Iceland’s geothermal pools and hot springs are among the most distinct features of the Icelandic landscape and an absolute must-do on your trip to Iceland. With such an abundance of geothermal water, soaking in public pools or private hot tubs is one of the favourite pastimes for Icelanders. So iconic is Iceland’s geothermal power, it was recently featured on Zac Efron’s ‘Down to Earth’ on Netflix.
Iceland’s Blue Lagoon has become a bucket list destination for many travellers, thanks to social media. It is considered the jewel in Iceland’s glittering crown of geothermal spas, so much so that the National Geographic included it on its coveted list of 25 world wonders in 2012.
That said, is the Blue Lagoon really worth it? Having visited a couple of times, these are my top five reasons for including it on your Iceland itinerary and everything you need to know about visiting it.
I) A SPLENDID FUSION OF NATURE AND ARCHITECTURE
Contrary to popular belief, the Blue Lagoon is not a natural hot spring, rather a man-made pool fueled by geothermal water from a nearby powerplant. The water is kept at a constant 36-40 degrees (98-100 Fahrenheit), although pockets of it feel warmer than others. Its design is nothing short of architectural daring. Because of its visionary approach to landscaping, it makes you feel like you are in the rugged wilderness but with the comforts of being in a spa.
The water in the Blue Lagoon is replenished often, so no cause for worry about bacteria.
Trust me, I have been to a nature bath in the South of Iceland where the water was changed only once a year. While it made for an epic adventure, I do not recommend that for people prone to bacterial infections.
II) OTHERWORLDLY LANDSCAPES
The Blue Lagoon is surrounded by raw lava fields, giving you the impression that you are on another planet. The moss-covered black rocks in the background combined with the blue and grey water bubbling with geothermal activity make the whole experience feel ethereal. This is why most of the photos you see on Instagram appear to be covered in smoke, giving it that much-loved mystical ambience. The water in the Blue Lagoon contains silica which turns brilliant blue when hit by light, which is part of the reason why it is oh-so-famous.
III) IT IS THE TOPPERMOST OF THE POPPERMOST OF ICLELAND’S ATTRACTIONS
This is quite an achievement for the Blue Lagoon, considering how many prime attractions Iceland has to offer.
The Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s most visited attractions, with more than 2 million people visiting every year. It goes without saying that you might have to wrestle your way through crowds of selfie-taking tourists. But this should not stop you, the Blue Lagoon is immense in both size and atmosphere, so it does not feel as crowded when you are actually in it.
Pro tip: It always appears crowded when you first walk into the Lagoon because most people usually hang out by the main entrance or around the bar area. If you are seeking seclusion, wade past the bridge towards the lava fields, for tucked-away spots, away from the crowds.
Whether you are in Iceland for a vacation or just making a stopover, the Blue Lagoon is the one attraction you have to include on your itinerary. It is less than half an hour’s drive from Keflavik airport, you can even sneak it in during a layover in Reykjavik.
If you are wondering which are the best months to visit the Blue Lagoon, do not be mistaken into thinking that this is a summertime activity only. Geothermal spas like the Blue Lagoon are equally, if not more enjoyable in the winter. With Iceland’s undecided weather, what better way to spend rainy or stormy days than soaking in a decadent pool. If you are lucky, you might hit the jackpot and see the northern lights while in the Blue Lagoon, during winter.
IV) IT WILL MAKE YOU LOOK YOUNGER
OK, not really. But believe it or not, this giant size spa offers more than just total relaxation. It is also full of natural minerals that are supposed to be really good for your skin. According to their website, the combination of silica, algae, and mineral salts found in the Lagoon have anti-bacterial properties that moisturize your skin and reduce the effects of psoriasis and eczema.
You will be happy to know that you get a free silica mask with your ticket (to apply while in the pool, not enough to take home, unfortunately.) If you see people around the pool with white mud smeared on their face, you know what it is. Indulge in this freebie, your skin will thank you for it later.
Pro tip: You have to pay extra for an anti-ageing algae mask that is also on offer. However, it is included on the premium package (see below). I tried both on different occasions and did not see much difference frankly. The masks, as well as other products, are sold at the spa shop.
V) A UNIQUE BESPOKE EXPERIENCE
While the Blue Lagoon is reserved for the masses, the Blue Lagoon Retreat spa provides exclusivity and glamour in spades. This unique and unforgettable experience consists of access to a secluded area of the Lagoon, where luxury and relaxation permeates every part of the experience. Everything is bespoke, from its silica neon blue water that contrasts the mossy green of the frozen lava fields in the background, to the private locker rooms equipped with different Blue Lagoon products. The spa treatments, ordered in advance, are in a class of their own and include a selection of decadent silica and algae masks and oils. Allow yourself to indulge in their special ‘ritual’ try it and thank me later. If you are looking to celebrate a special occasion or person, the rate is a steal for the luxuries they offer.
Pro tip: Mobile phones are not allowed in the outdoor area in the Retreat spa. However, professional photographers are available to take photos of you which are emailed to you later.
Have I convinced that the Blue Lagoon is indeed worth a visit?
DOS & DON’TS THAT WILL MAKE YOUR VISIT WORTHWHILE
Do reserve your tickets in advance on the Blue Lagoon official website. Tickets are not sold on the premises. The price varies depending on the dates and season. It is a bit like airline tickets, you might get a bargain, especially during off-peak tourist seasons. The prices come in three packages, comfort and premium packages range from about $45 to $65, respectively, the difference being the type of amenities and complimentary drinks being offered. I recommend the cheaper comfort package, no need to spend hard-earned pennies on a pair of hotel slippers and a bathrobe. The third package is the luxury Retreat spa that costs about $370 for a day pass.
Do plan to stay in the Blue Lagoon for at least two hours. There is no restriction on how long you can visit, so why not make the best of it. The Blue Lagoon opening hours are from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., this varies with the season. There is other stuff to keep you busy at the Blue Lagoon. Besides the restaurants within the premises, the bar which is located in the main Lagoon area itself is actually cheap, by Iceland’s standards, a beer or a glass of wine will cost you between $8-$10. Better still you can make a day trip out of your visit by combining your Blue Lagoon trip with a visit to one of Iceland’s main attractions like the Golden Circle.
Do bring a swimsuit – duh! towels are provided, but you would have to pay for the premium package to get a bathrobe and slippers. Also, bring an absorbent bag to keep your wet swimsuit in after.
Do bring a waterproof camera like a GoPro or a plastic sealable bag for your mobile phone. Phones are allowed everywhere in the main Blue Lagoon except the locker rooms.
Do trust that you can find your lost items, in their lost and found section, in the unfortunate event that you forget something at the Blue Lagoon. I forgot my jacket in the crowded locker room and thought it was lost forever, but I called them the next day, and they actually found it. Probably good luck, but still…
Do anticipate having a meaningful experience at the Blue Lagoon. From the check-in and how the lockers are organized, to the swim-up bar and mask station inside the Lagoon. Everything is well organized to ensure you come out feeling exhilarated and blissed out.
Do not expect to have privacy in the changing rooms. You will be exposed to mass nudity in the changing rooms, but there are private showers. The locker rooms are quite open and often very full, albeit very well organized. It goes without saying that you are required to wash thoroughly before and after going into the Lagoon.
Do not think the same skin moisturizing benefits of the minerals in the Blue Lagoon will have the same effect on your hair. Au contraire, the water in the Blue Lagoon is notorious for stiffening hair. Hair conditioner should be your number one friend. Shampoos and conditioners are provided, make good use of them. For us afro queens, braids are best or plan a style that holds your hair in updo.
ADDITIONAL TIPS ON HOW TO VISIT THE BLUE LAGOON
How to get there: As is the case for most of Iceland, you either have to rent a car or book a tour with a company. Most tour operators offer Blue Lagoon tours combined with other trips. If you are self- driving, the Blue Lagoon is located less than an hour’s drive from Reykjavik and is easily marked. You will know when you are almost there when you start to smell rotten eggs from the Sulphur in the nearby plant.
Restaurants in the Blue Lagoon: You have an option of three restaurants within the premises. The Michelin star Moss restaurant is the most high-end of the restaurants in the Blue Lagoon and opens for dinner only. Meals cost an average of $100
Lava hotel opens from Monday to Thursday is a more relaxed affair, you are allowed to dine in your robe. Set menus cost an average of $50 – $60