A little bit of paradise is to be found in the form of a golden-sanded geothermal beach at Nauthólsvík in Reykjavík.
It was opened in 2001 to the delight of residents and tourists alike and now attracts an estimated 530.000 guests each year. The creation of the geothermal beach was an ambitious, but very successful, project involving the construction of a lagoon with large sea walls, where cold sea and hot geothermal water fuse together resulting in higher temperatures.
The main objective of creating the geothermal beach was to establish the bay of Nauthólsvík as a diverse outdoor area and haven for recreational activities, such as sunbathing, sailing and sea-swimming: the latter is surprisingly popular all year round with people enjoying the use of the hot-tubs, steam-bath and changing facilities and showers, even when the water drops below freezing. Cold-water swimming might sound crazy, especially in a country like Iceland, however this extreme activity dates all the way back to the age of settlement. The oldest recorded sea-swimming feat was performed in the year 1030, when Grettir Ásmundarson (of Icelandic Saga legend) swam a distance of 7km across a bay in North Iceland to the island of Drangey.
The sea temperature varies from around -1,9°C during the coldest months and around 17°C in the summertime. Average temperatures are between 3°- 5°C in the winter and 12°- 15°C in the summer. The temperature of the sea inside the lagoon itself is higher in the summer, averaging at between 15°- 19°C, due to the geothermal heating. It’s also significantly warmer during the winter in opening hours when the overspill from the hot-tubs warm the lagoon. Keep in mind that this also depends on the tide. During high-tide when the lagoon floods temperature differences are negligible.