In the middle of a huge lava field, halfway between Keflavik International Airport and Reykjavik lies Iceland’s most popular tourist attraction, the Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa (or simply “the Blue Lagoon”). While a majority of Iceland is visually stunning, with tall snow-capped mountains, waterfalls, and green expanses, this portion of the country looks more like the moon. The Blue Lagoon as well looks like something from another planet with its iridescent blue shade and steaming hot water. While Iceland is the world’s leader in geothermal energy because of its position on a number of volcanoes, and does have a number of natural geothermal pools, the Blue Lagoon is not one of them.
Among other things, the Blue Lagoon is an interesting spot because of its history. In 1976, a pool of heated water formed following the operation of the Svartsengi power plant. After a period of time, whether on dare, a whim, or because it was a pool of hot water in a cold environment, people began bathing in it. Again, after a period of time, rumors began to spread about the “healing” powers of the water in the pool and its associated silica and sulfur based sediments. From this beginning, the pools were constructed and expanded to the point where they are at today – a mainstream tourist location that has dining, spa services, and of course, bathing in the heated water from the power plant. While it may seem strange to bathe – and soak in the water released from a geothermal plant, it is something that has become a world-wide phenomenon, and is something that is frequented by local Icelandic people as well.
When I visited Iceland, I was told in no uncertain terms that we would be visiting this location by my wife. While many things are “popular” in Iceland – waterfalls, Reykjavik city locations, and soforth, my experience to that point was that one could merely wait five minutes or so at the spot of whatever it was, and one would have the spot to themselves. Not so the Blue Lagoon. When we arrived, the location was teeming with people – people in personal cars, people in tour busses, and just a number of other people that were coming and going, which in itself was impressive, because the Blue Lagoon is close to being in the middle of nowhere. At this point, it is worth noting that the location as a general rule strongly encourages reservations, which we had; and something that I would also encourage, because there seemed to be very limited or non-existent walk up availability.
Once we had dashed from the parking area into the facility, which has been substantially upgraded since 2014 and is quite modern, we were treated to an efficient line-system that checked us in and sent us to our respective dressing rooms. It is a requirement that one shower before entering (and upon leaving) the pool, and one that the location takes seriously. A word of caution: if you are not comfortable with a “locker-room” style setup where people are coming, going, dressing, and undressing, or the thought of either seeing naked people or being naked in front of people, this is not the experience for you. Having said that, as this is a unique experience, as the rooms are somewhat private, and that one has likely been in a locker room at some point in one’s life prior to this, the changing areas are really not that big of a deal. Speaking for myself, I found it fairly easy to get changed and head out to the pool from the men’s changing area. The only difficulty I experienced is the difficulty everyone experiences – braving the thirty seconds of Icelandic wind and cold from the door of the facility to the pool.
Once you are in the pool, the temperature ranges from 99-103 degrees, which no matter how hot it is in Iceland that day, seems quite warm if not hot. Obviously, like any geothermal pool, there are spots that are cooler and warmer depending on where one walks (or paddles) to. In terms of the crowds, the lagoon is spacious enough that one does not feel like they are on top of people; and the location itself does a good job of monitoring how many people to let in at a time. Having said that, if you expect to have the pool to yourself, think again. Although the pool is most popular with tourists, I did notice a number of locals also using the pool as well. Once you are in the pool, you can sit back, relax, and if you choose to, enjoy a drink while you enjoy the heated water. Although I am not the most “touristy” person when travelling, I had to agree at the end that if one is in Iceland, the Blue Lagoon is a “must visit” location for a number of reasons, including the fact that it is pretty much relaxing as all get out.
Directions/Cost: In my mind, this was one of the easiest spots to get to in Iceland, as it was literally halfway between the airport and the capital. Having said that, the best directions are provided by the Blue Lagoon itself, here. The lagoon offers a number of entry packages, depending on what one wants to do. As discussed above, they strongly recommend reservations, and so do I.
Tips: Iceland is a land with many geothermal pools, many natural. If being at a commercial operation isn’t your thing, along with being around many people and potentially being seen naked, this is not the spot for you, and you can likely find one that is more private. But, for the experience, it is as I mentioned, definitely worth it, and rates of entrance vary depending on what one is doing. For those who like food, the Blue Lagoon also has a restaurant that has an excellent evening meal.