Why you should visit the Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon! Mention this to people who have been to Iceland, or even people who have never been, and everyone has an opinion about it. I’m honestly quite sure there are more important things to be worrying about what choice people make but never mind, it’s time for me to weigh into the conversation. For months prior to going to Iceland, I read articles that told me to stay away from the Blue Lagoon. “Tourist trap”, one headline screamed! “Over-priced!” yelled another. Eventually, I found articles that seemed to temper this outrage a little. All of this was like waving a red flag to a bull. With all this hoo-hah, I just needed to check it out for myself. Perhaps they had done me a good deed after all?
Most of the negativity towards the Blue Lagoon centres around its lack of authenticity. It’s not a natural spring, it’s man made. Have you seen the Eiffel Tower lately? It didn’t spring up overnight as a result of some natural phenomenon. It’s man-made and one of the most iconic structures in the world. Surely the millions of people who visit it each year can’t all be wrong? The other negative aspect is that it is expensive. No one will ever argue that. However, let’s add a little consistency by noting that everything in Iceland is expensive. Everything! Sure, there are relativities when it comes to the level of expense and the derived value, but by simply crying out that it is expensive is overly simplistic and superficial.
So, with that in mind, let me take you on a tour around the Blue Lagoon, in southern Iceland. I’ll give you as many tips as I can because these are truly worthwhile. I received many of these tips off others and they made for a much more streamlined and enjoyable time here. Ultimately, you’ll make up your own mind as to whether the Blue Lagoon in Iceland is something you want to experience and whether you can afford to do so.
What is the Blue Lagoon
Shock, horror, it’s man-made! The south-west of Iceland is an enormous source of geothermal power. The area on the Reykjanes Peninsula is highly active, with lava fields covering the landscape, a result of ongoing eruptions over centuries. Sitting on the Mid-Atlantic rift (Midlina Bridge), it is also an earthquake zone. Iceland is a world leader when it comes to the harnassing and use of geothermal renewable energy. Back in the 1970’s, a nearby power station accidentally discharged water into the surrounding area.
It was expected to soak into the ground, but due to the makeup and layout of the lava fields, the water remained confined, forming a small pool. Over time, the minerals and silica in the water built up, sealing all the cracks in the rocks and allowing for the Blue Lagoon to be turned into an official public bath in 1987. This was a small pool and can still be seen near the geothermal plant.
Today, the Blue Lagoon has undergone a significant transformation, turning it away from what was once mostly a bathing pool for locals with skin conditions, to a destination in itself. Modern facilities, multiple pools, bars, cafes and fine dining restaurants all form part of the experience.
What is in the water?
The most common question relates to water safety. Whilst it sounds a little gross, the water is full of dissolved minerals and there is an algae that loves living here too. It’s the reason for the almost milky-white colour of the lagoon. Whilst I wouldn’t recommend taking a mouthful of it, the water has been proven to offer some assistance to people with skin conditions so it can’t be that bad. All hot springs have minerals in them, they just differ depending on where the water source is. Nine million litres of water that originates almost 2,000 metres underground, makes up the lagoon. Since it is the byproduct of water heating in the power stations, the water is replaced every 40 hours. No chlorine is used in this lagoon at all.
Temperature of the water
It’s a thermal spring, there’s plenty of hot water here and I just love it. Whilst it gets a bit warm after a while for Stirling, I could stay in here all day, although that’s probably going to play havoc with my body. The water is generally around 37-40 degrees Celsius, but depending on a whole range of factors, this can fluctuate. On a winter’s day in Iceland, I couldn’t think of anywhere better to be. Freezing cold on the outside, snow and ice all around you, and warm as toast in the water. Unlike back home in Australia, when the last thing we would think of doing in summer would be sitting in a hot bath, here it is still completely normal. On the day we were here, in summer, it was still freezing outside. Cold enough to make me want to run every time I left the water.
There are slightly cooler spots, however, so if you are like Stirling and can’t handle the extreme heat for too long, you can move around the lagoon until you find some relief. Or, like I said above, just get out of the pool for a few seconds and you’ll find your temperature regulated quickly.
How deep is the water?
The Blue Lagoon is uneven all over and as you move through the pool you will find areas that are deeper than others. The deepest area is 1.8 metres (5″ 9′) which means that in some spots I was having to paddle to keep afloat. Mostly though, we were able to just walk around. Stirling at six foot always had his feet on the ground. There are hand rails and rocks around the edges for holding onto if necessary.
Where is the Blue Lagoon?
This is an important thing to know as people often have the misunderstanding that the Blue Lagoon is actually in Reykjavik. It’s not. The Blue Lagoon is located 47 kilometres south-west of Reykjavik and 23 kilometres from Keflavik International Airport, in the middle of an enormous lava field. The closest town is Grindavik.
The image below is the walkway from the carpark to the Blue Lagoon. There’s a definite feeling of lunar landscapes here with high walls of lava rock closing in around you.
How to get to the Blue Lagoon
There are several ways to get to the Blue Lagoon and all will require a vehicle of some sort. If you are based in Reykjavik, hiring a car is an option. The driving distance to the Blue Lagoon from here is short and easy. You could also combine this with a day trip around the south-west of Iceland, a location that not many people bother to add to their itinerary. There is plenty of parking onsite.
For many, the easiest option is to book a tour that leaves from Reykjavik. Depending on your time, tours can be taken for the Blue Lagoon only. Others will combine a trip through the Golden Circle.
You can check out the variety of tour options and prices here.
Reykjavik Excursions also offer transfers to and from Keflavik Airport. They will also depart from Reykjavik and drop you off at the airport, or vice versa.
If you are on an extended road trip, as we were, then you can arrange your trip around this activity. We decided to make our visit here the very last thing we did whilst in the campervan. Having been on the road for almost eight days driving around the entire Ring Road of Iceland, we thought this would be a relaxing reward. On the previous day, we had made our way down into the south-west of Iceland. Overnight, we stayed in Grindavik, approximately 10 minutes drive from the Blue Lagoon. It made perfect sense as we had booked the very first time slot available.
How to buy tickets to the Blue Lagoon
This is one of the biggest tips I can give for a Blue Lagoon booking. If you are planning to visit the Blue Lagoon on your own (ie without a tour where the ticket is included in your overall cost), buy your ticket online and well in advance. Tickets to the Blue Lagoon are always in high demand and are allocated on an hourly time slot basis. The tickets may be printed out or sent to a mobile device for showing at the entrance gates.
We bought our tickets online before we left home to ensure that we could get the time we wanted based on our need to return the campervan to Reykjavik. We needed to allow ourselves enough time to experience the Blue Lagoon and be able to drive the 50 minutes or so back to the depot and to do it without the hassle of having to rush.
We therefore booked the 7 am time slot. It was perfect as the enormous carpark, clearly made for a huge number of people, was almost empty when we arrived. There were a few bleary-eyed kids being tumbled out of vehicles but not much more. As such, there were no queues for us. The long snaking lines of queuing rope just inside the entrance indicated that this was a busy place during peak times.
Prices start at €54 per person for the basic option which includes entry, a silica mud mask, drink and towel. From there, the prices go up as you add on more options. Note the lowest prices are usually for the later time slots where you can’t stay in the lagoon for as long due to the closing times. In summer, it generally closes around 11 pm and in winter, can be as early as 8 pm. €79 euro seems to be more of the average price for the basic package.
Transportation from Reykjavik or Keflavik may also be purchased at the time of booking your ticket.
To ensure you have the most accurate information on options and pricing for the Blue Lagoon, check their website.
How long can you stay at the Blue Lagoon?
As long as you like! That’s the perfect response if you are really questioning the value for money. Whilst most people would probably only spend one to two hours at a time in the lagoon itself, there’s plenty of other things to keep you occupied at the Blue Lagoon. With more and more development being undertaken, it is becoming more like a resort than just a thermal bath. The only exception to this will be around closing time. At this time, all guests must leave within 30 minutes of closing.
We stayed around two and a half hours, which was more than adequate to enjoy the experience of the Blue Lagoon. Due to our own logistical constraints, we didn’t spend any time in the restaurant.
How to pay for things at the Blue Lagoon?
They’ve thought of everything here. Obviously, it can be a bit tricky coming in and out of the lagoon and into changerooms for money if you want to buy something at the bar. for example. Upon your arrival, your ticket is exchanged for a wristband, colour-coded for the package you have bought. The wristbands get you in and out of the turnstiles and allow you to charge whatever you like to it. It’s like a waterproof credit card. At the end of your time at the Blue Lagoon, your wristband will be read and you can settle your account. The wristband is also used to open and lock your locker in the changerooms.
Can you take photos at the Blue Lagoon?
As you can see from my photos, the answer is yes. I thought this was interesting actually as many of the thermal baths in Europe cameras are strictly forbidden. I think it’s just a sign of encouraging fun here as who wouldn’t want to miss that selfie opportunity with silica mud all over your face.
I took some early shots with my DLSR camera before I got into the water, leaving the remainder for my iPhone. Plenty of people here were using waterproof cases for their iPhones and GoPros.
Does the Blue Lagoon get too full?
The Blue Lagoon has hundreds of thousands of visitors here every year and there will be certain months, days and timeslots where it is very busy. However, the number of tickets released for each hourly time slot is limited, and you must have a ticket to enter. In this way, the Blue Lagoon management team always have a clear idea of the numbers who will be in attendance. Even if the pool is at its peak, it covers an enormous area so there’s plenty of room to move around without bumping into people.
It’s another reason why we chose to go early though and it almost felt like we had the whole pool to ourselves at times. It was easy to swim away from the main area and go searching for small nooks.
Showering in the nude. Don’t be scared!
The hysteria I read about this beforehand was ridiculous. Comments and articles were dedicated to this one topic. I almost started to convince myself for a while that this wasn’t a place I wanted to go to. I’m not a prude but I’m also not inclined to just put everything on display for all to see. At the Blue Lagoon, you see, it is a rule that you must shower before going into the water, without any clothing on, including your togs. It’s a way of trying to keep the water as pure as possible, and if the truth be known, it’s a cultural thing. But, it’s not that scary! It’s showering in the nude, not showering with everyone else in the nude! Maybe, a while ago, the facilities were less advanced and they didn’t have doors on showers, but today, it’s a little more “covered up”. There are shower cubicles with doors and it is quite possible to have a private shower.
If your heart is still beating a little too fast, be comforted by knowing that nudity is not permitted in public anywhere in the Blue Lagoon.
Towels are provided as part of your package. I did find however that our towel got quite wet, especially because I was jumping in and out of the water a bit. We also have the shower before going in and of course, you’ll want one when you are finished in the water also. If you have the ability to take an extra towel, it’s a good idea.
Shower gel and conditioner are provided in the showers also.
Protect your hair
If you care about the condition of your hair, and don’t want it to feel horrible and dry for weeks to come, or worse, break off, then this is a real tip. The people at the Blue Lagoon tell you to do this, as do those who have gone against this advice at their peril. The water is full of silica and minerals that aren’t conducive to beautiful flowing locks. It is highly recommended if you want to submerge your mane that you cover it thoroughly with conditioner prior to entering the water. Following your time in the water, a good re-supply of the same is advantageous.
I knew of too many horror stories of people I know who did this and still had major hair issues that I kept my hair completely out of the water at all times. (it’s only wet from the shower in the photos below) I’m no supermodel so wasn’t worried about my looks, although I definitely would have pulled up short of wearing the hotel-issue plastic shower cap that one lady was sporting with pride. Despite having heard people say that your hair will get destroyed no matter what, this is not true. My hair, having not been put under the water was perfect in every way when I left the lagoon.
Enjoy the Blue Lagoon
Having done all the right things, we were finally inside the Blue Lagoon and swanning about the warm, therapeutic waters. We’d had an amazing trip so far in Iceland, but we weren’t exactly in the confines of luxury being in the campervan, so to take some time out here was just perfect.
Outside at the pool, there’s an area to hang your towel. It’s a good idea to try and leave some kind of marker near it as the ones that come with your ticket package are all the same colour. We took our thongs (flip-flops) with us to walk around in the public areas, so just left these nearby to remind us which one was ours.
The entire lagoon is surrounded by lava rock, some metres high. Once you are in the water, all you can see is the lava and the sky. On any given day in Iceland, you can see different seasons. We are lucky enough to get a little blue sky in amongst the grey clouds. The sun is also really bright here, even when it is cloudy. Sunglasses are a must when in the Blue Lagoon to reduce the amount of glare coming off the water and the clouds.
There are timber walkways, bridges and seating areas all around the lagoon, providing great access to different areas, should you not wish to wade through the water constantly. There are also hidden spots with waterfalls, a type of in-water massage for those who stand underneath its forceful cascades.
We just took time in here to do absolutely nothing other than relax and move from one area to another. It’s not a playground here so people are quiet and respectful generally speaking.
Get a mud mask
Yes everyone is doing it, but it’s part of the experience and fun of being at the Blue Lagoon. The silica mud mask comes straight from the source – the bottom of the Blue Lagoon that you are swimming in. Buckets of this white gooey sludge can be found at the Mask Bar, set into the waters of the lagoon. With deep cleansing properties, it was a treat for our skin after being on the road.
Visit the bar
Have a glass of bubbles to celebrate making it to the Blue Lagoon or an Icelandic Skyr yoghurt smoothie at the swim-up bar which are apparently awesome. I don’t drink fruit and milk together so can’t advocate for or against for that one. All of the fancy tropical resorts have swim-up bars so why shouldn’t a thermal lagoon?
Have a sauna
If you feel as though you haven’t had enough heat from the water outside, venture into the sauna and steam rooms located just off one of the pools, for a bit more action.
Eat at the Blue Lagoon
There are two primary places to eat at the Blue Lagoon. The more informal cafe is on the ground floor. With lovely views through the floor to ceiling glass, you can fuel up inside before going back into the lagoon or leaving.
The appropriately named Lava Restaurant, built into the lava rock sits up high on the first floor with sweeping aerial views over the lagoon. It’s fine dining up here and bookings should be made to avoid disappointment.
Tips for visiting the Blue Lagoon in Iceland
- Buy your tickets online and in advance.
- The Bottom of the line ticket, the ‘Comfort’ is the best package unless you want spa treatments.
- If possible, choose an early (or late) time slot and go on a weekday.
- Take an extra towel if you are able to as it will come in handy.
- Take flip-flops for walking around in.
- Remove all of your jewellery before getting into the water as the minerals can discolour it.
- Take a plastic bag or swimming bag with you for your wet togs and towel.
- If you are planning on putting your head underwater, thickly lather on conditioner prior to going into the water and again when you are out. Better still, don’t put your head under the water at all.
- Don’t lose your wristband. It’s your “credit card” whilst at the facility, your locker security and it will cost you extra if you lose it.
- If you are planning on taking an iPhone, take a waterproof case for it.
- Make sure you arrive within your allocated hour of arrival or you may get delayed or worse, refused entry. This is made very clear on their website and when you book a ticket online.
- Remember this is a thermal bath, not an Olympic swimming pool. People don’t actually swim here. It’s all about exuding calm, relaxing vibes. Wade about the lagoon gently, don’t create waves and don’t ever get close enough to touch someone you don’t know underwater!
- You can come in and out of the water as often as you like.
- There is plenty of onsite car parking for cars, campervans and tour buses.
- Children over two years of age are allowed. Lifeguards are on duty at all times.
- Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the Blue Lagoon premises.
- Disabled parking and change rooms are also available.
- All tap water in Iceland is pure and potable. Inside the main building, near the cafe, a water fountain and cups are available free of charge. Better still, take in your own water bottle. It’s especially important to stay hydrated when you’ve been sitting in hot water for long periods of time.
- If you aren’t on a road trip, it’s a great activity to do on your way to the airport. If you have a flight that gets in early in the day before you can check-in, why not visit here first.
- If you have to bring your luggage there is a storage facility inside.
- You can wear your contact lenses, just don’t put them underwater. Once again, there are references to the fact you can’t wear them because the water affects them. I wore mine with no issues at all.
- Rinse your swimwear out when you are having your final shower to get all the minerals off them.
Should you visit the Blue Lagoon in Iceland?
Hell yes! Well, that’s our opinion anyway. Sure, it’s a well-known place to visit in Iceland, so much so that it’s known as one of the 25 wonders of the world. We’ve visited major icons all over the world. Who wouldn’t want to see Times Square in all of its neon glory for the first time? Who wouldn’t want to see where the lions fought in Rome’s Colosseum or Buckingham Palace in London.
The world is full of amazing places and I’m not going to stay away from them just because someone thinks too many tourists go there. Like some of the huge icons, I may never go again, but knowing how integral some of them are to the culture and fabric of those cities, I bet we will. Would I go back to the Blue Lagoon, absolutely? Do you want to go? That’s entirely up to you, but at least now you have the facts without the hysteria.
If I still haven’t convinced you, check out the alternatives to the Blue Lagoon.