The next morning, we woke up, and it had finally stopped raining. We made a quick breakfast of breakfast scramble and then checked out of our Airbnb. Goðafoss was less than thirty or so minutes from where we were staying, and Akureyri was maybe thirty or forty minutes from the falls, so we weren’t really in a hurry.
The first thing we decided to do was go to a Pósturinn or a post office, so I could finally buy international stamps for postcards that I promised my friends I would send them. There was a small gas station nearby the Pósturinn that had some postcards for sale, so I bought some postcards too. Then we sat in the car for a little while so I could write and sent some postcards while I had a mailbox, in front of me. After I finished writing my postcards and stuck them in the mailbox, we headed onwards to Goðafoss.
Goðafoss is a very well-known waterfall in northern Iceland. The water from the river Skjálfandafljót falls from a height of approximately forty feet over a width of a little under one hundred feet. The name ” Goðafoss” means the waterfall of god. In Icelandic history, Goðafoss is important because it was a turning point in religion for Iceland. A man named Ljósvetningagoði, who was a pagan priest, threw the idols of the old Norse Gods over the waterfall, and Iceland accepted Christianity as the official religion of the country. Goðafoss is located right off of Ring Road, and many cruise ships have excursions that include going to Goðafoss.
There are two sides of Goðafoss to visit. I have no idea which side we parked on, but it doesn’t really matter because there is a walking trail that surrounds the falls and goes from one side to the other, so it’s easy enough to see the waterfall from both sides regardless of where you decide to park. There is also an area that you can climb down and visit the foot of the falls. It’s not a hard trail or anything. The trail itself is paved, but I’d still recommend decent walking shoes, especially if you intend to go to the foot of the falls.
It wasn’t raining, but it was cold and gray when we arrived at the falls, but by the time we left the falls, the gray had turned to blue and it was sunny.
I’ll just let the pictures tell the story:
Justin and I walked the trail around the falls and we also went to the foot of the falls. Justin also refilled our water bottles with water from the river. He said the water was freezing. We got a little bit wet from the spray from the falls, but not too wet. It wasn’t very windy, which may play a factor in that. We got far wetter at other waterfalls that we visited.
After we walked around Goðafoss and took too many pictures, we headed back to the car and drove towards Akureyri. It wasn’t a very long drive there. The drive was beautiful, especially when we crossed over to Akureyri. We got to the city way before it was time to check into our lodging for the night. To kill time, we went to a Bónus and bought more food than we probably needed. We also decided to go to a bakery. We went to a bakery and bought a bunch of random pastries. The pastries were all delicious, we ate them over the next few days. When it was finally four o’clock, we were able to check into our lodging, which was only about ten or so minutes from the center of Akureyri.
We stayed in a small house on somebody’s property. It was adorable. I think it was one of our favorite places that we stayed on our trip. It had an outdoor shower, which I loved, and Justin did not try because he said it was too cold and had an amazing view.
We didn’t really have any specific plans for Akureyri other than going to Goðafoss on the way. We wanted it to be an easy day since we were doing so much in such a short time. We decided that we would go to Sundlaug Akureyrar or the public pool in Akureyri.
Iceland has AMAZING public pools. I’m not sure how many people know that. Geothermal pools are a huge part of Iceland’s identity. Geothermal pools have been around in Iceland since the 13th century. The oldest pool in Iceland is The Secret Lagoon. The Secret Lagoon was built in 1891 in the town of Flúdir with the intention of teaching people how to swim.
Swimming itself is an important part of Icelandic culture. In Iceland, swimming pools are basically the equivalent of a mall in the United States, for example. People gather at the pools. They meet up with friends at the pools. Teenagers gossip with friends at the pools. People relax in the heated waters and hot pools after their day at work, and families go to the pools together. Swimming is so important to Icelandic culture that babies are taught to swim as early as three months, and swimming lessons are mandatory in primary education. The pools are open all year round and they are heated by geothermal energy. Icelanders go to pools throughout the year and the different seasons to hang out, get fresh air, and relax.
Every town we drove through in Iceland had a public swimming pool. It didn’t matter how tiny the town was, there is still a swimming pool. Most community swimming pools aren’t just your basic swimming pools either. Sundlaug Akureyrar had a lap pool, an activity pool, three waterslides, a children’s pool area with slides and things, four hot pots [hot tubs] that were all at different temperatures, a cold pot, and a steam room. I was very excited to experience a local pool especially because I absolutely love swimming.
The public pools are very affordable. I think it was something like fifteen or so US dollars per person to enter.
It is worth noting that proper locker room etiquette is much different in a public pool than say Blue Lagoon. There was a rack outside the locker room, where you leave your shoes. I was wearing pricey UGGS [yes I am basic] and I had no problems or issues leaving my shoes there. No one is going to steal your shoes regardless of how expensive they may appear to be.
Once you take off your shoes, you go into the locker room and get a locker. The locker is included with your admission. At Sundlaug Akureyrar, the lockers were digital, and entered your locker number, and then a four-digit pin to lock the locker and you could open it and close it as many times as you would like. DO NOT USE YOUR CELL PHONE IN THE LOCKER ROOM, there are signs posted everywhere that phones are prohibited and the police will be called if you are caught with your phone or a camera. I don’t advise bringing your phone to the pool area either. Nobody does it, and it’s a sure sign that you are a tourist.
However, the most important thing is you need to get completely undressed and take a shower completely nude. There are no private locker rooms in the public pools. It very much resembles a locker room from a teen movie. There are shower heads against the wall and lined up. You will be completely naked with strangers. It was very odd for me, as an American because that’s not really a part of American culture. In American culture, nudity is somewhat taboo. However, it really isn’t a big deal to the people in Iceland. They’re all talking to each other and gossiping while they are completely nude. I was extremely uncomfortable during my first shower in such a public place because I am very self-conscious, but trust me, as someone with severe anxiety, nobody cares. Nobody is looking at you or judging you. There are bodies of all ages and all types in the showers with you and nobody cares about you or what you are doing as long as you are following the rules and washing properly.
In the showers, you HAVE to wash your hair and your body with soap and there are attendants, who are making sure that you are following the rules. Sundlaug Akureyrar did have soap/body wash to use there, but if I go again, I think I’m taking my own body wash and shampoo/conditioner to use in the showers, which is what many of the locals there did. The reason hygiene is so important is that the water in the pools is pumped into the pools and is heated geothermally and uses as little chlorine as possible to keep the pools as natural as possible. Therefore it is essential to be clean before entering the pools.
You do not take your towel near the shower either. There is an area close to the showers, but not in the showers, with racks, where you can put your towels. After you shower, there is a separate drying area. Only dry yourself in the drying area. It is considered rude to enter the changing area wet. This is so the locker room is dry, clean, and not slippery.
After showering and drying off, you put your bathing suit on, and then it’s off to the pools. Most people just leave their towels in the towel area. It is legal to go topless at a public pool in Iceland, but we did not see anyone topless, everyone was wearing bathing suits.
Justin and I had different ideas of what we should do at the pool. We swam around the activity pool for a little while. The water was very warm. The activity pool was probably the most crowded of all the pools at Sundlaug Akureyrar. It had the teenagers, who were playing around and gossiping, and the children and families, who were swimming together. Shortly after that, Justin and I went our separate ways. Justin really enjoyed the water slides and went on them at least twenty or more times. I am not a fan of waterslides, especially body slides because I have an irrational fear of getting stuck on a body slide and having to push myself down for the rest of the ride, so slides aren’t really my thing. The stairs to get to the top of the slides were covered and heated.
While Justin was sliding, I checked out the different hot pots. The hottest hot pot was about 108 degrees Fahrenheit. I enjoyed that temperature, but it was too hot for Justin when he tried it later on. The other hot pots were about 99, 100, and 102 degrees Fahrenheit. I think Justin was the most comfortable in the 100-degree pool when we were checking out the hot pots together. I decided to swim laps while Justin did his sliding. There was a lap pool with a decent amount of lanes. I was able to have a lane to myself for however long I swam. The lap pool was MUCH colder than the other pools and was about 84 degrees. Even though 84 degrees is warmer than an average pool, when compared to the other pools at the facility, it seemed freezing to me especially since was probably in the low 40s outside when we were there. I enjoyed my lap swimming, however, my only regret was leaving my waterproof watch in the locker room because I was worried the water would destroy it [it would have been fine] so I have no idea how many laps I swam or how far I swam. My other regret was not having waterproof headphones to go with my waterproof iPod so I could’ve rocked out to music as I swam laps.
We almost stayed at the pool until it closed around nine. We had gotten there around five-thirty. It was awesome. I did notice that as the day got later, more people showed up at the pool, and that was probably because people relax there when they finish working.
When we finished swimming, we went to the locker room, and you need to shower again, completely nude. This helps wash the chlorine from your skin and hair. Then you completely dry off in the drying section. There was a machine there that drained the water from your swimsuit, which dried it quickly. Then I changed back into my clothes, gathered my boots, and we went back to our lodging.
Going to Sundlaug Akureyrar was definitely one of the highlights for me of the trip.
At the tiny house, we ate some dinner, some of the pastries we had gotten from the bakery, and made sandwiches from the bread, cheese, and cold cuts that we had bought from Bónus. We spent the rest of the night surfing the internet and I did some reading.
In Iceland during the summer, there is NO darkness, so I took a picture outside at midnight to show that it’s still pretty much light out and I thought it came out pretty cool.
We went to bed. The next day we were starting our trip back towards Reykjavík, our first stop was Borgarnes.