Iceland is a great place to escape the crowds and explore nature on its own terms. It attracts travellers who want a break from workaday life and who want to enjoy the landscape with as few fellow travellers as possible. Thus, anything that is touristy can be a hard sell for some people heading to Iceland, especially if they don’t normally go in for anything that could be termed a tourist trap. This is why some people question whether they should go to the Blue Lagoon. This ultra-popular spa near the international airport is busy, expensive, and flashy. It’s about as far from isolation and an Instagram-free zone as you’re likely to ever get. And yet, even with its touristy nature, it’s still an essential stop on trips to Iceland.
What is the Blue Lagoon?
The Blue Lagoon is Iceland’s most popular spa
The Blue Lagoon is a human-made spa on the Reykjanes Peninsula about 20km from Keflavik International Airport. After the construction of the geothermal power plant, Svartsengi, in 1976, the superheated water from the plant that powered the turbines was vented above ground and created an artificial lagoon. People began bathing in the water shortly thereafter and once news circulated about the water’s restorative properties, formal facilities were constructed. The Blue Lagoon became what it is today in 1992, with the establishment of a formal company to market the lagoon and operate the spa, skin care clinic, restaurant, and hotel that have popped up around the lagoon.
It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to drive to the Blue Lagoon from the airport, so it’s a convenient stop on the way to or from the airport, either to refresh after your flight there or relax before you board your flight back home. I went right after arriving and it was a perfect way to recharge after an overnight flight and get introduced to Iceland’s lovely spa culture. But even at 10am on a random day in September, the spa was packed. Clearly, I wasn’t the only person who wanted to recharge after the red eye.
Is the Blue Lagoon worth visiting?
Yes, it’s an essential stop in Iceland
The answer to the question is included in the name of this article, so obviously, I think you should go to the Blue Lagoon while on trips to Iceland. I get that it’s touristy. I get that it is more expensive than whatever spas you have back home. But you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to appreciate this incredible spot. I want to escape crowds more than most anyone, but even I was wowed by the Blue Lagoon, crowds and high price tag notwithstanding.
The Blue Lagoon is a gorgeous place. The waters sit between 37°C and 39°C and run a milky blue due to the high levels of silica in the water. The silica forms a mud that you’ll feel beneath your feet and that you can rub over your body, since it has exfoliating properties.
Once you head outside of the main facility into the waters, you’ll find the main pool that is spread out into several different sections. There’s an in-pool bar to the right where you can grab a beer or a smoothie. There’s a facial hut to the left, where you can get some mud to apply to your face or buy algae treatments. If you go deeper into the pool, you’ll pass under foot bridges and find small hideaways with nearby geothermal vents raising the temperature even higher than 39°C. You’re surrounded by volcanic rocks on all sides of the pool, so don’t worry about privacy. The pool is comfortable in any weather. Unless the winds get to hurricane force, the lagoon stays open, as snow or rain or most any weather does little to distract from the comfort of the waters.
Things to know before going to the Blue Lagoon
What does a ticket include?
When heading to the Blue Lagoon, you need to book ahead to ensure a spot. You pick a time of entry and then you have the rest of the day to enjoy the facilities for as long as you want. The Blue Lagoon costs ISK 6,990 in low season (around CAD $75) for the most basic ticket, but prices change depending on the month. Expect to pay almost double during the summer and in the more popular months. The most basic comfort ticket includes entrance, a silica mud mask, a towel, and a drink at the in-pool bar. You can opt for a premium experience that adds another ISK 3,000 and includes the likes of slippers, a bathrobe, and a reservation at the restaurant. After you book your ticket either through the website or through your travel professional (such as a Goway destination specialist), you’ll receive a few emails from the Blue Lagoon answering some questions about the visit, so don’t worry that you’ll be left in the lurch about what to do.
When you actually arrive at the Blue Lagoon, either park in the parking lot if you drove (it’s free), or you’ll get dropped off at the shuttle stop. You wind your way down a path between some volcanic rocks and reach the main facility. Once inside, you queue up in the appropriate line (either group or individual) and hand over your voucher at the desk. You’ll be given a towel and a wristband that is your all-purpose tool for your visit. Put it on your wrist and scan it to pass into the main facilities. You’ll then head to your appropriate change room (they’re gender separated) and get changed.
How do the lockers work?
In the change room you’ll have lockers to store all your goods, so you don’t need to worry about losing your clothes or valuables. Once you want to lock your locker, the trick is to close the door and scan your wristband on the nearest scanner to your locker. The scanner will lock the door and remember your individual wristband so that you can open and close any time you return to the change room. This saves you the hassle of keeping a key or having to use change every time you want to lock your locker. It takes a moment to learn how to use the wristband, but even if you can’t figure it out, someone will be nearby to help you out. And you can come and go as many times as you want. Just be aware that every time you come back into the locker room, you need to dry off in the shower area before you get to the lockers, to keep the floor clean and prevent slips.
You then head into the shower room to bathe before heading into the pool. Store your towel in the cubby corresponding to your locker number and then go shower with your kit off, using shampoo and soap to make sure you’re sparkling clean. It’s required for you to bathe without your swimsuit, as the lagoon wants to be as germ-free as possible. So if you’re the modest type, simply opt for one of the showers with a curtain. Once you’re clean, put your swimsuit on and head out to the lagoon. You may want to lather your hair with conditioner before you enter the waters as the silica can make your hair very rigid and tough.
You can enter through the main door or a side door that lets you immerse yourself in the water before reaching the outside. You’re then free to explore the waters or grab a drink at the bar. At the bar, you simply scan your wristband and it will keep track of all your expenses.
What do you do when you leave?
Once you’re done with bathing (most people spend around three hours at the Blue Lagoon), you head back to the change room, making sure to dry off before reaching your locker, and then grab your things. Head back where you came and scan your wristband at the desk and pay for any extras you purchased in the pool. You then deposit your wristband in a scanner to leave the pool area.
There’s a café outside and the fancy Lava Restaurant. Both are overpriced, but you’ll likely be hungry after your spa session, so consider grabbing at least a snack to recharge before heading to Reykjavik or wherever else your next stop is on your Iceland vacation. You have to exit through the gift shop, which gives you a chance to purchase any of the spa products on offer.
Over a million people visit the Blue Lagoon every year, so it’s among the most popular spots in the entire island nation. You won’t be the only person enjoying the warm waters and snapping selfies while being careful not to get your phone wet, but the crowds and the price tag are worth it to experience the lovely waters and bask in their warmth. It’s the nicest spa I’ve ever been to. If you’re wondering whether it’s worth taking three hours to visit the Blue Lagoon on trips to Iceland, know that it’s not only worth it but absolutely essential.
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