Of course when Dan and I traveled to Iceland last year (pre-pandemic), we paid a visit to the Blue Lagoon. I mean, how could we not? Its one of Iceland’s most well-known tourist attractions and those pictures look just plain stunning. I know, I know. Some “cool” kids think its too touristy for a visit, but I totally disagree. Especially after visiting. After all, you are a tourist for a reason! In any case, there is a ton of information about the Blue Lagoon on the world wide web, but I’m sharing our experience for those planning trips and looking for more than a simple overview of the Blue Lagoon. Happy geothermal water bathing!
What is the Blue Lagoon? Surprisingly, a quick Google search will reveal that the Blue Lagoon is not a natural lagoon. Nope, not one bit. That was a rough discovery. Rather, the Blue Lagoon’s water comes from runoff from the neighboring Svartsengi geothermal power plant… In any case, in the early 1990s the Blue Lagoon officially opened to the public after some locals discovered the power plant run-off had healing properties, and now those waters are the “Blue Lagoon.” What is real, however, are the minerals that have those healing properties, particularly salt, algae, and silica – the white mud-ish stuff on the Blue Lagoon’s floor. Also recognized as the white stuff that bathers slather on their faces.
If you are interesting in something more natural, there are tons of natural geothermal pools throughout out Iceland, some bath-able and others not. We particularly enjoyed the natural beauty of the Secret Lagoon! My recommendation, visit both the Blue Lagoon and a natural geothermal pool!
Where is the Blue Lagoon? The Blue Lagoon is located on a lava field near the town of Grindavik, which is home to tourist hotels and restaurants. From Reykjavik, it takes about 45 minutes to reach the Blue Lagoon. But, the Blue Lagoon is only about 15 minutes from the Keflavik Airport, making it a good stop on your way into or out of Iceland. We visited the Blue Lagoon immediately on arrival and that ended up being a smart move for us.
How To Get To The Blue Lagoon? Those driving to the Blue Lagoon will find plenty of parking on site. If you’re not driving, options are a very expensive taxi or taking a bus. Taxis are easy to find between Reykjavik, the Blue Lagoon, and the airport, but they are very expensive (almost all take credit card). The most popular and economical means of visiting the Blue Lagoon is to take either the Blue Lagoon’s bus to/from the Blue Lagoon or another private bus service (just Google it!). We took a private taxi from the airport to the Blue Lagoon and the Blue Lagoon’s bus into Reykjavik. The bus was easy (much, much easier than expected), but you must book tickets online in advance and they are timed. In addition, the Blue Lagoon does have an upscale hotel on site if you want to stay over night.
How expensive is the Blue Lagoon? One word: expensive. Just like everything else in Iceland. As of 2020, the Blue Lagoon sold three tickets – a Comfort ($80 US), Premium ($100 US), or Retreat Spa ($520 US). Know that prices vary slightly depending on the time of day and year visited. The Comfort ticket is the most popular and comes with admission, a locker rental, towel rental, your very own Blue Lagoon flip flops (to keep!), a silica face mask, and one drink from the Blue Lagoon bar. The Premium adds on a skip-the-line aspect of checking in, a robe rental, a second face mask of your choice, a reservation at the Blue Lagoon’s upscale restaurant, and a complimentary glass of sparkling wine at said reservation. I have no idea what the Retreat Spa includes. We did the Premium ticket, but I would do the Comfort next time. The robe was totally useless and the restaurant was just mediocre. And on the ticket front, all tickets must be booked online in advance and they are timed by the hour (some wiggle room exists but I didn’t see an official policy). Tickets sell out and you will be much, much better served booking in advance.
What should I bring to the Blue Lagoon? First off, if you are storing luggage at the Blue Lagoon (see directly below), it is important that you have separated out what you want to take inside to the Blue Lagoon before checking your bag, or even getting in line to do so. Moving on to what you need, you will need a bathing suit, a wallet, and something to wear on your way out of the Blue Lagoon (i.e. a dry change of clothing). I also recommend brining sunglasses, a swim cap if you are concerned about your hair (I was!), and a waterproof case for your camera or phone. If you are checking luggage, you should also consider bringing inside anything that you cannot live without.
What about my luggage? The Blue Lagoon has a super easy luggage storage area before you enter the Blue Lagoon complex. Simply pay and check your bags and receive luggage tickets in advance. The charge was per bag and I cannot recall how expensive it was, but not at all terrible. We picked up our bags about 20 minutes before our bus into Iceland was scheduled to arrive and had no issues. Bags are stored indoors in a heated facility and they take credit card.
What was our experience at the Blue Lagoon? Arriving when the Blue Lagoon first opens, especially in the winter when its still pitch black, is pretty magical. Definitely one of my favorite memories of our trip! We arrived around 7:45, checked our luggage, and got in line to enter the Blue Lagoon (inside), as the Blue Lagoon does not open until 8:00. A few minutes before 8, staff began checking people in. We had purchased Premium tickets, so we skipped the line, were given our wrist bands, which track everything you do in the Blue Lagoon and lock/open your locker, our robes, a towel, and our Blue Lagoon branded flip flops. Then we were sent off to separate men and women locker rooms.
And that’s where it got interesting. The locker rooms are huge and multi level. Once inside, you choose a locker, change, and lock up your street clothes and jewelry. Your wrist band locks and unlocks the locker. I had to ask how to use it to lock/unlock, but staff were staffed in the locker rooms and showed me how to use it. I did not bother looking for a private changing room, but apparently a few do exist. After putting on a bathing suit, you next shower. And actually, I believe you are supposed to do this right before putting on your suit. In any case, it was confusing so I just showered in my bathing suit and heavily lathered my hair with conditioner (both shower gel and conditioner, but not shampoo (?) are provided in the shower). Also, I showered in a private stall because that was the first shower available, but it’s customary to shower not in a stall with all the other women.
After showering, I put on my swim cap to further avoid terror hair after the Blue Lagoon and placed my phone in a water tight pouch around my neck. Entry to the Blue Lagoon is just outside the locker rooms, and still inside the building (i.e. not freezing yet) – you leave your towel, robe, and flip flops on the side of the room and take stairs into the Blue Lagoon. Immediately upon entry the water is warm, cloudy, and the floor feels sandy. Also, you can enter/exit the locker rooms as often as you like.
The interior potion of the Blue Lagoon is tiny, and due to crowds, you are forced to pretty quickly enter the actual, outdoor Blue Lagoon via opening a plastic “door” that moves up and down. And side note, that robe, towel, and shoes you left on the side when you entered the Blue Lagoon will become totally indistinguishable from every one else’s by the time you exit. Don’t leave anything in the pocket of the robe! And don’t worry, fresh towels are handed out freely by staff throughout the day before you enter the locked room.
Once officially in the Blue Lagoon, I expected my face to freeze, but it actually was not bad. The Blue Lagoon was super warm and my face stayed relatively warm for the four hours we stayed in the Blue Lagoon.
The sun rises late and sets early in Iceland, so we explored in the dark for a bit until the sun rose around 8:30, which was very cool to see. In terms of the Blue Lagoon, its HUGE and about 3 feet (ish?) throughout. I could easily touch the bottom everywhere, and I’m pretty short. Life guards are stationed around the Blue Lagoon and wear bright safety vests. I found them friendly and happy to take pictures when not busy. The water is also cloudy everywhere, so if you drop something, it’s gone. Be careful! I felt pretty safe, but non swimmers or those with children may be uncomfortable since you cannot see under the water.
Since the Blue Lagoon is so large, its divided into, what I would describe as, one large main pool, by far the most popular area, with a number of smaller pools jetting off from the main pool. Cute little bridges connect the land over the pools, which makes for magical pictures. We found it pretty easy to find our own little spot away from other people, especially early in the morning. We also saw a lot of people take pictures for the “Gram” on some of these cute little bridges. It was far too cold for that for us.
As mentioned, every entrance to the Blue Lagoon comes with a free silica mask and one free beverage. Masks are dolled out at the swim-up “Mask Bar,” which is located in the main pool area on the opposite side from the drink bar. We visited the Mask Bar first since it was too early for a drink for us and got our silica masks, after scanning our bracelets of course. The silica mask was pretty cool – we just rubbed it on our face and left it on for about ten minutes. We went back later for our second mask and opted for the algae mask. Guests without the Premium package can purchase extra masks via their bracelet.
After swimming around a bit more, we visited the swim-up drink bar around 11:00. We felt it was an appropriate drinking hour now, but alcohol was definitely served before 11:00. On offer at the drink bar is Icelandic Gull beer, Somersby cider, wine, sparking wine, soda, juice, water, and Icelandic smoothies! Alcoholic drinks are limited to three per person, but you can order as many non-alcoholic drinks as you want, with all purchases kept on your bracelet. Pro tip – make sure your free drink is the most expensive. I purchased a bottle of water and almost had that count a my free beverage, which would have been a mistake!
We opted for a Gull beer (when in Iceland!) and a second Somersby cider. I would have loved to try one of the smoothies, but I never got around to it. Both the beer and the cider were good, and drinks can be taken anywhere in the lagoon. Another pro tip, if you bring a water bottle, or save one you purchase, free drinking water is available via fountains under some of the bridges.
In addition to swimming, face masking, and drinking in the Blue Lagoon, there is also a sauna and steam room. Dan tried these, and he said they were not quite warm enough for his taste.
We decided to leave the Blue Lagoon around 12:15 to make our 1:15 lunch reservation at Lava Restaurant on site. And entering the locker rooms, I don’t know if I was too relaxed from the lagoon or just super tired, but I got really lost locating my locker. Definitely try to memorize where your locked is when entering the pool. My locker area was much less crowded than earlier (I think they open the sections in waves). I quickly showered (again, shower gel and conditioner, but no shampoo!) and met Dan at the checkout area, where we turned in our bracelets and paid via credit card for our extras. We then went for lunch at Lava Restaurant, picked up our luggage, and caught the bus into Reykjavik. The bus ride consisted or a large tour bus from the Blue Lagoon to Reykjavik proper and then a quick transfer to a small van that took us to our hotel, the Hilton Reykjavik. I have no pictures of this because my phone died!
How long do I need to fully experience the Blue Lagoon? Bucket list checkers and those tight on time can experience the Blue Lagoon in as little as 1.5 – 2 hours. But, I think that is a bit short, especially for the price tag(!), so I would recommend a minimum of three hours to fully soak in the Blue Lagoon. We stayed even longer, about 4 hours, and I could have stayed another hour.
Is there food at the Blue Lagoon? As you know, yes. There is a casual cafe and a formal sit down restaurant. The casual cafe is open to everyone and is located outside the actual Blue Lagoon. Meaning you can only visit the cafe before or after entering. We did not eat at the cafe, but it smelled good and seemed to have sandwiches, personal pizzas, coffee, chips, drinks, snacks, etc. I believe it also sold beer and wine.
Lava Restuarant is the Blue Lagoon’s formal restaurant, and its touted as being very fancy online, with guests dining in robes and views of the Blue Lagoon. A “reservation” and a complimentary glass of sparking wine comes with a Premium ticket, so I made 1 PM reservations for lunch at Lava Restaurant. Since the restaurant was outside the spa area, we showered before lunch and did not dine in our robes, which was a bit disappointing. I was really hoping for a Montreal Bota Bota experience (THE BEST SPA EVER).
We were promptly seated our brought our complimentary sparking wine. In addition to the wine, we enjoyed Icelandic bread, an Icelandic seafood soup, Icelandic lamb, and Icelandic beef. The food was quite good and the portions were large, but we were exhausted by this point and probably did not enjoy the meal as much as we should have. I would eat at the cafe next time if coming straight from the airport.
Other tips for visiting the Blue Lagoon? One, as you can read about over and over online, the silica can be really rough on hair. Many horror stories exist online. Dan got his hair wet repeatedly and had no issues. I was too scared and kept my hair heavily conditioned, in a swim cap, and above water. Two, the silica water is also rough on jewelry. I would leave all jewelry locked in your locker. Three, the water very much opaque. Any thing you drop may be gone for good. Four, the silica water left white powdery deposits on my swimsuit, which came out with a wash. Five, you can enter and leave the locker rooms as often as you want.
STEAL OUR TRIP
The Blue Lagoon: Norðurljósavegur 9, 240 Grindavík. Open daily 8:00 – 21:00, 23:00 in the Summer. Time tickets must be purchased in advance on the Blue Lagoon’s website. Bus tickets can also be purchased on the website.
ON A BUDGET
The Blue Lagoon, given that its so associated with Iceland is probably a splurge you should make. If you’re one of those “cool:” travelers and feel you can skip it, try the Secret Lagoon instead!
The Secret Lagoon: Open daily 11:00 – 20:00, 10:00 – 22:00 in the Summer. $21 US entrance for adults, less for seniors and children. Pre-booking online is recommended. Parking on site. Towel and bathing suit rentals available. A small cafe is onsite.