I love to shvitz.
I’m not just talking about shvitzing (sweating) on a balmy day or from a good run, but the yiddish kind of shvitz: the place and bodily function melded into the singular experience of sitting in a steam room or hot tub to sweat.
Come to think of it, I could probably start an entire blog about shvitzing and the many places I’ve experienced it (each country with its own nuances). To name a few: Azerbaijan, Armenia, all over the United States and most recently, Iceland.
Throughout Reykjavik and the country, public pools heated by geothermal activity offer “hot pots” (what we’d call hot tubs) and steam rooms and saunas for your sweaty pleasure.
Soaking in a hot pot is the perfect complement to a day of exploring Iceland’s wilderness, but why not incorporate a hike with a shvitz, or a shvitzenhike?
A few hours from Reykjavik, nestled in a mountain valley, lies the natural thermal pool Seljavallalaug. Built in 1923 and one of the oldest thermal baths in Iceland, getting to this spartan, desolate spot only requires a 30-minute trek along a rocky riverbed and a taste for adventure.
During my recent trip to the land of vikings, my new wife Joanie and I ventured to Seljavallalaug (say it 3 times really fast) and experienced its curative pools.
It was a cold day and after after stripping down in one of the cruddy changing rooms, we dipped in. You couldn’t see the pools bottom (or even touch the bottom) which made the experience a little spooky.
The water wasn’t super hot and as it was cold outside, staying warm and comfy in the lukewarm water proved a challenge. And there was the concern that someone might hike to the pool still wearing clothes and that’d make for an awkward introduction.
Luckily, we had the place all to ourselves, watching clouds of steam burn off the pool while surrounded by snowy mountains and scruffy winter grass.
Taking a dip at Seljavallalaug might be better in the spring or summer, but it felt magical having the place to ourselves, soaking in the rugged beauty and bumps Seljavallalaug into a top spot on my shvitz list.