Iceland’s Magical Blue Lagoon
If you came to visit me in my hometown of Albany and I told you, “make sure to bring your swimsuit, we’re going to spa it up in some geothermal plant runoff!” I’m pretty sure you would rethink our friendship. And yet when half a million tourists a year flock to Iceland, about 80% of them rush to The Blue Lagoon in order to live out the scenario I described above. With those kind of numbers as well as the heavy promotion of the lagoon in Iceland’s tourism ads, it’s no surprise that when playing word association with Iceland, the Blue Lagoon comes up almost as frequently as Bjork.
So, geothermal runoff doesn’t exactly have the best ring to it. Allow me to explain. Iceland has one of the most unique geothermal footprints in the world. Nearly 25% of Iceland’s power comes from geothermal energy, while around 85% of all heating and hot water comes from the same source.
The geothermal plant that provides the Blue Lagoon’s waters works by venting superheated water from a nearby lava flow and using it to create turbine electricity. After, the water is passed into the Blue Lagoon. So while not exactly natural, there are no harsh chemicals to be concerned about. We were ready to submerge!
After our breakfast of mimosas at the airport we took the Flybus straight to the Blue Lagoon and were waiting by the front doors when the staff unlocked them. As the Blue Lagoon is located closer to the airport than to Reykjavik, it makes sense to visit before or after a flight.
The Blue Lagoon, like the rest of the country, ain’t cheap. Entry price ranges from 30-35 euros depending on the time of the year, and towels are an additional 5 euro; robes an additional 9. We had booked in-water massages (more later!) which included the mega-plush robes we model above. There are geothermal pools all over Iceland (seriously they are everywhere!) but this is the most famous and therefore the most pricey.
I was already impressed with the place by the time we entered the locker room. Everything was clean and modern and super Scandinavian in style. And get this: lockers are opened and closed by the tap of a little plastic bracelet you wear inside the Lagoon, which also functions as a charge card for food and beverages purchased inside.
I had read a lot about the nudity situation in the locker room, but it wasn’t really an issue for us. Because we were there so early we had no problem getting into the few closed changing areas. And while you must shower naked (and hilarious signs demonstrate exactly which areas they feel need the most vigorous washing) it seems the lagoon has recently added doors to some of the shower stalls, probably to assuage us modesty-lovin’ Americans.
Finally we were in the Lagoon itself, and we had it blissfully to ourselves. Compare the above photo, from when we first arrived and there were at tops six other people around, to the below photo from around noon, when things really started to get crowded.
I definitely advocate for arriving as soon as the Lagoon opens, if it works in your schedule. While I still enjoyed myself as the place filled with more and more people, I really cherish that first hour or so where it seemed we were the only ones in this surreal dreamland.
One thing that surprised me about the Lagoon was how buoyant we were in it. I’m a pretty champion floater in most circumstances, but in the Lagoon I was an Olympian.
I was so excited to use my new camera, which arrived 24 hours before our departure on this trip! I’ll be updating my Gear and Products page soon with the new info, but it’s a Canon PowerShot S100 with the associated Underwater Housing. It was wonderful to be able to take a camera right into the lagoon with us, and the quality seriously rivals my Canon SLR! (By the way, I’m still working on selling my old Canon point and shoot and housing… message me if you’re interested!)
So many thanks to my generous mama for bringing us here!
What makes the Blue Lagoon so famous — aside from the stunning scenery, of course — are the healing properties of the warm waters. Minerals like silica and sulfur abound and reputedly ease the suffering of many skin ailments like psoriasis, as well as giving a boost to those who slather it on their faces. Stations of white silica around the edges of the Lagoon make it easy to mask up.
Which of course led to an impromptu photo shoot.
There’s more to the Lagoon though than floating around and scaring people with your ghostly appearance. There’s also a steam bath and a sauna, and a waterfall for back and neck massages. There are also two restaurants, several lounging areas and even a guided behind-the-scenes tour of the Lagoon, which I was dying to take but didn’t get around to.
While the entire Lagoon experience was unreal, the highlight had to be our floating massages. My mom and sister both have summer birthdays, and I was agonizing over what to get them as I’m trying to work on giving people experiences rather than things. That’s when I found out about the Lagoon’s floating spa treatments! A 30 minute massage was 50 euros, making this one of the more generous gifts I’ve gifted… but it was worth it. A full range of treatments are available, so if you’ve got the cash this is one place to go wild. Also, make sure to book well in advance as there are a limited number of slots available every day.
The certificate I gave my Mom and Sis! Images from Google.
I’ve become a bit of a spa junkie over the years. I’m been to the hammams in Turkey, visited the herbal saunas in Laos, and in Thailand I developed a ritual known as Massage Monday where I would take copious advantage of the country’s $7 an hour rub downs. But this experience — floating in warm mineral water while someone massaged me from every angle — this was heaven. Luckily, Olivia and my mom concurred!
After our massages, around noon, the Lagoon was packed. We had already enjoyed a few hours of soaking and then our massages, so we decided to call it quits for the day — but not before having a yummy and healthy lunch in one of the restaurants, from which we could observe the Lagoon and soak up the atmosphere just a little bit more.
We ended our visit with a trip up to the observation deck, which provided the best vantage point for seeing the entire spectacle at once. It’s here where I took some video footage that you can see in my One Week in Iceland video!
Oh, and notice my slicked-back hair look while I’m shooting? I had read many warnings that the minerals that are so yummy for your skin can absolutely destroy your hair. So I piled on the conditioner before and after being in the Lagoon, and then went a little crazy with the leave-in conditioner after my shower that afternoon. It worked and I didn’t have any of the brittleness others have complained about. So just go totally over-the-top with the conditioner and you should be fine!
The Blue Lagoon was the perfect introduction to Iceland! I was completely enamored, and happy to join 80% of Iceland’s tourists who feel the same way.
Are you a spa junkie like me? Do you think you’d love the Lagoon as much as I did?
Looks phenomenal Alex! Seriously should hook up a deal with the Icelandic Tourist Board! 🙂
That would have been lovely but on this trip I focused on partnering with individual companies who you’ll see featured coming up!
Yes and yes! Jess and I are both huge spa fans too (thanks for reminding me of the heavenly steam rooms in Laos – they were so good!) and we’d love the Blue Lagoon – hope we’ll make it to Iceland one day. And I love that you and your family are so close that you go on vacation together! 🙂
Thanks Dani! We took a few years off from doing family trips while we worked out our new family dynamics (my parents have a friendly but complicated separation :)) but these days I love trips with any random combination of family members!
you three look like sisters!!!
Flattery can get you very far 🙂
i wanna go!
Well I bet if that’s true you’ll get there someday 🙂
WOW. Am not a spa person but I think I just been converted.
Glad to hear it Angela 🙂 Hope you make it to the Blue Lagoon someday!
Looks awesome. I never did spas before I came to Korea but I enjoy them here! Maybe I’ll be a spa convert someday.
Yeah, much as I’ve love to be a spa junkie here in the US I can’t afford it! I have had one massage since I got home thanks to Groupon!
Just a word of advice on the s100. Make sure that you don’t have one in the serial number series that has the lens error issue. It happened to me while I was in Cambodia, and I had to buy another camera or go without a camera at all for the last 30 days of my trip.
That sounds like such a pain! I’ve had TONS of cameras over the years from many different brands and sadly many have suffered from lens errors. I think they are almost unavoidable somewhere in the batch…
I have to put this on my must-visit list.
Haven’t been to a spa so wont be able to compare, but love the idea of natural water & minerals healing the body.
I hope you’ll make it here someday 🙂
everytime i try to click on your rss feed button, it downloads some weird text thing. is it just me?
For me they are both working! However you can always manually add the blog to your Google Reader, if that’s you’re preferred way of reading. Thank you so much for trying!
Very nice pictures. I went there last year in late October and soaked myself in the pool while the outside temperature was below zero Celsius.
I was grateful for the lovely weather we had, but that sounds like a nice way to warm up!
I love this post! What a fantastic birthday present to get your mum and sister! I work part-time for a Scandinavian tour operator so I delight in anything Scandinavian, however I’ve yet to travel to the ‘land of fire and ice’!
My brother ran in the Reykjavik marathon last weekend and rewarded himself by soaking in the Blue Lagoon – I can’t think a better place to unwind after a gruelling marathon!
Your spot on in regards to getting others gifts that are experiences over material objects – I preach that everytime someone asks ‘how do you afford to go away all the time?’.
And you all look gorgeous in your photo shoot! 😀
Thanks Shing! Wow, what a perfect place to recover from a marathon! I’m forever in awe of true athletes.
Love this post, Alex. I’ve wanted to go to Iceland for a while now and your posts just make me want to go even more. So glad the Blue Lagoon was worth it. Going to go early like you recommended.
Thanks Diane! It’s totally worth it to arrive early, and luckily most flight schedules make it very feasible.
I love all these photos! And I had forgotten how expensive entry was. (I went in 2007.)
I also am jealous you had your underwater camera. I just took a P&S with me and held it high above my head as I scooted through the lagoon trying not to get it wet. So your photos are way better than mine were =)
I love the mental image I’m getting from that, ha. Yeah, I LOVE my underwater camera! I use it constantly, definitely good for so much more than diving.