your lunchtime to hop into the restaurant’s outdoor hot pots.

Share on PinterestA group enjoys a soak in a hot pot at the Beer Spa in Ice-land. Photo by Moira McCarthy

Visiting another town or looking at your schedule in your own? A visit to the town’s warmed outdoor pool is a must.

Morning routine of the retired? Head to the local pool or tub and soak, catch up on life, and just breathe in the sharp, fresh air.

And don’t even ask for bottled water. The pure water right from their tap is cold and clean, and popular enough that it is bottled and shipped away.

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