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!)
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.
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?