In southwest Iceland, just off the Golden Circle — Iceland’s most-visited, easily accessible sightseeing route covering Þingvellir National Park, Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss waterfall — lies the town of Flúðir, home to Iceland’s oldest pool. Constructed in 1891, the Secret Lagoon (Gamla Laugin) is built into its volcanic surroundings and still has its original rustic stone walls, giving it the look of a natural pool. A hot river with a small geyser flows around the perimeter, easily explored by boardwalk. Because of Iceland’s harsh weather and infertile soil (for that, thank the Viking settlers who axed most of the forests over 1,000 years ago, leaving Iceland essentially treeless), not much grows outdoors. Instead, vegetables and fruits are cultivated in greenhouses, powered by the same wellspring as the lagoon. For an outstanding foodie experience in Flúðir, visit Farmer’s Bistro, a restaurant attached to Iceland’s only mushroom farm known for their lactose-free, white and brown chestnut mushroom soup. Later, hit Friðheimar to sip beer brewed with tomatoes, while lounging inside the greenhouse.
$30 entry for the day
Stay at Hotel Ranga from $390/night
Looking for a true local secret? Down a dirt track on private farmland, close to the Secret Lagoon, you’ll find Hrunalaug, a secluded natural hot spring that holds no more than five people at a time. Overlooking moss-covered hills, it’s remote, natural bathing at its finest. There are no facilities — apart from a rustic stone sheep shed — so be respectful of the landowners (don’t leave anything behind and pay the small upkeep fee). Visit early morning or late evening to avoid waiting. Directions: From Flúðir, turn off onto road 344. You will pass a farm with a church called Hruni, then turn onto road 345. Drive until you see the parking lot and a no camping sign.